Although plans had been well in hand for the Christmas Craft & Food Producers’ Festival and Cairngorm Reindeer Parade scheduled for 27th November, Lochaber Rotary has decided to cancel the event this year.  

Traditionally, numbers attending have been high and while the Parade would be straightforward to manage, some elements within the Nevis Centre would ideally need fairly close contact to be successful.

Lochaber Rotary President Simon Hardiman said; “In the interest of community safety, we came to the conclusion that this still doesn’t seem to be the right time to be encouraging families to gather together.” 

Santa has been reported as being disappointed but relieved too because he would have had to stay quite distant from the children and said; “I would be quite sad if anyone caught Covid as a result of coming to see me”.



The Rotary Christmas Festival and Craft Fair towards the end of November has been a popular annual event in recent years.  Those who have attended previously will realise that a great deal of close interaction is involved but with the restrictions it quickly became clear that managing activities like Santa’s Grotto, queueing, cash handling and movement around the Nevis Centre would prove close to impossible.   While the reindeer could walk side by side (!) only Santa could ride in the sleigh and everyone else on the parade would need to keep their distance.   To ensure the safety of all the participants but with a heavy heart, the decision was taken to cancel the 2020 event.

But Rotary’s work had to continue and so we developed “Knitivity”!   This ambitious community project created a 13 feet / 4metre high Christmas tree made up of hand knitted and crocheted items that formed the decorative cladding to a steel frame fabricated by Macphersons Welding & Engineering Services.   The tree was on display in the lead up to Christmas. Organiser Sheana Fraser said, “It took a huge effort to cover the framework as the surface area was around 500 square feet and we needed around 1,000 items!” 

The community responded admirably and we had plenty hats, scarves, wrist-warmers, etc. and these will be donated to homeless charities, Alzheimer Scotland and local care homes.  A new word for some of us was “twiddle-muffs” which are knitted muffs with items attached such as buttons, ribbons and the like to keep dementia patients’ hands active and busy and are a source of visual, tactile and sensory stimulation.  The Club’s traditional base, the Alexandra Hotel, also played its part by providing a prominent bin into which the knitters could tip their work.

All in all it was a great success and President Richard Baxter said, “While Covid 19 has given us plenty challenges there have been opportunities and scope for some fun too.  Thanks to the community for getting behind this imaginative idea!”  

Thanks are also due to Ferguson Transport and Shipping who continued their support of Lochaber Rotary by presenting a cheque for £500 and to the Highland Cinema for hosting the tree where their patrons enjoyed some seasonal colour.



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.

August 29th 2018

Visiting Lochaber Rotary Club in Fort William (District 1230) on August 29th, 2018

Dear Mr McCorkindale, dear Donald, as Immediate Past president you are in the chair today, as your current president, Mr Iain Johnston, has to meet other commitments this week. And the interesting thing is: I wrote to you first on July 20th.

Dear Mr Heathcote, dear Geoff, as the current secretary you were the first one – and you did it so quickly – to respond to this email I have just referred to.

Dear Mr Hutchison, dear John, you are obviously the one in this club that talks a little German and perhaps therefore you were asked to take over after Geoff. A regular exchange of emails between you and me started and with each email, we got to know more about each other and the two of us started making plans. And fate would have it: Now you are even a special guide for us.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of Lochaber Rotary Club, I – that is we – thank you so much that you were immediately ready and willing to reschedule your normal Rotary meeting at 1 p.m. to be an evening meeting today.

Dear Rotarian friends and partners of my own club named Wipperfürth- Lindlar/Romerike Berge.

With regard to history, in comparison to your club – date of the charter: June 19th, 1950 – we are a young club as we were chartered on September 26th, 2009. Our first president, the late Mayor of Wipperfürth, Mr. Guido Forsting, had taken the initiative, had asked people in Lindlar and Wip- perfürth had made sure that this new club would have male as well as

female members and would be dedicated to Rotarian guiding principles: “Service above yourself” and “One profit most who serves best”.

I remember numerous meetings when we discussed new projects to raise the funds to support people in need. We were well aware of the fact that we had only a small number of members, but all of us were keen on doing something, on achieving something. Here are some of our projects which might be of interest to you.

Water for the people of Kimbulu, a community in the southwest of the Congo: In 2016 our club realized this large project of about 85,000.00 € with the help of Rotary International. Daily, about 25,000 people had had to fetch their water from a river six kilometres away and the water had not been germ-free. Now they have a huge 20,000-litre tank with fresh water and a pump that is driven by solar energy.

Poliovirus – a worldwide Rotary project: In our club, the money for the eradication of poliovirus comes from typical “hands-on” projects: e.g. baking waffles or poffertjes, a traditional Dutch batter treat. For several years we had a stand at the Christ-mas market in Wipperfürth to sell mulled wine and biscuits. This year we will have a stand in an open-air museum in Lindlar. What we enjoy most when we realize such projects is the company of our fellow members and our partners.

Young people: Young people are our future. Therefore we especially concentrate on supporting them.


  •   This year we support a school in Wipperfürth that is going to celebrate its 50th anniversary. We help them financially (15,000.00 €) with their big music project, a review.
  •   About every third year we have a group of young people from all over the world staying in our region. This summer camp aims at developing and improving international friendships and networking among young people. We like to welcome these young people and let them explore our region in the heart of Germany with the most interesting contrasts between the world-famous city of Cologne and the beauty of the countryside, and its unique side by side of traditional farming, forestry and industrial culture.
  •   And there is the public speaking competition between young people of different kinds of schools like grammar schools, secondary schools and vocational schools in our area. And we are very proud that our regional winners have been winners at the district level as well for the last three years.But who are we? Where is Wip- perfürth? Where is Lindlar? What does the addition “Romerike Berge” in our club’s name refer to? I would like to explain all these questions now:

    Lindlar is a community in the Oberbergischer Kreis, in North Rhine- Westphalia. It is located about 30 km east of Cologne. It has about 21,200 inhabitants.

    Wipperfürth is a neighbouring town, about 40 km north-east of Cologne, and the oldest town (800 years old) in The Bergisches Land. It has about 21,300 inhabitants. Wipperfürth received town rights in 1217. Since 1283 the administration of the town was governed by count Adolf V. of Berg. The Bergisches Land used to be a territory of the County of Berg, which later became the Duchy of Berg, and that is the reason why this region bears this name.

The Bergisches Land is a low mountain range region within the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, east of the Rhine River, south of the Ruhr. The landscape is shaped by woods, meadows, rivers and creeks and contains over 20 artificial lakes. Wuppertal is one of the biggest towns and seen as the region’s capital, whereas the southern part nowadays has closer economic and socio-cultural ties to Cologne. Neighbouring towns to Wuppertal are Remscheid and So- linen; all three of them form the Bergisches Städtedreieck, the Bergisches triangle of towns.

But what about the additional words “Romerike Berge” in our club’s name? Well, follow me on a short historical journey into medieval times and my knowledge derives from the book “The Art of Warfare in Western Europe during the Middle Ages” written by Prof. J. F. Verbruggen:

In 1283 the Duchess Irmgard of Lim- burg had died childless. The question of succession started off a five years’ war. The neighbouring nobility saw a chance of enlarging their power by territorial expansion. That was especially a serious threat to the archbishop of Cologne, Siegfried II, who till then had been dominant in that part of the Rhineland. The conflict was unresolved until 1288. Then the citizens of Cologne rose against their archbishop. The Battle of Worringen was fought on June 5th, 1288, near the town of Worringen, which is now the northernmost borough of Cologne. It was the decisive battle of the War of the Limburg Succession, fought for the possession of the Duchy of Limburg between the Archbishop of Cologne and Duke John I of


Brabant, and one of the largest battles in Europe in the Middle Ages.

It was a bloody battle and a long one. The archbishop himself was putting up a very credible fight in the front rank of his knights. This formation, however, was broken up after a long and tough battle when the Brabant troops had almost managed to break through. At about 3 o’clock the knights and peasants of the count of Berg came on the scene with the civic levy from Cologne. Berg’s peasants were wearing jackets and skull caps and some of them had iron plates as protective armour. Most of them were armed with spiked clubs. The men of Cologne were better equipped; some of them had coats of mail, some hauberks and swords. The peasants advanced shouting their war cry: “Hya, Berge romerike!” A Brabant horseman led them around behind the troops of the archbishop of Cologne. Now the flank became the decisive sector. As soon as the archbishop saw these rough peasants appearing behind his troops, he would have given himself up to Godfrey of Brabant rather than fall into the hands of his own citizens. But the ground between them was so heaped with dead horses that the archbishop could not carry out his intention and had to give himself up to his neighbour, Adolf of Berg, who immediately had taken him off to his castle.

Well, now you know that “Romerike Berge” was a war cry of the Bergische peasants to strengthen their moral forces, to develop a corporate spirit while fighting. You know now that The Bergisches Land is named after the dukes of Berg and that this war cry does not only have a strong relation to the dukes of Berg, but also to the region where we live, where our homes are. On our club’s homepage, you can read that Wipperfürth and

Lindlar feels strongly connected to this war cry.

The region Bergisches Land became famous during the period of its early industrialisation in the 19th century. After the industrial downturn from the 1960s on, the region lost importance, but cooperations by Bergisches Land entrepreneurs, active citizens and politicians are bringing back some regional awareness and economic power. And we are proud of having some of these entre- preneurs and active citizens in our club. Our politician Peter Biesenbach, current minister of justice of North Rhine-Westphalia, was part of our group when we visited Scotland last time in 2017.

We have a brief club history, have little funds, but we stick together, are strong, have a common purpose and direction and follow the Rotarian guiding principles. And we are open to new ideas, possibilities, and new friends …

May I hand over to you now

  •   our banner as a sign of our friendship and gratefulness for having us here today and thus being able to enjoy your kind and generous hospitality,
  •   a book about Wipperfürth so that you get an impression of where we live and
  •   something really special from our region, a local herbal schnapps from Lindlar, to support your moral spirits when you vigorously/heatedly discuss things and no solution seems to be emerging.Marga Radermacher

    Fort William, August 29th, 2018