Appeal raises thousands for Invergarry couple who lost everything in fire

INVERGARRY FIRE 18/3/19 PICTURE BY IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE

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A crowdfunding appeal set up to help an Invergarry couple who lost everything, including their two pet dogs, in a house fire last week, quickly outstripped its initial target and now stands at more than £4,000.

June Mills – who may be better known to many in the Fort William and Onich areas as June Alexander – and her husband, Callum, were at work on Monday March 18 when firefighters were alerted to reports of a blaze at their two-storey home in Garry Crescent.

Three fire appliances rushed to the scene and brought the fire under control and extinguished it.

Tragically, however, pet dogs Scampy and Rogie had already lost their lives to what is believed to have been the effects of smoke inhalation.

It was one of Mrs Mills’ three sons, Robert MacNeill, who set up the crowdfunding page and the fantastic sum was raised by 120 people on just one day – including an anonymous donation of £1,000.

Mr MacNeill, 27, who works as a personal trainer in Glasgow, said the fire had left his mum and stepdad with nothing.

‘Everything from the attic down to the foundations was destroyed – even personal items, including my mum’s jewellery, are gone,’ he told us.

Mrs Mills works as an HGV driver and was in Oban when she was alerted to the fire and returned home as soon as she could. Mr Mills also received a phonecall about the blaze.

‘It seems it was workmen who noticed the fire first and alerted the fire service. They were aware there were dogs inside and had knocked the door in but it was too late by then as the dogs had already passed away,’ continued Mr MacNeill.

‘To say my mum is heartbroken is a complete understatement. Losing your home, memories, family history and all belongings is one thing to come to terms with.

‘But to also suffer the loss of your pets is unimaginable. My mum is absolutely inconsolable about the dogs – Scampy was a rescue dog about 10 years old, while Rogie was just three.’

The A82 road at Invergarry was closed for a period while firefighters tackled the blaze on Monday. PICTURE BY IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE. NO-F-13-INVERGARRY-FIRE-06.jpg
The A82 road at Invergarry was closed for a period while firefighters tackled the blaze on Monday. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image.

Mr MacNeill, who has two brothers, said he started the crowdfunding appeal more in the hope it would give his mum a lift if she saw messages of support and he said that he had not expected it to have raised so much money so quickly.

‘It’s amazing and people have been so generous. It has given us all a real boost to see all the messages of support,’ he told the Lochaber Times.

The property in Garry Crescent was a private rental, and Mr and Mrs Mills are now  staying at a friend’s caravan at Onich.

‘They had been at the house in Invergarry for five years and my brothers and I had all stayed there for periods in recent years, whenever we needed a base for a while.

‘There are lots of good memories for my family from that house, so it has hit us all hard.

‘My mum and stepdad are now looking for another property to rent, anywhere from Glencoe to Fort William and Invergarry really, so if any of your readers knows of a house that would be suitable that would be a big help.

‘My mum is too private and proud to ask for help, but I feel completely helpless and want to do something to help her.

‘The house is a complete shell and she has been left with nothing but the clothes she went to work in.’

Donations to help the couple can be made at: www.gofundme.com/a-local-family-in-need