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Royal couple William and Kate visit Inverness Kart Raceway

By Alasdair Fraser

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The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, William and Kate, visited Inverness Kart Raceway as part of their first official visit to the Highland capital. Picture: Callum Mackay
The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, William and Kate, visited Inverness Kart Raceway as part of their first official visit to the Highland capital. Picture: Callum Mackay

The Prince of Wales revealed his passion for motorsports and all things mechanical in Inverness – and joked he would have loved the chance to take on wife Kate around Inverness Kart Raceway’s indoor circuit during a visit to the site today.

The Duke of Rothesay talked light-heartedly of his and the Princess of Wales’ fierce “competitive streaks” at the close of an hour and a half visit to the youth mentoring charity DAY1 and said they would have loved to tackle the kart circuit in a race.

Unfortunately, time ran out in their busy schedule after a day in the north of Scotland visiting organisations that offer support to young people.

The royal couple were making their first official visits to the Highland capital.

They arrived in casual clothing after a morning spent cycling in Moray, charmed students, mechanics and charity organisers on the visit.

William wore a green hooded jacket, open-necked shirt, dark trousers and boots, while Kate donned a quilted, green patterned jacket, jeans and brown boots.

The Prince and Princess of Wales also demonstrated a deep interest in the positive impact of the charity’s non-curricular training.

Picture: Callum Mackay..
Picture: Callum Mackay..

The Prince was heard expressing the view that young people could learn “so much more” if school education was broadened beyond academia.

Corrin Henderson, chief executive and one of the founders of Day1, was thrilled by the visit and the impression left on staff and students.

He said: “His passion for cars and all things mechanical shone through.

“But a much bigger part of it was his intense interest in what we have been achieving. As he was leaving there he said organisations like us seemed to be filling critical gaps for young people.

“He felt more could be done to ensure they were learning skills for life away from the confines of the classroom.

“We’re all about giving young people the confidence, wherewithal, the understanding and confidence in their futures that some of them come to us without.

“I was blown away by his passion for the subject and he and the princess have left a huge impression on all of us.”

The royal couple toured workshops where kit cars are manufactured with the prince quipping later that he “would get his order in” for one of his own.

He was clearly enthralled by the achievements of the mentors, mechanics and young people within the premises.

The couple toured the whole of the premises, with the prince at one point exclaiming that it was "a hell of a project – just fantastic."

Both William and Kate loved meeting the venue's resident labradoodle mascot Casper, who had joined primary school children from Merkinch for a ping-pong game 'Beat That'.

William managed to master the game first time by transporting the ball into a plastic cup, but Kate missed four or five times before success – with William teasing her by saying 'We'll be here all day!'

“It is just off the scale for us, to be able to to welcome them here today,” Mr Henderson said.

“To have the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay visit the charity is wonderful.

“We’ve been doing a pretty decent job for years and have been recognised in the past by the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Young people working with Day1 told Prince William what it meant to them. Picture: Callum Mackay
Young people working with Day1 told Prince William what it meant to them. Picture: Callum Mackay

“But for our 20-strong staff team, the personnel who work within Inverness Kart Raceway and DAY1, it is just amazing.

“For our volunteers, of which we have about 30, it is terrific to be part of an organisation earning this kind of recognition.

“In the wider community, it is all about the young people who benefit from our services and others who might now feel inclined to get behind the important work we do, be it as a customer or a donor.

“I just think it is fantastic.

“I’m told it is the first time the royal couple have been to Inverness. For them to choose to visit us is a real endorsement of what we’re striving to achieve.

“I always say to the team, we don’t work in pounds and pence, we work in young people – they are our currency.

“Within the charity, that young person connection motivates everybody.

“Even for our race track marshalls, the job is to be part of a business that supports young people and that’s the credo that runs through the whole organisation.”

From humble beginnings in 2005, DAY1 has forged a reputation for excellence in youth mentoring, with a proven track record in transforming young lives.

Through one-to-one and group relationships, staff and volunteers have helped over 450 vulnerable and disengaged children.

They target those on the cusp of adulthood and help them achieve their potential through better career and educational choices.

The charity has offered SVQ 4 and 5 level qualifications, with particular success in establishing a foundation apprenticeship in automotive skills.

That has taken the total number of young people assisted to close to 1000.

As a mark of this success, some 93 per cent of its young people gain employment or enter further education or training upon graduation.

Around 85 per cent of those graduates remain in employment, education or training five years after mentoring.

A winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, DAY1 was described by The Prince’s Trust, founded in 1976 by King Charles, as “a well-targeted and worthwhile addition to aid the development of youth in the Highlands.”

The service also provides valuable back-up to local secondary schools at no extra cost to Highland Council and is now almost entirely self-funded.

Profits from the race track and income from training provision are fed back into the charity’s programmes and mentoring work.

Originally run remotely from home, from early 2020 DAY1 was able to develop its first purpose-built HQ at Inverness Kart Raceway.

Mentors meet each young person once a week for a year, with the coupling matched on common interests, hobbies and personality.

But the approach has evolved to small group mentoring to cater for young people without the confidence to embrace individual relationships.

Mr Henderson said: “What has really taken off is the automotive training we deliver for 14 to 17 year-olds. By working towards building a kit race car, they learn so many practical and social skills, while potentially working towards leaving with a valuable qualification.

“We have about 100 people at the track weekly, from a bunch of different secondary schools in the area.

“It has gone down an absolute storm with our young people.

“Group mentoring just gives a little more consideration to the confidence of the young person.”

Daniel MacDonald (27) from Inverness was unique in being only the fifth student to be mentored by Day1 – and has now become a mentor himself.

Now an IT worker, he said: “Back when I was 15 and a bit lost in life, I was mentored for a year by the charity’s Derek Shanks who is here today.

“I was in the (Inverness) High School and my guidance teacher pushed me towards it. It got me out of the rut I was in in life, and opened my eyes to what I could achieve. It was somebody to listen and bounce off out with my social and family circles.

“Now I’m a mentor and mentoring a 13-year-old boy since March. It is very fulfilling.

“I was so very nervous meeting the prince and princess, but I found them very polite and genuine – very interested in how mentoring had set my life on a better track.

“Kate was following up William’s enquiries to me with really interesting questions.

“What shone through was their deep interest in education, young people and also, I suspect, the prince’s passion for cars, racing and all things mechanical.

“The first thing he asked was if anybody had come through them mentoring and become a racer themselves – and we do have one lad who did that.”

Dylan Mackay (13), a third year at Inverness Royal Academy, said: “I’ve been here a year and a half and it has been brilliant getting on the track, meeting with like-minded folk and learning new skills.

“It has given me a lot of confidence.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stand and chat to the royal couple and probably wouldn’t have been able to not so long ago, but they were very down-to-earth and they chatted away very easily. It was all very light-hearted.

“They were first class to us, a lovely couple.”

In 2016, the Prince and Princess of Wales and The Duke of Sussex launched the mental health charity Heads Together.

The initiative built on their work to tackle stigma and change the conversation on mental health for everyone.

Earlier today, the royal couple visited two Moray organisations with a successful track record in working with young people to support their mental health.

At Burghead Primary School, they met members of the Outfit Moray team and some of the youngsters who have been helped by the group.

They then visited family-run Brodiehill Farm in Forres where they learned about efforts being made to support local young people with their mental health.

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