Hearts under-21s charity challenge for RNLI

FAMILY and friends of a tragic canoeist who died after capsizing in Loch Tay are hoping to raise thousands for charity in his memory.

Darren Gilpin, left, was said to have been more of a brother than a cousin to Keith Spence, right. Picture: contributed

Darren Gilpin, 29, got into difficulties at the beauty spot after going out in a two-man vessel with a friend in July.

His disappearance sparked a huge rescue effort before his body was recovered more than 26 hours later.

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Now those who lined the banks in vigil to fun-loving Darren, from the Pleasance, want to show their thanks to those who searched for him.

Cousin Keith Spence, 30, who plays for Dalkeith 
Athletic, has organised a charity clash against Hearts under-21s tomorrow to raise funds for the RNLI.

Describing Darren as “more of a brother”, Keith vividly remembers getting the phonecall to say he was missing.

He said: “We were out there from morning until night, until they found him. Darren’s mum and dad, aunties, uncles, cousins and his girlfriend and a couple of friends were all there.

“There was false hope. We always knew he was away but obviously hoped he had got washed up to the side of a loch and maybe had been injured.

“But obviously the worst came to the worst and they found him. We were lucky though as they said most of the people that go missing on that loch, they never find them.

“The RNLI worked so hard – they searched for two days for him so we wanted to do something for them. All the proceeds will go to them.”

Family friend Callum Anderson put Keith in touch with Hearts boss Robbie Neilson who was up for the challenge.

Kick-off at Riccarton is at 6.15pm, with fans being invited to take part in a penalty shoot-out and a charity raffle in Darren’s memory.

Auntie Janet Lawrence, 53, said she knew who football fan Darren – who was buried in a Hearts shirt in front of a 500-strong congregation at his funeral in Portobello – would be cheering for.

“He’d be delighted if they score against Hearts but ultimately he’d still want the Jambos to win,” she said.

“I think Darren would love this. He would want us to do something for the RNLI, it’s vital people know what they do.

“There’s a lot of people that have been in the same sort of incident where the family don’t get them back, but they just kept going until they found him.

“As a family we were lucky, we got him back when so many others don’t. It must be horrible to go through life and never get that person back to say goodbye to.”

Council refuse collector Darren’s parents, Kevin and Carol, and long-term partner Elaine will be there cheering both sides on, while Janet said she was hopeful of a big turnout.

“He was just a fantastic person. No matter where he went, people would just stick to him. He had that sort of character about him. He was an amazing nephew, I couldn’t have asked for a better one.”