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Dumfriesshire Freemasons make generous donation to fire-hit wheelchair athletics club

Bobby Jess, the Provincial Grand Master of Dumfriesshire (left), and Stanley McEwen, the Provincial Grand secretary (right) with Shelby Watson and James Sammon of the Dumfries and Galloway Wheelchair Track Athletics Club.

Dumfriesshire’s big-hearted Freemasons have come to the aid of a wheelchair athletics club which lost all of its specialist equipment when its storage container was set on fire.

More than £20,000 worth of racing and custom-built wheelchairs, spare parts, helmets and gloves were destroyed in the blaze at the David Keswick Centre at the end of May.

The club provides disabled children and young people in the south of Scotland and north England the opportunity to take up athletics and was founded by Johnstonebridge’s 23-year-old Scots No1 champion wheelchair racer Shelby Watson – a nine-times world record holder – and her dad Russ who is head coach and chairman.

On hearing the news, Freemasons in the area clubbed together and contributed £2,750 towards the purchase of replacement equipment. The sum was matched by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Dumfriesshire and within a month £5,500 was presented to the club.

Bobby Jess, the Provincial Grand Master of Dumfriesshire (left), and Stanley McEwen, the Provincial Grand secretary (right) with Shelby Watson and James Sammon of the Dumfries and Galloway Wheelchair Track Athletics Club.

Last week Bobby Jess, the Provincial Grand Master of Dumfriesshire, and Stanley McEwen, the Provincial Grand secretary, met Shelby and James Sammon from the Dumfries and Galloway Wheelchair Track Athletics Club to hand over the cheque.

Bobby said: “There has been a great response locally from individuals and companies who wanted to help the wheelchair athletics club and we’re delighted to play a part.”

After the fire, a heartbroken Shelby said it had left her “broken – my emotions and my belief in humanity”. She said she has been “overwhelmed” by the support – including the bumper donation from the Freemasons.

An online gofundme page set up in the aftermath – https://gofund.me/9d98d713 – has raised £40,560.

A teenager has been charged in relation to the fire and a report will be sent to the youth justice co-ordinator.