Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team enjoyed a well-deserved celebratory evening on Friday (19 May) at the opening of their new, purpose-built team base on Ravens Lane in Stornoway.
As well as neighbours and principle contractors O’Mac Construction Ltd, joining the mountain rescue team for the celebration were supporters and friends from the RNLI, HM Coastguard, Police Scotland and Bristows search and rescue team, all of whom are regularly involved in multi-agency searches involving Hebrides MRT.
The official moment of opening was conducted by a search and rescue legend, Dave 'Heavy' Whalley, BEM MBE, who has been involved with RAF mountain rescue teams for nearly 40 years.
He was senior team leader on the night of the Lockerbie disaster in 1988 and at the Shackleton air-crash in Northton, Isle of Harris in 1990.
Heavy emphasised the importance of agencies working together, a strength which is well-recognised in the Western Isles.
In his own blog after the event (heavywhalley.wordpress.com), he said: “It was great to see and meet the Hebrides team and see their enthusiasm for the future.
“It was a chance to put my views of working together on incidents, achieved by getting to know each other before a big incident starts. Trust in each other’s abilities is essential.
“Nearly half of incidents nowadays involve vulnerable people. Things like patients going missing mean big changes in searches and I am heartened to see the young team members and other agencies assisting the police and SAR helicopters.”
Heavy also recognised the huge undertaking to raise the money for the new centre, especially in these hard times.
His thoughts were echoed by Heb MRT team leader Charlie Greenwood, who paid tribute to supporters, funders and fellow emergency services as well as to Heb MRT treasurer Robert Sinclair for what he called ‘achieving miracles’ to raise the funds.
Among those donating to ensure that this pivotal moment in island search and rescue history could be achieved were numerous individual supporters, their efforts joined to funding from the SSEN Resilient Communities fund, People’s Postcode Trust and Crown Estates funding via local councillors.
After a suitably strong mountain rope had been cut by Heavy to open the centre, Scottish Mountain Rescue chair Bill Glennie congratulated the team on building a great facility, of which many mountain rescue teams in Scotland would be envious.
Lord Lieutenant Iain Macaulay also congratulated the team on the new base and urged more people to volunteer with an organisation held in high regard in the community, for helping to save the lives of others.
There was a surprise in store for the Lord Lieutenant himself, unaware that his 65th birthday was about to be marked in style with the presentation of a birthday cake and a card signed by all present.
You can follow training updates and find out more about the Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team via their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HebridesMRT
The pictures show Heavy Whalley cutting the rope at the opening, the Heb MRT team with supporters including SSEN representatives Pamela Harvey (customer relations manager, centre) and Fiona Macleod (Western Isles operations manager, right) outside the new base, Lord Lieutenant Iain Macaulay receiving his birthday cake from Heb MRT secretary Ruth Mackenzie and Heavy (left) with Heb MRT treasurer Robert Sinclair and the Lord Lieutenant.