THE death of a Clydebank soldier more than four decades ago is to be given a special commemoration this weekend.

Private James Hesketh, known as Heskie or Jimmy to pals, died on December 10, 1973 while on foot patrol in Leeson Street, Lower Falls, Belfast. He was just 21.

But many of his pals in the Queen’s Own Highlanders never got to say goodbye properly because they were just days into a four-month tour.

On Saturday, dozens of veterans and family members will converge on Old Dalnottar Cemetery to celebrate the life of Pte Hesketh the way he always deserved. His pals said they were keen to organise something and his family gave their blessing and thanks.

Pte Hesketh went to St Joseph’s Primary in Faifley and St Columba’s High before joining the army.

Martin Hamilton, who is married to Pte Hesketh’s sister Susan, told the Post: “I was a teenager myself when he was killed. He was away most of the time so we didn’t see him much. It’s nice to be able to let these guys do this.”

Paul Connelly, who is married to sister Karen, added: “At the time, it was devastating for everyone in the family. I don’t expect anyone in the family to ever get over it, but you accept the situation and move on.

“It’s as fresh as you want to make it.”

Pal Eddie Maley said they “never ever” forgot about Pte Hesketh.

He said: “Every time we go to a day together, his name still comes up. It was devastating for all of us. It still is to a certain degree. This is our way of saying ‘cheerio’. We have a chance now.”

George Givens of the Queen’s Own Highlanders Regimental Association, who are bringing everyone together for the celebration, said they hoped more stories would be shared on the day, which will include a playing of the Last Post and wreaths laid in Pte Hesketh’s honour.

Pte Hesketh was one of 14 soldiers in the regiment to die between 1961, when the regiment was formed, and 1994, when it was merged with1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders – making each name remembered particularly strongly.

Mr Maley, who has never been to Pte Hesketh’s grave, added: “I hope many people get the chance that we didn’t. I’m not professing to be his best pal, but there was a common bond.

“He always had a smile on his face – nothing got him down.

“I was just a young 18 years old when I went into Belfast. Four decades on, you still think about him.

“As long as we walk the earth, he will never be forgotten. This is closure – a nice closure.”

All residents are also welcome to attend the tribute at 11am.