Spotlight on the Grampian Region of the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club

From our base in Aberdeenshire in the North-East of Scotland, Grampian Region Jaguar Enthusiasts Club (GR JEC) is somewhat spoilt for stunning locations and venues (we confess to perhaps being a little bit biased?) for its week-end away, a relaxing highlight on the annual calendar. Last year’s trip took us to St Andrews, a quaint town on the Fife coast steeped in history as well as being the home of golf. The increasingly unpredictable weather behaved itself over the two days and at least a couple of our company were wishing that they had opted to pack the golf clubs just in case the opportunity presented itself. Our hosts at the picturesque Rufflets Hotel made us feel welcome and a very pleasant time was had by all who took part. Being a permanent fixture for several years now, the GR JEC over the years has been warmly hosted by a number of hotels in the Highlands, Perthshire and this year in Fife and Tayside; our long time committee member and organiser of this annual event, Jim Mann, always managing to come up with an interesting route and specially selected stops on the way for refreshments, to compliment the welcoming hotel for our dinner and overnight stay.

The part of The UK / Scotland that encompasses the Grampian Region served by the GR JEC is that within the ‘AB’ postcode, an area of approximately 6,500 sq km (2,500 sq miles) with an estimated population of around 500,000 (2018). Before the arrival of North Sea Oil in the late 1960’s, agriculture and fishing predominated, so our membership comes from a wide range of occupations (some now retired from the daily grind!)

It is fair to say that we are not a ‘cars in fields’ Club, though many of us are very happy to participate in field events put on by other JEC Clubs in the UK. Our annual programme includes details of some of the national and regional Jaguar shows and other car events taking place, and we normally have a Club Co-ordinator for those events for those GR JEC Club members who would like to take part. Our Club activities vary from evening runs out with a sociable meal, technical discussions on the cars, quiz nights, talks from experts on various subjects, Ladies’ Day outing – naturally with the aim of providing events that are popular with our membership but we are always open to new ideas to add to the programme and widen our membership appeal.

Unarguably the main event on our calendar is the Annual Gathering which is always held on the last Sunday of July (note for your diaries). Almost exclusively over the 18 years the Gathering has been held; our venue has been the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) property of Drum Castle near Drumoak in Aberdeenshire. The Lawn at Drum will again this year host what is primarily a Jaguar / Daimler Car Show and Fun Day, though we have from time to time had other marques either ask to or have been invited to join in the fun. Within the limits of the lawn at Drum, the more the merrier from our Club’s standpoint to make it a day to remember for those hopeful of taking home a trophy in one of the many categories judged, or for visitors who just want to enjoy the spectacle.

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Of course, there is a purpose to the Annual Gathering other than the showing / judging of cars and entertaining visitors with the car display, or sets performed by the Pipe Band at regular intervals, or the tasty – and universally popular – home baking stall, or raffles, bottle stalls, strawberries and cream etc. The aim is to raise as much money as possible for the Charity chosen by the Club for that year. The arrangement with the NTS is happily mutually beneficial – while we have the spectacular location in which to raise funds for our Charity, that last Sunday in July has become Drum Castle’s busiest time of the year as typically visitors to our Show make a day of it by visiting the Castle, Gardens and Woodland Walks as well, giving a huge boost to NTS income.

The Charity each year is selected by the members, usually at or shortly after the Planning Meeting in January, and there is no shortage of local candidates. Subsequently, representatives from the chosen Charity are invited to join us for supper to give our members the chance to learn more about the Charity’s work and perhaps learn to what use any funds that we raise will be put. It is also an opportunity for the Charity representatives to find out what the Annual Gathering involves and how they can use it to promote a wider appreciation of the Charity’s raison d’etre.

In past years, the GR JEC has raised funds totalling over £80,000 for a number of very worthwhile causes including The RNLI, Fighting for Sight, Friends of Anchor, Alzheimer Scotland, Help for Heroes, Aberdeen Life Education Centres, South West Aberdeenshire Citizens Advice Bureau, Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team, Friends of ANCHOR, and Mental Health Aberdeen, a varied range of charities providing much needed support in their specific fields.

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The largest proportion of the money raised annually comes from sponsorship and donations from companies and organisations within the Grampian Region, topped up with the net proceeds from entrance fees and stalls and raffles on the Day. The general financial turmoil since 2008, coupled with the steep decline in oil-related activities means that we have to work harder each year to deliver a meaningful donation to our charities. Thankfully, we have regulars who bring their beloved Jaguars to the Show each year and we are very grateful for their continued support, as we are for the Club members without whose hard work, the day just would not happen.

This year, 2020, we are supporting Befriend a Child, an Aberdeen based charity supporting children in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. At any one time their volunteers, who are fully trained by the charity, work with between 200 to 300 vulnerable school age children. The volunteers work with their child for around a year, giving each vulnerable child support and guidance, combined with interesting and fun events that the child would never normally get, leading to significantly increased confidence in the child and often creating a friend for life relationship. Befriend a Child relies wholly on support from the local communities of the Grampian Region, receiving no financial support from the NHS or local authorities. The money that GR JEC raises for Befriend a Child at the Annual Gathering will go directly towards making a real difference to these vulnerable children’s lives.