Sun shines kindly on Princess’ visit

Warm sunshine was an unexpected but welcome guest as The Princess Royal made her annual visit to Strathcarron Hospice last week.

There had been concerns that given inclement weather the previous day, those attending would have to take shelter in a marquee erected outside the facility in Fankerton, near Denny, which cares for people with life-limiting illnesses.

But the sun shone brightly, allowing invited guests to sit outside and give Princess Anne a warm welcome as she stepped out from the Range Rover that had driven her to the hospice from her previous engagement in Blair Drummond.

The princess, wearing a white scarf, and a green knee-length Harris Tweed coat with a gold Strathcarron Hospice brooch pinned to the collar, was welcomed by chief executive Irene McKie and management committee chairman Tom Ogilvie.

A fanfare was provided by the Alloa Bowmar Pipe Band, led by pipe major David Russell.

The princess then spent around 90 minutes inside the hospice chatting to patients and staff.

She has been visiting the hospice since it opened more than 30 years ago – earning her the title of “the Hospice visitor”.

Although the facility receives a block grant from the NHS, that money covers less than half of the hospice’s expenditure. The rest is raised from the hundreds of businesses, community groups, schools and individuals who regularly donate money – many of whom had been invited to attend the royal visit as a thankyou.

Following a tour of the hospice, Princess Anne chatted outside with some of the fundraisers who were standing along the driveway.

Among them was eight-year-old Finn Callaghan, a pupil at St Joseph’s primary school in Bonnybridge, whose homemade Union flag banner caught the attention of the princess.

Finn said it had been “very good” to speak to her.

He was joined at Strathcarron by fellow St Joseph’s pupils Rachel Cairney and Bobbie Gavin. The school is one of a number in the Falkirk district that regularly hosts fundraising events in aid of the hospice.

Members of the Denny stick makers, which crafts handmade walking sticks, also exchanged words with the princess.

Committee member Thomas Stewart (69) said: “We have been raising money for Strathcarron for more than 20 years.

“The type of walking stick that we make is popular with members of the Royal family.”

Youngsters Ross Livingston, Elisha Shaw and Sophie Shaw, pupils at St Margaret’s primary in Polmont, said they were thrilled to speak to Princess Anne.

“She asked us what we did to raise money,” said 

Teacher Mrs Cooke said the school attended the royal visit each year, and added: “We hold fundraisers throughout the year.