As I write this column on Monday, September 17, I remember the trauma as a 13-year-old boy coping with the death of my father.

Daniel Aloysius O’Neill, commonly known as Danny, was the tender age of 43 years when he passed 40 years ago.

My wonderful father, like his male lineage, unfortunately suffered from a chronic heart condition and a series of heart attacks throughout his 30s and 40s ultimately led to his premature death. 

My dad had been awaiting an operation at that time in London by one of the UK’s leading heart surgeons, Dr Christiaan Barnard from South Africa. But he was sadly taken from us when he died at our home in Kerry Place, Drumchapel on the afternoon of Sunday, September 17, 1978 – a day that is etched in my memory forever.

These days, given the advances in medical care and the proximity of the National Heart and Lung Centre at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, I am positive that my father would have had a better chance of survival and may have still been with us at the age of 83. 

I remain proud, as a Labour politician, that the decision to take this previously ailing private hospital was made by my colleagues at Holyrood to bring it under the control of the NHS – an institution celebrating 70 years of life, again created by my peers within the party.

We must continue, both locally and nationally, to allow our communities to get the best of care and treatment and ask those with the major influence to look again at the provision of an accident and emergency unit in or near the geographical footprint of the Golden Jubilee.

I was, and continue to be, surrounded by a large, supportive family who have made it easier to cope with the death of my dad at the same age as my eldest son currently is. And although we don’t see each other as often as we would all want while leading busy family lives, we know that each is on the end of a telephone (or text or social media message these days). 

Provision of grief and mental health counselling for our young people should and must also be a resource available within our schools and I very much welcome the proposal from the Scottish Government to address this.