Princess Anne has finally been confirmed as the mystery guest of honour at an “intimate” Bristol award ceremony.
There was speculation of a royal visit after a distinctive helicopter touched down on the field at Lockleaze Sports Centre earlier this month, but those involved were tight-lipped at the time about who was inside.
The maroon-coloured aircraft was spotted on Wednesday, June 2, and witnesses shared blurry images from the distance of a smartly-dressed woman with a bouffant hairstyle.
Gloucestershire Rugby Football Union, which was hosting the Gloucestershire Awards in Adversity there that evening, was initially unable to confirm or deny if it was indeed the Princess Royal.
However, the union (GRFU) has now shared professional photos of Her Royal Highness attending the event and congratulating the award recipients.
A statement shared by the organisation clarified: “HRH The Princess Royal, patron of GRFU, congratulated rugby winners at this year’s Awards in Adversity event.
“Eleven volunteers from eight GRFU member clubs attended the intimate event at Lockleaze Sports Centre, home of Bristol and District Rugby Football Combination, complying to current covid restrictions, to celebrate their achievements and to receive their awards.”
The awards were created to recognise people who have gone above and beyond to support their rugby community during the pandemic.
Among the award winners was Kevin Mulvaney from St Mary’s Old Boys RFC, who said it was “an honour” to meet Her Royal Highness.
Other recipients included Jan Bowen, Nick and Lisa Merrick of the Old Bristolians’ Sports Club.
They arranged for more than 400 school meals to be prepared and cooked at the clubhouse and delivered across Bristol, North Somerset and Somerset to support children during the pandemic.
Official images from the event taken by Steve Lee Photoworks have been shared by the rugby union.
They show Princess Anne looking at ease, smiling and talking to attendees outside with a drink in hand, wearing a floral dress and yellow suit jacket.
Lord-Lieutenant of Bristol, Peaches Golding, can also be seen conversing with the Princess Royal during the event.
Keith Gee, president of GRFU, said: “All the volunteers expressed complete amazement when they were told they had been selected as an award winner.
“Why? Simply because they just get on and do it, without expecting any praise or thanks.
“They have a passion for the game of rugby and are prepared to put themselves out for their club, school, or society if it helps their community.”
Luke Savory, of Chosen Hill Former Pupils RFC in Gloucester, won recognition for raising £16,000 for the NHS in memory of his dad, who died last year after contracting coronavirus.
He said he was “genuinely humbled” to receive the award, adding: “I didn’t do this for recognition.
“It was an activity to keep me from thinking about the fact that my Dad had died.
“This award is for every person at Chosen Hill FP RFC for holding me and my family up and for helping to raise thousands of pounds for such an amazing cause.
“This award is for also my Dad.”
The full list of winners recognised on the night is below, as well as the reasons given by the union explaining why they were chosen:
- Luke Savory and Josh Forrester Rodway, Chosen Hill Former Pupils RFC. Fundraised more than £16k for Cheltenham and Gloucester NHS charity in memory of Bob Savory
- David Reeves, Cirencester RFC. Ensured the club remained in line with all the rules and regulations which constantly evolved, investing endless hours into the club as his work contract was terminated due to the pandemic
- Danny Briggs, Fairford RFC. Highlighted the importance of mental health and wellbeing, inspiring club members to walk more than 63,000km, raising money for a former player’s memorial bench as well as mental health charities
- Declan Dunphy, NBRFC. As safeguarding lead, coordinated the planning and implementation of the various strategies to ensure that the club was covid secure in addition to leading on the club’s commercial activities, ensuring it remains financially secure
- Jan Bowen, Nick and Lisa Merrick, Old Bristolians Sports Club. Helped to arrange for more than 400 school meals to be prepared and cooked at the clubhouse and delivered across Bristol, North Somerset, and Somerset
- Charlie Balfour, Old Elizabethans RFC. Coming up with creative ways to keep all players and non-players actively engaged with the club as well as linking in with local schools, their teachers, and pupils
- Kevin Mulvaney, St Mary’s Old Boys RFC. Navigated the club through the coronavirus crisis successfully to emerge stronger, more resilient, and sustainable than before with the means to bring in new members from the local deprived communities and expand the use of club facilities to other activities to engage more closely with other charities and organisations.
- Tim Marshfield, Stroud Rugby. Based himself at the club whilst working from home, which proved invaluable in organising essential maintenance to the club, preparing for the return to rugby and ensuring a welcoming environment to all