Heading West

August 3, 2018

After considerable travel around the Central Belt and North East recently, it was time to turn my eyes westwards and head off to meet with some of our employers on the other side of the patch. 

First up was the Golden Jubilee Hospital and Trust, a truly amazing place and very worthy holders of a Gold Employer Recognition Scheme award for the support they give to Reservists and the wider Armed Forces family. As well as further partnership work, we discussed the forthcoming Gala Day for staff and families to celebrate 70 years of the NHS and we were asked if we could help out. Given that the NHS is one of the largest employers of Reservists in the UK, we certainly can! 7 Scots, 225 Medical Regiment, local Service Cadets and, hopefully, the Royal Marines all stepping up with resources to make this a fabulous day out. We ask so much of our employers, it is a pleasure to be able to give back and add value to what they do.

Next up was just a stone’s throw away to Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce, one of our most supportive Chambers and nominated for a Silver award this year. (The geographically minded amongst you will be wondering when Dunbartonshire became part of the Highlands, but for RFCA purposes, that’s how it rolls. Trust us!) A very productive meeting took place around our exciting new “Chamber Force” initiative which will be launching in the autumn. This will offer some great benefits of working with Defence to Chamber of Commerce members, and enable us to engage with more businesses, more effectively to everyone’s benefit. MSP Maurice Steuart-Corry joined us for the meeting and offered his support as Convenor of the Cross Party Veterans Support Group. With the base at Faslane on his patch, Maurice is a staunch supporter of the work of the RFCAs and we are always grateful for his help.

Still with Argyll and Bute it was a pleasure then to meet up with Midton Acrylics, a new company to us but one keen to pledge their support via the Armed Forces Covenant. With a need within the organisation for recruitment and leadership training, we quickly had them interested in taking part in Mini-Stretch in October and in Executive Stretch next year. Free leadership training? No brainer!

With the West dealt with, the lure of the North proved too strong and it was back on my trusty steed and off into the wilds of rural Aberdeenshire in search of the MacRobert Trust. The route took me on ever narrower and ever steeper routes, looping upward in hairpins across mountain and glens under glowering skies. As my ears popped and I contemplated the need for a sick bag, the poem “Uphill” by Christina Rossetti came to mind:

Up, up and away!

Are we there yet?

“Does the road wind uphill all the way?

Yes, to the very end.

Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?

From morn to night, my friend”


(Note to self: do NOT do this road in winter or in the dark, i.e about eight months of the year!)

Finally, the SatNav deposited me at my destination, the glorious Douneside House in Tarland, home of the MacRobert Trust and voted AA Hotel of the Year (Scotland) last year. A warm welcome was on hand from Rear Admiral Chris Hockley who runs both the hotel and the trust, supporting serving and ex-forces personnel as a legacy left by Lady MacRobert. This redoubtable lady lost all three of her sons before and during the Second World War, the last one being killed in action in 1941, a few weeks after his elder brother. Her response was to buy a bomber – obviously – and gift it to the RAF saying that “this expresses my reaction on receiving the news about my sons. A suitable name for the bomber would be “MacRobert’s Reply”. Let it be used where it is most need and may good fortune go with those who fly it.”

Michelle with the model of a bomber bought and gifted to the RAF by Lady MacRobert.

The trust now supports a huge range of organisations and we are delighted that they will shortly be signing the Armed Forces Covenant and working with us.

Time now for this weary traveller to do some admin catch up, re-group the troops and then on with the prospect of a ship visit from HMS Diamond, the Clackmannanshire Business Awards, The RAF 100 Beating the Retreat and of course, the small matter of the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo. Just another week in the life of a Highland REED!