KENNETH “Skip” Houston, who died at his Selkirk home on February 27, at the age of 63, was a force of nature.

Diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in 2013, he was given a life expectancy of three to five years.

True to character, Kenny resolved to fight the disease tooth and nail, continuing to inspire everyone around him for 11 more years.

The retired police officer remained a beacon of positivity throughout his many treatments and surgeries.

His decision to post regular Facebook updates on his condition won widespread acclaim.

No less impressive were Kenny’s fundraising efforts. The dinners, auctions, bike rides and team triathlon he organised helped raise more than £70,000 for the Borders Cancer Centre and the Katie McKerracher Trust, set up in memory of the 11-year-old daughter of best friends Andrew and Ann McKerracher.

Kenneth Temple Houston was born in Hawick’s Haig Maternity Hospital on November 8, 1960, the eldest child of Robert ‘Bob’ Houston and his wife Rhona (née Matthewson).

Bob was a carding engineer in Blenkhorn Richardson & Co.’s Hawick mill, while Rhona was manager of the town’s Scottish Wool Shop.

Kenny’s sister Wendy was born the following year, but because of their mother’s ill-health, the children were raised in their early years by grandparents Tommy and Una Matthewson at their Belford home in Northumberland.

On returning to Hawick, Kenny attended Trinity Primary School, and under the tutelage of games master Bill McLaren developed a lifelong passion for rugby.

After leaving Hawick High School he spent six months as an assistant in Kennedy’s chemist shop, before becoming a police cadet – something to which he had always aspired.

His first day at Hawick police station saw him enter the muster room wearing a pair of large size 12 boots, prompting police officer Danny Finnan to exclaim: “Look, it’s Skippy the Bush Kangaroo!” From that day he would forever be known as “Skip”.

After a year spent shadowing Hawick police colleagues, Kenny undertook three months’ training at Tulliallan Police College, followed by a year on the beat with Lothian & Borders Police G Division at Hawick, before returning to Tulliallan for a final 10 weeks of instruction.

A posting to Jedburgh saw him work alongside fellow police constable Grant Stott, who would go on to become a leading Scottish broadcaster, television presenter and actor, and who remained a close and valued friend.

“I arrived in Jedburgh in 1986 as a fresh-faced probationer,” said Grant, “and was aware of Skip before I actually met him. His no-nonsense approach to policing was well-known, but I found underneath it all he was really a gentle giant, and was very happy to take me under his wing.

“We formed a lasting friendship, and I’d be hard-pressed to think of another pal who has been so supportive in everything I’ve done since leaving the force in 1990.

“Skip paid very close attention to my career, and was always there to wish me well. That to me is testament to the man and his commitment to friendship.

“There aren’t many people like that.”

Kenny’s first marriage to Norma was dissolved after six years, and in 1988 came another posting, this time to Newcastleton.

The Lockerbie air disaster occurred a few months later, sending shockwaves around the world.

Kenny was assigned to search and recovery duties and the collection of witness statements – a task that was to last almost two years.

Meanwhile his telephone calls to G Division headquarters brought him into regular contact with the Hawick station’s civilian receptionist, Shirley Henderson, of Selkirk, with both parties developing an easy rapport.

Romance eventually blossomed, and they were married in Caddonfoot Parish Church on October 27, 1990. Initially living in Hawick, the couple eventually settled in Selkirk, being blessed by the arrival of daughter Rachel in 1993, and by the birth of son Jack the following year.

At the end of his time in Newcastleton, Kenny spent 18 months working in the Traffic Department at Hawick, followed by a similar period in the same role at Galashiels. Next came a spell as custody manager at Hawick Police Station.

In 2004 he was chosen for a special six-month secondment to the International Police Training Centre in Jordan, where he helped train Iraqi police recruits in defensive tactics.

On returning to the Borders he resumed his role as custody manager, this time in Galashiels.

For the final five years of his police career, Kenny served as the police force’s Drugs Awareness Officer for the Scottish Borders.

His outstanding communication skills earned him a regular spot on Radio Borders, reporting on police matters and related public service issues.

Chief Inspector Vinnie Fisher, a close friend for almost 30 years, was unstinting in his praise of his former colleague. “Skip was a consummate professional – a very, very good cop who always ensured everything was done correctly and to the letter.

“I’d also like to get across that he was good fun, and helped show me there was a completely different way to view the job.

“Throughout his career he built up a massive network of friends and colleagues around the world, all of whom held him in the highest regard.”

On retiring from the force in 2009, Kenny’s skills and drive quickly found a variety of outlets. Among the most high profile of these was his employment for 14 years by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), the national agency for protecting clean sport.

As one of UKAD’s most respected doping control officers, Kenny officiated at sporting events from club level right up to full internationals.

One of his most prestigious assignments was working at the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto, and latterly he had been promoted by UKAD to lead doping control officer.

He also served as a funeral celebrant, and appeared as various characters in the popular Scott’s Selkirk court re-enactments, penned by friend and local playwright John Nichol.

An active supporter of Selkirk Common Riding, a special moment came in 2010 when he was appointed Selkirk Merchant Company’s Standard Bearer, with Shirley acting as his Lady Busser.

For some years he worked as a rugby commentator for Radio Borders, and for a time was a member of Selkirk Rugby Club’s management committee. Son Jack’s decision to join Police Scotland in 2016 was a source of particular pride.

Speedway and cricket remained lifelong interests, as did taking to the road on his trusty Triumph motorbike.

In recent years he and Shirley enjoyed taking their motor home all over the country, with Gairloch, East Lothian and Bamburgh among favourite destinations.

One of the couple’s most memorable adventures came in 2017 when, accompanied by Selkirk friends John and Mary Smail, they spent five happy weeks travelling around New Zealand supporting the British & Irish Lions.

Never afraid to give his honest opinion, and always keen to make a positive impact, Kenny “Skip” Houston was respected throughout the Borders and beyond. He will be sorely missed.

He is survived by his wife Shirley, daughter Rachel, son Jack and sister Wendy.

A memorial service will be held in Selkirk’s Victoria Hall on Tuesday, March 12, at 11.30am.