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Pandemic: one year on


By Chris Saunderson

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WHAT a last 12 months it has been!

Three lockdowns, social distancing, face masks, businesses and shops closed, families separated, sadly lots of deaths too.

The Covid-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of life for everybody.

And while the vaccine rollout offers real hope for some kind of normal this summer, there is still some way to go.

We looked back at some of the headlines and pictures of the last 12 months.

MARCH

On the face of it, March started with little sign of what was to come. Moray Council set a council tax increase of 4.84 per cent.

However, by our March 13 edition, Glenfiddich Distillery had closed its visitor centre, a major volunteer sector conference was cancelled in Moray and Moray Food Plus, which supports people experiencing food poverty, appealed for UHT milk and toilet rolls as panic buying started to empty local supermarket shelves.

On the sports front, Elgin City chairman Graham Tatters was warning that the club would have to cut costs or possibly fold.

Just a few days into lockdown in the UK, declared on March 23 by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pictures of rainbows were flooding social media across Moray as children sent a message of hope.

Mikey Gordon alongside his rainbow display...As part of the 'From My Window' movement - people put rainbows in their windows across Moray to spread joy in March. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Mikey Gordon alongside his rainbow display...As part of the 'From My Window' movement - people put rainbows in their windows across Moray to spread joy in March. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

APRIL

A grim headline, but one that spelled out the stark potential if the spread of coronavirus could not be supressed, was a hangar at Kinloss Barracks being offered as a makeshift mortuary for the health services in Moray. Thankfully, this was not needed in the months ahead.

The Moray Emergency Relief Fund was launched by the lord lieutenants of Moray and Banffshire to help people facing hardship due to the pandemic, and quickly saw £20,000 come in through donations.

Skye Meldrum with her rainbow sheep April and her lamb Duncan at Greenfield Farm, Rothes...Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Skye Meldrum with her rainbow sheep April and her lamb Duncan at Greenfield Farm, Rothes...Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Continuing the rainbow theme, Skye Meldrum and her rainbow sheep, a four-year-old texel ewe, was providing a happy image in support of key workers and NHS staff. It became known as the 'Sheep of Hope' in our offices.

In Burghead, villagers put images of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster in their windows to give autistic youngster Marcus Vivian (7) a treasure hunt with a difference.

Elgin City's play-off hopes were dashed when the SPFL League Two season was declared null and void.

The Moray Scrubs network of volunteers made 600 sets of scrubs for local hospital staff at Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin in May.
The Moray Scrubs network of volunteers made 600 sets of scrubs for local hospital staff at Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin in May.

MAY

May started with Buckie man Chris Simpson urging people to obey the lockdown rules and help save lives. His warning came after he was routinely tested before going offshore and found to have the virus, without displaying any symptoms

The Clap for Carers tribute immediately became a big hit in Moray, with people taking to their doorsteps every Thursday night to pay tribute to health care workers.

Thorfinn (4) and Lachlan Wade (2) walked 26 miles in nine days in May to raise money for the Moray Baby Bank.
Thorfinn (4) and Lachlan Wade (2) walked 26 miles in nine days in May to raise money for the Moray Baby Bank.

There was a call for people to mark the 75th anniversary of the Victory in Europe Day in their own private way, with mass gatherings not permitted.

Moray MP Douglas Ross quit a Scotland Office ministerial role in protest at the Dominic Cummings' affair - a senior aid to PM Boris Johnson who travelled the length of the UK from London to Durham to visit family during lockdown.

Marcus Vivian on the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Marcus Vivian on the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

JUNE

There was some great news for Hopeman actor Laura Hubbard - stage name Isobella Hubbard - landed a plum role in the hit ITV soap Coronation Street.

More good news on the sports front when Elgin Sports Community Trust's bid to rent land at lesser Borough Briggs for a community all-weather sports facility, was approved by Moray Council.

Project Wingman was launched by furloughed pilot Captain Emma Henderson, from Kinloss, establishing a network of care centres in local hospitals, provided by furloughed and redundant airline staff impacted by the pandemic.

Ella Langdale (15) with her family in June. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Ella Langdale (15) with her family in June. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Ella Langdale (15), from Elgin, was the toast of the town after walking 10km, supported by her loving family, to raise money for the Children's Hospices Around Scotland.

Moray Lord Lieutenant Seymour Monro visits 'Project Wingman' during a visit to Dr Gray's Hospital. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Moray Lord Lieutenant Seymour Monro visits 'Project Wingman' during a visit to Dr Gray's Hospital. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

JULY

Hairdressing salons and barbers celebrated as they were allowed to reopen again following the first lockdown, with customers and staff having to wear masks and protective visors.

Summit to celebrate. Ally Troon and Sarah Law celebrate their wedding at the top of Ben Rinnes.
Summit to celebrate. Ally Troon and Sarah Law celebrate their wedding at the top of Ben Rinnes.

Dufftown couple Ally Troon (47) and Sarah Law (32) didn't let Covid ruin their wedding and although their planned ceremony on Craigellachie Bridge and a big reception had to be shelved for now, the keen walkers climbed to the top of Ben Rinnes, Moray's highest free-standing peak, to get hitched in style.

One year after becoming UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson visited Moray and hailed the work of the armed forces in the pandemic effort.

A new kind of normal for Gordon Cruickshank at Hair and Body Mechanics, Elgin last July. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
A new kind of normal for Gordon Cruickshank at Hair and Body Mechanics, Elgin last July. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

AUGUST

Politics, and just two months after quitting amid the row over Dominic Cummings lockdown journey, Moray MP Douglas Ross is elected unopposed as leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

Life-saver Rona Valentine Birnie pulled a drowning man from the harbour at Hopeman - the second time in a year she has saved someone from the water at the harbour.

Rona Valentine Birnie jumped into the North Sea, at the Hopeman Harbour to rescue a man in trouble. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Rona Valentine Birnie jumped into the North Sea, at the Hopeman Harbour to rescue a man in trouble. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

With the econmic impact of the pandemic still to be fully felt, Moray was given a shot-in-the-arm when the UK and Scottish Governments signed off on a £100 million Moray Growth Deal.

SEPTEMBER

Secondary school pupils at Elgin High and other schools in Moray were getting used to the new normal as they adapted to having to wear face coverings in school as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. While Elgin High is a new school, Moray's schools generally were labelled the worst in Scotland in terms of the condition of the buildings.

The Spitfire flys over Dr Gray's Hospital. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
The Spitfire flys over Dr Gray's Hospital. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

A World War Two Spitfire emblazoned with the message 'Thank U NHS' flew over Elgin and Dr Gray's Hospital on a tour of the UK.

All's fair in love and politics, and the Conservative group and minority administration SNP group on Moray Council clashed over Tory plans to try and push through a cabinet-style revamp of the local authority.

It was announced that around 32 hospital beds were to be cut from Dr Gray's Hospital, however, health chiefs insisted this was a temporary measure to combat the spread of coronavirus.

OCTOBER

Abbie's Sparkle Foundation launched its Mile to the Moon challenge to mark what would have been the 18th birthday of its inspiration, Abbie Main. Film star Ewan McGregor was the most famous supporter of the challenge.

Moray's hospitality industry questioned what more they could do after making their hotels and restaurants as Covid-safe as possible, only to be told that tighter restrictions were on the way.

Touchdown. The new Poseidon aircraft arrives at RAF Lossiemouth. Picture: Becky Saunderson
Touchdown. The new Poseidon aircraft arrives at RAF Lossiemouth. Picture: Becky Saunderson

A new chapter was written in the history of RAF Lossiemouth when the first of nine Poseidion aircraft touched down at the Moray base, part of a wider £350 million redevelopment of the base.

Keith woman Laura Mitchell praised the NHS for saving her mum's life after she donated a kidney in a paired donation scenario which saw two people benefit from the gift of a kidney.

Some good news for Moray on the virus front, as it is placed into Tier 1 of a new tiered alert system by Scottish Government, allowing more freedoms than most other places in Scotland.

NOVEMBER

History makers Rothes FC were celebrating after winning the Highland League Cup final for the first time in their history, beating Buckie Thistle 2-1 at Christie Park in a tense final.

Parents Kay and Edward Polese. Picture: Becky Saunderson
Parents Kay and Edward Polese. Picture: Becky Saunderson

The Moray and Grampian Christmas Toy and Food Appeal looked set to be bigger and better than ever as it was launched in Elgin. It would end up supporting more than 500 individuals and families across Moray.

Upbeat news on the jobs front with Asda announcing up to 40 new jobs following a £3 million revamp to its store in Elgin.

Moray singer-songwriter Danny Mortimer asked people for their Christmas memories for a video to accompany his festive charity single.

Parents Edward and Kay Polese paid tribute to their 'fun-loving' 13-year-old son Philip who took his own life after suffering bullying in and out of school. They spoke out to raise awareness of the issue.

DECEMBER,

Delight for Abbie's Sparkle Foundation when it reaches the moon. The mass effort saw 1085 participants walk, run, cycle and swim 100,000 miles.

With the vast majority of people in Moray pulling together during the pandemic, it was disappointing to report a break in to the Moray Food Plus charity, stealing food and cash from the Elgin HQ.

Lossiemouth Community council delivered food hampers, gift boxes and christmas meals to the communtiy in the town. Picture: Becky Saunderson
Lossiemouth Community council delivered food hampers, gift boxes and christmas meals to the communtiy in the town. Picture: Becky Saunderson

Sporting news, and Moray was awarded £1.24 million for a Moray indoor tennis facility, with work expected to start in the spring.

The small coastal town of Lossiemouth pulled out all the stops to brighten up Christmas for some of the more vulnerable and isolated members of the community, with an Operation Christmas effort to distribute hampers and meals to people in the town.

Anderson's Care Home. Kathy McGrath-Gunn MBE, Simon Mills, Tom McHale and Craigh Stewart.
Anderson's Care Home. Kathy McGrath-Gunn MBE, Simon Mills, Tom McHale and Craigh Stewart.

Elgin City Football Club also scored a success when it teamed up with other partners including Tesco Elgin and Guidi's in Lossiemouth, to distribute meals, food packages and festive goodies to residents of sheltered housing and care home in and around the town.

The end of an era as The Scot's Eric Cormack retired after 18 years with the paper and a career spanning 50 years.

JANUARY

Goodbye 2020 and a positive start to 2021 with care home boss Ron Taylor declaring that the Covid vaccine offered "light at the end of the tunnel", with staff and residents the first to receive the first dose of the jab.

Little Caleb Simmons was the first arrival of 2021 in Moray with proud parents Fiona Goodall and Craig Simmons over the moon with their third child. Weighing 7lb 6oz, the tiny tot was blissfully unaware of being the first lockdown baby of 2021, being born at 5.12am.

Staff and local residents received their first dose of their Covid-19 vaccine at the Moray Coast Medical Centre in Lossiemouth.Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Staff and local residents received their first dose of their Covid-19 vaccine at the Moray Coast Medical Centre in Lossiemouth.Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Goodness knows, after 10 months in and out of lockdowns and restrictions, there was a need for good news and more of it came in the shape of over-80s at Moray Coast practice in Lossiemouth getting their Covid vaccinations. It was great to see big smiles on the faces of all those attending the clinic in the town.

Lockdown New Year's baby Caleb Simmons.
Lockdown New Year's baby Caleb Simmons.

Twins Alara and Ackie Little were also born on New Year's Day, nine weeks prematurely, to parents Lana Macdonald andd Daniel Little. Lana is a senior staff nurse at Dr Gray's Hospital.

Ackie Little.
Ackie Little.
His sister Alara Little.
His sister Alara Little.

A campaign in support of Moray resident Matthew Freeman, facing deportation to his native China, was launched in a bid to win him the right to remain in the place he calls home.

FEBRUARY

Primary 1 pupils in Moray returned to school since before Christmas and there were happy faces among the youngest pupils.

Primary One to Three pupils return to school at Elgin's West End Primary School...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Primary One to Three pupils return to school at Elgin's West End Primary School...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

The vaccine rollout in Moray continues, with some hiccups, but mostly great progress.

A senior doctor at NHS Grampian warns Moray to wake up to the Covid threat after rising numbers of infections locally.


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