At 68, Jim Knowles pooh-poohs any notion of retirement. ‘Retirement, what’s that?’ says the former head of economic development at Aberdeenshire Council as we meet for coffee at Dizzy’s in Aberdeen.
Within minutes of starting our chat, I am dizzy at the range of roles he packs into an average day, including mentoring fledgling companies in far-flung corners of the North and North-east of Scotland.
However, top priority for him at present is chairing the fundraising committee which is trying to raise a public contribution of £700,000 towards the £8million cost of the planned Banchory Sports Village. Said Jim, ‘We are more than halfway to our target which we have to reach by September of next year. This will provide a superb facility for all age groups.’
The crusade was given a massive boost by former Banchory resident Stewart Spence, better known as the Marcliffe Hotel and Spa supremo. A dinner he sponsored at the venue raised £80,000. ‘Fantastic’, said Jim.
So what to expect at the sports village? Well, it will include a six-lane swimming pool and learner pool, a four-court sports hall, exercise room, squash courts, fitness suite and café. Aberdeen FC regulars Andrew Considine and Peter Pawlett are among the project’s patrons.
‘I always said that when I retired from the council after more than 40 years, I wanted to put something back into the community,’ said Jim as he reflected on a rich and varied career, notably in the launch and ongoing success of the annual Taste of Grampian event at Thainstone and the Grampian Food Forum.
That interest in the food sector continues for him as an adviser on food processing and marketing with the Scottish Government but Jim has also spread his net widely as a director of the Langstane Housing Association, a local executive board member of Northsound
Cash for Kids, supporting the Prince’s Trust young business section, vice-chairman of Aberdeen FC Community Trust, chairman of the RunBalmoral event and a judge for Trend’s Life With Style Awards.
Oh, and there’s the mentoring as well. Jim advises a gin distillery in Caithness, producing Rock Rose gin and the Speyside Craft Brewery. He recently won a UK award at a ceremony in London for his mentoring of the gin company.
He could be forgiven for having a healthy opinion of himself but soon brings himself down to earth with a bang when he recalls his first job with Stonehaven Town Council. ‘Yes, my first job on a Monday morning was to count the money collected from the public toilets,’ he said.
Want to help Banchory with their fundraising? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07899 792297. James is his Sunday name!