Russian Arctic Convoy Week at Aultbea 7 to 12 May

Russian Arctic Convoy Week at Aultbea 7 to 12 May

Tea Party

- 13/05/2012

Lord Lieutenant Mrs Janet Bowen had the pleasure of attending two events during the Russian Arctic Convoy Week at Aultbea.

On Thursday 10 May she attended the Tea Party at the Aultbea Hotel for those of an age to remember Aultbea during the war. Some 60 attended. Mrs Bowen said:

First of all thank you for asking me to come. As you can see I have arrived wearing my Lord Lieutenant’s badge and that means that I am here formally representing the Queen, and, from all I know, were she to be able to be here, this event is something that she would absolutely endorse and support.

For a start the Queen will clearly remember the war, and will therefore, as we see each year at the Cenotaph, want to honour those who gave so much for their country and thus, in effect, for us.

Secondly the Queen very clearly sees part of her remit as supporting community in all its aspects, and this sort of meeting, both honouring those who have gone before but also seeking to build and bind community together in a common cause, is something that I know that she thinks is important.

And it precisely because of this that Prince Michael, as a member of her family, travelled back from a holiday in Europe to be with us last August when we remembered the fallen at Cove, and I’m really delighted at the continuing support that he has shown in supporting this week of activities. One of the benefits of my job is that I get to see members of the royal family close up, and I can tell you that Prince Michael was as much heartened by the show of community in the hall after the ceremony at Cove as he moved by the ceremony itself.

Which, in a sense, brings me to this splendid tea party. It’s the first time that an event like this has ever taken place, as far as I’m aware, and for me it’s like watching a jigsaw being put together. I’m a war time baby, but I can clearly remember my mother talking about the procedures to get north of Inverness to visit Little Scatwell at the foot of Strathconon, which was our family home. Mum was the word, and Idle Talk Costs Lives, and with that a veil of secrecy has fallen over the war effort in the Highlands. The role of Loch Ewe is a part of that, but the fact is that the whole picture is hugely fragmented with different people holding different pieces, and here’s a moment, so to speak, to put you piece or pieces on the table, and to try and see where they fit in. And as we do that the whole picture will gradually form before our eyes. So, get gossiping and share what you have, however insignificant you feel you little bit of information is.

I am now going to use something that has been written by Margaret Scott, and may well have already been used this week. But it chimes perfectly with my thinking . She writes:

"War is never anything to celebrate, but we can celebrate and enjoy the legacy left by our wartime experiences.

"Firstly, the resulting development and investment in the area that brought prosperity and jobs that would not have occurred otherwise,

"Secondly, the continued relationship with the armed forces, who still use the area for regular training exercises, and

"Thirdly and finally, the most important legacy of all: the relationships that were built during that time, friendships and romances with new beginnings, and lasting connections for both them and their children some who have come to stay in the area and who still keep in touch with what goes on, and for the many who have returned to visit in remembrance of loved ones lost, and all because of the war time connection.

"This is what this week, and this afternoon is all about, celebrating and remembering those times, and hopefully working together, so that we can bring about the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum, as a lasting memorial to all those that served their country in so many different ways.

Speaking personally I would really like to echo her last sentiment. Getting this Museum off the ground really does matter. It is right and fitting that we should remember with honour those that died and served on the Arctic Convoys, and my view is that there is simply no better way to do this than to build a Museum which can tell their story for generations to come. The fact that it may also help to bring economic benefit to this area is important too, but what matters is the story of what happened here at Loch Ewe, and I would urge you to talk to everyone you can about this project.

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