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Inspiring Aberdeenshire finalists are announced

By David Porter

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Inspiring Aberdeenshire is one of the north-east's biggest annual events and celebrate the achievements and successes of people across Aberdeenshire who go the extra mile for their communities, often with little or no other official recognition.

Inspiring Aberdeenshire awards will be presented later this year.
Inspiring Aberdeenshire awards will be presented later this year.

The finalists list has been unveiled across the categories -

Community Spirit Award

JSK Running Group - JSK Running Group, or Jog Scotland Kintore, was set up in 2014 to fill a gap in the Kintore area for a running group which catered to all levels, whether that be experienced runners, people just starting or those looking for a new social avenue. The group grew so quickly and became so popular that in 2016 they won Jog Scotland Group of the Year.

The remit was extended to supporting healthy lifestyles and sport for local school kids and supporting members’ mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. They have a strong focus on charity and run a large annual relay raising funds for Kayleigh's Wee Stars and Gathimba Edwards Foundation.

The group’s efforts were described by the judges as a truly excellent example of a cause to support others.

For a community running group to have 300 members in a community of 4,000 speaks volumes about the work they do to engage Kintore and establish its community spirit.

Reverend Dr Kay Gauld - Rev Dr. Kay Gauld led her community through the covid pandemic but is recognised again tonight for her role in supporting in response to storms Arwen, Corrie & Malik. She, along with helpers, supported the Insch community from their base in the church hall, opening daily as a safe and warm place to rest and from where hot soup and food was provided while they arranged food parcels for local delivery.

She worked closely with the council as the eyes and ears on the ground and has been part of shaping the wider future community response to such incidents. Dr Gauld impressed the judges with her understanding of the needs of a community.

Rev Gauld was a guest at Westminster Abbey back in December where Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge hosted the “Together At Christmas Community Carol Service" for those individuals who have gone above and beyond in supporting their communities during the pandemic.

Aberdeenshire Covid Community Testing Team - The Aberdeenshire Covid Community Testing Team came together from all walks of life in response to an ask from the Scottish Government to offer community testing. They ranged from ex-engineers, welders, barbers, hairdressers, stewards, people who worked in sales, care sector and retail. Initially the offer was a 12-week testing facility in Peterhead which grew to cover the whole of Aberdeenshire.

In the 14 months the team existed, they handed out 200,000 kits, delivered 40,000 kits to community groups, supported 5,500 observed tests and visited 30 towns and villages on a regular basis.

They responded to calls when the council most needed to support the vulnerable in our communities, such as delivering food during storms Arwen, Malik and Corrie or helping in welfare hubs and carrying out door-knocks in areas of avian flu.

There is no doubt they helped make our communities feel safer and contributed greatly to the response to Covid-19 at the point of greatest need.

Cultural Award

The Care Group at The Gordon Schools - The Care Group runs at the Gordon Schools in Huntly to work with kids who are care experienced, part of the LGBT+ community and those who have experienced trauma in their lives. It was set up in order to introduce the young people to a range of activities and creative projects which could support their mental health and encourage their engagement in learning.

The range of activities they have been a part of is vast, from Christmas carols to tie-dye classes to the creation of a film which was projected onto the side of Huntly Castle in partnership with the Youth Music Initiative. The film became a real showcase of what the area had to offer and has caught the attention of the Royal Conservatoire who would like to work with the group next session.

However, it is the impact of meeting up on a regular basis, supported by school and the community that makes this group special. It enables the young people to share their experiences and feelings with other like-minded people in a safe and relaxed atmosphere. It allows those supporters, staff from school to listen and be more aware of their needs and then know how to help them. This group allows them to show their school and community how mature, responsible, and valuable they are.

Garioch Theatre Festival - The Garioch Theatre Festival has, for at least 20 years, presented an arts festival in the heart of Aberdeenshire to highlight local talent as well as bringing visiting performers to the area.

As part of the programme to get ready for the festival, young performers are exposed to a year-long programme teaching them about writing, direction, costuming, live music, lighting and staging. As well as developing new cultural talent, it builds skills and confidence and understanding that the young people can take away for the rest of their lives.

They are keeping local culture alive and drawing in all ages to participate.

Local theatre groups also perform, often performing work of local Aberdeenshire writers and often perform in Scots and Doric. Performers from outside the local area broaden the experience for audiences and highlighting issues which need discussion, as well as entertaining adults and young aspiring performers.

Benholm and Johnshaven Heritage Society - The Heritage Hub in Johnshaven operates as a museum in the summer as well as a community hub and art gallery throughout the year. Staffed by a leadership and a band of volunteers, they have built a strong reputation locally and abroad, both in person and online to promote the coastal strip and promote the little-known facts and heritage of Johnshaven. The group aims to boost tourism and improve the economic and cultural outlook for the whole of The Mearns.

Their latest project is "Taking the Museum outside", a series of short videos talking to the audience about local history and interesting facts in an engaging way. Johnshaven is a very old coastal fishing village with a long and rich history, so the aim of the videos is to tell the stories of the lives of these families of old who should not be allowed to be forgotten.

The Heritage Society is an inspiration in keeping the history of the village alive for generations to come.

Gordon Hay - Gordon was described by the Inspiring judges as a “loyal custodian of the Doric language”. He has become well known for his work promoting the Doric language through songs and stories.

Among what his best-known work is the publication of the New Testament in Doric in 2012 as well as producing the Doric Messiah.

In 2021 he produced a series of nursery rhymes in Doric, taking classic rhymes known to households in the North-east and rendering them in his native tongue. The books have proved so popular that he is regularly requested copies from local schools and asked to go along and speak to pupils about the Doric language.

Gordon’s work is helping keep Doric alive.

Beautiful Aberdeenshire Environmental award

Alan Cameron - Alan has been a long-standing and dedicated member of the Ellon Castle Garden Committee, whose involvement with that and other active groups resulted in him leading the Trust set up to support the community garden.

Founded a number of years ago to use profit gain from a housing development to bring the gardens back to life, Alan has spent considerable time and effort raising awareness through the internet and helping to raise funds.

The result of his dedication is a true community garden - one loved and enjoyed by so many of all ages. Alan procured a local shop as an office and information hub for the garden and for other local attractions which is especially useful in the winter months when it is too cold to work or visit. He continues to be totally dedicated to the concept and takes his duties as Community Involvement volunteer very seriously.

Stonehaven Horizon Project - The Stonehaven Horizon Project are a band of volunteers who look after numerous hanging baskets and planters around the town of Stonehaven throughout the year. They work closely with the Council’s Landscape Services team on community projects, and their aim is to promote civic pride in the town and to make Stonehaven a better place in which to live.

In 2021 they decided to enter the Beautiful Scotland competition, and the result was months of work to upgrade parts of the community, get groups on board and put in hours of work.

It was a huge effort by so many in the town and the Horizon group were awarded a Silver Gilt Award in the Coastal Town category. Described by the judges as “a very high Silver Gilt, very close to Gold, from a new entrant which has hit the ground running and promises a bright future”.

Caspar Lampkin - During the last four years, Caspar Lampkin has been one of the main driving forces behind the restoration of the Mearns Coastal Heritage Trail from Johnshaven to St Cyrus.

This Core Coastal Path had become impassable in many places. He has worked tirelessly to resurface sections which had slipped, to install drains, create natural ponds and plant willow to prevent field water causing further land slips as well as interventions to prevent sea erosion from causing further damage. Through his numerous volunteer days, he has planted locally-grown trees and coastal wildflowers, weeded, strimmed and scythed – doing what he can to maintain this resource.

It is also about educating future generations and he has been at the forefront of education projects on permaculture.

Caspar is locally recognised as being the reason that a once nearly lost local resource is now in safe hands.

Future Award

Steven Strachan – Inverurie Academy - Steven is finishing his time at Inverurie Academy throughout which he has been a pioneering volunteer within the "Leaders In Sport" programme.

He has always been first to come forward for any additional volunteering and that has seen him assisting with Primary 1 and Primary 7 Transition programmes, helping out at his old Primary School at Kellands with after-school football and basketball, marshalling at Run Garioch and the Active Schools Running Series and, despite the disrupted school years since 2020, he has also held one of the Sportscotland Young Ambassador roles at Inverurie Academy. His volunteering has also extended into the local community as he progressed from participant to volunteer helper at Colony Park Football Club.

It is Steven’s ability to engage, communicate, humour, empathise and simply ensure that fun is always at the forefront which makes him such a great role model. This category epitomises everything that Steven has given to Inverurie Academy and the wider local community.

Lucy Paterson and Olivia Gemmell – Portlethen - Lucy and Olivia are two P7 pupils at Hillside School.

Both girls volunteer part of their lunch time each day to support P3 and P4 pupils while they are having their lunch. Now, this isn’t a nomination for opening crisp packets, putting straws in juice cartons or helping clear up – as important as that is. It is for the difference these girls are making to these pupils’ school day.

They spread positivity and joy through the effort they put into engaging with every single one of the children. They play games, help fellow pupils as they need it and make conversations. They identify anyone who don't have someone to play with and help them make friends and really support positive connections between younger children.

It is also said they spend their own free time creating games they can play with the pupils and new ways of supporting the younger kids.

Not only are Lucy and Olivia “Hillside Heroes” they are also Aberdeenshire Heroes too!

Ruby Peace – Inverurie Academy - Ruby Peace is described in her nomination as an “outstanding member of the Inverurie Academy community”. She has shown great leadership and helped to inspire and motivate other students.

Like so many young people, Ruby has been dealing with the challenges of living and studying during a global pandemic. Despite this being such an incredibly challenging time, she continues to work hard, leading by example and showing outstanding resilience.

Her commitment to peer support has made such a difference to so many younger students across the academy. This extends to wider school life and means Ruby is recognised as someone with a genuine interest in others. She regularly helps out with many of the school’s more vulnerable students through the ASL department. In her final year, Ruby was appointed to the prestigious role of one of the School Captains. She is a very active member of the Charities Committee, recently working to establish a “Come As You Please Day” to raise funds for Ukraine.

It is said that Ruby plans to go on to become a primary school teacher, a career she, without doubt, has all the necessary skills and talents for.

Heart Award

Caroline Brunton - Caroline is a teacher at Kellands School and her nomination couldn’t sing her praises more loudly.

“Incomparable, inspiring, selfless, caring and loving. She is a complete one off, a maverick, they broke the mould when they made her, a pioneer, a guru in all things nurture and counselling, but most of all someone with the biggest heart I have had the pleasure to work with”

Caroline is one of those teachers who spends her whole life supporting and helping others in hardship, be that emotionally or economically. She is always there no matter what, despite her own hard times.

She spends all her time supporting youngsters, getting them active, support with their development and even getting the kids to school. In short, Caroline is always listening. To her young people and her community. And that’s not all. She works outside school as a team leader and trainer at Childline and also serves on the Children’s Panel - all the while undertaking a counselling degree.

Caroline has made a difference to so many lives, often dealing with life-threatening, suicide, mental illness, poverty, loneliness and desperation issues.

We all need a “Mrs B” in our corner.

Friends of Al-Amal Project - Formed by volunteers in late 2019, the Friends exist to support resettled refugee families across Aberdeenshire. They started by offering 1:1 support and informal language practice, however volunteers now deliver a wide range of community projects, events and support packages. These include, a gardening project, poetry and storytelling, one off events, Digital IT training for women, 1:1 language and befriending, a women's group, and more.

The Friends are currently planning an International New Scots' Women's Day - a joyous celebration of women, food and friendship which will bring Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, Eritrean, Ethiopian and ethnic Palestinian refugee women together for the first time in over two years.

They are an amazing group of volunteers who always go the extra mile with smiles and humility, but during the pandemic they really excelled. Despite all being volunteers, they never fail to support families and the Refugee Resettlement Team, and they are such a crucial part of the overall success of refugee resettlement in Aberdeenshire.

Helen Cox - Helen Cox has provided short breaks and long-term care to looked-after children for Aberdeenshire Council for nearing 50 years, described by the judges as “a genuine local champion” working and supporting vulnerable children.

She came into her role almost by accident. Her daughter had made friends with a girl at school who was living in a children’s home in Rhynie and asked if she could come to stay a weekend. This young girl then ended up coming and living with them for two years. She and her late husband progressed into short breaks and emergency placements to make sure make sure that the kids were getting to do things they might not normally do and were enjoying themselves in a safe environment.

She has gone over and above for the kids in her care and this desire to provide support is what led her son to support children’s panels – proof that desire to care can be passed down in a family line.

Local Hero Award

Jenny Radford - Jenny is an Ellon Primary School teacher and is the glue that has held together a community when it is facing its toughest times.

She works across the Ellon area with several individual children and their families – literally changing lives. Jenny worked with families on the brink, at the point of splitting up, nurturing and educating – helping them to enjoy being together again. She has worked with children unable to access education and got them back into school full time. And it isn’t just at a desk - she uses beach time or exploring in the woods to help young people work out how to talk and express emotions, all while navigating some incredibly challenging situations.

Jenny is truly inspiring to everyone who meets her and has helped save lives.

Lorraine Coleman - Until the summer, Lorraine Coleman is the longest serving teacher at Mintlaw Academy.

Back in 2008 she was diagnosed with cancer but following her recovery she has become a true champion of supporting cancer charities. She is utterly dedicated to supporting those with cancer largely through her work with Cancer Research UK. From school events to events chair for Relay for Life in Peterhead since 2012, addressing all year groups at Mintlaw Academy assemblies, in person and virtually, and sharing the message about her experience and those who have not been so lucky.

Despite retiring, she is showing no signs of slowing down. She continues to work tirelessly to promote the need for ongoing support for a broad range of cancer charities.

A hero in its truest sense.

Martin Anderson - Martin showed his heroism during the storms of late 2021 and early 2022. His was described as “a highly commendable example of how one person can make such a difference to others”.

When the things got bad he was out, in often incredibly difficult conditions, to rural locations to take generators to those who were cut off without power for extended periods. His main focus was helping young families and vulnerable people. There is no doubt that his community-mindedness saved lives.

He did what he could, fitting extensions cables, and setting up power so people could run electric heaters as well as offering device charging and had floodlights set up around his vehicle for lighting within the community. He worked round the clock in the most awful conditions for days on end.

It isn’t hard to see that his actions saved lives, making him a hero.

Inspirational Volunteer Award

Willie Linklater - Willie Linklater suffered a stroke in 2019, but once he recovered he put his experience and enthusiasm into helping other people and raising funds and awareness for stroke survivors.

He set about cycling the length of John O’Groats to Land’s End, but in and around Inverurie, raising over £2,000. He was key in the creation of a volunteer-led, non-profit group called Oot n Aboot, with the main focus of facilitating social gatherings with particular attention to the needs of those who have mobility difficulties.

Alongside this he is a volunteer for the Bailies of Bennachie, which is a conservation society which protects the landscape around Bennachie and encourage the public’s engagement in the area. If that is not enough, he also volunteers for Inverurie Events.

Willie is an inspiration to his community and his nomination recognises all that he has done and continues to do for Inverurie.

Lesley Paul - Lesley Paul works tirelessly for people in the Luthermuir community. She is heavily involved in the community larder, collecting supplies, running the larder and delivering produce to local elderly residents. She shops for those who are unable to do so themselves often buying shopping at her own expense. She transports people to hospital and doctors’ appointments, and she single-handedly plants, maintains and waters all the plant displays in the village.

She is also a member of the village improvement group - involved in fund raising, creating, maintaining, and emptying the dog waste bins, and the never-ending grass cutting and general upkeep of this area.

Lesley will go out of her way to help any individual or group – she is an inspirational person who works tirelessly to make the local and wider community a better place for everyone to enjoy.

Morag Lightning - Morag suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, diagnosed following her deployment to the Iraq war in 2003 and two subsequent tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Since being discharged she has immersed herself into the Turriff community, striving to make it a better place for all.

Her list of volunteering work is vast. She has set up various committees and groups, is a founding member of Friends of Turriff Cemetery and a member of the local ‘Crafty Wednesday’ group. She has been fundraising for a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum for the Women’s Royal Air Force, is also a local ambassador for Op Spartan (a worldwide group of veterans, who work together to help veterans in need), is part of the Haughs Redevelopment group, the Turriff Sports Hub, the Jubilee Yarnbombers and, until recently, Turriff and District Community Council.

Morag really is a Turriff champion, a community champion and someone to look up to.

Grampian Opportunities - Grampian Opportunities (GO) have been nominated and shortlisted because of the kindness they have shown to their community by finding ways to work within covid restrictions, to keep connected, alleviate the impact of social isolation and offer support to those facing health, wellbeing and financial challenges.

GO is a non-for-profit organisation based in Inverurie which works to develop opportunities for people with disabilities, mental health challenges, sensory impairment, autism or long-term conditions to be actively involved in their community. GO’s strength is in collective action, providing opportunities for people of all abilities to collaborate, learn and volunteer together in meaningful activities and projects that really do make a difference in addressing some of our society’s most challenging problems.

The pandemic brought significant additional challenges but one which the group met admirably and this allowed them to keep working to support their network. GO works hard to stay ahead in assessing community need. Staying true to their mission of “Helping People To Help Themselves”, the community at Grampian Opportunities truly live up to their core values and deserve to be recognised as an Inspirational Volunteer Group.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Steven Knox - Steven Knox is described in his nomination as an “exceptional teacher, colleague and friend”. He has gone above and beyond throughout his career and supported hundreds, if not thousands, of people ranging from the pupils in his care during the school day, the staff around the school in times of difficulty and his friends when they need him.

He has provided a safe space in his classroom to support pupils who have had issues with mental health or relationships and is always a trusted voice of support.

He went over and above to keep staff morale up during the pandemic and beyond, not only supporting his department but also the wider school. He has supported many young teachers in their development, devoting a significant amount of his own time to be a mentor.

Steven is a priceless asset to the people of Aberdeenshire and Kemnay Academy as a worker, a teacher, a citizen and an outstanding member of society.

Rosie Nicol - Rosie Nicol is the hardest working volunteer you could hope to meet.

She runs Belhelvie Community Trust, and under this umbrella she runs Balmedie Sensory Garden, the Sand Bothy at Balmedie Beach, litter-picking groups for Balmedie and Potterton and the Beach Wheelchairs.

Rosie’s interests are always focused on how she can improve the community here. She is a community stalwart devoting all her time to this area.

Marion Bruce - Marion has served the Potterton community for 65 years. She took over the local shop from her father and, over the years, has continued to serve the community in the shop by keeping it open 7 days a week.

She and her family took the initiative during the pandemic to find ways of keeping stocked with essentials, undertook a grocery and medicine delivery service and kept the paper deliveries going.

Marion and her family worked in excess of 100 hours a week, for the majority of their lifetimes to keep the post office and shop open and serving the Potterton community.

In the nomination her daughter said: “She has always gone above and beyond in her role in this wee village. Her role in our community hasn’t been just a job to her, but a vocation. It has been a commitment and a responsibility.”

She is recognised in this nomination for her part in keeping the community together, her unwavering dedication to the people she served and her love for Potterton.

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