A dedicated volunteer was honored with a surprise presentation marking more than 40 years of service to a veterans’ organization and their work in the community.
Vincent Grant first joined the Airdrie and Coatbridge branch of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) four decades ago – and has served as its chairman for 35 years.
He was presented with a specially-engraved trophy at the group’s first in-person gathering in two years, which was attended by depute lord lieutenant Colonel Stuart Roberts and former branch member and ex-MP Sir Tom Clarke.
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Coatbridge resident Vincent told Lanarkshire Live: “I was dumbfounded – it was an absolute surprise, and a very nice thing for the branch members to do.
“It’s a pleasure being chairman of the branch and doing what we do; we’re all volunteers and it’s really worthwhile, especially seeing people’s smiles as they get what they need and they’re over the moon when we’ve helped them.
“There are 90 members in the branch and lots of people do a lot of work, so that we’re side by side and helping veterans.
The Airdrie & Coatbridge RAFA branch is one of the association’s oldest, and supports service personnel in a variety of ways including helping with housing issues such as accommodation and accessibility, and supplying vital household items.
Vincent previously held the roles of welfare officer and treasurer before becoming chairman back in the 1980s.
Branch members were also behind the creation of the war memorial in Calderbank eight years ago after campaigning and obtaining lottery funding for the monument; and helped arrange the North Lanarkshire parade marking the RAF’s centenary in 2018.
Vincent was born and grew up in Airdrie, attending St Margaret’s Primary and St Patrick’s High – and joined the RAF in 1954, aged 18, to complete his three years of national service.
He served as a corporal at RAF Driffield in Yorkshire and worked in its stores, ensuring personnel had sufficient equipment, petrol and other items for their roles at the base.
After his service period, he returned home and married wife Helen, with the family having two spells living in Canada; while Vincent ran two grocers’ shops in Monklands and later worked for North Lanarkshire Council.
Branch colleague Robert Hannah told how fellow volunteers had first had the idea of honoring Vincent’s stellar service two years ago, but lockdowns and suspensions of in-person events had delayed their presentation plans.
He said: “Vincent is dedicated and devoted to the organization and respects its members, and we felt we could do something to show our appreciation to him for the work he does.
“Throughout the pandemic he would contact members to find out if they were fit and well; the presentation was a very successful event and honored his dedication and contribution to the branch and its members.”
Vincent added: “We tried to keep in touch with everybody during lockdown, phoning to see how everybody was doing; and it’s great that we’re now back to being able to have social events.
“Our branch is a great group and we’ve been really proud to be able to do things like putting the war memorial in Calderbank; it took us over five years and we were really grateful for the lottery and council support, and every year we pay respects and the schoolchildren lay wreaths.
“Sir Tom Clarke is someone I’ve known for a long time so it was lovely to have him at the presentation, which was unbelievable and a great surprise.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.