Ayr RFC second row Nathan Gilmour has an extensive range of excuses not to attend training – particularly at the beginning of a new season – but this is his best one yet. On Wednesday, he begins a full week of solo camping on the tiny uninhabited lighthouse island of Lady Isle, just off the coast of Troon. 

By marooning himself on the island, which is no bigger than the Millbrae turf, Nathan aims to raise funds for a national campaign that looks to challenge an outdated piece of child abduction legislation in Scotland. As well as raising money, Nathan hopes to highlight the loneliness and isolation experienced by ‘left behind parents’ and by abducted children caused by the Scottish legal loophole.

In 2019, Nathan found himself painfully alone after his own children were abducted by their mother against the orders of the local Sheriff court. His children, who were only 1 and 4 years old at the time, have since been registered as missing and at risk by Police Scotland. With the children suspected to be hidden by their mother in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, Nathan faces a hard battle to see their return. 

 “With North Cyprus being an illegally occupied area of land, it’s tough to persuade the social and legal services over there to help return my kids. But first the authorities in Scotland need to have appropriate powers to intervene – and unlike the rest of the UK, we don’t have those.”

Standing in his way is an outdated piece of Scottish law that prevents the recognition of parental child abduction as a criminal offence. Nathan’s national campaign aims to reform this legal loophole and bring our legislation in line with the rest of the UK.

“The simple fact is that if my children had been removed from anywhere else in the UK, a European Arrest Warrant and Interpol Red notice would have been produced just 28 days after their abduction. I’m over 3 years down the road and I’m still battling with authorities in Scotland to take appropriate steps that would hugely increase the chance of seeing my children returned safely to their home and family. My children are being denied health and social care, an education and a childhood here in Scotland. Two young children are missing, and yet no action seems to open to me, other parents like me or any Scottish authority. It’s time for change.”

Nathan is often heard talking of the community at  Ayr RFC as his close family. “Family is a word that obviously carries a lot of significance but also new meaning for me. I feel hugely blessed to have the boys, coaching staff, and rugby community at Ayr by my side. I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of being included in a family like that when times are tough. This is what has sustained me in some of the bleakest times over the last few years and I want to thank everyone at the club for their kindness and support.”

Nathan is a regular face at the club, both on and off the pitch where he is enjoying being back in the thick of things at the start of a new season.

“I love playing in such a good squad of lads. But I’ll admit, it’s tough keeping up with some or maybe all of the younger guys on the pitch. Staying on a small island this week might not be the most pleasant experience but at least I’ll avoid Pid’s drills for a week and won’t have to listen to Welshy tell stories of when he was young enough and fit enough to play for Wales. And if big Coxy wants me to have a training routine while I’m over there, he can get on his rowing machine and come over to deliver it himself.”

To sponsor Nathan and for more information on the campaign please visit https://gofund.me/1918c4a8 or just google ‘Help Nathan get his children home to Scotland Gofundme’.