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Twinning Visit to Bute

Welcome to the Stamford Branch of The Royal British Legion

When we made our first twinning visit to the Isle of Bute two years ago the weather was wet, cold, snowy and miserable. This year our intrepid party of nine enjoyed beautiful weather all weekend. It was a long drive, especially in the front seats as the heater was stuck at full on - on a beautiful but boiling hot day!

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On the island itself it was hot, almost tropical with the palm trees, the sun glinting off the water, the gorse in full flower, and wild irises in the hedgerows.  And our lovely landlady, Ursula, was waiting to give us her usual warm welcome to her"Alamein"guest house. The hueast haouse has this name because it was bought by two El Alamein veterans shortly after WWII and today Ursula has built up a mini-museum of El Alamein memorabilia. More important however are Ursula's fabulous breakfasts - they really set you up for the day.

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The Isle of Bute Branch also made us very welcome. On the Saturday, they hosted a social and a HUGE buffet for us at the Black Bull and did not seem to mind (too much) when we thrashed them in the Inter Branch Twinning Trophy, with chants of 'Easy! Easy!' as we guessed correctly what the famous Yamazaki was - Japanese whisky! Then our Chairman, John Copeland, managed to upset the local constabulary yet again when he asked two rather young police constables checking the pub whether they were old enough to come in! Our Bute colleagues say that they are coming to Stamford for a whole week next year, so we shall have to pull out all the stops to match their hospitality.

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Isle of Bute Branch have opened a charity shop in one of Rothesay's shopping streets where they sell Legion badges, mugs and other mementoes, dispense cups of tea and coffee, and display the range of Legion welfare services. They are open every day and report a big increase in interest in the Legion generally and have recruited several new members since opening their shop. 

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On a beautiful Sunday morning, at 11.00 am,Stamford and Isle of Bute branch members, two Branch Standards, the Union flag and a piper. All gathered at the Rothesay War Memorial on the sea front.

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There in a brief ceremony John Copeland, Chairman of Stamford Branch, laid a wreath and saluted the names inscribed there. It was intensely moving as theFlowers of the ForestandHighland Cathedrallamented across the water amid the

Then it was off to see the island and sample its delights. First stop was Scalpsie Bay with its beautiful views - in fine weather - of the Atlantic and Arran and Mulligan's Tyre (the Mull of Kintyre) opposite. We were also able to look down from the viewing platform on to the colonies of breeding haggis on the rocks below. The island is also rich in flocks of sheep, llamas(!), and highland and other cattle and, thanks to theGulf Stream, palm trees, wild irises, gorse and roses. Beautiful!

Another jewel is the Ettrick bay Tea Rooms which serve the most enormous slices of cream cake, chocolate cake, lemon meringue pie etc and the most delicious mussels in cream.

Our final event was a strange Masked Ball,organised by the local Goths group. Strange - because we, all nine of us, actually out numbered the locals. It was very sad, really, as there were three very good bands playing all evening, most of the time to an empty marquee.

And so we came to leave with happy memories of friendships strengthened, welcoming hospitality, mussels and ENORMOUS chunks of cream cake at the Ettrick Bay Tea Rooms, Lee and Rob prowling the various bars, and Pat and Joyce plotting mischief together.

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Thanks to John and Lee for doing all the driving, to Ray and Shirley for being an island of sanity, to Ursula for being a fabulous landlady - she even waved us off as we sailed away, and to everyone who contributed to a wonderful weekend. Roll on 2014! 

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