Born in Barrow –in –Furness in 1946, a love of books and writing was evident when, at the age of ten, I told my class teacher that I wanted to be an author.

A move to Yorkshire in 1965 and a career in education was interrupted and enriched by a few years being creative with clay and two years living in the only house on Lihou - a tiny island off the coast of Guernsey.

Returning to England in 1988 meant a return to a more conventional way of living. From then on life was spent teaching but always with some time being given to writing poetry or stories for children.

Teaching reading to children and adults, then later training teachers, support staff and volunteers aged from sixteen to over sixty how to support/develop reading, provided a rewarding career.

In 2002 a move to Dumfries and Galloway meant more time to write – mostly poetry and plays. Poems have been published in various poetry magazines and anthologies including Dawntreader, & Southlight, also on Poetry Scotland’s website Open Mouse. Plays have been performed at The Swallow Theatre.

At present, work is underway on an illustrated poetry collection inspired by the countryside and coastline of this beautiful corner of Scotland. The photographs accompanying the poems have been taken by Les Dunford and all proceeds will go to Arthritis UK, specifically for research into Fibromyalgia.

 

Wigtownshire U3A (University of the Third Age)

It’s now eleven years since Wigtownshire U3A was launched. It all began with a phone call from Robina Hutton after the Third Age Trust had asked her, as a trustee, to encourage the development of more U3A groups in Scotland.

The guiding principles of the U3A have always been to promote lifelong learning through self-help interest groups covering a wide range of topics and activities as chosen by their members.

The name ‘University of the Third Age’ or U3A has been under discussion by many, for many years. It is thought by some that the word ‘university’ might put some people off and, as we don’t have paid tutors, members don’t need to have any qualifications, nor are any given, it could be said that ‘university’ is a misnomer. However, we still retain the name and it seems that folk have got used to it and understand what we’re about.

The 'third age' is defined by a time in your life where you have the opportunity to undertake learning for its own sake. There is no minimum age, but there’s a focus on people who are no longer in full-time employment or raising a family.

Initially, there were two very unpromising meetings in this area - one in Newton Stewart (where only three people turned up) and another in Wigtown (with slightly more people but none convinced that a U3A would get off the ground here.) However, we persuaded Robina to try again and another meeting was arranged in Newton Stewart’s Macmillan Hall. In the meantime, more folk had been contacted and word had got round with the result that we had eighteen people interested.

By the end of that meeting we had a steering group established with enough folk agreeing to take on the essential committee posts. This was in the autumn and in the following February we had our official launch in the County Buildings Wigtown. This time we had to keep putting out more chairs as more and more people kept coming in to find out what it was all about. We started with around fifty members.

Wigtownshire U3A now has around two hundred and thirty members and nearly thirty different interest groups. These groups cover a wide range of subjects depending on the interests of our members. Some groups have been going since the very beginning, others last for just a few years and then may be resurrected as new members join and that subject is again in demand.

More information about our U3A and the groups can be found on our website www.wigtownshireu3a.org.uk/

Other links that folk might find useful are

University of the Third Age   www.u3a.org.uk          and

U3A in Scotland https://u3asites.org.uk/scotland/home

We produce the bi-annual newsletter which comes out in May and November. Back numbers can be found on the website and these provide an interesting archive for our members and those interested in joining.

On the last Friday in the month (apart from September during the Book Festival and December) we have a meeting in the County Buildings Wigtown which starts at 10.00am with tea & coffee and a chance to catch up with folk. This is followed by a talk given by a visiting speaker or occasionally one of our members. These talks cover a wide range of subjects and are open to non-members for an admittance fee of £3. The monthly meetings also give members a chance to pick up the current Interest Groups leaflet which gives an update on what’s happening in all the groups and advance notice of potential new groups.

As many people come to this beautiful corner of Scotland to retire and lead a quiet life, it isn’t easy to recruit folk who are willing to take on responsibilities and commit to being on the committee. In 2018 we both stepped down from the committee, leaving it to others to hopefully develop it further and maintain what has become a lifeline to many, especially those moving into the area. By joining the U3A, people are easily able to find like-minded folk. It is also appreciated by those living on their own who find small friendly groups such as Lunch Club and Supper Club an excellent way of sharing a meal with others.

Two of our most popular groups are Historic Houses and Gardens and Local History & Archaeology. These both have approx. fifty members but not everyone turns up for each meeting. The HH&G group organises visits to places of interest during spring and summer while the Local H&A group has talks from October to March and then visits/walks from April to September. Both these groups meet once a month.

It’s never too late to learn a foreign language and we have two French groups – one for beginners and another for improvers. Meeting twice a month is of course more appropriate for these groups – less time to forget vocabulary from one meeting to the next.

Continuing to learn well into old age can decrease the risk of developing dementia and so groups that involve giving the ‘little grey cells’ exercise are valuable. Our Exploring Literature group has just finished tackling Dante’s Inferno – that was certainly a challenge but enjoyable never the less, as we read and discussed our way through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise twice a month!