Meet Maureen: one of our 2017 Abseil heroes!

The 28th of May sees the return of the iconic Forth Rail Bridge abseil – one of Age Scotland’s main events of the year. We’re delighted to welcome another group of brave souls this year to take on the challenge. In her guest blog Maureen shares with us why she decided to sign up to the 165ft abseil challenge. 


Hello, my name is Maureen Tait and I am 52 years of age. I am the Sheltered Housing Services Manager for Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA), and I have worked within PoLHA’s housing for older people’s service for 20 years, and with older people in various care and support settings for 38 years.

I have decided to abseil from the Forth Rail Bridge for two reasons. Firstly to thank Age Scotland and show my appreciation for all the work they do and secondly, as a personal achievement. I have a disability (which has never held me back) but what might hold me back for the abseil is that I am not terribly good with heights! Abseiling will certainly be a fantastic achievement and something struck off my bucket list!

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I am really lucky that one of my colleagues, Martin Hunter has agreed to abseil with me and I will value his support with fundraising and on the day – go team PoLHA!

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We plan to do lots of exciting things to fundraise, for example hosting a fun day for our tenants, which will include games, a lunch, a raffle and tombola. The Association, colleagues, our tenants’, families and friends have given us so much encouragement and are all right behind us in supporting our fundraising journey.

I am extremely passionate about the service for older people, and the service we provide in our Sheltered Housing. At our recent Inspection by the Care Inspectorate we maintained our graded of a 6 “Excellent” for our quality of Care and Support, and this is a credit to the sheltered team for the commitment and dedication they demonstrate in their work.

Over the last couple of years Age Scotland has kindly invited our tenants along to some of their events. We had a fantastic time visiting the Scottish Parliament for some lunch and to launch a new exercise called strength and balance bingo.

As part of PoLHA, I am committed to ensuring that we build and support a strong community in Leith. A key element of this is working with the different projects and local schools to encourage intergenerational activities for our tenants and younger people to enjoy and benefit from.

Through Age Scotland we were delighted to welcome the First Minister to our festive celebrations to see first-hand the real difference such group’s make to tackle problems of social isolation. We offer our wholehearted backing for Age Scotland’s ‘No-One Should Have No-One at Christmas’ campaign. Our tenants thoroughly enjoyed designing a gift of a tea pot, cup and saucer to give to the First Minister to show their appreciation of her visit.

I have decided to fundraise for Age Scotland as a way to show appreciation for all the support they give not only to our older people but all older people across Scotland

Painting Leith with memories

Morvern Cunningham, Event Coordinator and Festival Producer for LeithLate writes a blog post for us explaining how their new mural came about and the part that older people had to play in ensuring it reflected the history and memories of the local community.

 Halmyre Street Mural

Photo of Halmyre Street Mural by Eoin Carey

A team of (mostly) Leith based artists have revealed their final design for a new mural on Halmyre Street.in Leith, and with public art becoming a proud part of Leith’s identity the artists decided that it was important to ground the design by involving Leithers of all ages.

The artists met with a group of older women from Jamieson Place; Port of Leith’s supported accommodation.

Some of the main items of reference in the final mural came from this research with the older women, things like the reference to policeman Willy Merrilees disguising himself as a baby (see The Mural Project explained below) and many other stories about long-dead Leithers which none of the Leith-based artists had heard! You could say that the tentacles were also a reference to this.

LeithLate

What was really important though, was the grounding of the artists’ final design very much in Leith, and these research sessions with folk that had lived in Leith all their lives really contributed to that for the artists.

I also know for a fact that the ladies had a great time coming along and contributing to the sessions, and it was great to see them take ownership of the final piece at the unveiling: they were all lining up and getting their photos taken with it! Great stuff

Find out more about the Mural project on their Facebook page: LeithLate 

More about the background and meaning behind Leith’s latest mural:

The project was realised in collaboration with the City of Edinburgh Council (who provided the majority of the budget) and Police Scotland, and funded by CEC, Leith Neighbourhood Partnership, Port of Leith Housing Association and Scotmid. A total of 6 artists were involved: Fraser Gray, Skint Richie, Rabiya Choudhry, Martin McGuinness and the duo known as DUFI. The collective worked on the design of the mural for around 8 weeks, a period of time which included research sessions with older Leithers from local housing associations, a tour of Leith’s pre-existing murals, and trips to local points of interest such as maritime museum Trinity House and the last steam ship registered to Leith, the SS Explorer.  A series of art workshops are due to take place with young people from the local area, in response to the mural’s artwork.

The final artwork is a nautical one, with busy seascape, a serene skyscape above and a ship moving forward beyond the design. The outline of the sun above the ship can also be seen as a giant head, itself moving forward in time. Points of interest in the final artwork include:

The mural as a whole is a large reworking of the Leith Persevere crest, and depicts a ship sailing across a striped sea.

The ship in the mural is based on the SS Explorer, the last steam ship to be registered to Leith and which is currently undergoing restoration by a team of volunteers and enthusiasts. The initials L.H. are on the boat, pertaining to Leith Harbour, and a nautical flag to the rear tells its readers ‘Open For Communication’.

A large sun broken by clouds rises up behind the ship. Its curve on the left follows the original arch on the tunnel, but on the right slips down into a human silhouette. This personification of ‘Sunshine on Leith’ represents the strength of character and identity typical of the average ‘Leither’.

Beneath the sea all is busy, much like life in Leith itself. A Newhaven fishwife’s song ‘Wha’l Buy My Caller Herrin” dips beneath the waves, a toilet seat (both a reference to the film adaptation of Trainspotting, and the Garde Loo boat that used to tip waste into the Firth of Forth) dwells at the bottom.

Tentacles, referring to the many stories and urban myths that abound in Leith swirl up from the depths. Unexploded mines (which are still present in the Forth today) loom menacingly while a pram (which refers to the story of Willy Merrilees, a below-stature policeman who once disguised himself as a baby to catch a criminal) bobs away on the tide.

A crab, representing the stalwart image of an older Leith and its Perseverance, as well as the zodiac sign of the majority of the artists, floats by a spaceman helmet – a reference both to the alienation of certain communities within Leith, as well as to an absent member of the artists’ collective: Mike Inglis. The gramophone on the left hand side acts as a counterbalance to the toilet and nods to the many antique shops and record shops along Leith Walk and Easter Road.

A swan in the top right hand corner, which is a reference to Swanfield and previous murals in that area. The heron refers to the sizable heron population that can be regularly seen along the Water of Leith.

A cat in the top right hand corner links this mural to the previous mural which stood on the site, as it is the only image that is retained of the original artwork which was painted by artist David Wilkinson (sadly subsequently obscured and defaced by graffiti tagging, prior to the new mural installation).