The Dufftown branch was finally able to open its doors to the public on Saturday 29 May, one week behind the rest of Scotland, as Moray moved into level 2.

The branch now has big plans to celebrate the reopening.

Branch Secretary Claire Porter says: “One of the members generously donated money for a family day. Right now I’m getting quotes for a Whisky Train, where they dress up in 1940s regalia. We’re in the process of trying to hire that out for the older members, and we’re also planning a family day with a hog roast and bouncy castle.

“We’ve also applied for funding to do a reflective Remembrance garden, which is going to be a partnership with the school kids. We’ll give them the criteria for the remembrance and poppies and things like that and they will design it with recycled materials, and the schools will do the upkeep of it.”

These exciting plans are welcome news for members of the Dufftown branch, who were under level 3 COVID restrictions for a week longer than other areas in Scotland.

“It was just so deflating,” says Claire. “We were wanting to arrange a whisky tasking night, which we could do socially distanced, and obviously we had to cancel that. You just felt like you were letting people down.”

Despite the lockdown, though, Dufftown branch has remained an active part of the Moray community.

On 8 May, the branch held a fundraiser for Legion Scotland, selling boxes of cakes, scones and sausage rolls for members to have their own tea parties in their gardens.

Claire says: “We made about £500 from that, and with the money raised we were able to give all the people over 60 years old in Dufftown a free tea party box. That was a huge success.”

A few years ago the branch faced certain closure, but has exceeded all expectations in its comeback. It is now a hub of activity for the Legion members it serves, and a pillar of the local community.

“We had about £36 in the bank; now we’ve got over £30,000 to keep us going,” says Claire. “I know some of that’s been government funding, but it’s a phenomenal turnaround.”

The Dufftown branch has also been working closely with the Dufftown and District Community Association to support the local Community Food larder. The community initiative redistributes donated food items to those in financial hardship.

“There are quite a lot of people struggling at the minute with jobs,” Claire explains. “Hospitality and tourism have such a massive place up here because of the whisky industry, and obviously they were all closed.”

The branch also offers a hot meal takeaway service and collects pre-owned children’s clothes for redistribution, not only helping to clothe the community but helping the environment as well.

Claire says: “It’s crazy how good the community spirit has been; just everyone looking out for everybody. Even when it comes to food, a lot of people are picking up things for their neighbours.”