Neil just struggles with the word ‘no’

Duns Citizen of the Year - Neil Redpath.
Duns Citizen of the Year - Neil Redpath.

Busy Duns personality Neil Redpath has been named Citizen of the Year for 2011 by the Duns Rotary Club and The Tweeddale Press Group.

Following the successful introduction of the initiative last year nominations were sought for another community-minded individual who has done sterling work for the town and the surrounding area.

And Neil, who devotes an enormous amount of his time to the voluntary sector in Berwickshire, fitted the bill perfectly.

Neil said he was deeply honoured and proud to be named the 2011 Duns Citizen of the year, after taking the baton from last year’s winner Stuart “Shug” Renton.

“I was away on holiday and I got a phone call to say can I keep the date free,” Neil told the Berwickshire News.

“I didn’t know what it was for, but when I came back they invited me along to the meeting and I was presented with the award.

“It was quite a surprise really, but a really good one,” he added.

As a dad to four young children, director of a successful company, and a community volunteer on a number of projects, Neil is a busy man. “I struggle with that word ‘no’!” he joked.

As well as juggling a busy home life and running the business with his brother, Neil is the pack leader for Duns Cub Scouts - a role he has filled for the last 30 years - despite just ‘filling in’ for his uncle Alec in the early 1980s.

He explained: “My uncle took the cubs before me. Sadly he fell through a roof and broke his neck - he was worried about the cubs so I said I’d keep it going for him on a temporary basis, but he didn’t recover enough to come back properly - 30 years later I’m still doing it!”

And with the Cubs as popular as ever in Duns, it’s just as well he is.

“There’s a full pack of 25 boys at the moment, and 60 more on a waiting list to get in,” Neil said. “Unfortunately I have no more nights free but there’s at least another pack if someone wants to do it.”

Neil is also involved with the First Responders, who provide assistance on a voluntary basis to the ambulance service. And with Redpaths owning a large display unit, Neil can often be spotted in Duns Square around summer festival time.

“We have a big exhibition unit for the shows we go to, so we provide that, and the grand stand for the band,” he said.

“We usually go along and help out. There’s a real community spirit in Duns and it’s building up more and more. We’re happy to help where we can.

“We do the Christmas lights too and the big tyre display unit gets used for the grotto for Santa at Christmas too, and we do the lights.”

As one of Santa’s most valued helpers, Neil arranges visits throughout Berwickshire.

“It’s very difficult to keep Santa away from the children,” he admitted. “I arrange the sleigh and everything but sometimes I can get a last minute phone call saying one of the ‘Santas’ can’t make it. If that happens I have a spare red suit in the sleigh so I fill in! The children all realise it’s me helping Santa because he’s so busy,

“Christmas is a big thing in our house anyway, it’s quite handy because usually we’re a little quieter at work around that time.”

Although last winter proved an exception to the rule, as Redpaths were inundated with winter tyre requests.

“We sold 3,500 winter tyres because the weather was so bad!” Neil said. “We also dug out the fire engine and Duns Primary School with the fork lift - much to my childrens disgust!” ‘

And now his hard work has been recognised by the town, Neil says that he is just following in the footsteps of his father, Peter Redpath.

“My father would have been really pleased that I’ve got this award,” he said. “He did a huge amount for the town but there wasn’t this sort of thing then.

“He was on the Childrens’ Panel, the community council, he was in the pantomime and all that stuff, he was always very involved. He was a real Duns Dinger too.”

Although the business, which now has 11 depots and employs an 86-strong staff, has gone from strength to strength, Neil says he would never leave Duns. “I’ve lived in Duns all my life. I live just behind the old high school, so I have a rugby pitch as a front garden, a swimming pool, and a castle at the back - where else can I get that?!”