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Twin plays poignant tribute to Tain stalwart Alasdair Rhind as Strictly Inverness dance fundraiser goes ahead

By Hector MacKenzie

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Jackie Sutherland and Sonny Rhind bravely stepped in to fill a gap in Strictly Inverness.Picture: Callum Mackay
Jackie Sutherland and Sonny Rhind bravely stepped in to fill a gap in Strictly Inverness.Picture: Callum Mackay

A HIGHLAND community stalwart who lost his highly respected twin brother last week is pressing ahead with a fundraising cause close to his heart.

And this weekend promises to be a poignant one for Sonny Rhind who bravely stepped in to replace a late withdrawal from the Strictly Inverness fundraising dance event.

The sudden death of Sonny’s brother Alasdair (65), a long-serving Highland councillor who played a massive part in the Easter Ross community, came as a huge shock last week.

The death last week of his twin brother, Alasdair, came as a huge shock.
The death last week of his twin brother, Alasdair, came as a huge shock.

SEE ALSO: Tributes flood in after death of Easter Ross councillor

‘Alasdair was a champion of the community’

Alasdair’s funeral will take place tomorrow (Friday) and then the following day Sonny will go ahead as planned with a previously arranged Cammie’s Connections fundraising day of music at The Field in Alness.

The event is helping Sonny’s fundraising tally which in part goes to keep the much-loved charity Highland Hospice, which relies on donations from the public, running.

And poignantly that event falls on his 66th birthday.

Sonny said: “It was very sudden with Ally. He never stopped working and the amount that he did for the community was quite amazing.

“He was like a catalyst who helped to get things done rather than a boss man telling people what to do. It was just a case of super teamwork.

“His role as a councillor was often very difficult. People can be very hurtful and that job is challenging. Alasdair hit with a straight bat - it was a bit like he had no filter and he told it exactly as he saw it.”

His brother played a key role in the Tain Highland Gathering, gala and Hogmanay events and also organised events for old folks in and around the town.

Sonny, who lost his wife Marion, another hard-working community activist, almost three years ago, said he would always have very fond memories of Alasdair who generously sponsored his Strictly fundraiser and would have been there next month to watch him dance.

A former head coach at Fyrish Gymnastics Club, he has been partnered with Jackie Sutherland who had her name down as a reserve in the event of any withdrawal from the event.

Speaking ahead of his fundraising event at The Field - which runs from 3pm to 11pm and features acts including The Impact, Dagger Gordon, Geordie Jack, the Harper Country Band and Rhianne - he revealed why he had agreed when asked despite initial reservations.

“There’s a group of us who go walking on Wednesdays. When someone pulled out of Strictly, and they put a shout out for a knight in shining armour, one of the ladies on the walk said I should put myself forward.

“I thought about it for two hours and realised the only reason not to was because I was scared. So I decided that wasn’t a reason not to do it and put myself forward.”

After the shock of being thrown in at the deep end, he and dance partner Jackie have been doing their best to catch up with fellow participants who had already been training intensively for weeks.

He said: “After a fortnight or so it started to gel. We are not trampling on each other’s toes too much now. We didn’t start until week four so there’s a bit of ground to make up.

“Jackie is having to work a bit harder with fundraising as a lot of the other dancers are also from Inverness and there are just so many things on.”

Yet despite the obstacles faced and the heart-breaking loss of his brother, Sonny is maintaining his focus on giving a boost to Highland Hospice, a charity which means so much to so many.

While working on the American smooth and the waltz, they’re also involved in what is touted to be “a very, very colourful” group dance that is sure to raise the roof at Inverness Ice Centre.

Sonny, who is also well known in Invergordon for his efforts with the trailblazing Off the Wall murals project, said: “It has been challenging but fun. Some of the seemingly simplest moves can drive you bananas.”

He admits his past as a gymnastics coach helps when focussing on finish lines and hand positioning. He joked: “I now realise I could have been a bit more patient when coaching some of the gymnasts!”

And despite the many challenges, he said: “I’ve always loved dance and the beauty of movement. I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar at Eden Court and the dancers were just phenomenal.”

He pays tribute to supporters keeping him going, amongst them Invergordon Golf Club and businesses which have chipped in raffle prizes.

While The Field event will be taken on with mixed emotions, he says he’ll be remembering his brother’s sense of fun and love of a singsong on the day and the week’s leading up to May’s big event.

His fundraising page can be seen via his Facebook page which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/sonny.rhind.7

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