Bogey racing with Smileawi Spanners and friends from China

Six students from Sun Yat Sen University School of Stomatology are visiting Glasgow Dental School for a month as part of a long-standing exchange programme this Summer.

On Saturday 1st June they joined myself, my staff colleague Petrina Sweeney and one of our BDS 3 students, Pei Rong Chua, for a visit to Dunoon. The purpose of our trip was to participate in the inaugural Smileawi Spanners bogey run, to raise funds for the work of this offshoot of the dental charity Smileawi. I had agreed to act as a marshal whilst the others would spectate.


Smileawi Spanners has been established by a small group of local motor mechanics who travel to Malawi with the Smileawi volunteers, and whilst the dental teams are treating patients, the engineers set to work repairing ambulances. Recently their activities have been given a boost by the acquisition  of a mobile workshop, sponsored by Arnold Clark, which has now been sent across to Malawi in a container with other Smileawi items.

The new mobile workshop – complete with shower and toilet

Nevertheless, there is a constant call on components, and the team aims to leave tool sets with local motor mechanics to add sustainability to the work, so fund-raising is an important part of their activities.

The trip to Dunoon in a University minibus included a 20 minute crossing with Western Ferries from McInroy’s Point, Gourock to Hunter’s Quay, Dunoon.

Aboard Western Ferries vessel ‘Sound of Scarba’, crossing over to Dunoon

From Hunter’s Quay it was a short drive to Dunoon Stadium, which hosts the famous Cowal Highland Gathering each year. We were welcomed by Nigel Milne, one of the founders of Smileawi, and then made our way to the café for a coffee and (for some of us!) bacon rolls. I was called away for a marshal’s briefing, leaving the Glasgow team in the capable hands of Lester Cheung, a Glasgow BDS graduate from 2013, who now works at The Hollies Dental Surgery with Nigel and Vicky in Dunoon.

I took up a marshalling spot near the start ramp.

Under starter’s orders on the ramp

There were ten teams, each with their individual bogeys, ranging from a very professional looking ‘Ferrari’ to a converted shopping trolley.

Each team had three runs down the hill, with the first set of heats starting just after midday. Each bogey was manhandled onto the ramp and then given a ‘team push’ to set it off on its journey down the hill towards the stadium. The following video gives a flavour of the event.

The students watched the first set of heats and were then taken by Lester to see around The Hollies Dental Practice. Since most dentistry is delivered via hospital facilities in China, this visit was of great interest to them.

Lester and guests outside The Hollies Dental Practice

In addition to the bogey run itself, there were a number of craft stalls, food outlets and a live local band called ‘The Evil Geniuses’, so there was plenty to do and the day was a great success.

Next year’s event is already being planned, with at least one of the marshals suggesting that a ‘hoop of fire’ would provide some additional entertainment for the spectators!

Before we left the stadium, Nigel handed over a very large bag containing hundreds of eco-friendly Bamboo toothbrushes, which had been generously donated by the manufacturer ( I had agreed to take these to Malawi with me the following week and to hand them over for distribution to schoolchildren by Smileawi and the team of students from Glasgow and Dundee dental schools who would be conducting an oral health survey in several primary schools. There will be more about this activity in a future post.

After the bogey runs were completed, we drove down to the waterfront with Lester, parked up and then enjoyed a tasty meal in one of the restaurants in the Argyll Hotel. It was a very pleasant way to end our stay in Dunoon.

All smiles after good fun and good food!

When we arrived back at Hunter’s Quay, a ferry was already docked and waiting. The weather had turned sunny and the sail back to McInroy’s Point was very enjoyable.

Many thanks to Nigel, Vicky and Lester for making us all feel so welcome. It’s interesting to reflect that all three are Glasgow Dental School graduates, as is Petrina, so it was a great meeting of alumni and students in an unusual setting. All in all it was a fantastic day out in aid of a very good cause!

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