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30-Mar-11, 08:09
Gala safe as volunteers rally

“WICK works weil”... the town’s motto was never more evident than when volunteers rallied to save the royal burgh’s premier festival, gala week.
It had been feared that the popular annual festival was doomed after an AGM at which the long-serving leading office bearers stood down, leaving a committee of a mere three.
The gala committee had struggled for years appealing in vain for volunteers but always ended up soldiering on. However, an EGM attracted more than twenty people at Wick Assembly Rooms, last night, resulting in a new set of office bears and a supporting committee.
In her valedictory address, retiring chairwoman, Lorna Ross, expressed her delight at the excellent turnout of new faces and, following the appointment of office bearers and committee, and wished them the best of luck in the gala’s new era.
Paying tribute to everyone who had kept things going over many years Mrs Ross said: “The time has come for young folk with new ideas to take over. I hope you all have as much fun and enjoyment as we had.”
Also standing down are secretary, Bella Gates, treasurer Janice Campbell, and minute secretary, Helen Martin, who is to continue as a committee member. They were thanked for their long loyal service to gala week.
Replacing them, are chairwoman, Donna Plowman, Kerry Gunn, vice chairman, treasurer Isobel Campbell and assistant treasurer Andrea Merchant, and Shirley Macleod secretary and minutes secretary. The latter two will begin their new jobs with a healthy bank balance of almost £17,000 after expenses and grants to local organisations.
Mrs Ross said: “Some people will say we are not giving out enough money in donations but you have to keep something in reserve . It would only take a rainy night for the crowning and procession of floats and that is your biggest earner gone. It’s not all about making money, and trying to improve the town, however. Some of the events we run for children are to give them fun.”
The meeting was concerned to hear that gala stalwart, Raymond Szyfelbain had suffered a stroke but was out of hospital and that Heather Martin has put a disc out in her back. Both were wished a speedy recovery.
Freelance journalist Noel Donaldson who has covered countless Wick galas in his career, was relieved that the gala was saved and has joined the committee.
He said: “I have to admit that things were not looking good for the gala's future, recently, but it’s clear that people do care about the gala and what it means to the town. As Lorna said, it’s not just about making money and having fun. Wick’s gala is a tradition that has its roots way back into the herring queen pageant. As I’ve said before, it is part of the town’s identity and character, both of which have come under pressure from regionalisation and other changes. It’s about....well, it’s about Wick.”