'Living with cancer in a pandemic' by Ally McLaws

Ally McLaws, journalist shares his friend's art portraits of lockdown

Ally McLaws, journalist shares his friend's art portraits of lockdown

Alistair Nicol from Ayrshire decided to keep himself busy during Lockdown by accepting bespoke commissions in return for a donation to the Beatson Cancer Charity.

But the faces that got sent to his Troon studio really caught him by surprise....

One was from a young woman who wanted her boyfriend painted...the others were of a Tiger, two calves and eight dogs!!

When choosing which charity to support he asked his pal of more than 40 years Ally McLaws.

Ally, former director of communications for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, has terminal cancer and is in the care of Beatson oncologists, had no hesitation in naming our charity.

One of the eight dog images presented for painting was Ally’s boxer dog Mishka.

Artist Alistair quickly set about the commission of painting Mishka - his pal Ally totally unaware that another friend had asked Alistair to secretly paint a portrait of Ally to give to Ally’s wife Laura in return for a donation to the Beatson Cancer Charity!

“It was really nice to be painting this surprise for Ally and Laura and keeping the secret that our mutual friend Iain Forbes was paying the commission.

“I was glad to be doing another human face instead of more dogs ... and then Ally sent me a photo of his dog to paint!”


Alistair painted both and delivered them to Ally and Laura who have been shielding at their Kilmarnock home for the past year... one the commissioned dog portrait and the other the surprise portrait of Ally for Laura.

When Alistair started his lockdown project he thought it was all going to be a simple wee project to keep him busy and raise charity cash for a cause close to the heart of his terminally ill mate.

“Little did I know it would all get so tied up in secret commissions...and that nearly everyone would regard their dogs face as their most treasured favourite image instead of their partners!

“It did make me smile that so few chose their beloved girlfriends or wives”, said Alistair.

All ended well though with several hundreds of pounds going to Beatson Cancer Charity.

Morag Cunnigham, Director of Fundraising at the Beatson Cancer Charity, said:

“We thank Ally so much for nominating our charity as the beneficiary - and Alistair for using his talents to raise the funds - just fantastic and greatly appreciated. His paintings are really rather wonderful too.”

You can see the selections of painting below: 

Give Ally a follow Twitter @allymclaws.    Have a peek at Alistair Nicol's artwork on Instagram

You can read Ally's newspaper column for a small fee  (£2 a week to gain access via tablet or phone)

To read more inspiring Beatson Stories from patients like Ally, visit the link here

To find out more how you can get involved in fundraising initiatives, click here or donate today to support even more patients and their families facing cancer.