The Earl and Countess of Wessex visit Stornoway
The Earl and Countess of Wessex charmed and joked their way around Stornoway on only their second joint visit to the Western Isles since the opening of the Eriskay causeway in 2002.
With much of the emphasis of the morning’s engagements being on young people, there was a sense of excitement at the various venues in the town. And this was made all the more so due to heavy fog which delayed their helicopter journey into Stornoway.
By the time they arrived at Stornoway Town Hall almost forty minutes late, a sizeable crowd of well-wishers had gathered outside to welcome them. A piper, Finlay Macleod, piped in the Royal couple with a selection of 4/4 marches including the Battle of Waterloo and the Bonnie Lass O’ Fyvie.
The Earl, who was sporting a Balmoral tartan kilt, was accompanied by his wife, Sophie who wore an elegant cream embossed dress topped with a dark blue fitted jacket. Despite their late arrival the Royal couple took their time meeting people and showing a real interest in what they are doing within the local community. Their unhurried demeanour and warmth shone through, leaving those they met delighted at their encounter.
At the Town Hall there was special interest for Earl Wessex in meeting with young people and leaders of various local Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme groups, of which the Earl is a Trustee. As well chatting with adults from the Lifeskills Group, Pointers Failte Café and the Grow2work employability skills group about how their lives are being enhanced, the Earl and Countess spent time with Mr Ken Galloway and Mr Malcolm Macdonald of the Stornoway Historical Society, which is also housed in the refurbished town hall along with the Stornoway Learning Shop, and spoke with a group of S3 pupils from the Nicolson Institute who are undergoing an innovative rural skills course.
Before they moved onto their next engagement, however, they first visited the adjoining Harris Tweed Authority offices to learn more about the cloth famously associated with the Royal family and to see a recreation of a traditional waulking of the Clo mor. To repay the efforts of a number of volunteers involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, the Earl presented certificates acknowledging their hard work and dedication.
The Earl and Countess then made the short walk from the town hall to Martin’s Memorial Church on foot and chatted with the crowd lining Francis Street. They were heading to the Church of Scotland kirk to officially open The Shed, an ambitious youth and family centre aimed at helping expand the range of work done by the local congregation in the community. However, the visit was overshadowed by the tragic news of the sudden death of the church’s former minister, Rev. Tom Sinclair in Edinburgh who was involved in a collision with a car near Waverley Station after attending the previous day’s proceedings of the General Assembly.
The Royal couple was introduced to the church’s office bearers by Rev Tommy Macneil before they toured the new building at the rear of the church and then declaring The Shed open and unveiled a plaque on an easel placed in the church where members of the congregation had gathered to witness the event.
After refreshments in the church hall, the Earl and Countess travelled in a locally owned Range Rover from Martin’s round to the TA drill hall where they were greeted by a guard of honour made up of Air Training and Army cadets.
Inside they met local representatives of the Royal British Legion, the Royal Air Force Association, the Fishermen’s Mission, the RNLI, the Scout movement and the Brownies and Girl Guides.
The Duchess spent time with the Brownies and Girl Guides, hunkering down to chat to them and reveal that her own daughter is a Brownie. Before she left for the next leg of the Royal visit to Barra that afternoon, the Duchess couldn’t resist a chat with a local family outside whose young child discovered she and the Duchess shared a love for the popular children’s book, The Snowman.