Neil retired from the paper back in 2017 and had gone to live in the Charente-Maritime in Southwest France with wife June after selling up their property in the Laurieston area of Falkirk.
It was a testament to Neil's great practicality that he was undaunted by the prospect of taking on an extremely run down property which lacked the basics as his new home - and expertly set about restoring it.
It was first a holiday home, then a permanent bolthole when Neil and June left Scotland for good to live the life they had long dreamed of.
Now former colleagues have paid tribute to Neil including his one-time boss Jack Shennan.
Jack said: "Neil was a huge help to me when I was appointed editor of the Cumbernauld News and his knowledge of the area and vast array of contacts were invaluable.
"He had previously worked in the case room - where the company’s newspapers were formerly prepared for publication - and I could always count on him for help with pages as the News deadline hurtled towards us.
"However what I will miss most is his dry-as-a-bone sense of humour - sometimes mistaken for taciturnity by those who didn’t know him - and his stories of his case room days which would often leave me helpless with laughter. In newspaper parlance Neil was “a good operator” and I can think of no finer tribute to him.”
Another former editor Jackie Mitchell said: "Neil was an extremely capable colleague, an old school journalist who shared his local knowledge with generosity. He will be much missed."
Cumbernauld News reporter Clare Grant who worked with Neil for more than 15 years said: "Neil had had a very downright nature. He just said what he thought. He had a gruff exterior. Yet he could be suave, capable of sensitivity, generosity and a kind word in the bad times.
"Neil was very well known to a lot of our Kilsyth readers as well as he'd worked in the office in Market Square before coming to Cumbernauld. I see Neil as a very big part of the fabric of our newspaper which he has left an indelible impression on.”