Roddy Scott was one of a rare breed of journalist adventurers – able to take physical hardship, utterly dedicated to finding stories about real people, and working throughout as a genuine freelance – the kind of person the Frontline club was set up to support.
His picture is one of eight in the frame next to the bar, a permanent memorial to Frontline TV journalists who died. In the six years since Roddy’s death, the idea of setting up an active memorial to his work has been growing, and the Roddy Scott Foundation will be formally launched at the club on 26th September, the anniversary of his death.
The fund is aimed at helping Chechen refugees living in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia. Already Roddy’s parents, Rob and Stina, have helped one student from there through journalism school, with money raised in annual Easter Egg hunts on their Yorkshire farm, and after making several trips to the region, they have ambitious plans to do far more – encouraging business and tourism, and funding a school for Chechens from this small part of Georgia, a neglected minority in a poor country.
The reason for the tight local focus of this charity is the high regard that the Chechens had for Roddy. He was clearly much loved and had been considered as one of their own, spending time with wounded fighters in hospitals and safe houses, and playing football with children. An old shepherd told Roddy’s parents that he had been tougher than some of those born in the mountains. That’s why the guerrillas were willing to take him with them on their attempt to make their way back to fight the Russians in Chechnya, turning away more than 20 other journalists who also wanted to join them. The journey turned out to be Roddy’s last when the column was ambushed by Russian forces.
Another Frontline club member, Vlad Lozinski, now living in Georgia with his diplomat wife Fabienne, has been a vital local link, advising in the early stages of the Roddy Scott Foundation, and it is clear that a small amount of money will go a long way. One of the first simple aims is to buy more balalaikas for the village. When Rob and Stina were serenaded by their guide, while staying in a leaky shepherd’s hut during a recent trip, they discovered that his balalaika was the only one in the valley.
And they saw the potential for tourism, writing ‘We saw sheep flocks being mustered to move further into the mountains for summer grazing; we had a brief view of the splendid scenery before rain closed in again and learned that we were on the route that Roddy’s group had taken; we were entertained by a Georgian shepherd in his hut(dry!), with home-produced vodka, many toasts and speeches, and a lamb stewed with herbs in a huge cauldron over an open fire. While the lamb cooked we sat round the smoky fire, and watched the shepherd make cheese from the morning’s milking.’
We are launching the Roddy Scott Foundation at Frontline on 26th September. Do come and join us for a drink.