A father has said his late wife and son, who both died of cancer, would be “beaming with pride” as the Duchess of Cornwall gave their Highland charity the royal seal of approval.
Camilla spoke with Sam Hey, who lost his eight-year-old son Hamish to cancer in 2017, during a visit to the town of Nairn in the north of Scotland
With his wife Susan and daughter Lily, Mr Hey set up the Team Hamish charity to create play areas around their hometown in his memory, incorporating one his favourite things: rainbows.
Mrs Hey never got to see Hamish’s Splashpad completed, as she lost her own battle with cancer last year.
But Mr Hey and Lily were delighted to welcome Camilla, who is known as the Duchess of Rothesay when in Scotland, to the play area by the beach and explain more about their work.
Mr Hey was also presented with a BEM – awarded in the New Year’s Honours – by Lord Lieutenant of Nairnshire George Asher, while Lily accepted her mother’s one posthumously.
As the water within the splash pad erupted, much to the delight of the schoolchildren who had come to witness the event, Mr Hey thanked the community for backing Team Hamish’s journey.
He said: “It is so wonderful to see so many gathered for such a momentous, yet quite emotional occasion.”
He said that he knew his son and wife would be watching over the ceremony, “beaming with pride.”
After hearing of all the fundraising effort involved, the duchess said she was “impressed by the community” she saw in Nairn.
After the official ceremony, Camilla – who was wearing a dark green dress by Fiona Clare and a cream Burberry coat – took unscheduled time to talk to locals, joking with children from Rosebank Primary “have you managed to escape from school today?”
During her trip, Camilla – who is known for her love of literature – also visited Nairn Community Centre, currently home to the Nairn Book and Arts Festival.
While chatting to local poetry group Women in the Highlands she expressed her love for Carol Ann Duffy, and started a round of applause when one of the members read some of her own work entitled 2020 – The Year That.
She was met with laughs of agreement when she was finally able to remove her mask and exclaimed “we can all breathe again”.
The duchess also spoke to author Cal Flyn about her new book and was pleased to discover they had joint links to Stroma in Orkney.
She said: “My husband always paints Stroma, it inspires him.”
Camilla later visited Inverness where she spoke to volunteers at Maggie’s Cancer support centre
Camilla has stood as president of Maggie’s since 2008 and made her inaugural visit to the centre.
Maggie’s chief executive Dame Laura Lee said: “It was wonderful to be able to welcome our president, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Rothesay to our Inverness centre today.
“As our president, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Rothesay has been so supportive of Maggie’s over the years and during the coronavirus pandemic, she encouraged our staff and centre visitors with her visits.”
Several frontline workers stood outside Raigmore Hospital eager to catch a glimpse of the duchess.
To their delight, she gave them a wave as she stepped out of her car.
During her brief visit, she spent time visiting various areas of the centre, speaking with delighted member of staff as well as frontline workers and volunteers about their work with the charity.
Angeline MacLeod, assistant nurse manager for cancer services for NHS Highland, spoke with Camilla about the benefit cancer patients have as the organisation’s work in conjunction to support those facing a devastating diagnosis.
She said: “She asked a little about Maggie’s and how things work here. We were sure to mention how Maggie’s is so pivotal to people with a cancer diagnosis and families, how NHS Highland works very closely with Maggie’s and they provide time and support which is very difficult within the NHS.”
The Duchess also joined a Men’s Support Group by Zoom to hear how they have benefitted from digital support over the last 18 months.
Among the attendees was Matt, 56, from Culloden who is living with advanced lung and liver cancer.
He was first diagnosed in February 2018 and has relied heavily on the support of Maggie’s for the last three years.
The former Gordon Highlander also spoke to Camilla about how he broke down in tears after receiving a wonderful letter from the Duke of Rothesay, just weeks before his upcoming nuptials.
He said: “I received it two days ago and I was overwhelmed.
“I nearly broke down in tears because things like that don’t really happen to people like me.”
The Duchess replied: “When I saw the brief I told him. I said I was going to speak to you and you were an ex Gordon Highlander and he said I must write a letter to him, plus he is getting married.
“He is also very proud to be part of the Gordon Highlanders.”
She added: “I hope you had a wonderful wedding.”