Community Award 2018

May Gilchrist receives recognition for her incredible fund raising efforts.

May Gilchrist of Coast to Coast

Every so often, the Club wishes to present a Community Award to a person in our Community who has made an outstanding contribution to our society in some way and today on behalf of the Club, President George presented May Gilchrist with such an award.

May Gilchrist (nee Kevan) lost her 1st husband Ian to cancer back in 1993.  On his passing May wanted to dedicate something to remember Ian by and through various research and thoughts the idea of a walk whilst raising money for a worthwhile cause came to fruition.  The cause was to be Macmillan Cancer Support.

So, in 1995 May was helped by 2 very close friends Jim Gilchrist and Kenny Ferguson (whom was a Macmillan nurse) and the planning began for the first walk which was held in 1996.  The walk was to be called “Coast to Coast”.  A walk from Ullapool to Bonar Bridge. 

May and Jim visited the area, meeting landowners and discussing the route.  The original route was through a valley further south, but this also involved a hill climb and would have proved a lot more strenuous than the existing route. It was on one of these visits that May and Jim met a ghillie who directed them to the route now taken.

The Walk Across Scotland had to be, primarily, enjoyable to all participants and raise money.  They felt that if they could get a group of people sufficiently interested, and if they offered as much support as possible, then the hard work of walking or cycling was left to them.

There were two obstacles facing the organisers. How could participants walk 36 miles without offering overnight accommodation?  And how could they get across a river which flows through the middle of the walk? The former was overcome by having the participants attempt the last 11 miles, from Croik to Bonar, on day one, taking them across to Ullapool by coach to their accommodation and walking 25 miles on day two.

The idea of having scouts build a bridge across the river has proven to be one of the highlights of the walk. Seeing the scout tents after having walked 14 miles is a haven in a wilderness.

Support in the first ever walk was to book participants into various small hotels in Ullapool, all meeting in the evening in one of the pubs and having a ceilidh. Yes, music was much to the fore in the form of at least an accordion, very often guitars and violins and of course the inevitable sing song.

The participants on the 1st year were mostly all known to Jim and May – friends and acquaintances from various hill walking clubs. If you owned a pair of boots and felt you were up for it, then you were invited.

As time went by this event became an event that everyone wanted to take part in and walking was not the only way to complete this.  Now you could choose, to walk, cycle, or horse ride.  The event attracted between 80 – 100 participants year on year, and not only from Scotland.  Participants from France, Germany and USA would fly in to take part in this magnificent walk

When this was all decided upon the walk was to be a one off, but everyone enjoyed this so much that everyone asked to do it again and again and again.  So where are we now…….

22 years later and the walk completed in May 2018 was the last one organised by May Gilchrist.  Sadly, since starting this walk May’s 2nd husband Jim whom she set this all up with has also passed away to cancer, but this has never stopped May from continuing with this event.  The effort and dedication she has shown to this event and cause should be commended.  Now her time has come to let someone else take the strain and enjoy retirement even more.

The organisation of it all is predominantly down to May, although she does have a dedicated team who support her on the day, by driving cars, buses, providing teas and helping with the event.

May herself has completed in all the walks and even on her own Highland Pony “Bonnie Lass or Armoray”

So, since it began back in 1996, all monies raised has gone to Macmillan Cancer Support of which all of that has gone to the Moray Support Group to then help and support cancer sufferers in this area.

The Total from all the events has raised a staggering £352,771.