It was extremely sad to see Largs lose two legendary residents within the space of a few days.

Former prisoner of war Jack Ransom and Largs Thistle supporter and extraordinary volunteer Pat Rall were among two of the town's most colourful characters.

And while both had very different backgrounds, they shared a common goal: that of making the most out of every single day and living for the moment.

Jack, who reached the incredible age of 103, was a charmer. 

He had the twinkle in his eye which could capture hearts, but behind the happy and cheery persona was a man whose steely stare in his war photo tells you of the uncertainty which even then he knew lay ahead.

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Not even Jack, though, could have envisaged the sheer horror of what he would have to endure on the 'Death Railway' in Burma after being captured as a prisoner of war by Japanese forces.

Despite his advancing years, Jack's memory stayed sharp - and he told me on more than one occasion of the horrific recollections he wished he could forget, of the comrades who lay down and died and who he then had to bury afterwards.

He even had to eat charcoal and melted away to only six stone, while fighting all manner of viruses and diseases, from cholera to dysentry.

When the war was over in Europe, and VE Day celebrations broke out all over the Allied countries in May 1945, Jack knew nothing about it. 

Once the Burma Railway was up and running, he had been sent back to Singapore, where he worked for the Japanese digging defence tunnels, and remained in the dark for several months about events in the western world.

Remembering the day he was freed, Jack once told me: “Every morning we were collected by the Japanese guards at dawn, but one morning they didn’t turn up.

"Then the rumours started. Somebody said that the Japanese were about to surrender.

"The first sign that I had was a paratrooper walking up the road towards the jail. I was a scarecrow, stood in rags with no shoes and only weighing six stone. Eventually, Earl Mountbatten arrived and accepted the surrender of the Japanese."

Jack, who was born in Peckham in south London, also described to me his vivid memory of the day he met King Charles' great-grandmother, Queen Mary, as a six-year-old schoolboy.

He recalled: "I remember chatting to her when she came to open a school near to where I lived. She was very regal and wore a long silver dress, diamonds and carried a beautiful parasol.

"I remember thinking as a cheeky Cockney that I better be careful or she might give me a whack with it if I said anything out of line.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Jack RansomJack Ransom (Image: Newsquest)

"I met Princess Anne at a garden party event a few years ago, and told her about my meeting with Queen Mary - she agreed about the parasol and that I was wise to watch my step!"

It was a worthwhile lesson, as Jack was never out of step. He was quite comfortable in the brave new world of IT, using a computer to write his memoirs, sending 'happy birthday' messages to friends and family on Facebook, and even joining Twitter.

I remember I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing when the Facebook friendship notification came up from Jack in his 99th year!

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Calum attending Jack Ransom's 103rd birthdayCalum attending Jack Ransom's 103rd birthday (Image: Newsquest)
Jack was an indomitable spirit, and had a determination and zeal for life.

His much-anticipated 100th birthday party in 2020 had to be cancelled because of Covid. The same fate befell his 101st birthday, and then hopes of celebrating reaching 102 years were thwarted by an extended hospital visit last year.

But he still partied and led the celebrations at his 103rd birthday celebration earlier this year, with his beloved wife Maddie and his family and friends, in his own unique style.

He was truly a great friend, a shining example of the wartime generation, and Largs has lost a diamond of a gentleman.

Pat Rall, meanwhile, was no less of a diamond in the town's crown.

John Crawford, the manager who led Thistle to Scottish Junior Cup glory in 1994, labelled Pat 'Mr Largs Thistle' in our tribute last week - and it's difficult to disagree with that assessment.

He was a diligent volunteer. One comment that stood out to me about Pat came from another member of that cup-winning squad, George Wall: "Pat did the jobs at Barrfields that nobody else wanted to do."

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Pat Rall loved Walking Football camaredrie tooPat Rall loved Walking Football camaredrie too (Image: Newsquest)

He looked after Barrfields Park as if it was his own, making sure the kits were immaculate and ready for the players, keeping the stadium tidy and the dressing rooms clean - and he loved the rapport he enjoyed with the players.

Pat, in fact, loved everything to do with Largs. Even in his steel fitting days, working far away from Barrfields, he would regularly phone up Taffy Dicks, Thistle's match secretary at the time, to get all the latest news from the club.

"There was never a dull or a quiet time when Pat was around," said Taffy.

"One of the things that sticks in my mind was when we won the West of Scotland Cup in 1991, and he turned up in a black and gold chequered jacket and top hat.

"He was one of the few people that could get away with wearing such a get up!

"Pat worked away quite a bit at that point in time in Terminal 5 at Heathrow. I was secretary and he would phone every Sunday to get an update.

"He always liked to know what was going on. He was definitely a supporter through and through, and he never held back from having his say."

In my early days helping out at Largs Thistle, back in 2004, I remember the club was going through some difficult times financially, and I helped secure shirt sponsorship with then manager of the Brisbane House Hotel, Jim Whitelaw.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Calum pictured with Pat RallCalum pictured with Pat Rall (Image: Newsquest)

Pat often told me that the financial boost from that sponsorship was critical to the club surviving, and that he was always very grateful to me for playing my part.

I remember one particular occasion at Sharp's Bar in Largs when Pat was celebrating after a cup victory.

It was fast approaching midnight, and even all the young ones were taking a seat after a full night of partying. You can guess who was still up on the dance floor, showing more energy than the Duracell bunny.

And who could forget the day at Irvine Vics when Pat and his kitman colleague Tommy Scoullar were both sent off by the referee - for supposedly infringing on the field of play?

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Pat Rall, with his good friend Tommy ScoullerPat Rall, with his good friend Tommy Scouller (Image: Newsquest)
The pair were christened the 'Jack and Victor' of Still Game after that particularly funny episode.

Pat very much embodied what Largs Thistle was all about, and it was no surprise when current manager Stuart Davidson heaped praise on him in his own tribute, describing Pat as a loyal friend and follower during his nine years in the Barrfields hot-seat.

Both Pat Rall and Jack Ransom had very different life experiences - of that there can be no doubt.

But they both had an amazing sense of humour, and a joie de vivre, and are both probably partying together upstairs in heaven right now.

Their jokes, one-liners and anecdotes could light up any room, and it was the greatest privilege to share their company, and listen to their stories, and be their friend. 

I shall miss them both very much.