'It was like talking to a friend and the discussions flowed freely' HRH visit to Caithness Foodbank and meeting with community groups – Prince Charles makes personal donation to vital facility
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The sun shone brightly in Wick on Friday afternoon for an official engagement by HRH the Duke of Rothesay (Prince Charles) to Caithness Foodbank in the former Carnegie Public Library.
Prince Charles met volunteers and supporters of the food bank to hear more about the vital support they provide to those in need and was introduced to a selection of community groups based in Caithness.
Grant Ramsay, chair of Caithness Foodbank, said after the visit: "We explained to him what the food bank was, when it was established and how 10 tons of food have been given to folk over the past year."
His wife Pat, who is a trustee and volunteer at the facility, added: "He was very personable to everybody and spent time with us all. He also gave us a very generous donation of things we were short of like oatcakes, shortbread, sugar and suchlike."
Mr and Mrs Ramsay agreed that the prince's contribution will add variety and diversity to their clients' food parcels. His Royal Highness was told that the development of food banks in Caithness was made possible by "strong local support" which provided both food stocks and finances, allowing them to flourish and grow.
Mr Ramsay said: "We are incredibly grateful to His Royal Highness for visiting Caithness Foodbank and recognising the incredible contribution of the volunteers in providing people with emergency food, as well as helping people through hardship to a place where they no longer need the food bank’s help.
"High profile visits such as this can help to shine a spotlight on the issues that are driving people to food banks and build public will to end the need for food banks in the UK."
The Lord Lieutenant of Caithness, Lord Thurso, introduced the prince to Mr and Mrs Grant and accompanied him on his tour of the building as he engaged with representatives from a variety of community organisations and voluntary groups. "It's been fabulous to show His Royal Highness how much community volunteering goes on in Caithness," said Lord Thurso. "He's been deeply impressed by the projects and particularly appreciates the heritage aspects."
Vice Lord Lieutenant of Caithness Willie Watt also accompanied HRH and his entourage around the Carnegie building where he met representatives of 17 other community groups from across Wick and east Caithness. ""I was there to greet His Royal Highness this afternoon when he arrived off the plane and was part of the team that helped pull together the reception event here. I was also part of the team organising the Pilot House and Healing Hub event earlier today," said Mr Watt.
"There's a lot of work to get all the details of the people involved with the various groups. It worked really well and His Royal Highness was very happy with the extent of the voluntary sector he met today – and that was only a part of it as we could only take a selection of groups from the east side of the county."
Mr Watt said that the weather was especially notable, with a particularly sunny afternoon after a number of gloomy overcast days earlier in the week. "His personable side shone through and he was easy to talk to – it was like talking to a friend and the discussions flowed freely. He's a very special guy and we're very lucky in that he spends quality time in Caithness every year."
Allan Farquhar from the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council said: "We were here today with a presentation of all the various projects that we have and the issues that we deal with through Highland Council. We do lots of thing from the gardens to the community markets, as well as helping with fuel poverty issues. The town's looking better thanks to the efforts of a load of volunteers."
During his visit he met representatives of Friends of Newtonhill Woodland, Wick Paths Group, Seafarers Memorial Group, John O'Groats Trail, Friends of the North Baths, Trinkie Heritage Preservation Group, Sinclair's Bay Community Council, Wick Flower Baskets Committee, Wick Gala Committee, Let's Tidy Up Lybster, Dunbeath and District Centre, Befriending Caithness, Latheronwheel and Latheron Improvement Group, Caithness Heart Support Group, the Wick Society (Wick Voices and Isabella Fortuna), the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council and the League of Friends of Caithness General Hospital.
Margaret Sutherland chair of Dunbeath and District Centre said the day after the event: "HRH took special interest in our Jigsaw Project particularly the architecture and finishes suggesting the architect from the Prince’s Trust get in touch with us. Yesterday showcased the Voluntary Sector in Caithness and the wonderful projects and initiatives volunteers are involved in."
Local MP Jamie Stone said: "I think having Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay, here today is something very special. He takes an interest in the far north and as an MP that means a very great deal to me indeed. I think I speak for everyone in the far north when I say we're very grateful."
Prince Charles spent over 90 minutes at the Carnegie building before exiting into bright sunshine and being greeted by well-wishers assembled outside on Sinclair Terrace.
HRH is staying at the Castle of Mey during his Caithness sojourn and will be attending the Mey Highland Games as its chieftain on Saturday, August 6.