Ladies and Gentlemen, I could not be more thrilled to be here today to reopen New Cumnock Swimming Pool. I must admit that I was fascinated to learn about its long association with the local community when I first heard about it and was only too keen to try and do what I could to help secure its long-term future. If I may say so, I do think that we owe a particular debt of gratitude to Afton Water for keeping the original pool open against all the odds – not to mention a rather old and crumbling building…! As we can see today, I think it is certainly looking decidedly splendid now.
I have to say that quite a few people at Dumfries House were, initially, somewhat hesitant about taking on a project of this nature but, on realizing its local significance and the affection which many felt towards it, we thought it might be a real opportunity not only to support a vital community asset, but to continue our heritage-led regeneration work, following the opening of New Cumnock Town Hall last year. As you don't need me to remind you, Ladies and Gentlemen, the residents of New Cumnock have been through some appallingly difficult times over the years, but their remarkable resilience, determination and humour are symbolic of what makes this part of Scotland so special.
I am most grateful to East Ayrshire Council for their understanding of our vision for this project and for their willingness to allow the authority's budget for demolition to be used to create a new town square. We were particularly thrilled to be able to contribute to the planting and the design of the Square and hope that this will be used to the full and enjoyed by everyone in New Cumnock.
Of course, none of these initiatives are possible without the support of our incredibly generous donors and I am especially grateful to Bob and Tamar Manoukian. This is the third project in which they have supported our work at Dumfries House and they have shown such enthusiasm for all that I am trying to do locally. I am so delighted to have them as the lead sponsor for this community project.
I am also incredibly grateful, yet again, to Sir Tom Hunter and his family. I suspect at some point, as a small boy, Tom was no doubt swimming in this pool! His local contribution to our work is very important and I could not be more pleased that he has been able to support our work in the community once more.
Finally, I would like to pay a tribute to the entire workforce whose individual skills and trades have brought this much-loved pool back to life for the future enjoyment of local people. Their achievement in finishing it all on time is all the more astonishing when, as I discovered during frequent site visits, many of them have been travelling up and down here for the past several months from far-flung parts of the British Isles. All I can say is that they must have very understanding families…!
Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I did ponder for a while on how best we could officially open the pool (tartan swimming trunks, for instance, and the unveiling of an underwater plaque on the bottom of the pool was one suggestion!) – but after disregarding the idea of me jumping in, I thought I might need some help. I think it is enormously important to recognize the local people of New Cumnock and what has been achieved here, and therefore I would like to ask Georgette Fulton to join me in unveiling the plaque.
However, I still feel we need to make a bit of a “splash,” so I would also like to invite double Silver Olympic medallist, Duncan Scott, to lead the jump in with school children from New Cumnock Primary School.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me enormous pleasure to open the Tamar Manoukian New Cumnock Swimming Pool.