THE effectiveness of the volunteers of Harmony in transforming, through music, song and dance, the lives of frail, elderly people in the Borders, was evident at a special ceremony at a Borders care home last week.
Staff and residents at Grange Hall Care Home near Earlston were joined by invited guests as they clapped, tapped their feet and even took to the floor during a vibrant concert to mark the presentation to the charity of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award (QGJA) for Voluntary Service.
“This represents the high respect that the Harmony’s volunteers are held in,” said Lord Lieutenant, The Honorable Gerald Maitland-Carew, Her Majesty’s official representative in Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale.
“It is the highest honour that can be bestowed on voluntary groups and is the equivalent in status to the MBE,” he added, before presenting a scroll and commemorative crystal to Harmony founder and its chairperson Violet Baillie.
Earlier the company had been entertained in the home’s social centre by Tweedbank accordionist Jimmy Gold and Selkirk guitarist John Irving, two of Harmony’s 25 volunteer musicians who perform 800 shows a year for older people in 85 different venues across the region.
Guests had also watched a professionally-produced DVD on the incredible work of Harmony. It featured a testimonial from retired Bowden GP Malcolm Morrison, who nominated the charity for the award, on the transforming effect that live music had had on his mother, who is a Grange Hall resident.
Matron Wendy Smith spoke of the impact on how staff perceived residents. “They no longer see someone with dementia, but a very different person, having a wonderful time resonant of a happy childhood,” she enthused.
After receiving the award Mrs Baillie said it was a “very great privilege” to accept it on behalf of Jim and Ann Smith, secretary and treasurer respectively, the musicians and volunteers who had worked so hard over the last nine years.
“You have realised Harmony’s aim of bringing happiness, fun and a feeling of belonging to the frailest members of our Borders community,” she told them.
“That Her Majesty should bestow this honour on Harmony is a great mark of distinction and we are honoured and exceedingly grateful we are one of very few groups [just 15 in Scotland] to receive it.
She continued: “Since our inception in 2002, we have developed and grown, not only in the breadth and scope of our work, but also in our commitment to one another and to our very special audiences.
“We have, in fact, become a Harmony family and, like all families, we have had many happy and some sad times. There are some who are not with us today, but we remember them and their contribution and we acknowledge the outstanding work our musicians have done and are still doing.
“We want to express our gratitude to all of those who have supported Harmony financially and, in particular, the Big Lottery which has provided substantial support over a long number of years.”
Mrs Baillie said everyone at Harmony was committed to continuing its work in a sustainable away and she announced that a bid for £13,000 for the next three years to the national Robertson Trust had been successful.”
Other recent grant boosts had included £2,500 from the Hayward Trust in Galashiels and £1,000 from Kelso-based Charity Begins at Home.
Guests included Mrs Maitland-Carew, deputy Lieutenant Sheila Brookes, vice-Lord Lieutenant Sir Michael Strang Steel, Councillors Nicholas Watson, Alec Nicol and Frances Renton and Maureen McGinn, national committee member of the Big Lottery.
Also there was charity patron the Countess of Haddington and Stella Everingham, Scottish Borders Council’s head of children’s services, representing social work director Andrew Lowe who, with Councillor Watson, had seconded Mr Morrison’s successful nomination.
The entertainment was completed by folk band Schiehallion and guitar/fiddle duo Les Sneddon and Wattie Robson.