A 23-year-old Forfar student – who lost his grandmother and mother within five months of each other - has won a top award at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

Derek Dear, who is following up a degree in geography by undertaking an international tourism management degree, was presented with the Hilton Craigendarroch Award 2009-2010 as the best overall student on his course.

The award is presented to the student who performed best in management subjects.

For the Forfar born and bred student, who attended Langlands Primary School and Forfar Academy, it was quite an achievement, considering he had to come to terms with the loss of two very close family members.

It was back in December last year that his grandmother Esther Dear passed away.

Then, in the spring of last year, while he was on a placement in New York, he heard the sad news that his mother Eleanor was suffering from a terminal illness.

The devastating news forced Derek to cut short his placement in the States and return to be close to his mother in the few months prior to her death in late August.

He was able to get a placement at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel and continued his studies.

"In spite of her illness, my mother gave me the strength and courage to carry on and hopefully I can complete my degree next summer and go on to work in the travel industry," explained Derek.

There is also the possibility of returning to New York next summer to complete the placement that was cut short last year.

Father, Derek snr., is proud of his son's achievements in what has been a very tough year.

"It was hard for everyone, but Eleanor was a real driving force, encouraging Derek to stick at it and reach his goal."

Coming to terms with the loss of his wife, Mr Dear paid tribute to the staff of the pancreatic cancer ward at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, for the treatment and support Eleanor received in her final few months.

And, as a token of the family's appreciation of everything the medical staff did to ease the pain and suffering, a collection taken at Eleanor's funeral was passed on to help continue research work at the hospital.

A cheque for 867 was presented to Ninewells Hospital, to be used specifically for academic research into pancreatic cancer.