District News, February 19 2021

Katherine Urquhart got her bake on to raise vital funds for SCAA.

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Island bakers provide ideal recipe for fundraising

Home bakers on Islay and Jura have been working overtime to make cakes and raise funds for Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA).

Hundreds answered the call for cakes from Islay-based SCAA volunteer Katherine Urquhart and her friend Gemma MacLean when they came up with the idea of a drive-through cake sale to support the SCAA and the RNLI.

‘At the start of lockdown, we set up a Stay At Home Bake Off private Facebook group where we staged baking challenges and when we went back to work last summer we kept the group live to exchange recipes and general baking chat,’ explained Katherine.

‘I had seen drive-through fundraisers held before and thought we should do one with our baking network while the islands are under the less-restricted Tier 3 rules.’

Katherine and Gemma had no idea their appeal would gather such momentum and when the day came to take in donations, they were ‘overwhelmed’.

‘We couldn’t believe it,’ said Katherine. ‘I have a holiday let property next door and we literally filled it with cakes.’

The generosity of the islands’ bakers allowed Katherine and her team to fill 200 cake boxes with nine delicious items in each. And when the drive-through sale took place at Islay High School, there was another welcome surprise for the fundraisers.

‘We had publicised the sale widely but never expected anything like the response generated,’ said Katherine. ‘When we arrived with the van load of cake boxes there was already a queue of cars all the way across the car park and onto the road.’

Observing social distancing and mask and hygiene rules throughout, people in their cars exchanged money for cake boxes full of goodies as they passed through the selling point – raising more than £2,500 for the chosen charities.

‘We were even able to cater for specific dietary requirements and allergies,’ explained Katherine, ‘with special boxes made up for them. Others were buying boxes and donating to retirement and care homes or to the elderly. It was a wonderful community support effort in every sense.

‘It was just amazing. We can’t thank everyone enough who helped in any way – baking, packing, transporting, selling, buying and delivering. It was exhausting but hugely rewarding. Special thanks to Lynn Bonar and Susan Main who braved the cold to help at the event.’

Katherine has been SCAA’s sole volunteer on Islay for the past three years and has been moved by the affection in which the charity is held by islanders.

‘Air ambulances provide a vital lifeline for island communities,’ she said. ‘SCAA is no stranger to Islay, providing a vital link to mainland hospital care. People here and on neighbouring Jura are always happy to support SCAA and enjoy a bit of fun and friendship at the same time.’

£1,000 from the event was donated to the RNLI and £1,553 to SCAA.


New Islay distillery gets green light

Elixir Distillers, run by two brothers, has been given planning permission for a new distillery on Islay.

The first plans were lodged in 2018 but a revised scheme has now been approved by the Argyll and Bute Council planning committee.

The project near Farkin, between Port Ellen and Laphroaig, includes staff housing on-site, a visitor centre and a multi-purpose educational facility.

A statement from the company said co-founders of Elixir Distillers, brothers Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh, share a love of Islay and its whiskies.

Their parents became the first Asians in the UK to be granted a liquor licence when they opened what became an award-winning off-licence in north-west London. In the mid-1990s, Sukhinder had one of the largest collections of whisky in the world with more than 5,500 miniature bottles of single malt.

Sukhinder said: ‘The news our planning application has been accepted is fantastic. We’ve worked closely with the Argyll and Bute Council planning committee to create plans for a distillery that fits into the landscape and supports the community.

‘We want to create whiskies that inspire both the people of Islay and Islay whisky fans world-wide, enhancing the already glowing reputation of Islay whiskies, while becoming an integral part of the community.’

The company plans to create an apprentice programme to train the next generation of distillers.

It said it hopes to work with the community and the Scotch Whisky industry to create other initiatives to support the environment and people of Islay.

The next steps will be to finalise details of its plans with the objective of breaking ground later this year with the distillery name announced later.

Elixir said the design of the distillery features an exterior in keeping with the traditional look of the other south coast distilleries on Islay, alongside some modern touches that reflect the landscape of the site.

The interior will include floor maltings capable of supplying more than 50 per cent of the full one million LA capacity of the distillery.

Brothers Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh