After 75 weeks of on-line meetings, the members of Lochaber Rotary returned last week to their regular weekly lunch meeting at the Alexandra Hotel where they were welcomed by deputy manager, Val McIver, who is also an honorary member of the Club.

President Simon Hardiman hosted the meeting and members discussed a range of issues and made initial arrangements for the Christmas Craft & Food Producers’ Festival and Cairngorm Reindeer Parade scheduled for 27th November.  Prospects look good with nearly 80 craft-workers stalls signed up already.  President Simon said; “It’s good to see plans coming together for the Festival – we will be going ahead unless some major Covid difficulty stops us.” The work of Rotary has continued over the various shutdowns and Lochaber gave a £500 donation to the overseas work of polio eradication, which has been Rotary International’s prime humanitarian project since 1985.   At the present time, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation match Rotary’s donations, so doubling the benefit.  While polio continues through the Covid Emergency in some parts of the world, the vaccination infrastructure that Rotary helped build has also been used to distribute Covid vaccine



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 27th June, Iain Johnston was inducted as the club’s 69th president. A native of Inverlochy, Iain works at Marine Harvest and is married with two daughters.

Before handing the chain of office to president-elect Iain, outgoing president the Rev Donald McCorkindale thanked club members for their support during his presidential year. The post of president-elect for 2018-19 was passed to Rotarian Clive Talbot.


The Club thanks Donald for guiding us through a very successful year, and wishes Iain and Clive every success in the busy year ahead.

Photo: Iain, Donald and Clive



Photo: Club Secretary Geoff Heathcote, Paula, and Club President Donald McCorkindale

As well as giving a lively rundown of her new job as Rodding Room Supervisor at the smelter, immediate Past-President Paula Ross also gave members an interesting update on the structure of the GFG Alliance and the progress of the alloy wheel manufacturing plant at Liberty British Aluminium, Fort William.

Paula’s new role involves supervising the rodding room. Safety and employee welfare are key factors in the rodding room environment. The smelter has 2 cell rooms each of 40 cells and there are 16 rods in each cell. Cathode blocks conduct electricity through the cells and turn alumina into aluminium. The smelter produces over 48,000 tons of metal each year generally cast in 10-ton ingots.

It is anticipated that about half of this output will be used in the proposed alloy wheel hubcaps factory, work on which is due to start in September.

Paula responded to a number of questions before President Donald McCorkindale thanked her for the insight into her job and the update on GFG Alliance’s activities in Lochaber and further afield. Club members applauded Paula’s talk.

Simon Hardiman – Job Talk 21st March 2018

Simon Hardiman – Job Talk 21st March 2018

At the Club’s business lunch meeting on 21 March, our newest member Simon Hardiman, delivered a highly interesting summary of his life and times, starting as a 14-year old butcher’s assistant, ranging through postings to West Germany , Hong Kong and the  Falklands, and  culminating in his current position as proprietor of the Coire Glas Guest House in Spean Bridge.

Born in Stourport-On-Severn in Worcestershire, Simon ‘s family moved to Kidderminster and then to Paignton where he completed his secondary education and gained an OND in business studies. Whilst studying Simon also held down two jobs – working at a bookmaker and as a theatre stagehand.

On finishing college Simon joined the Midland Bank progressing to Head Cashier in its Newton Abbott branch before moving to join Post Office Counters as a Counter Clerk, a post which leads eventually to him taking over the Head Office Cash Account for Torbay.

Whilst in this post Simon applied for a secondment to the Royal Engineers Postal and Courier Services as an officer and, after a successful interview process, involving two four day assessments, Simon  “eighteen months later  walked into Mill Hill Barracks North London on the 18th February 1985 as Second Lieutenant Hardiman prior to attending the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst”.

Simon continued “On leaving Sandhurst I was initially posted to BFPO London at Mill Hill where I took over the duties as an accountant before being posted to Herford in West Germany as second in command at 14 PC Squadron. After a successful tour, I was promoted first to Lieutenant and then to Captain before a posting to Hong Kong for 2 years followed by a posting to Cirencester Gloucestershire with  10 PC Squadron. Whilst there I was posted to the Falkland Island as the OC Falkland Island PC Troup for 4 months”.

Simon then returned to South Cerney near Cirencester, before moving back to London “to run half of BFPO London during the first Gulf War”. Simon added “I was due to go out to Kuwait and take over the main depot as an acting Major when the war ended and it was decided to leave the chap out there to wrap it all up. It was at this stage I decided on a career change and joined the Metropolitan Police in late 1992”.

This resulted in Simon being based in Edmonton for the next 17 years, a busy police station. In 2009 he left the police force and worked as a taxi driver at Stanstead Airport for the next 4 years.  In 2015 he started work as a senior team leader at a manufacturing company based in Huntingdon where he then lived. For a number of years, Simon and his wife Morven had travelled to Scotland for a December holiday and had talked about possibly buying a B & B to run. Last June that dream became a reality when they purchased Coire Glas Guest House in Spean Bridge and led to him joining the Rotary Club.

On behalf of the Club, Robbie Robertson thanked Simon for his very full and entertaining talk. Robbie said he was confident that Simon had all the right credentials and attitude to be a Rotary member and welcomed his membership. Club members responded with hearty applause.




Over 50 rotarians, partners and guests enjoyed an excellent 3-course meal at the annual Partners’ Lunch event on 14 February in the Alexandra Hotel. Guest speaker was Sam Nugent, manager of the new Marks & Spencer Food Hall at the North Road Retail Park, Fort William.

Sam gave those present a quick and fascinating summary of the history of M & S from the early days of Michael Marks (a Polish immigrant) and his “Penny Bazaar” in Leeds in 1884, his partnership with Thomas Spencer ten years later and how, within the next 30 years they established 234 stores around the UK. (They now have over a thousand)

Sam reminded everyone that, among other things, M & S were first to introduce expiry dates for their food (1972) and first to develop “melt in the middle” chocolates ! They introduce 250 new food products every year, the research and testing of each product costing around £50,000.

The company is not just a retail shop but is also wholeheartedly committed to environmental issues such as recycling all paper and card, climate change, beach clean-ups and a no-waste policy. At the company’s expense, every employee is encouraged to spend one work day per year helping with a community project.

The 8,000 square foot Fort William store is their most remote in the UK and, with the exception of Sam and his two managers, all 64 staff were recruited locally. The store is performing well and 80% of the staff are on permanent posts. The company is also working closely with the Job Centre and is supporting the Claggan Greenfingers Project, the Lochaber Rural Education Trust and the Caol Community Centre.

On behalf of the Rotary Club, past-president Paula Ross thanked Sam for his interesting and encouraging talk, stressing that the Club was glad to have M & S in town and welcomed its support for so many community projects. Paula added “as a neighbouring worker in the aluminium smelter I will be popping in for my lunch”. A hearty round of applause echoed from those present.

Past-President Donald Young, President Donald McCorkindale, President-Elect Iain Johnston and Sam Nugent, Manager of Marks & Spencer Food Hall, Fort William