Rotary Matters by Jim McColl

(The weekly reports of the Rotary Club of Inverurie)

Week ending 3rd March, 2017

On Tuesday, 27 Rotarians were present and after the meal and committee  reports, Rotarian Stephen Martin introduced Stephen Boddie who is a Community Service Representative and Coach for Aberdeen Football Club and let me tell you there is a great deal more to it  than football. Stephen and his associates are involved with people aged from 6 to sixty plus

The goals of this organisation are more inspirational than any Dennis Law ever scored! The organisation is actually a registered charity entirely separate from AFC with its own Board of Directors but of course football is used as one route to attract and engage with young people, hence the team work with Inverurie Locos, Colony Park, Schools  and  others.

Apart from helping to create pathways for boys and girls for their future, the team are encouraging them to integrate, respect all colours and creeds etc. It is about citizenship really. There is currently an initiative to encourage some of the young Saudi refugees, not only to play football but ALSO to learn to speak our language! Integration is the name of that game - sounds logical doesn’t it? 

These guys are true social workers in our community, making a difference to people’s lives, across the age spectrum! They are helping older people tackle a lack of fitness, loneliness and dementia with initiatives like fitness clubs and walking football, changing people’s lives for the better. One of their number has just been voted the Autistic Coach of the Year for Aberdeenshire, went on to win the Scottish title and the UK title. 

If you get the chance to help these guys in any way – grab it, you will not be sorry. 

Stuart Watson gave a very well constructed  and considerate vote of thanks.



Week ending 24th February, 2017

On Monday this week, Rotarian Jim Sommerville visited Strathburn School to collect a batch of 30 Shoeboxes destined for Eastern Europe in time for Easter. 

Primary 5 pupils at the school have been involved in this initiative. They organised posters, emails and notes, made presentations to fellow pupils in P4 , 6 and 7  to encourage them to bring in items to help fill up the boxes. Each pupil in P5 then filled and decorated a box, which was then filled with toiletries, toys, games etc suitable for their own age-group. 

When collecting the boxes, the pupils were quizzed about the scheme with a few relevant questions: 

Where are they destined for?  Ans. Out came a string of answers – Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria……They actually prepared a work sheet and route map for where they are destined. These projects surely make potentially boring subjects, come to life ? 

Why do we send them?  Ans. To less fortunate children who may have never received a personal gift before?  

What is the value of the gifts in each box? Ans. This is when the answers got a bit random! Anything from ‘A fiver’ to ‘fifty quid’!. 

So, if it was a fiver, what is the value of this consignment?  Ans. Quick as a flash - £150 !  

Haven’t they done well? The pupils of P5 at Strathburn Primary wish to thank everyone who helped this enterprising project, including pupils and parents who donated items…………….and so say all of us! 

We must also acknowledge the co-operation of class teacher  Donna Murray who obviously developed the project to become a very useful  educational exercise

Week ending 17th February, 2017

Starting this week with a postscript! Many of you will remember the CLAN raffle which Rotary Clubs in this corner support each year. You may have contributed at the time. The prize – a spanking new modern Mini with the draw being made on Christmas Eve. The 2015 winner lives in Inverurie so there was no bother in making the presentation. Not so easy this time – the 2016 winner just happened to be working overseas and as a result that handover had to be delayed until quit recently That is just one side of the story. Whilst we thank all the Rotarians who gave up their time to man the stand in the Bon Accord Centre selling tickets, we also thank the donors who forked out their hard won dosh and as a result a cheque for £38,000 was handed over to the CLAN charity! In addition, each club that participated receives a small sum to use for their own particular charity projects. Who said North Easters were skinflints? Rubbish, say I. Well done everyone.

Numbers were down at this week’s club meeting – midterm holidays and illness being the likely cause. The business of the day must go on but after the usual reports including greetings brought back by members who had visited other clubs, just another worthy tradition, we had an excellent presentation from retired Army Padre – Rev. Philip Clarke. To say that he is something of a keep fit fanatic would not be unkind. A cyclist of note, he still sets himself daunting challenges and by the way he has recently become an octogenarian – welcome to the club Philip!

In describing his array of bicycles, he even has a modest looking everyday bike for doing the shopping! He admitted that some others cost as much as a small car! When he tackles the hills, Philip has a strict rule – he does cycle all the way, not allowing himself to dismount and walk for a whilie! He will stop, rest a moment but then mounts up again from the same spot. The highlight of his talk came as he described, while in his seventies, cycling over the eight highest passes in Scotland measuring height and distance Aha, but that is not all, after a cup of coffee he then retraces his ride – yes indeed, he does it all over again in the opposite direction! These passes will be familiar to many, they include Cairn o’ Mount, Lecht, Glenshee, Ben Lawyers, the Mam Rattigan Pass, the Pass of the Cattle over to Ardnaurchan. As you picture these wonderful routes over which you may have driven many a time just think – on a bike there and back! Eight Passes x height above sea level x two = almost the height of Mount Everest! It is a stunning tale.

Secretary Jim Hatter gave the Vote of Thanks accompanied by very enthusiastic applause .

In the coming days, members will be stewarding and assisting at a Swimming Gala for young folk with learning difficulties and also running the annual Primary Schools quiz.

Week ending 10th February, 2017

 On a rather dreich night 25 Rotarians, joined by one guest - Steve Lynne from the Kintore Club, were to enjoy another excellent evening.  After the meal and business updates, secretary Jim Hatter introduced our guest speaker Scott Adams, a local Scout Leader in a much modernised organisation which I hardly recognised, mind you I moved on from being a Troop Leader circa 1954!  The first thing I noticed was that Scott never used the name troop!

We were reminded during Scott’s dissertation that our club played a large part in the restoration and modernisation  of the Scout HQ in Inverurie a few years ago, our work party being led by Eric Massie of course, a past master at acquiring necessary items just like the Great Houdini himself! In other words, Eric made full use of his contacts within the building industry to benefit the project.

At 24 years of age, Scott’s enthusiasm for Scouts and Scouting shone like a beacon.  After a few words about the local organisation and structure, he went on to highlight the projects and challenges that are set for the young people, segregated into groups by age. He never mentioned reef knots, semaphore or campfire cooking, come to think of it he never even mentioned British Bulldog either, a compulsory skill required if you ever think about playing Rugby!

The critical words that came through to me were Challenge, Energy and Commitment as it applies to themselves and the community. At a very early stage today’s Scouts are encouraged to plan and manage their own affairs – organisational matters are not left to the ‘Leaders’. They would be taking more of a back seat role as mentors. Needless to say, in this modern society, that is a very appealing prospect for quite assertive young people, indeed Scott himself is a classic product of the system, his style and attitude went down rather well with our members.

Several projects in the community were described, for example, in targeting mental health problems, a group, having researched some current simple therapeutic ideas, made bird boxes for a number of sufferers, this facility having been shown to be a benefit by providing a focus of interest.

The usual run of competitions are still popular as fundraisers but I was delighted to hear that camping trips are still popular, often to meet up with others from afar.

As well as being local Scout Leader, on his own behalf Scott aims to become a Queen’s Scout by the time he is 25yo – the highest qualification to be gained in the organisation meantime, he has a new, additional role to play as an Assistant District Commissioner for Young People’s Development  which basically serves to emphasise the ethos of helping young people to take responsibility for running the organisation.

Aye, he’s quite a guy is our Scott . The vote of thanks, fulsome in its praise was very ably delivered by Rotarian Cath Nash.


Week ending 3rd February, 2017

 On duty this week along with Joe McDowall, we clocked in 27 members and one guest. It was a return to normality after a busy week when a number of Rotarians  performed at a range of Burns celebration across this corner. That included a Glee Club date with Age Concern’ Scotch Nicht in the  KA – fit a rare nicht we had!

President Peter during his customary remarks took the opportunity to remind members of coming events when volunteer helpers will be required, these included the annual Primary School Quiz , Swimming Gala and Run Garioch! We have a busy time ahead of us.

Taking over the meeting at this point was immediate past president David Taylor who introduced our speaker this week, from the Blackburn Rotary Club, it was the one and only Barry Craigmile. His subject Guide Dogs for the Blind, yet another wonderful tale of commitment.  A week or two ago it was all about Mountain Rescue, highlighting the importance of the service and the dedication of teams of unpaid volunteers without which the service might not exist.  Here was another, Barry’s commitment to Guide Dogs is, with his wife, to train young puppies for the job!

Whilst it is not an every day experience, the chances are that you will see a guide dog in action from time to time on our busy streets giving that blind person a freedom that otherwise they would not have. The value of the work done by trainers must not be underestimated, the two words I have used already are worth repeating – their role requires commitment and dedication.

In Barry’s talk, he reminded us that the service started back in 1931 when 4 German Shepherd’s were trained. Two ladies – Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond , living in Wallasey Cheshire initiated the movement. Since then almost 30 thousand people have been helped to lead independent lives aided by a Guide Dog – an extraordinary tale!

At one time the Guide Dogs for the Blind were prepared to train puppies that were gifted by well- meaning owners but over the years, there was shown to be too high a failure rate it therefore became clear that the organisation would have to breed their own.  Various breeds have been used including Labradors, Labradoodles, Collies with the first-named being the most successful.  Strange, almost quirky characteristics may lead to some breeds being excluded. For example, collies are not so successful. Why? Have you noticed, I bet you haven’t – collies don’t like to walk slowly, they want to rush everywhere to get the job done. I’m sure many a shepherd would agree with that.  Not quite the temperament required to be a Guide Dog.

The basic obedience training of a young dog is about 14 weeks then it will go for special training to the likes of the Forfar facility, as indeed will the Blind person. Overall the cost is in region of £50,000 per dog and there are currently about 5000 dogs working in the UK. With a dog’s working life being 7 to 9 years, there is a constant need for replacements.

The vote of thanks on behalf of the club was delivered by Sandra Turnbull

Don’t turn a blind eye to requests for support!!


Week ending December 23rd 2016

In the absence of our President Peter Donaldson (excused because of much more important family duties!), our weekly meeting was chaired by President Elect J Stuart Watson. It was, of course our Christmas Party night, attended by members, accompanied by wives/husbands/partners and friends. All but the essential formalities were suspended for the evening. Secretary Jim Hatter proposed the Grace before we were to enjoy another excellent meal presented by the KA team.

Following the loyal toast, Stuart handed over to the MC for the evening J G Ross who introduced the Club’s own bunch of thespian/musician entertainers - The Glee Club. As many will know, our original pianist Linda Davidson with husband Frank has moved on to live in Ballater. Such was the reputation of the Glee Club that we had two applicants for the job and we decided to appoint both! (If you believe that you’ll believe onything) George took the opportunity to welcome Mrs Frances Mitchell who drew the short straw for this gig!

Our fellow members and guests were royally entertained for the next hour with a selection of sing along favourites ending with a couple of Christmas Carols and some seasonal ditties, including White Christmas. Highlights were undoubtedly The Bold Gendarmes from Howard Hughes and David Taylor, Jack Henry reciting the Ian Middleton tale of ‘flechs and half eaten meals grouwin their ain pencillin!’, Mr Hughes again telling the story of the Lispin Leghorn aided and abetted by 3 feathered friends! JS Watson singing Hallelujah and the Fulton/Milroy favourite about Lah-dee-dah, and Mr Ross (jokes apart) with The Auld Meal Mill and of course the Ficherin Four plus One playing a wee selection including Ashokan Farewell, Wild Rose of the Mountain and The Dark Island.

The vote of thanks was proposed by Mike Hay and so for many, the seasonal festivities had begun!

Our next meeting will be on 10th January when the guest speaker will address the subject of Mountain Rescue – we look forward to that.

The members of the Rotary Club of Inverurie wish you all a Very Happy Christmas and Guid New Year.

Week ending December 16th 2016

The Rotary Club of Inverurie meeting on Tuesday night was not particularly well attended which is really not surprising at this time of year. Apart from other seasonal events taking place there seems to be quite a number of people struck down with heavy colds. In fact Philip Clarke who was to be our speaker was so afflicted but I tell you what, his ‘deputy’ was a revelation in his own right. More of that in a tick.

A group of 7 of our Rotarians travelled to Alford to attend the 20th Anniversary Charter Dinner of their Rotary Club on Friday last, just another tradition in the Rotary world. The report on the trip was brief and to the point – good to see some old pals again and the meal was a belter! Well that’s what it is all about, isn’t it?

As I indicated, we had a replacement speaker who was none other than Mr Bert Hosie and his subject was the Grampian Cardiac Rehab Association. As many who have benefited from the services offered will know, this organisation was formed back in 2002 when Grampian Region withdrew their services in this facility.

The organisation runs classes for people at risk of heart problems as well as those who have been treated for heart problems, hence the Rehab reference in the official title.

The GCRA is run by a board of volunteer directors and only have one part time employed person – their success is a testament to the skill and dedication of the team. The movement has expanded to provide classes from Forres to Laurencekirk and from Aberdeen to Aboyne. There are 14 classes in Aberdeen alone and 24 in 17 of the rural areas with a total of 740 members benefiting from the sessions. The expert instructors are trained and re-certified every three years, a device surely to maintain the highest standards of care and support.

How is the programme financed? In fact the board of volunteer directors are extremely assiduous in attracting monies to keep this extremely useful service going. Grant Aid forms a significant part of the funding together with donations and fund raising – this may be an invaluable, essential service to many in the community but at present, that is how it has to be sustained, it is the way of the world nowadays. Remember that when you have a bob or two to spare!

Clients who wish to ‘join the club’ pay a £10 membership fee and £4 per session.

The vote of thanks to Bert was proposed by Mike Barron to warm and sustained applause from the members.

Next week is the Christmas party – we look forward to that!


Week ending December 9th 2016

This week was an in-house session, there were no visitors and after the meal and the regular information slot the meeting was adjourned then a Special General Meeting (SGM) was convened!

Odd really but that is how it has always been! Firstly though we had the usual reports from the committees, the most notable being our St Andrews Night which I reported on last week. The convenor for events and fund-raising Past President JG Ross summed up the evening in his usual ebullient fashion! This is not punted as a fund-raising evening but we did have the usual raffle, prizes being donated by the members. The outcome was significant but the total was enhanced through the generosity of one of our members – having won top prize in another raffle consisting of a meal for two and an overnight stay in Meldrum House, he donated his prize, valued £250, to our St Andrews Night total. As a result, we were able to donate £567 to Children in Need.

Why have an SGM in the middle of the Rotary year? With a need for continuity it is essential that club leaders for the following year, in this case 2017/18, should be identified and if necessary voted in to office. In other words if there are several candidates for the various roles, there has to be time for a mini-election. With only one other item on the agenda, this proved to be a short meeting! No mini-election was necessary in other words, there was one candidate for each position as follows:

President – Past President and Paul Harris Fellow, J. Stuart Watson.

President Elect – Past President Alan J Robertson

Secretary – Paul Harris Fellow Michael C Barron

Treasurer – Past President Charles E Taylor

What does that posh man on the tele say – ‘We are in safe hands’!

The Glee Club are busy (two gigs this week, one in Kemnay and the other in Westhill). A week or two ago we performed to rapturous applause in front of about 30 American Lady Curlers and their hosts in Aberdeen. Our specially chosen programme of classic Scots ditties included Flower of Scotland and Ye cannae shove yer grannie af a bus, together with a solo or two, including The Lispin Leghorn and Jack Henry’s rendition of an Ian Middleton poem in 100% Doric went down well but how much they understood I cannot say, we are however waiting, on tenterhooks, for an invitation to tour – first stop Seattle perhaps!


Week ending December 2nd 2016

Our Scottish history and traditions are dear to most of the folk that I know and long may these feelings and expressions continue to be part of our lives. Mind you when idjits in distant offices try to ban a nation’s tradition of wearing the red poppy on the sports field or anywhere else for that matter, you have to ask yourself – what next?

That’s how I feel this morning, reporting on a Rotary night with a difference  - we celebrated St Andrew’s Night as we do every year around 30th November. A total of 64 members, relatives and friends enjoyed a convivial evening of stories, music and song, superbly organised by the redoubtable JG Ross and his committee.

With a busy evening ahead, President Peter Donaldson started off at a fair lick with updates of members who are or have been unwell – a regular feature, on to the Grace and the meal itself. A week or so ago I mentioned the initiative by the Rotary Club of Huntly with local retailer Rizza to produce a purple-coloured ice cream, proceeds from the sales going to the ‘end polio now’ campaign. We tasted the product at the end of the meal and I have to say ‘it went down well’!  Hopefully people will be encouraged to continue to buy the product to help that important Rotary initiative. 

 Mindful of other priorities, the proceeds of the evening’s raffle will go to Children in Need.

Then it was on with the entertainment provided by Craig Pike and friends, it was just sublime! As you know Craig is part of the Flying Pigs team but is also a Producer of stage shows including the Inverurie Pantomime whilst the day job is -  Lawyer!

We were entertained to a programme of songs remembering the days of the Somme,  American musicals and entertainers like Doris Day, a wee bit of Billy Connolly and of course some  Scotland the What favourites. A bit of  poetry by Flora Garry, beautifully recited by Craig but I didn’t get one word of it! My understanding of Doric is not as good as I thought it was! Our two American guests were equally bemused!

Being an accomplished performer in his own right, who better to give the vote of thanks than Alan Robertson and he did so enthusiastically.

Our lives were never meant to be a constant grind, these evenings of meeting together; ‘newsing’ and relaxing are great therapy.  


Week ending November 25th 2016

The highlight of the Rotary week just gone has to be the first round of the Rotary Young Musician of the Year competition, held in Inverurie Academy last Thursday night. Once again it was superbly organised by Rotarian Stephen Martin with assistance from a group of Rotary colleagues on the night and, of course the co-operation of the school authorities.

It is safe to say, we had a cracking concern.

The skills and versatility of the 15 competitors aged from seven to 16 was of the highest order, indeed the judges, professor Peter Stollery from the University of Aberdeen and our very own Rosie Milne were voluble in their praise of all the competitors.

To add to the unique nature of this competition, before announcing the winners, professor Stollery publicly congratulated each competitor on their performance, highlighting excellence, skill in technique and interpretation, offering words of encouragement to every one and from time to time adding a gentle word of advice though it may only be “don’t forget to smile!”

For some of the competitors, this would have been the first time they had performed in front of an audience, not just parents and friends but to complete strangers!

That is, in itself a daunting task as I know from personal experience!

Added to that, these young people have to perform giving it their best shot!

They all handled that challenge very well and as a result, everyone was a winner.

Rotary President Peter Donaldson presented each performer with a certificate then judge Rosie Milne announced the winners whilst adding her own congratulations and words of encouragement to every competitor.

Here are the winners : -

Primary School winner – pianist Alice Coutts, aged seven.

Most promising musician – violinist (fiddler) Chloe Barber aged 10.

Winning instrumentalist – acoustic guitarist Isaac Bacon aged 16.

Winning vocalist – Millie Chapman.

Overall competition winner – Isaac Bacon.

Isaac and Millie will progress now to the next stage of the competition – the regional finals to be held in Perth on February 25.

One last word of thanks go to the young people who entertained us while the judges were deliberating on the competition.

Celtacad (a group of young fiddlers) set the ball rolling with some fine playing, then we had budding actor Evan Reid who entertained us with a beautiful monologue piece, finally JP and Spencer O’Grady played us out with some fine singing, accompanying themselves on guitar.

A grand nicht wis enjoyed bi a’body!


Week ending November 18th 2016

Before getting in to the nitty gritty of this week’s meeting, let me return briefly to the story of the Shoebox team – you may recall this project whereby gift boxes, the size of a shoebox, with suitable contents for under-privileged children, teenagers and families are sent out by Rotary Clubs across the land.

Our President Peter Donaldson was involved in loading up a consignment for delivery to the collection point, over 100 in the first lot with another 40+ due from Inverurie Academy which will be delivered by Christmas.

Now then to this week’s ongoings and firstly, President Peter welcomed back Rotarian David Keith after a long absence due to ill-health. David received a warm welcome back to the fold by the members present.

There followed a fascinating talk by Donald Paterson on the island of St. Kilda.

Donald developed a passion for the place over a number of years during which he became a regular member of the NTS work parties.

His talk illustrated with numerous pictures, held the members spellbound for 40 minutes – at least!

He started by asserting that they are the St. Kilda Islands with Hirta being by far the largest. The elements that make St. Kilda so fascinating are firstly its isolation – 100 miles out in the Atlantic from the Scottish mainland and 40 miles from the Outer Hebrides, as such St. Kilda has its own climate!

That isolation meant that the evolution of the human population, measured in the late 1800s had reached the same stage as Mainland Scotland did in the 1750s!

The facts and figures just tumbled out – the highest sea cliffs in Western Europe, incredible landscapes and seascapes.

No flat ground to speak of and a quaint piece of advice for new visitors to the island – if you are traversing the land in torrential rain, well protected, the first thing you do is take off your waterproof trousers! Why? If you slip and fall, you may continue to slide on your posterior and you may end up in the ocean! Another danger were the dive-bombing Bronxies!

Diet was a real cracker – how about Gannets for their meat and eggs, Fulmars for essential oils and Puffins for afters!

Sheep were farmed and some cattle too, the latter supplying milk but not meat and being used as beasts of burden.

The islands being owned by the McLeods of Skye, the rent was paid in feathers! Surprisingly, another product which was sold to MacLeod at a fixed price was tweed.

Surprisingly the people of St. Kilda were not fishermen!

Undoubtedly this would be related to the sea conditions in the area coupled with the fact that they could only manipulate and cope with small boats.

The last residents evacuated in the early 1930s and in an answer to a question as to how they fared when they came to the mainland, Donald asserted that this was not a happy piece of social engineering.

A very fulsome vote of thanks was offered by Rotarian Charlie Taylor.







Meeting Information...

Kintore Arms Hotel, 
Inverurie, We meet on Tuesdays at 18.00 for 18.15 Kintore Arms Hotel,
Inverurie, AB51 4GQ tel: 01467 621367

Meeting venue's web site