One of Samaritans’ longest-serving listening volunteers has been honoured as the charity recognises the contribution of its people during this year’s Volunteers Week.
Barbara MacLure, aged 83, did the first-ever shift at the newly-established Dumfries branch of Samaritans on Sunday 1 March 1980, becoming its Chair nine years later.
Along with her late husband Malcolm, and volunteers in the branch, she was instrumental in fundraising efforts to enable the purchase of the property at Loreburn Street in the town which served as Samaritans’ main hub in south west Scotland until a move to new premises in October 2021. Although not a Samaritan, Malcolm set up and ran a charity shop in the basement which brought in much-needed income. Barbara continued as a listening volunteer, taking calls from people who are struggling, right up until the Covid pandemic.
On Monday (June 6), she was granted the honorary title of Patron of the branch, an award presented by Samaritans’ CEO Julie Bentley on a visit to Dumfries. Ann Stephenson, Dumfries Branch Director, said: "Barbara’s legacy is there for all to see and I am delighted we can now formally acknowledge all that she has done for Dumfries Samaritans by her becoming a patron of the branch. “This is made extra special as this is being formally announced by the Chief Executive of Samaritans on her visit to Dumfries."
Asked why she first became involved, Barbara said: “I met Chad Varah, the Founder of Samaritans, as he was friends with my father when he lived in Barton-upon-Humber and that sparked my interest. “I then attended a meeting organised in Dumfries by the then-Minister of my church who had been asked to set up a Samaritans branch in Dumfries by a branch in Glasgow.”
Barbara's parents, for whom she was a carer, lived with her for a time. Her mum, not knowing Barbara was a Samaritan, thought she was having an affair, she revealed, as she was often away during the night. “In the early days, you didn't tell anyone you were a Samaritan,” she added.
“Night duty was very frequent and, back in the day, the volunteers, often on their own, had a mattress on the floor with a phone next to them. And, if needed, they would go out and visit the person who had called - ‘as the flying squad’. “Calls were very few - perhaps three or four for a whole shift - which left plenty of time for knitting, chatting or whatever your interests were.”
Branch colleague Kirsten, who has known Barbara for many years said: "Barbara has been a constant support for us all over the last 40 years with her gentle encouragement and wisdom."
Her work, the charity’s Executive Director for Scotland, Rachel Cackett, underlined, illustrates the power of Samaritans’ 1000 volunteers across Scotland in making a genuine impact in reducing instances of suicides and self-harm.
“I’d like to say a huge Thank You to Samaritans’ amazing Volunteers in Scotland who keep the lights on and lines open,” Rachel Cackett said. “It is the work of incredible people like Barbara that allow us to be there for people when they are struggling, every day and night of the year.”
The visit came as a new Strategic Delivery Plan for Scotland was officially launched by Samaritans Scotland, setting out its aims for the next two years. Entitled ‘Tackling Suicide Together’, the plan sets out an ambitious range of objectives across five key areas of: Access, Reach, Impact, Capacity and Sustainability.
“These are exciting times with our Strategic Delivery Plan for Scotland which we’re launching today,” Rachel Cackett said. “Our listening service has been at the core of Samaritans for nearly 70 years, and we will continue to be a trusted space for those who need a non-judgemental ear.
“The hope we offer through human connection saves lives. But as Samaritans Scotland moves into this new strategy period, we also need to do far more to reduce the levels of distress, anxiety, isolation and hopelessness that lead people to contact us in the first place.”