ONE of the country’s leading and most respected research scientists, who hailed from Clydebank, has died at the age of 81.

A funeral service took place at St Stephen’s Church in Dalmuir, following the death of Professor Jim Cairns, a man whose latest development was using the biocidal properties of silver as an anti-bacterial to reduce the effect of hospital infections.

Professor Cairns was the author of 40 patents and more than 150 scientific papers in a remarkable career, which began at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire in 1967.

He was devoted to Dundee University, where he was well thought of for his research and was appointed Professor Emeritus at his official retiral in 2001.

Son Paul spoke of his “wonderful” and “gentle” dad’s enthusiasm and passion for science, when he said: “He absolutely loved the University of Dundee.

“It’s incredible to me that he retired 16 years ago but every day he would put on his tie and regulation tweed jacket and head into the university.

“Dad was very proud of being a professor there and I have to believe he encouraged scores of students with the enthusiasm he would have shown for his subject matter.

“He was a wonderful man, a great father, grandfather, son, brother and friend. He touched the lives of so many people and they were better for it.

“My dad really was the nicest and most gentle man I knew.”

However, Professor Cairns’ valuable contribution to scientific research was almost lost before his career even started.

He was born in 1936 to parents James and Catherine Cairns, who had moved to London from Clydebank after they were married to seek a better life for themselves.

But, after the Second World War broke out, his maternal grandmother back in Clydebank repeatedly contacted the family urging them to move back as she feared the capital “was going to get blown to bits” by German bomber planes.

Younger brother Dennis said: “Eventually, Jim’s mother succumbed to her mother’s pleas and the family returned to Clydebank, where they rented a house in Jellicoe Street in Dalmuir.

“Our house in a tenement block was situated just above the ill-fated Rocks family.

“On the night of the Clydebank Blitz [March 13, 1941] a bomb made a direct hit on the building where the Cairns family lived, killing almost all the residents, including 15 members of the Rocks family. Jim and the rest of our family had made it to the shelter.”

Despite his workload, Professor Cairns was a devoted family man.

He met his future wife May at a dance at the Bundoran Club, Glasgow, and drove her home to Cleland, North Lanarkshire, but got a puncture on his way back to Clydebank.

He regretted not asking to see her again, knowing only that she worked in a hospital. However, after phoning round all the hospitals in the area he tracked her down.

They married at St Mary’s Church in Cleland in 1963, with the wedding reception held in the Tudor Hotel, Airdrie.

They had three children; Fiona, Stephen and Paul, and seven grandchildren; Morten James, Thomas, Sophie, Euan, Isabelle, Emma and Aidan.

They were happily married for 52 years before May died in 2015.