With the temperature dropping to minus 2 degrees on Saturday morning, the Rotary Pop-Up Café, with its range of three hearty homemade soups, an array of sandwiches and delicious home baking pulled in nearly 150 people to the D-Mac Hall on Saturday 27 October. The Club’s final Pop-Up café event of the season certainly hit the spot with locals, with a steady stream of visitors all day giving a good return for the crafters. Club President Iain Johnston said he was pleased with the turnout and added “Just after 12.30 pm there wasn’t an empty table in the hall. We entertained people who had travelled in from Invergarry and Mallaig, as well as a number of tourists passing through the town”.
Iain continued “We raised over £300 for the Club’s charity budget and we are now heading for our principal event of the year – The Christmas Festival in the Nevis Centre on Saturday 24 November. Thanks again to my hard working Rotary colleagues and the ever-generous Lochaber public”
The Rotary Club of Lochaber’s business lunch meeting on 31 October saw Club Secretary Geoff Heathcote’s last appearance at the Club after seven years of very active membership. Originally from Chesterfield, Geoff and his wife Jenny arrived in Lochaber fourteen years ago to spend their retirement years in this idyllic west highland location – buying a house in the little township of Muirshearlich with its countryside location and panoramic views of the Ben .
However, Geoff, who was retiring after 35 years working in earth moving machinery and plant management, was soon managing the local branch of Crossroads Care before moving to run the Deaf Care Unit, a position that he held for 4 years. Geoff joined the Lochaber Rotary Club in January 2012 (on Burns Night!) and quickly became the club secretary, a role at which he excelled – often described as the key post in an active and successful club. Geoff’s wife Jenny has been unwell for some years and they are moving to be nearer to his son and daughter and their spouses who are keen to help them. They will live in the village of Kirk Langley in South Derbyshire and it is likely that Geoff will transfer to the nearby Rotary Club of Ashbourne.
On behalf of the Club, President Iain Johnston presented Geoff with a framed and dedicated picture of Ben Nevis. Iain said “It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to our secretary of seven years. Jenny’s illness and pressure from his family have understandably made him decide to move down south”. Geoff responded “It’s been a pleasure to be secretary and a member of the Rotary Club of Lochaber. It’s a sad day leaving the people and the projects associated with the Club. I am proud to have been a member of Rotary and we intend to return for occasional visits to Lochaber”
Club members responded with warm applause before saying their one-to-one goodbyes to Geoff.
Photos courtesy of Abrightside Photography
On Saturday 24 November, the Rotary Club of Lochaber, supported by principal sponsors Ferguson Transport and Shipping, laid on a pre-Christmas event packed with entertainment and activity as well as showcasing Lochaber’s wide range of quality crafts and food products on display in the Nevis Centre. Blessed with a bright clear November morning, Santa and his team of Cairngorm reindeer were the highlights of the all-day festival. Supported by little elves David Rodgers, nine, from Roybridge and Aine MacPhie, six, from Mallaig, and led by the Lochaber Pipe Band and the young cheerleaders the Ben Nevis Allstars, Santa’s sleigh paraded from Cameron Square to the Nevis Centre followed by hundreds of enthusiastic youngsters and their parents.
Aine and David, winners of the Lochaber Times’ Christmas Card message competition, then joined Santa in his Grotto to help hand out gifts and toys to well over 300 children over the ensuing three hours. The stallholders reported steady business peaking in the early afternoon when the hall was packed with visitors enjoying the vast array of craftwork merchandise and festive products much of it unique to Lochaber. Also entertaining the crowds was non-stop music from Buskers’ Corner where seven acts, including the Great Glen Swing Band and the Lochaber Showstoppers, who performed live over the course of the day.
The Bouncy Castle, Santa’s Postbox and the Light Garden tearoom were also major attractions and the “6 Classic Malts” whisky raffle, won by retired teacher Gail Young from Banavie, raised over £1,000 for local charities. Alasdair Ferguson, managing director of Ferguson Transport & Shipping, said “We were once again delighted to continue this year as main sponsor for the Rotary Club of Lochaber’s 11th Annual Christmas Festival. The event, as always, was a great success building on previous years’ successes. We were delighted to once again fund the cost of bringing the reindeer and sleigh to Fort William”.
Club President Iain Johnston, while emphasising that the festival is more about a community event than about raising money, thanked Ferguson Transport for their continued sponsorship and said “I would like to thank everyone who has made this such a successful day – the stallholders, the Nevis Centre staff, the Cairngorm reindeer company, fellow Rotarians and most of all the general public. Thanks again to everyone, and we hope to see you all back next year at our twelfth festival”.
Photos courtesy of Abrightside Photography
Another successful Rotary Club Annual Charter Dinner was held on Saturday, 1st December. Nearly 70 Rotarians and guests were treated to an excellent 4-course meal at the Alexandra Hotel, Fort William and enjoyed a sparkling after-dinner talk from their constituent MSP Kate Forbes – just fresh from being awarded a “Rising Star” accolade at the Herald’s “Scottish Politician of the Year” award. Kate’s talk focused on Scottish identity and our perception of ourselves. She, herself, had a “very confused upbringing”. Originally from Dingwall, she lived in India for eight years (the only Scottish child who went to school in a rickshaw!), then Glasgow, before returning to Dingwall Academy. She then studied at Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities graduating with a BA Honours in History and an M.Litt in immigration studies.
Kate admitted that “politics is my bread and butter”. She worked in Dave Thomson’s support team before succeeding him and being elected MSP for Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch in 2016. She described her constituency as the “best in Scotland”. Turning to Rotary, Kate said she was very aware of the work of the Rotary Club and its involvement in mentoring youth, advising on career choices and opportunities. Kate said “I’ve benefitted enormously from the work that you do” and concluded by proposing a Toast to the Rotary Club of Lochaber”.
Club President Iain Johnston thanked Kate for a very engaging and relevant talk before inviting past president John Hutchison to propose a vote of thanks on behalf of the Club
John reminded those present that the Herald had also picked out Kate as “one to watch” in the Scottish political arena and added his own accolade – “you’ve done no bad hen” – before wishing her well in the future”.
Photo courtesy of Iain Ferguson
Back row: Margaret Boyd, Celia Talbot, President-Elect Clive Talbot and Jane MacIntyre
Front row: Kate Forbes MSP, Vivien Johnston, President Iain Johnston and Oban President Iain MacIntyre.