Dads campaigner David Drysdale loses cancer battle

David Drysdale with his son Manow in 2010. Picture: Colin Hattersley

David Drysdale with his son Manow in 2010. Picture: Colin Hattersley

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HE was a loyal Hibs fan who dedicated his time to improving the lives of fathers all over the country.

David Drysdale did everything in his power to ensure that dads were seen as equal to mothers, founding the campaigning group Fathers Network Scotland and the Year of the Dad event.

Today, Deputy First Minister John Swinney led the tributes to the father-of-two and the “tremendous legacy” he leaves after his death at the age of 50.

David passed away surrounded by his family at the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh on Monday, after a short battle with a rare form of cancer.

The committed campaigner – a former pupil of Morningside Primary and Boroughmuir High – was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2015 and underwent months of chemotherapy, which seemed to leave him clear of an initial tumour, until another scan earlier this year showed the disease had spread to his lung, and it was no longer curable.

Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to the “warm, friendly and approachable” father, who is survived by wife Misol, son Manow and daughter Maya – who was conceived just weeks before his diagnosis.

Kevin Robertson, David’s close friend who he played football with when he lived in London, paid tribute to his “talented” friend.

He said: “David was very talented, he could play the guitar, he could swim, he was good at football, he was very fit and he was academic.

“He was my successor of London Hibs, where he played and was the manager for four years. The best words to describe him are warm, witty, approachable and friendly.”

Kevin and a group of David’s old friends from the London Hibs team arranged for the Scottish Cup to be taken to his room in the hospice, just ten days before he died.

For David to see his team win the Scottish Cup was a huge boost as he came to the end of his chemotherapy and he was “overjoyed” to be given the chance to hold the trophy.

Kevin added: “I still have the text David sent me after he got to hold the cup. He said it was the most incredible, moving, humbling surprise he’d ever experienced.”

Born in Cambridge but raised in his father’s native Scotland from the age of eight, David studied philosophy and political theory at Essex University before travelling the world as an actor and later turning to multimedia design in a series of start-ups in London.

Following the death of two of his friends, and his own sense of being “stuck”, David started to question the male stereotype of self-sufficiency in his forties.

The dedicated campaigner, who lived in the Blackford area of the city, began working for the Mankind Project as a centre manager in Edinburgh, before he became a father to his son in 2007.

It was in 2008 he set up Fathers Network Scotland (FNS) after experiencing a bias against male carers.

Nick Thorpe, a writer and close friend who joined FNS in 2014 as a communications assistant, said: “David’s achievement was to take the debate out of the polarising arena of gender politics, and show how supporting dads as nurturing parents benefits everybody: children, families, society as a whole. It worked because his whole demeanour was open, win-win.

“The way he handled his illness was as inspiring as the rest of his life. I know his hardest moment was having to tell his beloved eight-year-old son he wasn’t going to survive – but even then he was determined to help him feel all his emotions, encourage him not to bottle them up in the old male way.”

A Hibs spokesman said: “It was with great sadness that everyone at Hibernian learned of David’s passing and I would like to pass on the condolences of everyone at the club to his family at this difficult time.

“David was able to see his beloved Hibernian win the Scottish Cup in May and after hearing of his situation it was only right that he was able to see the trophy in person.

“It was a pleasure and a privilege to be able to fulfil his wish of holding the Scottish Cup.”

Mr Swinney said: “I was very sorry to hear of David’s passing and send my condolences to his family.

“He leaves behind a tremendous legacy, he has played a crucial role in championing the importance of dads in child development and family life.

“I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has been able to work with David, his colleagues at Fathers Network Scotland and a whole range of others to make Year of the Dad a reality.”

courtney.cameron@jpress.co.uk