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Ann is presented with her BEM

On 12th April, 2017 Ann was presented with her British Empire Medal, for services to veterans, by the Lord-Lieutenant of Midlothian Sir Robert Clerk Bt OBE.  The presentation took place at Nazareth House, Bonnyrigg, where Ann’s mother resides.

New Cottages opened at Carnoustie

1st March, 2017

Our Dundee District Committee was proud to take on five newly completed houses for disabled veterans constructed in a joint venture with Angus Council.  The houses now all fully occupied were opened by the Scottish Veterans’ Minister Keith Brown MSP on 1st March, 2017.

New Cottages opened at Inverness

28th June, 2016

Our Inverness District Committee was proud to take on five newly completed houses for disabled veterans constructed in a joint venture with Highland Council.  All now fully occupied, these houses were opened officially by the Lord-Lieutenant of Inverness, Donald Cameron of Lochiel.

Her Majesty The Queen marks SVGCA Centenary

2nd July, 2015

Following one hundred years of Royal Patronage, SVGCA was very fortunate that our  Patron Her Majesty The Queen agreed to mark our centenary during Royal Week in Edinburgh.  The visit took place on 2nd July 2015 and was a great success.  During the visit Her Majesty was able to meet Her veterans and their families along with some of the original Salvesen tenants.  Her Majesty planted a tree and unveiled a stone and Centenary Plaque.

We have come a long way in recent years but still have some way to go to meet the demand which grows ever more urgent as casualty numbers increase. Help us help them.

Fundraising the hard way: Swimming the Corryvreckan

When Peter Minshall, Houses for Heroes Chief Executive, organized a sponsored swim for his charity, he chose to cross the world’s third biggest whirlpool

THE swell was rising and falling ominously at the Scarba shore. “These are not the conditions for the swim,” warned the skipper of our boat. It looked as if our attempt to swim the Corryvrecken was doomed, The weather was so bad and the swell so great that our vessel, The Farsain, crossed the channel to shelter in the lee of Jura and wait for slack water. The Gulf of Corryvrecken, I remembered, was described in the Admiralty’s West Coast of Scotland Guide to Inshore Waters as ‘very violent and dangerous’.

Corryvreckan is the world’s third largest whirlpool. The floodtide races up the Sound of Jura through a half-mile bottleneck between the islands of Jura and Scarba. As the flood is squeezed into the strait, the water plunges down a six hundred foot hole, the rises to meet a subsea mountain which climbs to within one hundred feet of the surface. It then roars around either side, creating dangerous maelstroms before spilling out into the Atlantic. When the floodtide is spent, there’s slack water for about thirty minutes before the tide rushes back. If you’re planning to swim across, that half hour is the only possible time. My fellow swimmers numbered eight and included neighbours and family. My son, William, 17, was perhaps to become the youngest swimmer ever to cross the Gulf.

As staff members of Houses for Heroes, who are building another 38 homes for those severely wounded in Afghanistan, we wanted to raise funds for the cause. It It was a three-part challenges; land, sea and air. I’d do the sea part, Ann Hamilton would walk from Inverness to Edinburgh Castle, and Caroline Wilkinson would complete a parachute jump.

When at last we entered the water, it wasn’t the cold but the inconsistent sea that threw us. I initially inhaled so much brine that I took time to develop a rhythm but eventually it was possible to marvel at the silent deep green water below and watch the silver bubbles rushing past. Sometimes I could see the odd red hat of my fellow swimmers ahead but mostly I was on my own. Suddenly I was trashed by a huge wave, knocking all breath from my body and leaving me gasping. Scarba, I noticed, was obstinately no closer. “Is this going to work?” I asked myself. Keep to the drill, I repeated, keep steady, keep the rhythm. Gradually, with each plunging stroke, I moved closer to Scarba, even though I was drifting to the right. Jellyfish way below contrasted with the towering black cliffs ahead. I rose and fell as eddies twisted and pulled, trying to break my rhythm.

Unexpectedly, on the up-roll, I experienced the exhilaration of surfing and felt a surge of energy. Nothing was going to stop me now and just as the cliffs seemed right overhead, the cry came from the boat: “You’ve got to touch the rock.” This proved interesting as every time I tried the swell sucked me back again but eventually by grabbing the lasagne-like seaweed, I pulled myself forward, slapped the rock and did a back flip away, thinking that’s worth a dram if noting else. As I re-boarded The Farsain a welcome bottle was thrust into my hand and the accompanying HMS Smiter cheerily sounded her siren.

There is something enchanting about swimming between two Scottish isles and to have done it in such good company was special. To do it for Houses for Heroes was an honour but to do it for the soldiers themselves was profound. We did it! And my son, William, is today the youngest known swimmer to have swum the Corryvrecken. Now where’s my whisky glass?

Peter Minshall is CEO of Houses for Heroes Scotland (Scottish Veterans’ Garden City Association).