HRH The Earl of Forfar sends a video message of support to the trust. Pic: HRH The Earl of Forfar.

A visit to see the work of an Angus sports charity so impressed HRH the Earl of Forfar last July that he’s become its Royal Patron, sent a video message of support and is planning another visit.

On July 1 last year Their Royal Highnesses the Earl and Countess of Forfar saw the work of The Strathmore Community Rugby Trust (SCRT) on their first visit to the town after gaining their new Scottish titles.

As part of an afternoon of visits to community projects, the Earl and Countess visited Inchmacoble Park, home of Strathmore RFC – where the three-year-old community trust runs a number of initiatives designed to increase communities’ participation in sport in Angus to benefit their health and wellbeing and develop people into healthy, positive members of the community.

Their Royal Highnesses saw the Stracathro Estates Rugby Academy in action, which teaches secondary pupils life skills as well as rugby, before being introduced to Rugby Academy members taking part in various rugby activities and conditioning games.

‘Strathmore Clan’

The Earl and Countess also saw the ‘Strathmore Clan’ taking part in a Unified Rugby session, which provides people with disabilities the opportunity to build confidence and social skills by engaging in a controlled game of contact rugby while also accommodating their individual needs.

The Royal couple also learned about the Trust’s autism-friendly rugby for primary children initiative, now sponsored by Shepherd Chartered Surveyors, which it introduced to Scotland in May last year. Its sessions, create a positive learning environment for children with or undergoing diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their siblings to have fun while developing confidence and social skills as well as general physical literacy and sporting skills. They also provide respite and social contact for parents and carers.

Finally, The Earl and Countess met other people involved in the trust’s work, which also includes Walking Rugby – a slower, non-contact version best suited to adults wanting to be more physically active or recovering from illness or injury. It also helps reduce social exclusion through the post-match ‘cuppa and cake’ engagement between players.

‘Touched’

His Royal Highness was touched at the extraordinary work done by the trust with young people, an area he has always been very interested in. He is a leading advocate of non-formal education and learning in the development of young people, has a leading role in the Duke of Edinburgh Award reaching more than 130 countries, and over many years supported charities which provide opportunities for children through The Wessex Youth Trust. So when SCRT asked if he would agree to be its Royal Patron, the Earl naturally agreed.

His Royal Highness also kindly sent a video message of support, saying: “Making sport and sports clubs truly open, welcoming and accessible for all members of the community is much harder than you might think. When Sophie and I visited the Strathmore Community Rugby Trust we were truly impressed by the range of people engaged, especially the inclusion of those with autism. Rugby is not exactly the first sport one might introduce to those with autism, yet here they all were and having great fun.

“While full-on, full-contact rugby might not be for everyone, there are a surprisingly wide variety of options of the game catering for all ages and abilities, even for those who prefer just walking. It is also evident that families can benefit from the sport even if they aren’t playing.

“Brilliant people”

“It is charities like Strathmore Community Rugby Trust and the brilliant people that run them that provide such wonderful opportunities for all. This is an organisation that the community of Forfar and Angus should be proud of and I sincerely hope that with your support and encouragement will continue to grow and flourish.”

Trust Chair, Stuart Gray, said: “Thank you to His Royal Highness for agreeing to become our Royal Patron and his kind words. When we set up the trust three years ago, we couldn’t have imagined that by now we would have been honoured with a Royal Visit and now have a Royal patron. This is thanks to the hard work of our staff, volunteers, participants, supporters and the generosity of the Earl and Countess and our sponsors. Thanks to them all.

“We’re now looking forward to planning His Royal Highness’s next visit while we work on resuming the trust’s activities. We’re keen to hear from people young and old wanting to register to take part in our Rugby Academy, Unified Rugby, Walking Rugby and autism-friendly rugby programmes as we know these will help everyone involved recover from the physical and mental difficulties which came with lockdown.”

The trust was founded in 2017 to increase public participation in sport, particularly rugby union and rugby league, in the Forfar, Kirriemuir and Brechin areas to benefit community health and wellbeing as well as develop young people into healthy, positive members of the community through the positive ethos and values of rugby.

It’s based at Strathmore Rugby Club in Forfar and works in partnership with Strathmore RFC, Brechin RFC, sportscotland, Scottish Rugby and Scotland Rugby League. Maggie Lawrie’s role is supported by funding from the Forfar Common Good Fund, sportscotland and The Robertson Trust.

To find out more, go to the trust’s new website at https://www.strathmoretrust.co.uk