As Ataxia UK celebrates its 50th anniversary, the East of Scotland Branch are this year celebrating their own milestone: 20 years as a Branch. In this article, the Branch Treasurer, Frances Wright shares with you their history.
We set up in August 1995 with a committee, branch bank account and a small group of members drawn from Edinburgh, Fife, Stirling, the Scottish Borders and Dundee. We also had a member from Aberdeen at one point!
Before the branch was formed we met as a group in the house of Andrea Bothwell, our inspiration and chief founding member who has Friedrich’s Ataxia. Andrea played a vital role in helping us to form a branch due to her experience with liaising with Ataxia UK Head office and having lived with ataxia since her early 20’s.
Not long after the formation of the branch, we were fortunate to recruit Ronnie Browne – a renowned Scottish folk singer and musician as our patron, who has over the years been very supportive in attending our meetings, fund raising and social activities – most recently helping to raise awareness of Ataxia by doing a publicity shoot with local newspapers at Kelso ice rink where two of our members play wheelchair curling.
We hosted a research conference in Edinburgh in 2004 which was a great success, enjoyed by attendees and speakers from Head Office and delegates from all over Scotland and Northern England. In the same year our members raised funds for the group by a team doing the Great Scottish Walk.
Many companies and individuals have helped to raise money and awareness of Ataxia through the years for our branch. Fundraising has included sponsored walks, bike rides, the 3 peak challenge (Ben Nevis, Snowdon & Scafell Pike in one day) and an Edinburgh scout troupe which regularly sends donations through another of our long standing members and past Chairman, Derek Main. A recent sponsored swim by John Hunter one of our wheelchair users with cerebellar ataxia raised over £200. Anne Marie Thomson has raised many hundreds of pounds through the sale of knitted goods which are very popular and we send as much as we can to Ataxia UK for the research effort.
We have enjoyed many social outings over the years – to the Scottish Parliament, the Falkirk Wheel and Dynamic Earth to name a few. We have joined the West of Scotland Branch for afternoon tea on a few occasions at their invitation which has been most enjoyable. Also we usually manage to have a pre-Christmas meal.
We have welcomed new members from the Borders area and are looking at ways to encourage more people to come to our meetings which are held every 2 months in a local High School.
Our committee has remained almost unchanged over the 20 years with Penny Gardner still our secretary (using her computer knowledge to keep the web site up to date / emailing and minute taking at the meetings) plus myself as treasurer for this length of time Our current chairman Pete Dalby has also been a tireless supporter along with his wife Liz who has cerebellar ataxia.
So we send our very best wishes to Ataxia UK for the 50th anniversary – we also will be celebrating our 20th year as a branch with a small glass of something!