‘A loveable rogue with a heart of gold and a twinkle in his eye. He lived life to the full ...’

Neil Gray formerly Burntisland who died in snorkelling accident in Thailand
Neil Gray formerly Burntisland who died in snorkelling accident in Thailand

PEOPLE in Burntisland are mourning the loss of a former resident of the town who drowned in an accident in Thailand at the weekend.

Neil Gray (35), who grew up in the town’s Cotburn Crescent, was pulled from the sea after getting into difficulties while snorkelling at the secluded Ao Sane beach in Phuket on the holiday island around 8.00 a.m. on Sunday.

The former Balwearie pupil had been in Thailand since November, visiting his elder brother Mark (40), who runs a business there.

Shocked friends of the oilrig worker, who most recently lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, paid tribute to him on the Facebook page Burntisland Legends, remembering the outgoing man who would do anything to help a friend.

And family friend Anne Wilkinson, who is a good friend of Neil’s mum Pat, who still owns a house in the town, said she was “devastated” when she heard the news.

“Pat, who only moved up to Easter Ross to live with her partner last year, sent me a message on Facebook asking me to give her a call and that is how I found out what had happened,” she said.

“The family are devastated. They had all been together in Thailand at Christmas and then yesterday they were having to fly back out for Neil’s funeral. It is just tragic.

“Neil was a loveable rogue with a heart of gold and he had loads of friends in Burntisland where he still visited regularly. His favourite pub was the Smuggler’s Inn and Pat is hoping to bring his ashes back from Thailand and have some sort of a do there to celebrate his life with the people he grew up with.”

Neil was well known in the town and worked in the local butcher’s shop for several years after leaving Balwearie. He then had a variety of different jobs before taking a job on the rigs.

“He was always working in one thing or another and he never liked to be idle,” said Anne. “He was always up to something and he always had a mischevious twinkle in his eye. He lived his life to the full.

“He would come back to the town to visit pals and he would always have a bed for the night.”

The family are still waiting to hear from police in Thailand exactly how Neil, an experienced snorkeller, died.

Chienchai Duangsuwan, the police chief in charge of the investigation, said: “We were told he and his friends were up late drinking. That may have contributed to his death.”

He is expected to be cremated at a Bhuddist temple when his body is released, and his ashes flown home.

James More, rector of Balwearie High School which Neil left in 1993, said: “It is always sad to lose a former pupil of the school and we extend our sympathy to his family.”

Messages have flooded into the Burntisland Legends Facebook page, including the lates posting which read: “A very sad day to hear of the passing of Neil Gray in Thailand... RIP Neil Thoughts are with Pat and all the family.”

Michelle Ewan said: “I will always remember Neil fondly and I know that he will have touched the hearts of many on his travels and will be deeply missed by people at home as well as other parts of the world.”

Brian Robson: “So sorry to hear the sad news. Neil was a good ‘un, God bless.”

Scott Taylor: “Can’t believe it. Grew up with Neil in Cotburn and were friends our whole lives.”