District Commendation for Lochaber Youth Activites

Parties in District 1230 hierarchy have been very complimentary about our work in Youth Awards  over several years and our report was published in the Spring District Magazine as follows: 

Lochaber Rotary has championed youth competitions in their local area for many years now, particularly Young Photographer, Writer, Chef, Artist and Musician.

Entries in each of these categories come from the high schools and primary schools but numbers vary each year, depending on teachers’ workloads and the general level of interest. Despite Covid, enthusiasm for Young Writer has been high in the past couple of years, with this year’s entries totalling over 90, thanks to a focus in the Lochaber Times.

Last year Sìne Grant from Invergarry progressed right through to the RIBI Young Writer Intermediate Final with her essay, “Environment – the Last One”, a  great credit to her school, her family and herself. When told about her success, Sìne said; ”I was happy to be able to participate in the competition and very surprised to have won”.  Her essay was published in full in the Lochaber Times.

Presentation of this year’s Young Writer prizes will be after this magazine’s copy deadline but photos of Annie Strachan, Aidan Patterson and Elodie Place will appear in the local press for the junior, intermediate and senior competitions respectively.   Winning entries and the best of the runners up will be published in the next few editions of the monthly Lochaber Life.

While Spean Bridge Primary was clearly a hotbed of writing talent this year, Ardnamurchan High School has regularly been to the fore with Young Photographer and Kinlochleven High School with Young Artist.

Frequently, Lochaber Young Chefs have progressed beyond District 1230 rounds where this year again saw success with 15-year-old Alex Johnstone from Spean Bridge, winning the District heat and heading forward to the next round.

Alex’s winning menu of butternut squash, pine nut and blue murder risotto starter, followed by his main of duck with celeriac puree, roast beetroot and apple sauce, and his desert of caramelised pear, white chocolate ganache and a walnut praline, won the day, with the Head Judge commenting; “It was a very close competition for second and third place, but Alex was a clear winner”. The Head Judge added that Alex’s main course wouldn’t have been out of place in a top-class restaurant commenting; “it was cooked and presented in a very professional manner. The cooking of the duck was of the highest standard.”

Lochaber Past-President Iain Johnston accompanied and supported Alex on his trip to the district-level heat in East Kilbride. Alex, from Lochaber High School, now goes forward to the “All Scotland and North of England” final to be held in Perth in March.  Iain confirmed; “It was a pleasure to be with Alex in this round of the competition. He was very professional in his approach and showed some very fine cooking skills of which many older chefs would have been proud. This round of the competition was keenly contested. We at Lochaber Rotary, are very proud of Alex’s achievement and we wish him well for the next round”.

Supporting young people is a big part of Lochaber Rotary’s activity, having previously run mock interviews for Mallaig High School and regularly supports young folk on courses to improve their skills.  Following a grant that allowed some specialised tutoring, Ruairidh Poll of Lochaber High School was selected for the flagship National Youth Orchestra of Scotland Jazz Orchestra after a demanding audition process.

Club President Simon Hardiman said; “We are surrounded by talented young folk in Lochaber and we work hard to support them to excel.  These competitions help keep Rotary in the public eye. Our members really get behind this, but this year’s Young Writer entry is the highest yet and our thanks are certainly due to John Goodall and his team for carefully judging the huge postbag of essays and poems!”