In an idyllic spot overlooking Findhorn Bay a memorial bench is dedicated to dad-of-two and former RAF pilot Andrew Richardson.
The Australian airman moved to Scotland with his young family in 2003 but shortly after completing his training he died suddenly.
To commemorate 20 years since losing Andrew members of his squadron gathered at his memorial bench to witness a flyover in his honour.
As part of A Place to Remember, telling the stories of north-east memorial benches, we look back on the life of Andrew and this special place established in his memory.
Like father like son
Andrew Richardson was born on January 4 1966 in Sydney, Australia. Son of RAAF pilot Greg Richardson and his wife Sandra, he had a transient childhood moving with his air force dad around the country.
He attended Brisbane Grammar School and during ‘Schoolies Week’ – an end of year 12 celebration on the Gold Coast in November 1983 – he met his future wife Jan Murphy.
Following those summer holidays Andrew joined the Royal Australian Air Force academy at Point Cook, Melbourne. While he began his Bachelor of Science, officer and pilot training Jan read political science at university.
Andrew would go on to serve the RAAF for 19 years as a pilot and later squadron leader. During that time he was posted to RAAF East Sale (Victoria) as an HS-748 pilot and RAAF Edinburgh (Adelaide) as a P3 Orion pilot.
Canada to Kinloss
Jan and Andrew married in 1990. For two-and-a-half years they were posted to Nova Scotia while Andrew took part in a Canadian Air Force exchange. During that time their first son Charlie was born and Andrew had the opportunity to fly to Kinloss with his Canadian crew several times.
He loved these trips and dreamed of one day returning to Scotland to live.
On returning to Adelaide second son Hugo came along.
After resigning from the RAAF Andrew’s dream looked set to come true. He was accepted into the RAF to fly Nimrods at Kinloss, in 2003.
Fondness for Findhorn
Findhorn was a favourite spot for Andrew, who loved to run there from Kinloss, and go fly fishing in the river.
“Most of all Andrew loved his boys, Charlie and Hugo. It’s so precious to have some wonderful photographs of them at Kinloss and Findhorn. In the months before Andrew died we all enjoying doing the Sluie Walk and visiting Inverness, Loch Ness, Oban, Tobermory and Iona,” said Jan.
Andrew passed away on May 23 2003 age 37, while out running one morning.
A memorial bench seemed like a fitting way to remember him in one of his favourite places in the world.
“Andrew loved Findhorn, the outdoors and fishing. It seemed really fitting to have a bench there,” said Jan.
Two decades on
Earlier this year it was the 20th anniversary of his death. To mark the occasion members of 120 Sqn, RAF Lossiemouth, paid their respects to Andrew.
A short memorial service was held during which, 201 Sqn, also based at Lossiemouth, used a training sortie to fly over Findhorn Bay to mark the occasion.
Flt Lt Rohan Buckley of 120 Sqn was a good friend of Andrew’s. He added: “Andrew had a career as a pilot flying the P-3C Orion in the RAAF, and the CP-140 Aurora in the RCAF whilst on exchange. This meant his loss was felt by an international community.”
Jan added: “Andrew’s mum and I were really touched by the memorial and interest in Andrew so many years after his passing.
“We’ve all been back to Findhorn to sit on “Andrew’s bench”, as we call it. It’s lovely to look out at the water and remember him. I visited with the boys, Charlie and Hugo, in 2011. Andrew’s late father, Greg, and his mum visited some years ago too.
“Over the years other family members visiting the UK have made the trip to Findhorn as well. Sandra’s cousin, Peter Taylor – who was a spin bowler for the Australian cricket team – visited with his wife and other family members earlier this year.”
A Place to Remember Andrew
The plaque on the bench – which has been lovingly looked after by Findhorn community and RAF members – alludes to Andrew’s love of Moray’s beautiful scenery.
It reads: “In memory of an Australian pilot who loved the outdoors. Squadron Leader Andrew Richardson RAAF and RAF. Died at Findhorn 23 May 2003 age 37.”
Jan said: “Following Andrew’s death some of his ashes were scattered at Findhorn and the rest brought home to Queensland. We also collected pebbles from the shore at Findhorn and all have some in our homes.”
- You can read more A Place to Remember stories here.