Volunteers step forward to light up Christmas

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The spirit of togetherness which helped keep us going through the dark days of pandemic-hit 2020 has come to the rescue of Christmas across Mid Argyll.

Christmas trees and festive lights in our towns and villages brighten the dark days of winter, but the year of coronavirus has coincided with a planned budget move by Argyll and Bute Council to shift responsibility for festive decorations to community groups.

This, combined with restrictions on face-to-face meetings, including those of festive committees, meant our streets were perilously close to remaining in darkness this Christmas.

But, not for the first time, community spirit has come through as people rallied to organise much-needed brightness in our communities.

Explaining its budget saving, an Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said that cuts to its funding mean the authority must focus on frontline services.

‘In 2016 we began a three-year project to handover Christmas lighting to community groups, which have been very successful in providing festive events,’ explained the spokesperson.

‘Those which had their trees organised by the council understood that 2019 would be the last year this support would be available.’

The council has nonetheless agreed to provide technical advice if required.

Keen to help, RDS Forestry came forward to offer public Christmas trees free of charge, with Peter McKerral and Co offering free delivery.

Lochgilphead took up the offer and the festive lights committee has arranged for a specimen to be delivered. Stepping up as it has done in the past, MacLeod Construction has agreed to help with the town’s lights and tree.

MacLeods again took the lead in Ardrishaig, spearheaded by staff member Stevie McCormick.

‘Hopefully we’ll be putting up the Ardrishaig lights this weekend,’ said Stevie.

‘We have been offered a tree and we’ll help put it up.’

Others have volunteered to help and Stevie explained: ‘We were all determined to brighten things up for people. Hopefully we can organise things through a lights committee for future years.’

Arrangements are still being finalised in Tarbert but the committee hopes the village will be lit up for Christmas – and there is a rumour there could be a tree with a difference this year.

As in past years, Argyll estates will donate a tree to Inveraray and, depending on permission from trunk road operator BEAR Scotland, the town’s lights will be installed.

While the annual Christmas switch-on parade cannot take place, the Inveraray unsung hero award will be made as usual. Look out too for a Christmas shop window competition and childrens’ painting display around the Royal Burgh.