What It Means To Be A Volunteer At The Heritage Centre In Saltcoats

The following blog post was written by our volunteer, Frances, who gives her time at our North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats.

I retired from my job in social work, it could be sometimes difficult and emotional working with the public and families in traumatic circumstances, but on occasions it was hugely rewarding when the outcomes were good. I had a fantastic relationship with my colleagues who are also my friends to this day with meet ups frequently.

When I retired I embraced my free time, loving not being restricted to time schedules however this only lasts for so long before boredom kicks in. I watched mundane daytime TV and discovered that by most lunchtimes I was traumatised by the TV programmes depicting scammers, criminals, and basically everybody out to get your cash.

I decided it was time to do something for myself, you can’t go from an emotionally charged daily routine to mundane nothingness.

My life had changed but what did I want to do? what interested me?

I had always been fascinated by History, our ancestors and people who came before us who laid the foundations to our now society. Wherever I had visited in the world I wanted to know the history and stories of the people of that area. My choice of reading book would always be factual, never fictitious. I had a sense of link to the past and have always been fascinated by true stories.  Our history is rich with amazing folk

I was born in Ardrossan and grew up across from the site of the second parish church of Ardrossan at Stanley.  As a child I was fascinated by the Weirs burial place with it’s standing stones and beautiful Elm trees. I have always remained fascinated by this place although it’s a sad site today.

A sketch of Kirkhall Burial Ground From Memory

I contacted the Saltcoats Heritage Museum with a view to volunteering my services as I had an active interest in local History. I had some communication some years ago with Jill McColl and after contacting her I was delighted to know they would be happy with any voluntary work I could do. I volunteer a couple of hours a week and since then have been helping to assist in a number of interesting projects.   

Frances Hard at Work

I relish coming into the museum on my day as it takes me into a past world with objects which were important, or gives an indication of past living which was necessary to their existence at that time.

Since volunteering I have discovered much more about the area we live in and more recently the history of the museum itself. I’ve had the opportunity to ponder over old and more recent photographs of the building and notice the changes that have been made. Also noting the many gravestones which have disappeared.

To carefully hold or view something e.g. a piece of pottery, or Roman glass, or a bead once part of an ornamental bangle which was cherished by the owner and made by an artisan almost 2,000 years ago is quite amazing.

You must view, or if necessary handle the objects with care and gloves, to preserve the objects, some of them are very delicate however Louise and Leanna are very helpful and informative about what’s required.

This time gives me the opportunity to live or relive the past, to see how ordinary people conducted their lives in order to survive.  Some things take me back to my childhood and happy memories come flooding back, or I will remember a wee story I was told by a relative.

Our history is important to where we are today and to help preserve it for our children’s children, for me is a privilege.  As a child I was fascinated with the castle hill and like many generations of children I played on the site, I thought I knew everything there was to know about it and the area, however since volunteering I’ve discovered much more.  This is one of the rewards of volunteering.     

Frances Gilmour