HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to a Millport man after he died in a horrific tugboat tragedy.

The Isle of Cumbrae is in mourning after it was announced that Ian Catterson, 73, was one of two men who perished when the vessel capsized near Greenock.

His colleague George Taft, 65, from Greenock also died when the tugBiter sank as it was assisting the Hebridean Princess cruise ship off Custom House Quay at around 3.30pm on Friday.

Mr Catterson's body was recovered around 1.40pm the following day, with an investigating into the circumstances of the incident now ongoing.

Father Peter Magee, of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Millport, is leading the tributes to the popular islander.

He said: "Ian had a formidable physique for a man of 73. He was as agile as a 40-year-old.

"He swam every morning in the sea he loved, was an avid sailor on his own boat, and a dedicated pursuer of everything maritime.

"He was a prolific reader of anything from popular novels to theology and politics. He had a love of fine wines and good whiskies.

"Whenever I think of Our Lady's Church in Millport, I think almost at the same time of Ian. He was always there, always ready to help in doing the most menial or the most solemn of tasks.

"Every time I arrived at the church on Sundays or weekdays, he was there and had prepared all that needed preparing.

"He had immense practical skill and knowledge, not only of matters relating to church services but of other interests and commitments.

"Ian was a character. He was direct and to the point and was not given to tolerating nonsense. He had an incredibly powerful voice both for proclaiming the word of God and singing. He always sat at the very front of the church and even during lockdown when it was a case of allocating specific seats on the basis of distance, Ian always somehow managed to get to 'his' seat.

"Personally, I found him to be a great support, loyal to a fault. Always ready to see the humorous side of things and uncannily perceptive when it came to people and events.

"He had a ready smile an enjoyed wit and paradox. Most importantly of all, Ian was what I would call 'fiercely Catholic', meaning by that that he had a very deep and embedded Catholic identity. He made no apologies for his faith, something which is singularly refreshing today.

"But his Catholicism was not at all bigoted or narrow-minded. He had a deep empathy for any Christian. Ian will be no stranger in heaven and will encounter many a friend he never knew he had.

"His sudden death was certainly tragic and brutal, but I fancy that the Lord knew that Ian was ready. Few of us perhaps could say the same.

"He was a strong man, a strong character and a strong Christian. We will certainly miss him, but our loss will be without a shadow of a doubt, heaven's gain."

Retired Millport correspondent Mary Currie, who helps run the Island Express delivery service, knew Ian as a regular customer from his home near Kames Bay.

She said: "Ian was always very friendly to speak to.

"He looked after and cared for his mother in Millport for many years until she passed away.

"His tragic death is very sad news for the whole island."

Councillor Todd Ferguson, who lives on Cumbrae, said he had many dealings with Ian on important community issues.

He said: "My thoughts are prayers are with Ian's family at this very sad time.

"It is shocking to hear that someone has passed away in such a tragic way. He was a very community-minded man and someone who cared deeply about local issues.

"These type of incidents always seem to hit small island communities the hardest."

Ian's international maritime exploits resulted in him travelling the globe including Oslo, Canada, Japan, and Korea as a principal surveyor inspecting ships, boats and oil rigs.