A retired Fife veteran decided that pipes and slippers were not for him. Instead, former Black Watch private Michael Boyle turned his mind to helping others.
And with seven years’ service in the army, supporting local veterans seemed like the perfect fit.
So in December, Mike set up the Scottish Forces Breakfast Club in his home town of Dunfermline.
It now attracts 45 men and women every month from all over Fife, who meet in the town’s Royal British Legion for breakfast and, more importantly, a blether.
Mike is supported by a team of volunteers – two do the cooking and three help out front of house.
He said: “The club runs on the first Saturday of every month from 10am to noon and is open to veterans of all services, as well as emergency services staff from all over Fife.
“Initially, 15 veterans came along but it has quickly grown and we now have around 45 every month.
“They each pay £4.50 to cover the breakfast costs but, more importantly, it’s also a chance for them to have a good old natter with like-minded people.
“If anyone is struggling with their health or finances, we can also signpost them to services that can help – such as Veterans First Point in Cardenden.
“Often, veterans don’t know where to turn for help and the older generation are also proud people – they don’t want to ask for help.
“The breakfast club gives them the opportunity to find out more about help that is readily available to them.
“Some of them don’t see anyone from one month to the next so the club is a great way for them to meet new people and have a laugh.
“It’s like a big family and some of the conversations they have are unbelievable!
“But they also get to know about other clubs and groups that are out there so it can help widen their social circles too.
“Most of our members are men but we also have two ladies who come along regularly – the club is there for everyone.
“And they all leave with a big smile on their face, eager to book up for next month.”
Delighted with the success of the breakfast club, Mike started thinking about how to help veterans who were not attending.
Scouring the net, he came across the charity Who Dares Cares, founded by two former Scottish soldiers.
In particular, his interest was piqued by an initiative one volunteer was running in Edinburgh.
And last week Mike launched Hampers for Veterans Fife in partnership with Who Dares Cares.
He said: “I spoke to Marc Hutton who organises the hampers in Edinburgh; it’s a very busy service in the city and I believe there is also a need for it here in Fife.
“With Marc’s help, we launched Hampers for Veterans Fife last Monday.
“Fife has, for a long time, been a rich recruiting area for the forces, all the way back to Jacobite times.
“When they leave the forces, they face the same issues as everyone else.
“But they have been used to the military taking care of them, so sometimes it’s a difficult transition.
“They may get some sort of housing but that is often when the struggle starts – not always knowing what they are entitled to in terms of benefits, for example.
“And that’s where the hamper service can help.
“We will provide an emergency hamper for veterans and their families, with essential food to keep them going until they get help from social services.
“We will provide this service until it is no longer needed by the veteran but we see it as a hand up, rather than a hand out.
“So our volunteers who deliver the hampers will also provide information about services that can help.
“The aim is to tackle the root of the problem rather than just providing a short-term sticking plaster.”
While still in its infancy, it has been a busy inaugural week and Mike hopes Fifers will support the enterprise.
He added: “We have one collection point for food, in the RBL in Dunfermline.
“But we’d love to hear from community groups and businesses across Fife who would be willing to collect donations for us.”
Veterans can self-refer but local organisations and people can also refer individuals.
Visit the Facebook page Who Dares Cares Hampers for Veterans Fife, email Boyle.email@example.com or call Mike on 07522 024670.
For more on the club, visit the Facebook page Scottish Forces Breakfast Club.
Help is on hand in the Kingdom
Who Dares Cares was founded in 2016 by two former serving Scottish soldiers, Calum MacLeod (KOSB) and Colin Maclachlan (SAS).
After becoming friends, bound by their own experiences, they both realised they could help so many other people, who were left ‘alone’ to deal with their experiences, thoughts and traumas.
The aim of the charity is to support individuals and their families, from all walks of life, who are suffering from PTSD.
Although the majority come from some form of military background, the charity helps anyone who suffers signs and symptoms of PTSD.
This can be anything from trauma to bereavement.
Volunteers come from a range of military, health and social care backgrounds, with many having completed courses in counselling.
To find out more, visit who-dares-cares.com.
Veterans First Point Fife is based in Cardenden and was established in January 2016. It provides veterans’ services throughout the Kingdom of Fife. It has been developed by veterans for veterans and is staffed by an alliance of clinicians and veterans.
The services are provided free at the point of access, as part of the NHS.
The team consists of veterans peer support workers, clinicians, therapists and an administration team.
Together, they provide information and signposting; understanding and listening; support and social networking and interventions to improve health and well-being.
At the core of the operation is a team of peer support workers (PSWs), all ex-forces or from a military family whose role it is to help people move forward with their life.
To find out more, visit www.veteransfirstpoint.org.uk.