WATCH: Poignant tribute paid to world pool champion as players form guard of honour with cues for funeral cortege in Inverness
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Pool players across Inverness have paid poignant tribute to a world pool champion following his sudden death aged 59.
Gavin Phillips, of Drakies, was regarded as legend among the pool-playing community and was one of the top players in Scotland.
He beat some of the world’s best players in 2012 to be crowned World Black Ball Pool champion following a dramatic final.
Fellow players across the city lined up with their cues as the cortège passed by the Chieftain Hotel in Millburn Road, where he was a team member, to a private family service at the funeral home of John Fraser and Son on Wednesday.
Mr Phillips, who died in Raigmore Hospital, leaves a wife Jane, sons Stuart and Brian and daughter Lynsey.
He was originally from Southport but moved to Scotland after meeting his wife in Aberdeen while doing an oil industry training course.
The couple were married in 1987 at Deskford near Cullen and later moved to Inverness, living initially in Hilton and then Drakies.
Mr Phillips worked as a duty manager for the supermarket Safeway – later Morrisons – for about 30 years.
He was based in Alness at the time of his retirement at the end of 2019.
His son Brian said his father had played pool in his younger days in Southport, winning various competitions and took it up again after moving to Inverness where he represented the Chieftain.
"By far, he was the best player in Inverness," he said. "Then he took it to a national level – all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he became one of the best players in Scotland."
His greatest achievement was in 2012 when he became world champion in a tournament staged in Blackpool.
Having beaten some of the world’s best players from countries such as South Africa, Morocco, Ireland and France, he faced English professional Jimmy Carney in a dramatic final in which he fought back from being 8-2 down to win 11-9.
Mr Phillips said it was his father’s proudest moment.
"He would not have thought about winning that tournament until the last round," he said. "He was absolutely delighted."
Although he has followed in his father’s footsteps and plays pool – including for Scotland’s youth team – he said he was not as good as his father.
"He was fiercely competitive and hated losing," he said. "He practised a lot."
Son Stuart said his father was interested in other sports, including football and golf, and was a true family man.
"He was fiercely loyal," he said. "He would do anything he could for friends and family."
He also recalled him as being impatient.
"He was not a man who liked to wait and was always early to things!" he said.
Tributes have also been posted on social media and an online fundraising page has also been set up on GoFundMe.
Entitled Gavin Phillips Scotland Legend, it states: "Sadly, Scotland has lost one of their best and the Scottish pool family feel it’s only right to give the family a hand."
There was a sense of loss at the Chieftain.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of most beloved customers, Gavin Phillips, our champion of pool," a spokesman said.
"He will be missed by all the staff and customers. Our deepest condolences to his family."
Among the tributes on social media was one from Gary Sutherland, who described Mr Phillips’ death as "tragic news".
He said: "Thoughts with Gavin’s family and friends. Great tour supporter and player lost way too early."
Fiona Forsyth said: "Fantastic pool player. So sad to hear this. Thoughts with everyone who was close to him."
Although he had made his home in the Highlands, Mr Phillips regularly visited Southport and there were messages of sympathy, saying he would be sadly missed by his friends and team-mates there.
His sister Amanda Phillips – a highly-respected “superhead” who revolutionised failing schools in the East End and Suffolk and was made a CBE – died in 2017 after suffering fatal head injuries from a fall while on holiday.