Obituary: Jim Boyle, chief executive of Bridges Project charity

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Jim Boyle, Chief Executive, Bridges Project. Born: 14 November 1959 in London. Died: 7 November 2019 in Edinburgh, aged 59.

Jim Boyle was a shining example of the unsung heroes who manage and find the private finance for, the many NGOs which help and support so many people on the fringes of Scottish society. According to one of the people who benefitted from his lifetime commitment to young people, he was one of the good guys but quiet and modest with it.

Over its more than 30 years, Jim guided Musselburgh-based Bridges Project as it inspired thousands of young people in East Lothian and Midlothian to build a confident future. Last year alone, more than five hundred teenagers and young adults were referred to it and completed one or more of the charity’s support programmes, helping them into positive destinations such as work or further education, while gaining important life skills. Without this intervention, many might have ended up unemployed and facing a range of challenges such as social isolation and poor mental health.

One of the many people to benefit from Jim’s work is Dona Milne, who first met him 34 years ago when she was 16 and staying in a hostel for homeless young people. Thanks to the Bridges Project’s support in those early years she went on to university and now holds a senior position in the NHS.

James Campbell Boyle was born in London in 1959 but his early years were also spent in Glasgow, New Jersey, and Bermuda as the family followed his father’s work. Having served in the merchant navy on the Atlantic convoys during the Second World War, Jim senior went on to work on cruise liners, including one based in the United States.

After they returned to Scotland, Jim was educated at Glenrothes High School, then Edinburgh University. While at school he captained their first eleven football team and went on to win Sports Champion of the Year. From there, he excelled at athletics, football, volleyball and, latterly, boxing while at university. He had a great love for traditional music and played bagpipes to a senior level.

Having achieved a Master’s in Human Geography, Jim went on to complete a post graduate course in Community Education at Moray House and it was from there that his involvement in the Bridges Project began. By the time he stepped down from the charity earlier this year, due to ill health, he had helped build it to its current operation, employing a staff team of 16 committed professionals. There is a long waiting list for their support services.

The Chair of the Bridges Project’s Board of Trustees, Karen Aitchison, said, “Jim was a man of strong principles. His depth of compassion was matched by forward-thinking practicality – always with the good of the young people he served at the front and centre of his practice. His views were often thought provoking and challenging and delivered with a bone-dry sense of humour. He will be greatly missed.”

According to the charity’s current Acting Chief Executive, Emma Scarcliffe, “Jim truly was an incredible man who was dedicated to ensuring young people were given the right support to overcome challenges and go on to live fulfilling and successful lives. He was passionate, committed and inspiring, leading Bridges Project to become the highly successful charity it is today. I speak on behalf of the whole staff team when I say not only was he a fantastic leader and mentor, he was a true friend who will be dearly missed.”

Jim Boyle is survived by his wife Viv and daughter Mhairi.

Kit Fraser