Royal welcome at the Forfar Legion

THERE was a royal welcome for a very special visitor to the Forfar branch headquarters of the Royal British Legion Scotland on Friday (writes Alan Ducat).

On a whistle-stop tour of Angus, Princess Anne called in to the Academy Street headquarters of what is claimed to be the oldest Legion branch in the organisation’s 90th anniversary year, having earlier performed the official opening of Isla Primary School.

Representatives of a host of local organisations, together with local dignitaries and Legion representatives at local, area and national level were invited to the lunchtime reception, at which the talents of Angus College catering students were enjoyed and widely praised

The line-up of guests was led by Royal British Legion Scotland president General Sir Alistair Irwin, who said the Forfar branch should be proud of both its place in the history of the organisation and its role in the county’s royal day.

He also honoured a string of branch stalwarts with the presentation of certificates of merit to Alexander and Barbara Adam, Raymond Brown, Annie Douglas, Anne Mitchell and Isobel Salmond.

A special presentation was also made to the Princess Royal by 74-year-old Pipe Major Ronnie Mackay, who handed over a framed manuscript of a tune specially composed to mark the Angus visit.

The Royal visit to Forfar is one of a number of events planned in the months ahead to mark the 90th anniversary year of the Royal British Legion Scotland.

Ahead of the visit, Charlie Brown, branch chairman, told the Dispatch and Herald that Forfar can lay claim to being the oldest branch in the world, because it can prove its establishment on Tuesday, April 5, 1921.

“As the oldest branch in Scotland, we can lay claim to be the oldest in the world, for the Royal British Legion, as it’s known south of the border, was formed later,” he explains.

“This year is a landmark one for us and we were over the moon when we learned that the Princess Royal had accepted an invitation to call in on us at our Academy Street premises.

“It was a real coup for us – the only branch in the country to receive royal recognition in this, the 90th anniversary year of the Royal British Legion Scotland.”

Not that Charlie will have much time to draw breath after the organisation of the Royal visit, for he and three other Legion colleagues are about to get on their bikes.

Charlie, Mick McKeown and Ken Campbell, all from Forfar, will be joined by Kevin Gray from Edinburgh, to complete a cycle relay trip from the capital city to Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire.

“It is a trip of 416 miles in total and we plan to be in Wootten Bassett on June 11,” continues Charlie.

“There, we will pass to the mayor a letter of thanks from the First Minister on behalf of the people of Scotland for the role the people of the small market town have played in the repatriation of ex-service personnel via RAF Lyneham.”

Also planned for June is a service of commemoration in Edinburgh to mark the Legion’s 90th anniversary year, while hundreds will be on parade in the capital city during Armed Forces Day on June 25.

Later in the year, Forfar celebrations include a visit to the Reid Hall by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force on Friday, September 9, followed by a commemorative service in St. John’s Episcopal Church, Forfar, on Sunday, September 11.