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Woman left with ashes of dead pal in desperate search for his long lost family

A Scottish woman has made a heartfelt plea to reunite her dead friend’s ashes with his long lost family.

John Francis Hannigan, 68, who lived in Glasgow’s Townhead flats but was originally from Whifflet, Coatbridge, died at Glasgow Royal Infirmary on New Year’s day after being admitted with a spinal infection.

Following John’s cremation his ashes were given by an undertaker to close pal, Ian Thomson, who had arranged his funeral having been named as next of kin.

Another of Mr Hannigan’s close friends, Julie McKee, has since been keeping John’s ashes safe in her home.

Julie told the Record that John lost contact with his family a few years ago over a disagreement, but she does not know if they are aware of his death as there were no relatives at his funeral. She has so far been unable to track them down.

The 51-year-old carer, who lives in Croftfoot, said: “We were hoping to find out where his mother’s grave was and put him there but we did not make much progress.

“I feel his family should have him. My belief is that he should be where his mother and father are. It’s just right that he should be with his family.”

Julie, who had known John for over 30 years, continued: “He was a lovely man and was very popular. He used to work in the bingo hall in Partick and he would do the bingo calling. The women all loved him there.

“He and I had a wicked sense of humour and he was sarcastic. That’s how we got on so well.”

John seen here enjoying the outdoors.

John, who would have turned 69 on Saturday September 18, was a volunteer with Guide Dogs Scotland and spent years in England working as a mental health nurse before returning home to Scotland.

His friend Ian Thomson, who first met John when he started volunteering with Guide Dogs Scotland seven years ago, told the Record his pal was heavily involved in the charity’s volunteer work and described him as “very well liked” and “intelligent” man.

Lifeguard Ian, 58, who lives in Blantyre, said: “He was actually blind in one eye but that did not hold him back. He did lots of stuff including charity events, open days. The charity is about educating people on how dogs can transform lives and what the dogs do for people.

“He liked a laugh and a joke and that’s how we got on. He always had a laugh and a joke with people.

“He had a spinal infection which was affecting his mobility and he was in and out of hospital. He also had a heart condition and had surgery four years ago and his health gradually declined. Last year, before he passed away, he was also in hospital with breathing problems.

“He was there for a good couple of weeks before he died and he was phoning all the time and we often dropped off things he needed.

“When in hospital he asked me to be his next of kin.”

Woman left with ashes of dead pal in desperate search for his long lost family
John was a volunteer with Guide Dogs Scotland. He is seen here at an event with ‘Shug the Dug’ at Beith Community Centre.

It is understood Mr Hannigan may still have family in the Whifflet area and he previously told Ian he has a brother who lives in South Africa.

Ian said his pal had also previously joked to him about being buried at sea as he had once tried teaching him to swim, and that he would fondly recall times with his parents.

Jo Stevenson, regional community fundraising manager for Guide Dogs Scotland, said: “Everyone in the Guide Dogs family was saddened to hear of John Hannigan’s passing earlier this year. John was an incredible volunteer in his roles as a fundraiser, speaker and campaigner.

“The passion that John had for supporting Guide Dogs was so evident in all that he did to help people living with sight loss. He would help out at local events and was such a great support to his friends and fellow volunteers, especially at our Use Your Senses 5k at Glasgow Green in 2019.

“John really epitomised our values here at Guide Dogs and received recognition at our Volunteer Awards in September 2020. Winning under the category of “Engage” in our virtual ceremony, it was a fitting reward for an exceptionally engaging, passionate and committed volunteer.”

Woman left with ashes of dead pal in desperate search for his long lost family
John Hannigan seen here with Julie McKee’s great niece, Yasmin.

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “We can not comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality.”

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