Full steam ahead for Community Hero winner Parr and Paisley

Full steam ahead for Community Hero winner Parr and Paisley

It says a great deal about David Parr that when former Paisley RFC President Donald Hall said he had something to tell him, awards were the furthest thing from his mind.

“I was completely dumbfounded,” laughed Parr.

“Donald just sat with a massive smile on his face, laughing. It was a total shock to me – and then I get told I have to make an acceptance video!”

There’s absolutely no doubt that Parr was a worthy recipient of the 2021 SP Energy Networks Community Hero of the Year award, though. In a year like no other in living memory, Paisley RFC has been a shining light at the heart of the local community, with Parr leading the way for The Anchor-based side.

“The club’s been up to an awful lot in the last year,” explained Parr.

“We raised about £8000 for CHAS, which has been extremely important over the last year for the club. The players did a sterling job.

“In the height of the first lockdown, we also got together and took a collection into socially isolated residents in the local community. My aunt lives in sheltered housing, and during the course of a phone call she mentioned how lonely the residents were getting because they couldn’t get out and see anyone or welcome visitors due to shielding and so on.

“In addition to raising money for them, I went into a local chippy and we ended up distributing fish suppers to the local residents on a Friday afternoon. Every single person involved absolutely loved it – just by following all of the guidelines, it meant that the residents in sheltered housing got to see and speak to people.

“We’ve also agreed that we’ll get the residents down to a game as soon as we’re allowed to do so, and they can meet the players and the kids over a morning tea or something.”

It wasn’t just off the field that Parr and Paisley were making a difference, though. A newly formed women and girls section has proved a roaring success, as the expansion of women’s rugby across Scotland continues.

“To be honest, starting a women’s section in the middle of a pandemic – or any section for that matter – probably isn’t advisable!” laughed Parr.

“It’s been tough and it’s not without its ups and downs, but to see us go from having no women or girls playing a year ago to where they are today is unbelievable.

“The team recently had a development day with West of Scotland, Cartha Queen’s Park and a couple of other clubs, and by all accounts they did really well. There’s a real appetite for women’s and girls rugby in the area and it’s a section going from strength to strength.”

Parr’s passion for the sport is evident even in a phone call, as he happily discusses everything from the enthusiasm of the young girls playing rugby for the first time, to dressing up as Santa for a socially-distanced Christmas grotto and organising a club-wide Zoom call at New Year.

Even though he’s now stepped down from his role on the club’s committee, you can guarantee that he’ll still be doing whatever it takes to spread the word in the local area.

“The club, and the sport in general, means so much to me,” said Parr.

“Paisley is a fantastic club with so much potential. There are a lot of people in the town itself who don’t even know we have a rugby club, so the last couple of years we’ve been driving the club as a community focus – no matter your age, gender, ability or whatever, there’s a chance for everyone to come down and have fun.

“The highlight during lockdown without a doubt, though, was being able to welcome kids down on Sundays in line with the guidelines set out by Scottish Rugby and the government. To see these kids get an hour of happiness on a Sunday morning, that was worth the effort from everyone.

“There’s a lot going on development-wise to take the club forward and turn it into a real community hub. We’re in a strange position in Paisley – we’re a bit out of the way, so we have to be quite proactive in getting the word out that we’re actually there.

“The number of people driving around Paisley and Renfrewshire with a Glasgow Warriors car sticker – that you only get with a Season Ticket – is incredible, so for us its all about making them aware that we’re out there.”

On and off the field at The Anchor, then, it’s still full steam ahead for Parr and Paisley.

Frank Mitchell, CEO of SP Energy Networks

“At SP Energy Networks, we’re proud to show our support for our communities through our partnership with Glasgow Warriors.

“It’s been a tough year for everyone with all the challenges brought by the pandemic, so I’m really pleased we’ve managed to find a way to recognise our community heroes through the Community Hero of the Year award.

“On behalf of SP Energy Networks and Glasgow Warriors, I would like to congratulate Dave for his well-deserved award and all the great work he has delivered to help make a difference in his local community.”

Nominees Roll of Honour

William Davies, Brechin RFC: Carried out essential work to Brechin’s pitch during the first lockdown, then ensured that those returning to the club would do so in a safe and enjoyable environment by overseeing sessions adhering to COVID guidelines.

Stewart Barnett, Cambuslang Rugby Club: Ensured that the mini and midi sections remained fully engaged with the club by leading Zoom quizzes, online fitness sessions and donations to local foodbanks.

Barry Burns Munro, Hillfoots RFC: Took on the role of Rugby Development Officer and has provided an enthusiastic role model for young players taking their first steps in rugby.

Alan Paul, Uddingston RFC: Has been the driving force in reintroducing the youth section to the rugby club.

Jack Burgoyne, Clydebank Rugby Club: Established a thriving junior section, as well as a brand-new women’s team, having come through the ranks at Clydebank himself.

Jenny Condie, Strathaven RFC: Fulfilled multiple committee roles in order to ensure Strathaven were ready to return as soon as allowed, including Child Protection Officer and COVID-19 Safety Officer.

Steve McCooey, Strathendrick RFC: Dedicates a significant amount of his spare time to spreading the word about Strathendrick, including leading online sessions during lockdown.

Barry Smith, Allan Glen’s: Volunteered to take on any job that needed to be done in order to ensure the club was ready to welcome players back once more.

Scott Thomson, Allan Glen’s: Undertook multiple deep-cleans of club facilities, as well as building tables from pallets to help convert the cark park into outdoor bar seating.

Nick Martin, Bannockburn RFC: Co-ordinated the club’s community COVID response, fielding nearly 900 calls and supporting the socially vulnerable.

Colin Steele, Waysiders Drumpellier: Overcame health difficulties to continue to drive the women’s and girls section forward during 2020.

Kerry and Derek Stanner, Falkirk RFC: Oversaw the return of the club’s entire minis and juniors section, ensuring that over 120 players could return to safe and enjoyable sessions in line with COVID guidelines.

Volunteers of Moffat RFC: Organising social events to keep the community engaged and entertained, including a Halloween trail, Santa’s Grotto and Easter Egg Chasers trail.

Murray Cruickshank, Lenzie RFC: Continually volunteers to carry out any necessary repair work, despite having recently retired from coaching.

Thomas Davidson, Cartha Queen’s Park: Central to all the club has done on and off the pitch in the last 12 months, including raising over £3000 for the club and over £10,000 for Movember.

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