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WATCH: Inverness man is set for catwalk in memory of his best friend who died of cancer

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Best friends: Jim Oliver and Alan Ross.
Best friends: Jim Oliver and Alan Ross.

Jim Oliver (66), originally from the Easter Ross area, is taking part in this year's 'Catwalk for a Cause' run by the Highland Hospice, in memory of his best friend Alan Ross.

Catwalk for a Cause is a platform for brave individuals from across the Highlands to tell their story about how their life has been affected by cancer or another life-limiting illness.

It’s both emotional and uplifting as it gives people the opportunity to glam up and feel good on the catwalk. A celebration of life, as well as a tribute to those no longer with us.

Jim and Alan went to school together and clicked from the very start.

Alan Ross and the owner of The Castle Tavern, Les Wilson.
Alan Ross and the owner of The Castle Tavern, Les Wilson.

Jim said: "Alan and I went to secondary school together and we clicked right away. We shared a great love for football and at that time there was a new comedy show that came out called Monty Python's Flying Circus and the two of us were both hooked on it.

"That ended up being a lifelong bond for us and we were friends ever since.

"We sometimes didn't see each other for years at a time, but as soon as I came back home it was like nothing had changed, our friendship stayed the same no matter how much time had passed."

The pair grew a phenomenal friendship that Jim was incredibly fond of.

When describing Alan, he said: "He was so special, and the funniest person I have ever met in my life. He would just light up a room with his antics.

"He was a born comedian!

"Anyone that knew Alan would say the same as me, he would do anything for anyone and was one of the kindest people you would ever meet in your life.

"If we had a few more people like Alan in this world, it would be a much better place."

At just 63-years-old, Alan's diagnosis came out of the blue and shook a wave of devastation throughout his community, especially Jim.

He said: "I was speaking to him on the phone on a Thursday evening and he never mentioned anything about it. Then on Sunday, I was with some family in the area and they said it was terrible news about Alan, but I hadn't heard.

"That was when I was told he had been diagnosed with cancer.

"I was initially annoyed at him for not telling me, so I phoned him and that was when he told me himself.

"I met him just after he came out of the room from getting his diagnosis and he told me he had 15 months left to live.

"The two of us burst into tears, hugged each other and then Alan turned it into a laugh."

While Alan was told he had 15 months left to live, the cancer rapidly became incredibly aggressive and he sadly died just several months later.

Jim said: "It was just horrible seeing such a beautiful person be affected by such a horrible, horrible disease. It was incredibly tough."

To honour his best friend, Jim will be taking part in Catwalk for a Cause, where he will strike a pose down a catwalk alongside other courageous cancer victims in aid of raising funds and awareness for the Highland Hospice.

Jim is set to kick-start his fundraising extravaganza tomorrow at The Castle Tavern where there will be a range of activities going on, from darts and a raffle, to live music and a comedy show.

The pub will be accepting walk-ins throughout the day, however only those with a ticket will be able to join from 7pm for the live music and the comedy show.

Jim and Alan, aged 15.
Jim and Alan, aged 15.

Tickets cost just £10, which includes a meal at The Castle Tavern that evening.

Jim said he is 'very excited' to be spending his birthday hosting a fundraiser in memory of his best friend and has urged those willing to buy him a pint, to donate the equivalent to the charity instead.

As the countdown begins for the big event next month, Jim is preparing himself for an emotional night, with lots of fun.

He said: "I am delighted to be making an absolute fool of myself on a catwalk in his name.

"When I asked for permission to take part in the event from his wife Liz, she burst out laughing as she just thought Alan would have found it hilarious.

"I am going to go into the experience with an Alan Ross humour, although I think there will be a lot of tears.

"I am looking forward to really getting stuck into it and doing my best for my pal."

Catwalk for a Cause is set to return to the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness on Saturday, February 10. Tickets cost £60 per person or £720 for a table of 12.

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