The parents of George Crawford, the 20-year-old from Melrose killed in a road accident in Shropshire early on Sunday, told the Southern this week of their devastation at the loss of their son.
Cameron and Mary Crawford, of the Pavilion estate near Melrose, described George as a “boy who could enter a grey, empty, boring room and brighten it up immediately”.
They added that in two weeks at Harper Adams University near Newport, he had “galvanised 25 strangers into a harmonious group of friends” and that he was massively supportive of his sister Lucinda, who, like him, excelled at horse riding.
George was born on July 12, 1998, the day of that year’s football World Cup final between France and Brazil.
His mum Mary had been diagnosed as a haemophiliac, so she was rushed by ambulance to Edinburgh’s Simpson Maternity Hospital.
His dad Cameron said: “We joked at the time that he would be named after the player who scored the first goal of the final, but that was Zinedine Zidane, so he was called George instead. His cousins all called him Zinedine, though.”
He was schooled at St Mary’s School in Melrose until he was 10.
It was found out he was dyslexic, like his father, and he was sent to Aysgarth, an all-boys’ boarding school in Yorkshire.
Cameron said: “It was terrible letting him go at such a young age, but it turned out to be the best decision ever.
“He turned from being a shy lad, lacking in awareness of everything, into a hugely independent boy.”
That independence served him well in later life as he went to Newton Rigg College near Penrith to study agriculture at 16.
He had been working at Mary’s parents Peter and Susan Manners’ farm in Deanfoot from the age of 14 and he enjoyed agriculture.
That independent streak also saw him travel the world – at one point helping put out bushfires during a visit to New South Wales, Australia, at 14 years old.
George proved himself to be a skilled horse rider, representing Scotland in eventing, a daring rider in enduro motocross and a sharp-shooter with clay pigeons.
He revelled in seeing as much of the world as he could, and would have been back down under with friends this year, if not for undergoing dental surgery at the time.
But this year alone, he had been skiing in the French Alps and had, with pal Joe Fairgrieve, joined a Rust to Rome rally from Edinburgh to the Italian capital in an old 3-series BMW they had bought for £500 and did up.
Cameron said: “All the other drivers were at least 15 to 20 years older than him, but he was the one who brought them together as a group. He was that kind of boy.”
George had also helped out with the lambing at Deanfoot this year, a sign that farming was still very much in his blood.
Cameron told us of his pride when George said he had enrolled in the course at Harper Adams to get his diploma.
He said: “I thought it was great news. I always would have liked for him to take the farm on here at Pavilion or at Deanfoot.”
But no one could have forecast the tragedy which transpired from the decision to further his agricultural studies.
Problems identifying George after his death meant that Cameron and Mary were not told until Sunday evening.
Cameron told us how he felt when he found out the horrifying news that his son was dead.
He said: “It’s been a difficult year, certainly. I thought losing my father John in February was hard enough, but he was 80, we knew he was dying of cancer and we had eight months to say our goodbyes.
“In the end, it was a process we had to go through, but we went through it together.
“I have lost colleagues and friends since – it’s been a tragic year – but to lose our son, the pain, it’s a feeling of utter helplessness.
“As a father, it’s your job to sort problems out, protect your family. This is a problem I can’t fix, but what I can do is to investigate the full circumstances of George’s death and to put the story over to the big world what a marvellous lad George was.
“He was without any cynicism or malice or jealousy. He was a good member of society who was everything a man could hope for in a son.
“George would have gone on to to be a benefit to society, whether in agriculture or anything else he took on.
“He was one of those energetic, can-do people that made things happen.
“After hearing of his death, I felt that hopelessness, loss and emptiness, and until I went down to his college yesterday, that’s how I felt, but then, when we went to his college, something special had happened there.”
George’s classmates at Harper Adams have decided they are going to make rugby jumpers in George’s memory and they are going to wear them to their classes. They showed Cameron the design.
He also saw George’s room door, which had been festooned with tributes, cards and flowers.
Cameron added: “The love that was demonstrated by the students and the staff – their understanding of him in 10 days was exactly my understanding of him in 20 years. They had sussed him out that quick and they were spot on. He was a better man than me.”
The collision that killed George occurred at the junction of Forton Road and Sunny Gardens in Newport at 4.10am on Sunday.
He was taken to hospital but he died later that morning after an operation lasting more than five hours.
West Mercia police are appealing for witnesses to come forward.