I can scarcely believe that a year has already gone by since, like Banquo's ghost, I returned as chairman of our Members' Centre of the National Trust for Scotland. It has been a real pleasure to work with our talented and industrious committee. Our Centre is lucky to have such dedicated people who give their time and skills to making it successful.
I am sure that like me you are a bit disappointed in the vagaries of another British summer's weather. The four summer one day outings which we have had at time of writing this report have not been blessed by the weather gods. We started with a gorgeous sunny day for the April outing to Dumfries House. I fondly recall having afternoon tea outside with some of the members. Thereafter it has been downhill all the way. The next three outings all endured wet weather. The worst start of all was the one I led to Blair Castle, which began in torrential rain with thunder and lightning. Luckily the weather cleared when we were having our conducted tour of the castle. Maybe will need to follow the example of the ancient Greeks and Romans and make a sacrifice to propitiate the weather deities before we set off on each outing. I note with some concern that some of this year's oneday outings did not attract large bookings. For Scone Palace and Branklyn Garden 27 members made a booking and 31 for Blair Castle. However, the August and September trips are almost fully booked. We do try hard to devise a varied programme of outings which will appeal to different tastes and interests. Committee members are always pleased to receive suggestions from members for possible outings. I would like to remind members that from now on all summer outings will depart from and return to the Forthside Car Park. In addition I would ask members, when booking trips, to include where possible a mobile telephone number on the reply form in case the trip organiser needs to contact you.
Since the issue of my spring 2016 report there have been two meetings of our committee, on the 17th June and 27th July. In addition to the normal routine business I would like to inform you of particular matters which will be of interest to members. For some time the Centre has had need of a laptop compatible with the projector for winter talks. Our indefatigable secretaries, Sandy and Margaret Moreland, applied on our behalf to Stirling Council for a grant towards the purchase of a new laptop and projector. Unfortunately our application was turned down. On the bright side, however, our Centre has been awarded the sum of £375 from the Waitrose charity project, so we will be able to use this money towards the purchase of the laptop and projector. Sandy and Margaret have also produced for trip organisers an invaluable set of guidelines regarding the organising and pricing of outings.
Much of the work of the last two committee meetings was devoted to the vexed and pressing issue of increasing membership. We have been helped in our discussions by a set of membership data dated August 2016 provided by Chris Major at NTS Headquarters. These cover all the postcodes FK1 to FK18 plus G63 Balfron which our centre embraces. The data show that as of August 2016 there are 5,524 households in these areas which held membership of the NTS, but only 203 of these belonged to our Members' Centre. When one looks deeper, we find that the figures for postcodes FK 7 and 8 (Stirling) are 1,061 and 83 respectively. Matters are no better for postcode FK 9 (Stirling/Bridge of Allan) for which the figures are 427 and 44? nor for postcode FK15 (Dunblane) at 531 and 22. The committee is greatly indebted to our membership secretary, Neil Pollock, who crunched all the raw data onto an invaluable spreadsheet, giving a breakdown of the costs of the various options which were then used as a basis for discussion. Our debate focused on several ways to raise membership. The committee at its meeting on 27th July has agreed to take the following steps.
The first step is to take up the offer from Chris Major of the NTS headquarters to email all those households in the Stirling area for which he has email addresses with an invitation from our Centre to join our group. The committee owes a debt of gratitude to our Publicity Secretary, Ian Watson. who has prepared a draft email. This would be at no cost to our Centre.The second step is this appeal from me as chairman to you, our members, to advise the committee of any friends or relatives, already NTS members, who would be interested in joining the Stirling Members' Centre. Our membership secretary, Neil Pollock, would send anyone interested a package giving details of the Centre.The third step is to contact likeminded organisations as to the feasibility of exchanging leaflets in mailings, such as Friends of Alloa Tower, Stirling Civic Trust and Friends of the Smith to ask if they would consider enclosing a singlepage flyer from us with one of their mailings. The fourth step is for the Centre either to use the NTS Facebook page or the Centre creating its own Facebook page as a means to target NTS members in our area. It was agreed not to create our own page at present but Ian Watson, our publicity secretary, would regularly send Chris Major material to be included on the NTS Facebook page which he had created.
Two other suggestions were considered but were decided not to implement at present. One was a mailshot to specific areas of our membership or advertising in local newspapers.The other was small publicity cards to be sited in community buildings such as libraries, the Smith, community centres, etc. It was decided that no decision would be taken on either of these proposals until we had returns from the implementation of the four steps mentioned above.
Finally as relates to the business of the Centre I would like to let members know in advance that our Treasurer, Robert Jackson, informed our committee meeting on 27th July that he will be stepping down from the post of Treasurer at the AGM in 2017. The committee will be very sorry indeed to lose his invaluable services. He has kept us from undue extravagance and ensured that we do not go bankrupt.
As the last item in this report I would like to draw your attention to major changes to the way the National Trust for Scotland is to be run. Earlier in the year the Chief Executive of NTS, Simon Skinner, announced a major reorganisation. From March 2017 there is to be a new structure based on Regional/National Heritage Groupings, uniting different services and NTS properties. Unfortunately this means than 142 members of staff at the Trust Headquarters are at risk of redundancy, although 68 new posts will be created around Scotland and 42 members of staff from headquarters will be given new roles and relocated to new base locations. However, the Trust intends to invest £17 million in priority properties over the next three years.
In conclusion, I would request members to give our membership secretary, Neil Pollock, their email address, if they have one, when they fill up the form for the winter programme. I can assure you that your email address would only be used by the Members' Centre and would not be given to any other organisation.
Wishing you all enjoyment of the winter programme and the summer 2017 outings.
If any member who currently does not pay his/her subscription by Standing Order or has not completed a Gift Aid mandate and wishes to do so, please contact Robert Jackson, our treasurer, who will supply the appropriate form(s).
If you pay your subscription by cheque you will now see that we have added a line on the booking form to allow you to pay the annual membership charge along with any events you may be booking. This hopefully will be more convenient for you and will also aid our administration. The cheque for the membership should be made out to "STIRLING MEMBERS' CENTRE NTS" and signed and dated. If you wish, you can send one cheque for all events AND the membership, or separate cheques for each.
****THIS DOES NOT APPLY IF YOU PAY BY STANDING ORDER ****
Angus was a member from 2014 and died on 30th January 2016.
Jim was a member from 1996 and died on 15th March 2016. His wife Anne remains a member.
Mrs S F Roddan
Mrs Roddan was a long standing member for over 20 years and died last year.
Mrs Dorothy Fraser
Mrs Fraser was also a long standing member for over 20 years and died in July 2016.
We would like to offer their family and friends our deep and sincere sympathy on their sad loss.
To see acknowledgements from the Properties please go to our website www.spanglefish.com/ntsstirling
We are very pleased to confirm that Grahams Family Dairies have agreed to continue to sponsor the postage costs of our bi-annual newsletter for the foreseeable future. Our grateful thanks for this sponsorship to all at Grahams.