The Princess Royal provided an object lesson in public involvement for any aspiring community leader during a flying visit to Lewis which took in a major visit to Balallan Old School Community Hub and a series of engagements in Breasclete.
Unhurried, always attentive, constantly involved with people to whom she was talking from a whole range of organisations and of all ages, Princess Anne appeared just as fresh and focused after several hours of chatting and questioning as she had at the start, sometimes laughing and joking with members of the various local groups as if she had known them all their lives.
The schedule which began much earlier in the day to enable an arrival in Balallan just after 11am would have daunted many people much younger than someone born in August 1950.
The visit to the Balallan hub included a detailed tour of the Charity Shop, Museum, Archive Room and the Hall itself to meet community members and volunteers – as well as councillors and representatives of supportive agencies – and to examine the various displays and shop arrangements. Finally, after a short speech, she unveiled a commemorative plaque and received a gift of a bolt of Harris Tweed. She formally signed the Visitors Book with a flourish and then had a private lunch provided by the hall café, as this event was hosted by Kinloch Community Association/Historical Society.
After lunch she crossed the island to visit the Flannan Isles Memorial down by the shore before the road down to Breasclete Pier. Then the next call was the Lighthouse Keepers House on the hill behind the village to look round the dilapidated building and have a look at the plans for restoration and development before unveiling a plaque to commemorate the handover of the building from Hebridean Housing Partnership to the local community.
Next was the nearby Community Centre, to tour the Exhibition in small room upstairs and join community members and representatives in the hall.