Councillor, sportsman and family man John ‘Yo-Yo’ McAlpine fondly remembered

John 'Yo-Yo' McAlpine behind the bar at Tarbert Bowling Club.
John 'Yo-Yo' McAlpine behind the bar at Tarbert Bowling Club.

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Tarbert has lost a true champion and Argyll a good man

There has been an outpouring of tributes from across Kintyre and the Islands and further afield following the death of John McAlpine, one of the ward’s three serving councillors.

John, from Tarbert, died on Monday July 18, leaving behind his wife Karen and son Sam.

As an independent councillor, John first joined the council in 2003 and continued to be an elected member until 2017, when he lost his seat.

He was re-elected in May this year and was appointed policy lead for community planning and corporate services, and assigned chairman of Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands area committee.

Many of his colleagues and former colleagues have spoken of his dedication not just to his own ward but to the whole authority area.

Council leader and fellow Kintyre and the Islands councillor Robin Currie led the tributes, saying: ‘John wanted the best for Argyll and Bute and we will remember him fondly for his commitment to the area.’

The ward’s third serving councillor, Dougie McFadzean, who was elected for the first time in May, said: ‘I didn’t know John very well but did have the pleasure of meeting with him several times after our election.

‘During those meetings, I was left in no doubt that John wanted to help everyone in our ward to the best of his abilities.

‘He was passionate about Tarbert and Kintyre, and had his community at heart.

‘He was very helpful to me on a personal level, as he had been a councillor for many years previously, and gave me loads of useful advice, with me being newly elected, and I hold his openness and sincerity in my heart.

‘I wish to pass on my deepest thoughts to John’s family and friends, he will be sorely missed.’

Former Kintyre and the Islands councillor Anne Horn, from Tarbert, who retired at the time of May’s election, said: ‘Tarbert residents were shocked and saddened to hear of John’s passing.

‘John was delighted to be re-elected and was already moving forward with plans to bring improvements to the area.

‘Our heartfelt condolences go to Karen, Sam, family and friends who will miss him sorely.’

Former Kintyre and the Islands councillor Alastair Redman, who lost his seat in the May election, said: ‘My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time. John will be sadly missed by his community which he served with distinction.’

John McAlpine was a long-serving Argyll and Bute councillor.
John McAlpine was a long-serving Argyll and Bute councillor.

Councillors in the neighbouring South Kintyre ward have also paid tribute.

Donald Kelly, of the Argyll First group, of which John also used to be a member, said: ‘Anyone who knew John would know he was a bit of a character, and we became friends and colleagues during the past 20 or so years.

‘He was always up for a bit of banter and a laugh while doing his best for his local community.

‘He will be sorely missed and our thoughts are with Karen and Sam at this time.’

Councillor John Armour, with whom John served previously and again in recent months, said: ‘I spoke to John immediately after the election results had been announced and could see how delighted he was to be able once again to represent everyone in Kintyre and the Islands, but especially his home village of Tarbert.

‘He said how much he was looking forward to getting back in to representing his constituents at Kilmory and it is dreadfully sad that that has been cut short.

‘I’ll remember John as someone who always stood up for and put his local community first but could also see the bigger picture and put in a power of work for the wider good of Argyll and Bute.

‘John will be sadly missed amongst his fellow councillors and I extend my deepest sympathy to his family and friends at this sad time.’

Although he was first elected in May, South Kintyre’s third councillor, Tommy Macpherson, said he knew John his whole adult life.

‘I first met John through football,’ he said, ‘catching up with him again at community council meetings and then earlier this year in Kilmory’s car park.

‘A friendship rekindled, informal meetings quickly established as the norm; the usual format being a quick-fire round on council matters, with a little football.

‘I last caught up with John at Glenbarr only a few weeks ago. He was full of his usual energy, focus and passion for all things Kintyre.

‘I was shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden death of my pal and colleague. My thoughts and prayers are with Karen and Sam.’

Former South Kintyre councillor Rory Colville, who lost his seat in the May election but served alongside John for many years previously, said: ‘I knew John as a councillor and fellow member of the then administration; it was his dedication and perseverance that sowed the seeds of the Tarbert and Lochgilphead regeneration scheme.

‘Tarbert has lost a true champion and Argyll a good man. My deepest sympathy to his family.’

Although renowned for his work with Argyll and Bute Council, John was also well known as a keen sportsman.

He played golf from a very early age, encouraged by his mum Irene who was to the forefront of the ladies’ section at Tarbert Golf Club and a frequent winner of the club championship.

John moved through the junior ranks into the seniors where he quickly gained a reputation of being a fierce match play competitor, winning several of the knock-out competitions.

‘He was a terrific putter,’ said a club spokesperson, ‘and when his John Letters Golden Goose putter was working to its maximum, there was only going to be one winner.’

His golf took a back seat as the Dookers, Tarbert’s football team, entered the amateur league and then, as ‘Father Time’ caught up with the legs, he turned his hand to bowls, where he ruled the green for many a year.

‘While John hadn’t been a member for a long time, it didn’t stop him taking an interest in how the club was doing or who was winning the competitions,’ said the golf club spokesperson.

‘He always took a keen interest at club championship time as he saw this as the pinnacle tournament.

‘We will all miss you, old friend; thanks for the memories.’

Past and present members of Tarbert Amateur Football Club (AFC) said they were stunned to learn of the passing of club legend and former captain, John ‘Yo-Yo’ McAlpine.

John’s fine footballing career started off at school in Tarbert where he put five-a-side teams together to compete at the Mid Argyll heats, held annually at Lochgilphead’s Ropework Park, with the winners progressing to the Argyll finals.

He played for Tarbert in the Mid Argyll youth leagues, then for Cowal Boys Club in Dunoon before progressing into the senior Tarbert team which competed in the summer league.

He then had spells with both Lochside and Campbeltown Pupils in the Scottish Amateur League before getting Tarbert AFC admitted to the Scottish Amateur Football League (SAFL) in the early 1980s.

John had canvassed opinion from local players about playing in the SAFL and, with a couple of others, went to Glasgow to an SAFL meeting to present Tarbert’s case to join the league set-up.

‘As you can imagine, his charm won them over and despite the league season already being under way, Tarbert’s application was accepted,’ said a Tarbert AFC spokesperson.

John captained the team in their first game, a draw against Carradale.

John McAlpine, front row, third from the right, during his days playing football for Tarbert AFC.
John McAlpine, front row, third from the right, during his days playing football for Tarbert AFC.

As the team gathered momentum, the committee set about the task of fundraising to build changing rooms and John came up with the novel idea of doing a sponsored sit down at Ibrox, the home of Rangers Football Club.

He contacted Rangers which welcomed him with open arms and he sat on as many seats as possible during the allotted time, raising a considerable amount in the process for the changing room fund.

When his playing days stopped, he remained a loyal supporter, always taking great interest in how the boys were doing and, if not away bowling, he was a regular visitor at Cil Andreis to cheer on the team.

‘His infectious enthusiasm and will to win never waned and he was always on hand with some words of wisdom and advice,’ added the spokesperson. ‘He was thrilled to bits when his son Sam followed in his footsteps by representing Tarbert AFC.

‘All those who played with John could regale countless tales of things that happened on and off the park.

‘John ‘Yo-Yo’ McAlpine, we salute you as our captain, team leader and Tarbert legend; you may be gone but you will never be forgotten at Tarbert AFC.’

The Saltire was flown at half mast at the head of Campbeltown's Old Quay on the day of John's funeral.
The Saltire was flown at half mast at the head of Campbeltown’s Old Quay on the day of John’s funeral.

Tarbert Bowling Club paid tribute to John ahead of a big game on Sunday July 24, in which John usually played a large part, competing in the singles section.

Before the game began, club president John Wilkieson said: ‘This was the home green of our now departed and sadly missed ex-president, club champion, West Argyll champion and, most importantly, a good and just family man, John McAlpine, i.e. Yo-Yo.

‘John was the president here twice and West Argyll president once, and he brought enthusiasm and encouragement to all members, helping to grow and progress the club to what it is today.

‘A member for over 40 years, he successfully won numerous titles, including Tarbert gents’ championships 10 times, Argyll and Bute singles three times and remains present champion. He also represented Tarbert at Ayr.’

He then invited everyone present to join him in holding a minute’s silence in respect of, and to reflect on, memories of the ‘larger than life gentleman’ who will be sadly missed by all.