The ‘Golden girls’ – and men – awarded at Cumbernauld ceremony

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 19:14 on 19 May 2015

Discovery Awards    North Lanarkshire Council

The Discovery Association Awards came to Cumbernauld last Saturday. All pictures in this article: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media.

CUMBERNAULD New Town Hall is available for all sorts of bookings, from Gala Days to weddings; birthday parties to other social functions. Last Saturday, however, the town’s main hall was booked out for the 2015 Annual General Meeting of Discovery Award Association, Scotland. 

Spanning the globe, with member groups not only in England and Wales but in sunshine soaked Australia and in the Republic of Malta also, the Scottish-arm of the Discovery Association Awards is made up of some 500 members aged over 50-year-of-age – all of whom share the same goal: helping the community and socialising in their golden years.

On Saturday 16th May 2015, the national organisation held their 2015 Annual General Meeting in Cumbernauld, with the organisational support of North Lanarkshire Council’s Community Learning and Development Team, who have helped many of the area’s Discovery groups get going.

Some 108 members from all over Scotland made it along to the group’s AGM, to hear the stories of other groups and to cheer on fellow members as they picked up their ‘Gold’ awards and special pin-badges.

According to the rules set out by Discovery Awards, members earn a ‘Gold’ standard award if they undertake 100 to 120 hours of work within the community, over 52 weeks; undertake a recreational pursuit for between 50 and 60 hours, over 26 weeks; take up a hobby or interest and undertake related activities for between 150 and 180 hours over 78 weeks. 

A ‘Journey of Discovery’, whereby members undertake a physical challenge or embark on personal research that explores or expands upon their own individual knowledge or interests is also needed to achieve ‘Gold’.

Members aiming for a ‘Gold’ standard award first have to rack-up enough time to win ‘Bronze’, followed by a ‘Silver’ level award - both of which require less time in the ‘Service in the Community’ criteria, set out in the ‘Gold’ level award criteria - before building up to a 'Gold' award.

Scotland’s Makar, Liz Lochhead (right) was on hand to present this year’s volunteers with their awards. 

Speaking to a packed hall where the assembled members had just been treated to a two-course lunch, after returning from excursions to various locations, including The Kelpies and the Enchanted Forest, and visiting the plethora of stalls that were on hand throughout the morning, the Scots National Poet told members it was a “great pleasure” to be presenting the winners with their awards.

A “huge honour”.

Ms Lochhead said: “I feel hugely privileged to be here today, and I feel very lucky to be presenting people with their awards – it’s a huge honour.

“Firstly, I must thank Marion for picking me up at Croy railway station, this morning, as otherwise I would not have known where I was going. If there’s one thing I’ll say about new towns it’s that they are confusing.

“I must say, when I first invited along to today’s meeting, I didn’t know much about the Discovery Awards, but now I can describe it as the Duke of Edinburgh awards for people of a certain age; and, given what’s been happening today, I can say that I might be signing up next year, once I retire as Scotland’s National Poet.”

Ms Lochhead went on to describe a bit about her past, describing a trip to Perth for a conference where she was to help entertain the elderly attendees.

“I was on the train heading up to Perth,” Ms Lochhead explained. “I was thinking to myself, ‘What am I going to do with these old people, to keep them entertained?’ when suddenly it hit me: I’m one of them,” she announced to a hysterical audience. 

She added: “I guess what I’m trying to say is that we, as older people, need and want one thing in particular: access. Most crucially, we need help with transport, particularly for those with limited mobility – concessionary travel, for instance, is a great thing. Only the morning was I waxing lyrical about just how far I could travel with my travel pass.”

Ms Lochhead, writer of poems such as ‘Poets need not’, ‘My Rival's House’, ‘A Glasgow nonsense rhyme for Molly’, ‘View of Scotland/Love Poem’ and ‘Scotland to Queensland, Glasgow to Gold Coast’ went on to appeal for people to show their creative side more often.

“Great experience” of socialisation. 

“It’s about fifty years since I left the Glasgow School of Art,” the 67-year-old poet explained. “I was seventeen-years-old back then, and although I still feel seventeen every now and then (as most of you in the audience will no doubt feel like), I’m glad I’m not always treated like a 17-year-old nowadays.

“Anyway, back when I was really 17-years-old I enjoyed life drawing, and recently I’ve taken it up again, because there’s nothing more special than it, because it makes you really appreciate the human body, and all of the different shapes and sizes that there are. 

“The best part of the whole experience comes in the café and chats afterwards, though, many of you folk will no doubt already know,” Ms Lochhead told the audience. 

“The café chat afterwards provides time for catch ups and for socialisation; I’ve found it to be a great experience, and I pledge here today that I will try to socialise more, and be more like you all in the future,” she added.

After making his initial remarks, Ms Lochhead invited Anne Russell (inset) from the Optimist Group of Garrell Vale, in Kilsyth to read her poem on Discovery Scotland, written in January 2010 – a poem that “helped me to understand Discovery Scotland a bit more,” Ms Lochhead claimed. 

Anne Russell reads her own poem. All pictures in this article: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media.

After a reading, Ms Lochhead proceeded with her opening marks, doing a few readings of her work before handing out awards to the volunteers who had come from all over Scotland.

The ‘Golden’ winners.

Seven of the members in attendance at the group’s Annual General Meeting were rewarded with a ‘Gold’ award. 

Presentation of awards. All pictures in this article: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media.

Member Sheena Wilson (pictured) won ‘Gold’ because her service of the community was to serve on the committee of the ‘Women of Wisdom’ group. Her hobby and interest was painting, while her recreational pursuit was walking. Filling the final criteria for a ‘Gold’ award, Sheena’s ‘Journey of Discovery’ was to buy sheep at market, take them from their mothers, fatten them up at a farm and then sell them onto butchers – an award first for the Discovery Association Award in Scotland.

Iain Johnston, from the Chapelside group (pictured with Liz Lochhead, right), worked with the ‘Voice of Experience’ group, where he taught art. He also took on administrative work for the ‘Men with Dens’ organisation, to meet the ‘Service in the Community’ category. Iain’s hobby was cartooning, while he undertook physical exercise for his recreational pursuit. For his ‘Journey of Discovery’, Mr Johnston studied genealogy. 

The Ever Hopefuls group had two winners present at the ceremony to pick up their awards. 

Member Deanna Arthur (pictured) took up gardening and working on her own allotment as her hobby, with research into the ‘Glasgow Boys’ being her ‘Journey of Discovery’, and her recreational pursuit being aerobics and circuit training. For her Service in the Community, Ms Arthur became a member of the ‘Voice of Experience’ and ‘Befriending’ groups; undertaking visits to isolated elderly people twice a week as a result of her volunteering. 

Elsie McCallum (right) was the second member of the Ever Hopefuls group to pick up a ‘Gold’ award. For her recreational pursuit, Ms McCallum took up yoga, gardening and walking the dog, while for her hobby and interest Ms McCallum took up hand crafts, including patch work and decoupage. Ms McCallum’s service in the community was volunteering in the Nearly New Shop and in the Wellwynd Parish Church. For her Journey of Discovery, Elsie studied the ‘Glasgow Girls’, and women in art, between 1880 and 1920.

The fifth winner of a ‘Gold’ Discovery Award was Ann Irvine (inset), from the Pilgrims Discovery Group. Ms Irvine, for her ‘Journey of Discovery’ visited Buckingham Palace Mews, Waddesdon Manor, Brighton, Hughenden and Bletchley Park. Ann took up ‘yogalates’ for her recreational pursuit, and cross stitched a picture of a Victorian carousel and street scene for her hobby or interest category. Her service in the community was assisting in the production of the 2014 Discovery Calendar, which was distributed among all North Lanarkshire groups. 

Discovery Association Award member Marion McBride was the sixth person to pick up their award at the group’s AGM.  Her ‘Journey of Discovery’ was to work as a volunteer at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, while Ms McBride took up walking and photographing areas of Scotland as her recreational pursuit. For her hobby or interest, Ms McBride learned about the famous women of history that she had little to none knowledge of previously. She volunteered her time to spend time chatting with elderly people about their lives, as her ‘Service in the Community’.

Golden Girls member, David Henderson, was the last to pick up his ‘Gold’ award. 

For his service in the community, David volunteered as a member of a self-help addiction group. For his hobby or interest, Mr Henderson took up art, genealogy, sign language and picture frame making. His recreational pursuit was to go walks, visit the gym, and use gym equipment, including a treadmill, rowing machine, spin bike, ab-machine, as well as arm and leg machines too. His journey of discovery was to learn more about the Vikings, and to put together a quiz that was handed out to members at the event.

All of the award winners together. All pictures in this article: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media.

“Duke of Edinburgh” for the over-50s.

Once the awards had been handed out, and the group’s 2015 Annual General Meeting was brought to a close, John Mackie, Chairman of the Discovery Awards Association Scotland (inset) spoke to Cumbernauld Media.

“Discovery Scotland is an achievement award for the over-50s. Perhaps the easiest way to describe it is as a Duke of Edinburgh award, for older people,” he said.

Explaining more about the day’s proceedings, and the group’s reasoning for coming to Cumbernauld, Mr Mackie explained: “North Lanarkshire Council has been particularly good at recruiting folk to the awards, so we decided that this would be a good place to have it.

“Today was a ‘Gold’ award presentation ceremony, mixed in with our Annual General Meeting. The bronze awards are and were handed out at the individual groups’ own meetings, while the silver awards are and were presented at local groups meetings also, by somebody else from that group’s respective local area. For the ‘Gold’ award, however, we ask people to come to the AGM, and be presented by a national committee member,” he added.

Outlining the criteria that members must meet to ascertain a ‘Gold’ award, Mr Mackie (inset) explained: “Basically, for a ‘Gold’ Discovery award you have the four sections (service in the community; hobby or interest; journey of discovery; and, recreational pursuit).

“It depends of the ability of the members themselves, however. You can’t expect somebody with a walking difficulty to do a 30-mile walk, for example. So, members draw up their own programme, and we have someone who will go over it with them, and try to get them to push themselves a little more. 

He added: “You’re talking about service in the community, which can cover a lot of things; a physical activity, which can be gardening, going to the gym, walking, or golf – whatever you want; an interest, which can, for example, take in photography, or painting – these type of things. Finally, there’s the ‘journey of discovery’ section, which can either be a physical journey – cycling and walking etc. – or it can be a journey of the mind, where members do research, so members would go out to a local church, for instance, and research a family tree or something similar.”

Asked why people should join the Discovery Association, Mr Mackie said: “Because our members come from an older generation, you often find people have had an illness, or suffered a bereavement meaning that they have lost some of their self-confidence – Discovery is therefore a way for them to get back into the community, and make new friends. 

“People wishing to join can easily sign up through our Dundee headquarters, who will then send them out a membership application form, which interested people simply return, alongside their membership fee,” he added.

When asked about how he felt the day’s events had gone, Mr Mackie said “good”, adding: “I don’t get hung up on AGMs or conferences – they should never be the same, in my mind. 

“One of things that I enjoy is bringing people together, so they get a chance to talk to folk and find out what other people have been doing; and, if they’re only starting off on their award, to come along and find out a little about what other people have done, giving them an incentive – I think we achieved this, so it was a good day.”

Anybody who wishes to join the Discovery Association, or anyone who would like more information can telephone the Discovery Award Association Scotland office, in Dundee, on 01382 435 911. Meanwhile, anyone wishing to get involved in local Discovery groups or to find out more about the association in Cumbernauld can contact Claire McLaren, at Community Learning and Development on 01236 638383.

Liz Lochhead at the ceremony. All pictures in this article: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media.
See more of our pictures from the day with our interactive slideshow, below. All of the images used are the copyright of Cumbernauld Media.