HRFCA trio retire after 97 years’ service

August 23, 2023
 / 
Louise, Lesley and Avril at their retiral celebration.

Highland RFCA has bid a fond farewell to long-serving members of staff Lesley Laing and Louise Chalmers who, along with fellow retiree Avril Blyth, have contributed a combined 97 years of outstanding service to the Association.

Lesley (then Lesley Reid) joined the Association on December 1, 1979, as the Class ‘C’ Estates Clerk in the HQ under Highland Territorial Auxiliary & Volunteer Reserve Association (Highland TAVRA). On 16 November 1982 she was promoted to Class ‘B’ Clerk and in 1988 her role was renamed Admin Officer where she stayed until October 2013 before being promoted again and moving to the role of Deputy Finance Officer.

Lesley with Chief Executive Brigadier (Retd) Mark Dodson and Head of Business Administration Craig Ansell.
Lesley with Chief Executive Brigadier (Retd) Mark Dodson and Head of Business Administration Craig Ansell (right). Lesley retired on August 3.

Lesley married Miles at Craigiebank Parish Church, Dundee on July 11, 1992, where she became Lesley Laing. On January 15, 1996, she gave birth to their son Euan. Over the following years his mum’s connections to the military must have had some effect on Euan as he is now serving as a commissioned officer in the RAF of which both Lesley and Miles are extremely proud.

Lesley has seen the Association change not only from TAVRA to HRFCA but many other working and structural changes in between. She has gained a wealth of historical knowledge that will be a considerable loss to the Association. She has worked in most parts of the building throughout her career including early on when No2 Married Quarter used to be offices. Over her time since she has seen a considerable number of staff come and go including four Finance Officers and six Chief Executives.

Throughout Lesley’s extensive career she has shown how much of a pivotal part of the Association’s business she has been and has contributed greatly over the years. It goes without saying that Lesley has shown great support and dedication to both the departments she has worked for and to all that have served in the Association alongside her. After 44 years of exceptional service she has decided to ‘hang up the boots’ and call it a day and enjoy some well-deserved retirement. The Association will lose a vital cog in its gears, but we wish Lesley and her family all the very best and good fortune in all the future holds for her.

Louise with Chief Executive Brigadier (Retd) Mark Dodson and Head of Business Administration Craig Ansell.
Louise with Chief Executive Brigadier (Retd) Mark Dodson and Head of Business Administration Craig Ansell (right). Louise retired on August 22.

Louise joined Highland TAVRA on April 18, 1985, as a ‘C’ Clerk doing the mail in the Front Office. This was in the days when there were no computers at Seathwood and everything was communicated by letter and doing the mail was a full-time job. The switchboard was another of her duties with only six lines and phones were limited to the bosses and one per department. She was quickly promoted to typist and after a couple of years was successful in applying for another promotion to the ‘B’ Clerk post in the Finance Department when Helen retired.

A re-shuffle within Seathwood in 2011 moved her out of Finance and into Communications then due to sick absence she was asked to cover in the Quartermaster’s (FM) Department for six months. She impressed in that role so much that she was asked to permanently move into the Estates Department and became the Statutory and Mandatory AO. She has worked in every department within the Association. In 2018 Louise was promoted again to Compliance Co-ordinator, where she worked closely alongside the Head of Estates to ensure a safe place for the whole of the Volunteer Estate in the Highland RFCA area of responsibility. This was a mammoth task that Louise took in her stride. As reporting responsibilities grew Louise (in her final role as Safe Estates Compliance Officer) provided support to the newly-established Safe Estates Compliance Manager. Louise leaves HRFCA with a wealth of historical knowledge of all the transitions we have been through. She played a pivotal role in improving our processes and providing expert advice to ensure continued compliance on the estate.

Louise will be using her well-earned retirement to spend more time with her husband, three children and five grandchildren.

Avril with Chief Executive Brigadier (Retd) Mark Dodson and Head of Business Administration Craig Ansell.
Avril with Chief Executive Brigadier (Retd) Mark Dodson and Head of Business Administration Craig Ansell (right). Avril retired on August 22.

Also retiring was Head of Support Services (HSS) and Regional Systems Administrator (RSA) Avril Blyth. Avril started with the Association in June 2008 as an Employer Support AO for Defence Relationship Management (when it was still called SaBRE, that stood for Supporting Britain’s Reservists and Employers), before moving department and role to IT Systems Administrator & Office Support – then in 2017 moved to her current role of HSS/RSA.

◼︎ Main image shows (from left) Louise, Lesley and Avril. HRFCA staff gathered on August 3 in the garden at Association HQ in Dundee to wish them all a happy retirement.

HRFCA staff taking part in garden games.
HRFCA staff took part in garden games as part of the retiral celebrations.
Staff enjoying a game of pétanque.
Staff enjoying pétanque.