AN aunt has put her heart and soul into raising awareness of a medical condition which her nephew battled bravely for years.
Michael McNeill passed away peacefully in his sleep last December after suffering from syringomyelia and chairi malformation, a rare condition which affects the nervous system.
Since his death, Margaret Macleod (42) has been working hard to give the public a greater insight into the illness and to raise money for research into ways of treating it.
She hopes to raise a significant amount when she hosts a fundraising night at the Francis Street Club tomorrow night, with more than 100 people expected to attend.
Mrs Macleod said she and Michael’s mother, Catherine McNeill, had struggled to come to terms with Michael’s death but the many happy memories she had of him had driven her to raise money for the cause.
"The two of us were always very close as Michael was very loving of all his family — we meant everything to him and he meant everything to us," she said.
"His father died almost two years before Michael passed away and the two of them were best friends.
"He always came with us to the Francis Street Club on Saturday nights to play bingo, enjoy a drink and have a dance with us.
"The Francis Street Club was a very special place to him and it was only fitting that we hold a party in memory of his life there."
At birth, Michael was diagnosed with a cyst on the base of his skull which triggered epileptic attacks and meant he suffered from learning difficulties throughout his life.
In 2009, he was admitted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he had an operation to relieve pressure on his brain.
A former pupil at Wick North Primary School and Wick High, Michael also attended North Highland College where he took part in a Learning for Work course. A regular follower of Wick Academy and a Celtic fan, he was active in raising money for good causes and worked as a volunteer at HomeAid in Thurso and at Cancer Research UK in Wick.
Mrs Macleod said her nephew appreciated life and never let his condition get him down.
"The reason that we are holding this fundraising event is because we want to help other who suffered from what Michael had," she said.
"His death came completely out of the blue as none of us were expecting it, but we will never forget him.
"Our friends and family have helped us get through what has been a roller-coaster year for us and I hope that they will also attend to remember my special nephew."
Local band Solo Venture are playing at tomorrow night’s dance, which will include a bottle stall, raffle and an auction.
Proceeds are to go to the Ann Conway Trust, which supports sufferers and carers and raises funds for research into syringomyelia and its associated disorders.