TRIBUTES have been paid to Neil Griffiths, a former soldier and one of Scotland’s best-known charity workers, who has died suddenly at the age of 56.
Mr Griffiths, who was born in Edinburgh, was highly regarded for his contribution to war veterans’ charities and worked over the last 20 years of his life as a press officer for the Royal British Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland.
He was also editor of the Scottish Legion News and, with a keen interest in photography, took many of the pictures in the magazine. Born in the Capital in 1956, Mr Griffiths attended preparatory school at Oriel House School in St Asaph, North Wales, because his father, Major Duncan Griffiths from Wigtown in south-west Scotland, was serving there with the Welch Regiment.
He returned to Scotland to attend Fettes College in Edinburgh and, later, Napier College of Commerce and Technology, now part of Napier University. He joined the army’s Royal Hampshire Regiment in 1975 at the age of 19, spending two years with the unit and serving in Northern Ireland and Hong Kong.
He held several jobs before finding his vocation in charity work for the Royal British Legion Scotland and the Poppy Appeal.
In his spare time, he was a keen traveller, venturing to the Sahara desert and Iceland. Before he died, he was planning to travel to Finland for a huskies-and-sledge adventure to see the Northern Lights.
But it was his work for the nation’s war veterans’ charities that did most to establish Mr Griffiths’ name in Scottish and British public affairs. He was well known for organising and taking part in charity walks around Scotland to raise funds for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, which supports more than 8000 retired Gurkha soldiers or their widows in Nepal who have no other form of income. The walks – one from Mallaig to Stonehaven and another across the Outer Hebrides to Barra Head – raised more than £900,000 and garnered thanks from the Prince of Wales, patron of the Trust, and vice-patron Joanna Lumley.
Mr Griffiths’ charity work also attracted the attention of the country’s media. His call on Occupy Glasgow protesters to leave their encampment in George Square near the city’s war memorial last October was widely covered.
“We do not have a problem with their protest,” he said at the time, “although we do not accept their argument that millions of servicemen died so they could camp in George Square.” His sister, Rowena, said: “Raising funds for the Gurkhas was his crowning achievement. He was a storyteller and a magical hero. He understood soldiers, he understood that rank structure. It gave him the basis to work with the veterans and offer the support they required.”
Mr Griffiths is survived by his mother Ann, sisters Alison and Rowena, and brother Ewen.