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.
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.
DONALD GAINS “LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT” AWARD – 2nd July
The Club congratulates Past President Donald Young on his recent and well-deserved award of a “Lifetime Achievement” Award at the 4th Lochaber VOSCARS event organised by Voluntary Action Lochaber as part of National Volunteers Week.
The event attracts a huge amount of interest and involves an independent panel who meet to assess all the nominations and to select the top three nominees for each of the seven categories. This year, nine individuals from across Lochaber were nominated for the “Lifetime Achievement” Award which recognises an individual who has over many years been involved in voluntary work. The independent panel, following careful deliberation, unanimously agreed that the award should go to Donald.
Extracts from the nomination forms include “Donald is involved with a number of charities simultaneously. He gives full support to each by taking a ‘hands-on’ approach. Donald is reliable, discreet, and adds value to any decision making”. Other comments include “Donald is a ‘gentle giant’, not seeking recognition, and is very supportive. It is only by getting to know him that you discover the extent of his voluntary work”
For many years Donald was secretary of the Rotary Club of Lochaber while, at the same time, continuing to volunteer help with Club projects. He has organised the Young Chef competition with the four high-schools and the Am-Am golf tournament on several occasions. He is also a Past President of the Club.
Donald is also a voluntary director of Linnhe Leisure/Nevis Centre where his quantity surveying background has proved invaluable in gathering together information in relation to the premises which has helped inform the Centre’s successful funding applications for much-needed refurbishment.
Donald chairs VAL Board of Directors and is secretary of Lochaber Rugby Club. In addition, he has been instrumental in restarting the Claggan Greenfingers Community Garden Project by enlisting volunteers and acquiring funding. He has gained the support of the M&S Food Hall through their new local store and Greenfingers was selected as one of their Community Projects for the year”.
Club President Iain Johnston said he was delighted that Donald’s support for voluntary and community projects had been recognised and added “This fits well with the Rotary ethos of ‘Service above Self’. In previous years the Award has gone to other fellows Rotarians, Sheana Fraser and John Hutchison”.
The picture, courtesy of Iain Ferguson, shows Donald receiving his trophy and certificate from Grace Grant.