A gathering to commemorate ArCas’ 30th anniversary

There was a short but meaningful gathering at Pirnmill on 16th May to commemorate the 30th anniversary of ArCas and in particular the contribution which founder, the late Frances Harwood, made in setting up the organisation. Douglas Johnston from ArCaS gratefully received a beautiful, hand crafted mahogany and wrought iron bench presented to the charity by John Baraclough of Brodick.

The bench is dedicated to Frances Harwood who started ArCaS thirty years ago. There is an inscription on the bench which reads:

John Baraclough was thanked for the bench, David Jeffrey was thanked for his efforts putting in the plinth as was Jamie Gibbs who generously provided the land. The occasion was attended by a good number of people showing support from across the island.

From left to right are Douglas Johnston (Chairman ArCaS), Mark Harwood (son of Frances), John Baraclough (who made the bench) and Alan Thomson

After the event, Douglas Johnston told the Voice, “Frances started it all with a Tupperware party in her front room raising about £60.00. At the last ArCaS AGM that Francis attended we gave her a printed board showing that in her years the charity had raised and spent over one million pounds. Today, our principle focus is on patient transport. Our volunteer mainland drivers are covering about 40,000 miles per annum. As this is our 30th anniversary one of my fellow trustees, Elizabeth Ross, has taken it upon herself to delve into our archives, and write The Book of ArCaS – the First 30 Years.”

The Book of ArCas tells the history of the organisation and development of the charity and shop. The author Elizabeth Ross explains, “ArCas was started in 1989 by Frances Harwood, and joined a few months later by Sheila Goldsborough, two people on Arran suffering from cancer and experiencing the extra difficulties associated with living in an isolated, rural community. The book is the story of how they formed a support group and how it developed into the extraordinary organisation it is today. It is a tribute to all those who have helped to produce this phenomenon.”

At the start of the book, Elizabeth tells how, “Frances Harwood realised Arran needed an extra health care for cancer patients after she had the experience first-hand of being unwell and on the mainland for an appointment and with no comfortable and or straightforward way of getting back home to Arran”.

Elizabeth recounts, “The first ideas were to provide transport to mainland hospitals (mainly the Beatson Cancer Centre in Glagsow at this time). Frances had to travel to her appointments by public transport. Bemoaning the difficulties of doing this to a fellow train traveller whilst feeling very ill, she realised that if anything was to change then she must be the one to change it. The other aspect of her condition was that there was no information or support to be had on Arran for cancer patients to help them cope with the enormity of the situation they were in.

Transport from Ardrossan Ferry Terminal to the hospitals was arranged through Cunningham Cancer Care who already had a system of volunteer drivers on the mainland for patients in the Ayrshire area. These were called upon to meet Arran patients at the ferry terminal in Ardrossan and take them up to the hospital and back. The mileage allowance paid by CCC was reimbursed by ArCas. Originally the funds for this were raised by coffee mornings, Tupperware parties, raffles and donations from individuals.

Within two or three months of starting, word had got around and more people wanted to help. A public meeting in the Kinloch Hotel in Blackwaterfoot attracted a couple of dozen people who offered help in the form of fund-raising, transport on the island to Brodick pier, home sitting with ill patients, shopping and eventually counselling. A committee was formed and this is ArCas now in existence.”

For anyone who would like to read more, there are copies of the book now available for £5 at the ArCas shop.