An inspirational Largs father has spoken movingly about how he donated a kidney to a Liverpool man as a thank you to the NHS for saving his own life.

John Gilmour is the father of Aimee Mackay, who recently competed in the Miss Great Britain beauty pageant contest.

He survived the trauma of a double brain haemorrhage at the age of 42 on Guy Fawkes Night in 2009 after medics saved his life.

John, 56, said: "I have done a lot of work over the years with a charity called Spirit Aid, of which Aimee is an ambassador.

"I was booked in to do a Glasgow half marathon and was out training for it on Guy Fawkes Night on 2009 when my life changed forever.

"I went out and, like a bolt out of the blue, I collapsed at the age of 42. It was a shock to everyone as I had had no warning signs or health issues previously.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:
"I was taken to Glasgow Southern General Hospital and it transpired that I had had two brain haemorrhages. One area had burst but the other hadn't, so I was taken away for surgery, and my heart and blood pressure were both good."

John then underwent open brain surgery, which he feared would leave him disabled.

He said: "After eight hours, I woke up with a smile and had no ill effects and asked 'How's it going?'

"I got out of hospital on November 26 that year and it took me around seven months to recover, as I had challenging brain issues.

"I was given massive support from the community health nurses, mental health nurses and GPs on my family - we were living on the Isle of Bute at the time."

In October 2012, a television show inspired John to carry out the selfless act of donating a kidney.

He said: "I saw that episode of 'Surprise Surprise' about how altruistically donated kidneys can help save other people's lives and suddenly I had this epiphany.

"I said 'Why am I here, why did I not die?' I have known others with brain injuries who have died and I thought, 'I can save someone else's life after my own life was saved.'"

John would then undergo 18 months of psychological and medical tests to ensure he was fit for the operation, which took place in April 2014.

He said: "I had to speak to my family, as there were initial concerns, but my wife Claire and the girls all agreed with me, as they knew I was so keen to do it, as that was my purpose.

Largs and Millport Weekly News:
"Giving away an organ in your body - I want to tell anybody that they can do it.

"The atmosphere in the waiting room for the surgery was incredible as I told people what I was in for. 

"My life was saved five years beforehand and I wanted to now do something to save someone else's life.

"The best thing in life is that we have got a limited time in this world, and it is how you spend that time and for what purpose that counts, and I was able to give someone else their life back."

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

John later found out after receiving a letter from the transplant charity organisation that his kidney went to a member of a Rotary group, in Liverpool, who profusely thanked him in the letter for saving his life, as he had been gravely ill.

John, who has raised money and told his story through the Give a Kidney charity, said: "I so wish there were more people that felt they could do it as it is such a special feeling to save another person's life,  and I would urge anyone to consider doing it.

"From 2009, I have been a foster carer, I have adopted, given a kidney, I've come to Largs, watched my daughter represent Miss Glasgow in the UK beauty pageant competition, all because someone saved my life.

"I am not a hero in any way, I am a boy from Irvine, and moved to Rothesay and Bute who has lived a life, and it shows you can change direction after what happened to me."

And John's charitable ways extend far beyond Scotland, as both he and his daughter Aimee have a long association with Spirit Aid.

When Aimee was nominated for the Miss Britain UK beauty pageant, her song was sung by African children in a video of support.

John said: "Seeing the kids in Malawi sing a song to Aimee when she became Miss Great Britain Glasgow was something very special - it is a charity we have both long been involved in too and was very special.

"In 2006 we sold our house in Irvine, moved to the Isle of Bute, with Aimee and her sister Samantha, because we wanted to discover something else.

"Aimee performed and won the local X Factor competition, and we were approached about Aimee being an ambassador by one of the charity organisers, and she travelled with Nikita from X Factor, and sung all over Scotland raising funds for Spirit Aid."

The charity helped to build a creche in Malawi, which to this day feeds 3,000 impoverished African children.