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Volunteer at the Trust
Robert Dey - Chairperson, Tayside Conservation Volunteers
Robert Dey
Robert Dey, an Engineer, has been volunteering with the Tayside Conservation Volunteers for almost 20 years. During that time he has clocked up an estimated 6,000 hours. In 1999 he was elected as Chairperson for the Group and is currently still in this post and doing a fantastic job!
Over the years Robert has been involved with many significant conservation projects. When the Trust first took on The Moirlanich Longhouse property, Robert helped with clearing the overgrown garden, landscaping, planting, footpath construction and fencing. He also carried out a large part of the joinery work at the visitors centre. At Dollar Glen, Robert supervised volunteers who were constructing the foundations for a new bridge. The difficult access to the site caused significant logistical problems and Robert constructed a temporary pulley system to transport concrete across the burn. One of our former Rangers, who worked closely with Robert, spoke very highly of him and said “he is often able to advise NTS Rangers on certain issues due to his engineering background and extensive knowledge of conservation and the Trust”.
Conservation Volunteers' Co-ordinator for the National Trust for Scotland, Julie Bond said: “Robert’s level of commitment to the Group is second to none. He rarely misses a weekend project and bearing in mind the Group go out every other weekend throughout the year, this is exceptional. Robert regularly leads projects, which is no easy task, and is also a designated minibus driver. He is utterly reliable and is passionate about conservation and the Trust”.
"I've made some great friends whilst volunteering for the Trust" said Robert. "I've visited, worked on and helped to improve some of Scotland's finest countryside and historic sites. Hopefully, in a small way, I've made a difference. It's been lots of fun and I'm looking forward to the next 20 years"!
Patricia Gonzalez - Volunteer Co-Ordinator
Patricia Gonzalez
Patricia Gonzalez started out volunteering in the offices at Wemyss House, before eventually becoming a volunteer co-ordinator.
Patricia, a Sociology and Anthropology Lecturer originally from the Philippines, began volunteering in April as an administrative assistant helping manage events and organise databases. Volunteering for the Trust has even inspired Patricia to initiate an internship programme in her own university in the Philippines. She wants to help students reach their potential by encouraging them to learn about the different things they can do when they graduate.
Bob & Christy Carton - Thistle Camp Volunteers
Bob & Christy Carton
The National Trust for Scotland appeals to people of all ages all over the UK, engaging them with the landscape and history of this incredible country. Perhaps less well known is that this same appeal extends over the Atlantic Ocean to people like Bob and Christy Carton, from upper-state New York, who attend Thistle Camps each year, giving something back to a country they love.Initially, it was an opportunity for them both to get back to their roots, as Christy’s mum comes from Scotland and Bob has Irish heritage.
So in 2003 the pair participated in the popular Fair Isle Thistle Camp. The couple believe that their Thistle Camp experiences have been so incredible because of the leaders involved who really care about the country, and the local people who come out to support the cause.
Bob and Christy have vivid memories from their Scottish adventures and hope to add more in the future.
The thought of Thistle Camps are never far away from this intrepid pair, as the winter months are spent scrapbooking the previous year’s camp, and planning the next. Committed and dedicated are words frequently attributed to National Trust for Scotland volunteers, whether from Scotland or beyond, and these terms certainly extend to people like Bob and Christy, who travel from far away to come ’home’.
Pamela McIlroy - Guide, Falkland Palace
Pamela McIlroy
Pamela McIllroy, who recently won the property category at the Trust’s first ever Volunteer of the Year awards, has been volunteering at Falkland Palace since 1990, clocking up 19 years of dedicated service. In that time she has taken part in a huge variety of different roles and projects within the building, which demonstrate her commitment to the beautiful and historic property.Since her retirement from a life in library and educational services Pamela has undertaken guided tours of the Palace, which include both those for the general public and for groups with a specialist interest in the property, including some from the Historic Scotland and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has dressed up in costume and performed in character for many of the Palace’s special events, given talks on the property to various local bodies and shared her knowledge through mentoring new staff and volunteers. Perhaps most impressively, she also contributed to both the Falkland Palace Blue Guide, a reference source for staff, and 2004’s A History of the Falkland Estate, for which she was made a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
On her 19 years of service, Pamela said: “I have always seen volunteering as a two-way thing, and it’s allowed me to have a very fulfilling retirement. In many ways it’s been an extension to my working days, and has allowed for great personal fulfillment and benefit.”
Emma Clarke - Estate Management Volunteer
Emma Clarke
Volunteering often appeals to graduates looking to widen their horizons. Opportunities in the Trust for such people are extremely varied, with chances to gain valuable work experience in a large number of fields.Not all of these are necessarily related directly to conservation - Emma Clarke, for example, first came to the Trust hoping to acquire skills to help her in a future career in law. She found the experience so beneficial that she came back to work in a second voluntary role, after gaining office skills in Wemyss House last summer.
Emma, who is currently doing a Masters in Law, helps the Trust look over documents which enables her to extend her knowledge of property law. Her involvement shows that the organisation can offer young people the chance to aid their career with useful work experience, whilst also highlighting the variety of different volunteering roles that can be offered within it.
Joan McKichan - Members' Centre Chairperson
Joan McKichan
Joan McKichan has been involved with the Trust since 1977, after being encouraged to join by her husband, Finlay, also a dedicated volunteer.Based in Aberdeen, Joan has had a long association with properties such as Castle Fraser and Drum Castle, with her current role seeing her arrange and co-ordinate volunteers for the estates and the many events that they hold.
Over the years, Joan has held a variety of positions in the Trust, including leading roles in the running of the Aberdeen Christmas Shop. Her most fondly remembered task, however, was working in the rose gardens at Drum Castle. ‘I loved helping out there,’ she recalls. ‘It was just so beautiful and peaceful.’
It's no surprise this is Joan's favourite memory with the Trust, considering the passion she has for her own garden.
‘It's my number one priority,’ she says. ‘Gardening's my way to relax.’
And Joan has certainly earned that relaxation time. With the difficulty of arranging volunteers in North-East Scotland, Joan has had to put more effort than most to make sure the National Trust for Scotland’s properties get the people they need, always making sure there's a cup of tea and thank you for their efforts.
Caroline Vevers - Volunteer Bookbinder
Caroline Vevers
Caroline Vevers has been a bookbinder most of her life. She joined the Trust as an employee in the mid-1980s and upon retiring decided to stay on three days a week as a volunteer to continue her work. This is largely made up of repairing books from properties and creating the guest books for the Trust’s holiday accommodation. When restoring a book, each page has to be meticulously examined in order to look for tears or damage to the paper, which are then patched up with binder’s repair tape and re-covered if necessary.
Her work is not always confined to the Trust’s studio. In the past, Caroline has participated in various exhibitions demonstrating her work. The highlight of her years with the Trust so far has been receiving the George Waterston Memorial Trophy in 1992 for her contribution to volunteering.
Caroline has given a lot to the Trust over the years and has allowed many important books to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Colin Cutler - Garden Volunteer
Colin Cutler
Colin Culter, who recently won the gardens category in the Trust’s first ever Volunteer of the Year awards, is an essential part of life at Branklyn Garden. For more than six years he has helped to keep the property in full bloom with his continual help and support.Along with his regular work tending his patch of the garden, Colin undertakes additional duties at Branklyn. He has created numerous garden information maps for visitors, which change with the month and season to enhance the visitor experience. Additionally, his work on the garden’s plant database both helps with the running of the garden and should prove to help its conservation and management in the future.
Perhaps the most valuable service Colin provides, however, is the support he gives to the staff and other volunteers at Branklyn. His advice and counsel is invaluable to property manager Steve McNamara, and he is more than willing to head to the garden when he is needed.
Of his work at Branklyn Colin said: “It is delightful to work at Branklyn with Steve McNamara together with all the other volunteers who make a real difference at the garden.”
Ken Picken - Volunteer Wetland Conservation Officer
Ken Picken
Our volunteers come in all shapes and sizes - and from many different sources. One of our recent additions joined us through The Vodafone Foundation’s ‘World of Difference’ programme. Ken Picken was picked from over 1,100 applicants to win a two month placement as a volunteer Wetland Conservation Officer at the Trust’s Threave Estate near Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway.The Volunteer team caught up with Ken before he left to find out how he got on.
‘Before I started the placement, I was looking forward to doing a mix of things, learning something new about bats, applying some of my experience and being able to work outside in Scotland in the sunshine - and I managed to do all of that. But I did much more! I learned so much about bats I can’t tell you everything here - the most important thing is that they eat midges. And in my last week I built a dry stane dyke in the hot sun and got a lovely tan - or perhaps it was just dirt!
I spend a fair amount of time at the osprey-viewing platform, helping visitors to see the ospreys’ nest and chicks through the telescope and telling them about these amazing birds. One of my best memories is seeing the sun set and the wonderful way it lit the landscape and clouds in a really interesting way - very calming.’
Would Ken recommend others to apply to the Vodafone ‘World of Difference’ programme?
‘Yes, Yes, and Yes! Get in touch with someone in your chosen charity and ask for help with your application. Have a plan, do your homework and really get to grips with what Vodafone are looking for. This will help as competition will probably be harder this year.’
And what advice would Ken give to others thinking of volunteering for the Trust?
‘Do a Thistle Camp, join a conservation volunteer group or similar building work and give it a try. If you want to volunteer more, then have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it - be it experience, training or a particular line of work. Then agree a plan with the people you’re going to be working with at the Trust to be properly supported.’
Ken’s been very impressed with the projects the National Trust is working on - and delighted to have had the good fortune to be involved in some of them. More importantly, he’s been impressed by the time and dedication that our staff and volunteers put in and would like to congratulate everyone. He’s now off doing some hill-walking in the Highlands, reflecting on his time spent here. Fingers crossed the good weather continues, Ken.
Julie Vuillaume - Volunteer Administrator
Julie Vuillaume
Volunteer Administrator, Julie Vuillaume, a newly qualified graduate from Nancy in France, joined the Trust in Edinburgh to undertake a placement as part of her course in Foreign Languages with Business and enjoyed herself so much, she’s now spent three seasons with us!
Julie has loved the variety of tasks she’s undertaken in her time here. From updating databases to guiding visitors round the Georgian House, she particularly likes being able to put her skills to work. This includes translating both information in the Georgian House and a welcome pack for overseas volunteers. She’s even found time to help out HR by updating charts and managing records.
Julie tells us what attracted her to the Trust in the first place:
‘I’ve always been interested in Scottish History - particularly the Jacobite Rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie. I wanted to do something in the cultural field so I contacted the National Trust for Scotland and the rest is history! This is exactly what I want to do in the future. I respect the Trust’s values and purpose - it’s inspiring!
When I arrived from France I just fell in love with Edinburgh - I really want to work here as I feel at home.’
Julie returned to France in June but is already planning her return visit - so it’s an au revoir to Julie, not an adieu!
Andrew Elston - Room Guide at Falkland Palace
Andrew Elston
Andrew has been a volunteer room guide at Falkland Palace for almost three years. As a guide, it is Andrew’s job to inform the visitors of the general history of the palace, the fascinating collection it holds and the Palace’s place in the broader history of Scotland. Talking about his guiding, Andrew says it’s his job to enhance the visitor’s enjoyment of the property, and given the feedback from visitors and staff, there is no doubt that he succeeds.Keeping up to date with all the interesting facts about Falkland means that room guides are always ‘on their toes’. Having read the staff blue book, the grail of information on each room in the palace, Andrew acknowledges that there is still a large element of learning on the job. Fellow guides are a useful source of information and he and other volunteers often exchange interesting anecdotes on the Palace’s history. The visitors can also be another source of information and interaction with them encourages Andrew to explore and learn everything possible about the Palace. If ever asked a question he isn’t sure about, he will go and hunt out the facts as he is just as keen as the visitor to find the answer!
The opportunity to be a guide at the Palace appealed to Andrew for many different reasons. It was close to his home, allowed him to develop new skills and provided the chance to chat with lots of people, so he wanted to give it a go! Over the years his enthusiasm for the work at Falkland and across the Trust has only grown. He sees the volunteer’s involvement in the Trust as essential for keeping living history open and alive. Volunteers come to the Trust with a desire to tell others about the history of a property, and they encourage the public to get more involved. In particular, Andrew likes to see his involvement in the Trust encourage people of all ages to become enthusiastic about Scottish heritage.
Andrew’s favourite room at Falkland is the drawing room, as it holds so many wonderful portraits in which you can see so much of the Stuart history. The portraits can however be interpreted in some interesting ways by the visitors, from depictions of Captain Hook to Jimmy Page!
Andrew says that coming to the Trust has been a true blessing; it has been an opportunity to be able to do something he enjoys and having people thank him for doing it. He loves being involved in keeping Scottish heritage alive and vibrant for current and future generations.
Karen Wood - Thistle Camp Volunteer
Karen Wood
In Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kanantzakis, there is a story about how all men are grubs on a leaf.
Most of us go to the edge of the leaf, look at the world, and scurry back to the center. Others go the edge of the leaf, look out and “feel the sap rising from the root of our leaf and our hearts swell. Bent thus over the awe-inspiring abyss, with all our bodies and all our souls, we tremble with terror. From that moment begins…” Here, brave grubs jump into the void and embrace life.
I was the grub that scurried back to safety, until I discovered Thistle Camp. It began an adventure that forever changed my life. I went to the edge of the leaf and jumped into a new world of understanding.
In 2010, I applied and got into the October Dumfries and Galloway camp. There was an urge to scurry back to the leaf’s center, but I tamped down the feeling. Nine months later, I was the only American and the youngest person at camp. There was much to prove and more to discover.
As a “foreign student” there was much to learn from my co-workers. They explained that a flask is a thermos (my husband sent the whisky kind), that overalls are coveralls and that pudding is dessert. They explained Scottish sports, politics and plants, puns and language. They explained the war on badgers and efforts to save bats. I was amused that each day’s work preparation included bins of hot tea and biscuits that were hauled to the work site. We would have drunk bottled water at home.
The group as a whole was homogenous with regard to religion, politics, conservation views and work ethic. Oddly, we agreed on virtually everything. We belonged to the same sort of conservation groups and had the same core of values. While fellow workers were from different parts of the United Kingdom, the NTS lottery had brought real kindred spirits to work together on projects for a week.
The NTS staff was a wealth of knowledge. We raked meadows, repaired footpaths, trimmed bushes on trails, and worked with an archeologist. Each day brought a short talk about nature, perhaps on wetlands, birds, bats, archeological finds and the like. It was heart-warming when members of the public would stop us, sometimes in town or restaurants, to thank us for making their morning run on trails easier or their walks safer.
In 2011, I was accepted to the Hill of Tarvit camp. Once again, it was an extraordinary week. We worked in the greenhouse, planted snowdrops for National Snowdrop Week, trimmed bushes on trails, pruned apple trees and brambles, and planted trees on a golf course. There were days when the weather was so glorious, I did not know how I would force myself to go home.
I found when I came home, my world view had altered, changed and matured, for the better. I found myself while on local work parties echoing safety rules that I had learned in Dumfries. I caught myself discussing the differences between Scottish and American birds. I reflected on dinner discussions from Hill of Tarvit involving human prejudice toward others and the evolution of language.
My two work camps involved Scottish, Irish, English, and Dutch co-workers. While we worked on common projects, involving conservation and preservation we were also working on ourselves, and a new worldview. I think that all of us at Thistle Camp looked over the edge of the leaf and jumped into a new understanding of self, others, history, culture, nature and life.
A plane ticket is a small price to pay for the leap off the leaf.