On Saturday, 2 March 2013, the Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Trophy was presented for the 6th time to the Robert Burns International Foundation’s Sponsor of the Year on the hallowed turf at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. This year, RBIF Honorary President Sir Alex Ferguson presented the trophy to Stewart Miller, a proud Scot with strong footballing traditions, and who unknowingly was the initial driving force behind the trophy itself (see interview below).

The match on 2 March was against Norwich City and was played, as usual, in front of a full house of 75,000 people. The RBIF is traditionally good mascot for the Red Devils as never has the delegation from the Foundation seen the home lose. This year was no different as a hat trick from Shinji Kagawa along with a 25-yard screamer from Wayne Rooney made sure the lucky streak continued.

Robert Burns International Foundation-Charity for Sick and Underprivileged Children

Stewart, the Puskás Ferenc – Sir Alex Ferguson trophy started out as a small gift from you to Mrs Puskás after Ferenc died. What was the original thought behind the gift?

My father and grandfather were both at Hampden in 1960 to watch the Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt European Cup Final. Now regarded as one of the best football matches ever, Real Madrid won 7-3 and Puskas scored 4 goals. I grew up in a football family and the mens’ discussions were always about football. Ferenc Puskas was spoken about almost daily in our household. So much so that when I was a child I thought he was a relative! I assumed he was my uncle. Therefore at a very young age an emotional attachment formed between myself and the Little General. The trophy was a small token from myself and the football fans of Scotland, to let Mrs Puskas know he was very much loved in Scotland. Part of his appeal was the fact that he was not built like some Olympian Athlete. But he could certainly play football!!!

Now your name is on the trophy alongside all the previous winners, can you sum up what the day at Old Trafford meant for you?

The Old Trafford day was one of the best experiences of my life. I am very honoured to be named on this trophy, along with organisations like Diageo, Vodafone and Tesco. I thoroughly enjoyed the company I was in too. I think Hungarians and Scottish people are very similar. We share a great sense of humour. Meeting Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest football manager of all time, was also amazing. The icing on the cake was during the stadium and museum tour when I found out that my great uncle, Thomas Miller, played for Manchester United in the 1920’s. 

How important do you find the work of the RBIF in Hungary and the current intensive-care unit appeal?

Firstly it’s amazing that we have the Robert Burns International Foundation based in Hungary. Robert Burns and his works really do have global appeal. I think the work the RBIF is doing is very important and it is also a very worthwhile cause, assisting children. I think helping children in any way we can is very important, because they are our future. It is vital for children to know that there are people and organisations out with their families, who care about their health and wellbeing. Robert Burns would have been very, very proud of the work and achievements of the RBIF.

Most of the fundraising over the years so far has been Hungary-based, do you think there is scope for strengthening links between Scotland and Hungary in this area?

There is definite scope for strengthening links between Scotland and Hungary in this area. For example, recently a friend of mine was over in Budapest to launch one of his whisky books. This friend speaks at Burns Suppers all over the world. When I told him about the RBIF he was very interested, because he did not know of its existence. When he found out more he got very excited and he has asked his partners in Budapest to follow this up. This is just one small example of the potential. I now see myself as an unofficial ‘ambassador’ for the RBIF. I will try to identify some of the Scottish (and UK) companies that view Hungary as a key export market. This I think will be a sensible start for me to try to identify further potential sponsors.

The bandsmen who have for years added an authentic Scottish soundtrack to the annual Budapest Burns Supper are to walk the 96 miles (154 km) of the West Highland Way in a bid to raise funds for this year’s Robert Burns International Foundation charity project: a HUF 29 million (EUR 105,000) appeal to reconstruct a five-bed intensive care unit at the II Department of Paediatrics, Semmelweis University, Budapest.
west-highlandThe nine-strong group plan to leave Milngavie, the traditional starting post for the long distance route close to Glasgow, at approx 9 am on Friday, 29 March and will hopefully arrive in Fort William on Tuesday, 2 April. Along the way they will have taken in some of the most beautiful of Scotland’s scenery, from lowland moors, dense woodland and rolling hills, to high mountainous regions in the Scottish Highlands.

These environments provide habitats for a diverse range of wildlife species, both flora and fauna, and for five days and four nights will also be home to pipers Rab Tait and Grant Munro, and drummers John Benson, Steven Brown, Miles McIntyre, Michael Rutherford, and Barry and Colin Wilson. Kirtstie Tait, Rab’s youngest daughter, will also accompany the men.

“We have decided to wild camp,” explains Rab, “which basically means we will only have the provisions, clothes and sleeping equipment we can carry. We have never done anything like this before, and as pipers and drummers are not known for our fitness levels!”

IMG_2026The bandsmen have supported the RBIF for 10 years, performing at its Burns Night events and often attending at their own expense, as well as playing at St Andrew’s Night suppers and visiting orphanages, schools and hospitals in Budapest. Now they are hoping to raise much needed money for what Rab calls “a truly worthwhile cause”. You can sponsor the bandsmen (and one daughter) direct, via PayPal, or with a bank transfer to the RBIF account.

The II Department of Paediatrics is putting an additional HUF 11 million (EUR 40,000) of its own limited funds into the project, which will see the ICU completely reconfigured and renovated with new wiring, cables, alarms, breathing apparatus and a spare generator in the event of power failure. Two of the beds will be in protective isolation areas, but all five will be independent of each other, with their own monitoring and resuscitation equipment and a dedicated nurse. In addition to serving the hospital itself, the ICU will be the weekend emergency unit for Budapest.

For more information on the Robert Burns International Foundation, the appeal and the West Highland way, follow the links below.

Where it all started

Welcome to the West Highland Way

Prepared for the Robert Burns International Foundation by Robin Marshall MBE of Devil’s Advocate Communications as a pro bono service.