“It’s been quite a year” for probus club

‘Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself’ one doughty member of the thirty-seven year old club was heard to say recently as many weel-kent faces gathered for the annual general meeting of the Newton Stewart and District Probus Club at the Bruce Hotel.

You can always tell when it’s Wednesday in the town, for across the road from the busy and often quite noisy cattle mart, well dressed gentlemen will descend to meet, greet and share the news, trivia, a few jokes, and talk about life in general and especially times past. And after their morning coffee you can usually spot the sartorially attired inspecting the supermarket shelves and gathering in their messages!

This year’s AGM was a highly entertaining affair in that our guest speaker, Chris Burgess from William Grant’s distillery at Girvan had come with a fascinating story to tell about the family business that celebrated Christmas 1887 in in Dufftown in no uncertain style when the first spirit ran from their new Glenfiddich distillery. He came well prepared for some searching questions, mostly technical, on the finer points of whisky. You could tell there were some seasoned palates and noses present – and they were not disappointed at the ‘educative’ sampling that followed.

It was a delightful session to round off and review the Probus year. Besides the usual weekly meetings in Newton Stewart, the first Wednesday session in each month is held at Wigtown Baptist Church where ground floor access for less able members has made attendance much easier. On the third Wednesday, a well organised programme of talks, given by members themselves, is a particular highlight. Many were keen to tell of their working life exploits – and what a variety of professions we learned about: from a county archivist to policing and security specialists, and of course farming (we have quite a few agricultural members). Others spoke of their present-day consuming interests and new knowledge – we had an in-depth study of the political events that led up to the First World War; and there were ‘travelogues’ featuring Paris and North America. On a couple of occasions in the year many members were given to verse (and sometimes worse), in a verbal anthology of poetry and prose, rich in tone and dialects.

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited events have been the visits – organised with almost military precision. The variety is breathtaking: to Girvan to see the FMC Alginates factory; to Machars Movies at the Isle of Whithorn for a film and scrummy tea; to Penwhirn and an inspection of new water treatment facilities. The visit to Jock Rome’s Kilnford Farm Shop had our mouths watering, and also in Dumfries, a concert by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra made for a superb night out. Edinburgh in February saw a group visit to the Festival Theatre and the spectacular production of ‘War Horse’; later that month it was back down to earth with a visit to Dourie Farm at Port William and the Christie family’s new state of the art pig breeding unit.

Cheese production at Stranraer and electricity generation at Tongland Power Station; David Hannay’s water-driven sawmill at Kirkdale and James Taylor’s superb agricultural museum at Barraer Farm near Newton Stewart; not content with all that members were still keen to ship themselves across to experience the Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast. We’re happy to say they all returned! And to top it all, some members still had time to play golf and curl, as well as give some new recruits some expert tuition in indoor bowling.

‘It’s been quite a year’, said retiring President Russell McClymont as he handed over the chain of office to Douglas Ballantyne. ‘I’m really looking forward to the one ahead’, Douglas responded. ‘And I do hope that we can extend a warm welcome to new members as well. Our Secretary, Chris Laraway (01671 403189) will always be pleased to hear from anyone interested in joining us’.