A Scottish church received an unexpected five-figure boost to its restoration fund courtesy of the Sultan of Oman.
HM Sultan Qaboos gifted £25,000 to St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Hamilton to enable it to restore flags which were used in battle by the 2nd Battalion of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) during the Zulu campaign in South Africa in 1879.
Rev Ian Barcroft had earlier written to the ruler of Oman, who served as a young soldier in The Cameronians after graduating from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, to ask for his help.
After researching how to address HM, he sent a letter to the Oman Embassy in London. The Embassy then called to verify the letter and a cheque arrived in the post the very next day.
Rev Barcroft said: "I knew there was a link to The Cameronians in the Sultan's personal story so I decided to write to him - albeit more in hope than expectation. Everyone involved with the church was totally overwhelmed by his generous donation. The local community have been taken aback. We really are incredibly grateful.
"I know that the Sultan enjoyed a good experience in Scotland in his younger days and, even after all these years, he's still very well thought of in these parts. He must have made quite an impression."
The restoration of the flags was just one part of the £900,000 St Mary’s refurbishment project, which has been underway for five years.
The work included restoring stained glass windows from 1847 and the creation of a new cafe, gathering space and meeting room.
The new-look church was finally unveiled to the community on Saturday, November 28.
It was officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Lanarkshire Mushtaq Ahmad, in the company of the Rt Reverend Dr Gregor Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway.
An invitation to attend was extended to HM Sultan Qaboos.
The Cameronians was a famous Lanarkshire regiment whose origins can be traced back to the 17th century.
It was an amalgamation of the 26th Cameronian Regiment and the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry, which were brought together in the Army reforms of 1881 to form The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).
The 90th Regiment of Perthshire Infantry Colours and the Perthshire Volunteers Regimental Colours have been with St Mary’s since 1885 and are now proudly displayed in the church thanks to the Sultan’s remarkable donation.