The life I live now is largely thanks to OiR Ayr

The life I live now is largely thanks to OiR


Opportunities in Retirement (OiR)


I have lived all my life in Ayrshire and, of course, have seen many changes over the years.  For the past twenty years, my day-to-day activities have been focused on the Opportunities in Retirement (OiR) organisation.

 I cared for my husband throughout his terminal illness and after his death, I felt somewhat “lost”.  For many years, I hadn’t been socialising, I hadn’t been travelling and I hadn’t been communicating with many people outside my immediate family circle.

A friend suggested I join OiR, which is a local organisation “to enable our ‘50s and over’ community to participate in co-ordinated and supported opportunities which enhance their lifestyle and personal well-being”  OiR has over 50 Groups which meet indoors, outdoors or on-line providing a wide range of activities including Walking, Tai Chi, Bridge, Mah Jong, Baking, Photography and Cycling.

 I had always been a keen walker, so I joined one of the OiR Walking Groups and, rather tentatively ,in 1996 I went on my first Group walk.  I remember we walked out to the Heads of Ayr, partly along the route of the old railway line.  When I got home that evening, I felt “drunk with happiness”. I had so much enjoyed the walk and the company.  Since then, I have been a regular walker with OiR, going on day-long walks and going away for walking weeks to Melrose, Dumfries, Newton Stewart and elsewhere in Scotland!  

 One of my most recent walks was up to the Burns Cairn on the banks of the River Afton, the location the Robert Burns poem which ends with the beautiful lines


My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,

Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

In 1998 I was elected to the Committee of OiR and later served as Vice Chair(2003-2005) and Chair (2005-2009).  The OiR Committee seeks out funding and actively campaigns to maintain local community amenities.

The Tam O'Shanter Trail was designed as a three-mile walking route, as described in Burns’ epic poem, beginning at the Tam O’Shanter Inn in Ayr and ending on the Brig O’Doon.  The Trail was officially opened by the Provost of Kyle and Carrick District Council in July1994.

 By 2005 the Trail was in a poor state, at which time a few OiR stalwarts worked on it and had the wooden signs featuring the blue bonnet restored. A small group of OiR members dressed up in eighteenth century style clothing for a photoshoot when the trail was reopened.  In 2020. South Ayrshire Council’s Paths for All Group had work done to smarten the route with more information boards and new Blue Bonnet signs. The Blue Bonnet Trail; (Walk199),is named to commemorate Tam’s famous headwear.

 Robert Burns

Robert Burns plays an important part in my life.  Since I was a child at Primary School I have loved his poetry.  He was a genius with words.  He describes situations and expresses emotions in a way no other writer can match. I frequently find myself quoting lines from his poems when in conversation with friends.  His words just slip into my mind and so often they seem most appropriate to convey my message.  I have learned many his poems by heart and have recited at numerous Burns Suppers and other events held in his memory.  I have even written a parody of his wonderful poem “A Man’s A Man for a’ That”.  Here’s a short extract


I’ve wondered, whiles, whit Rab would make

O’ life the day an a’ that

Whit would he say, whit would he die

Wi ’texts and phones an a’ that?


Tho’ mony years have come an gone

An people tae - for a’ that

It’s love and friendship matter mair

Than riches, rank an a’ that.


I am a long-time member of Ochiltree Scottish Women’s Institute (SWI).  For many years the SWI published a monthly magazine "Scottish Home and Country".   When I realised that I had had 90 articles published over a number of years, I decided to have a wee book printed in 2005.  I went to a small printer's business in Cumnock and got 1000 printed. As I had no financial backing, the printer suggested that I apply to The Minerals' Trust for a grant as the open-cast mine owners were offering grants to local applicants because of the upheaval in the area caused by their workings.  I received £1000 which paid for the printing.  My first little book “Stravaigin" contained 29 of my articles.  I sold my book locally for £3 and donated the money to the SWI and OiR.    

In 2009, I did the same and saw 30 articles printed in "Mair Stravaigin".  No grants were then available so I paid for 500 copies to be printed, which sold out very quickly. I had intentions of publishing a third book "Still Stravaigin".  However, “Scottish Home and Country” changed its name to “Women Together” and also changed the nature of its content, so my style no longer fitted that publication.  Many of my published pieces arose from OiR walks and activities and, of course, from my love of the work of Robert Burns.


Dumfries House

Ayrshire has a rich cultural and architectural history.  One important building is Dumfries House, which was built in 1754 for the Fifth Marquis of Bute.  It was designed by Robert, James and John Adams and furnished with Chippendale furniture. The House remained a family home, at times lying empty, until 1993 when it was offered for sale.  At the time there was concern that the priceless Chippendale furniture collection might be bought and shipped all over the world.  

A group of local landowners formed a consortium which came to the attention of HRH Prince Charles and in 2007 he stepped in to buy Dumfries House, thus it was "saved for the nation".  This area is very grateful for what he did, Dumfries House is a treasure beyond words for East Ayrshire.

It is well known that HRH Prince Charles frequently visited Dumfries House.  Indeed, I have met him there on three different occasions.  I believe he was rightly proud of his achievements there and I believe he found it a peaceful and restful place to spend some time relaxing in the beautiful Ayrshire countryside.

Under the auspices of The Prince's Foundation, dramatic improvements have been made to the House, its grounds and its gardens. The estate is now a focus for a range of training opportunities for young people who are involved in hospitality, gardening and many traditional skills and crafts. This transformation of Dumfries House has brought many employment opportunities to the local area, which had previously been greatly affected by the demise of the Ayrshire coal-mining industry.  The whole initiative stands as a prime example of heritage-led regeneration. Although there is a charge for visiting the House, access to the grounds is free for everyone to enjoy.

I was a volunteer at Dumfries House between 2009-2020. Initially I was a Guide and latterly a Visitor Services Assistant.  It was wonderful to show visitors around this splendid House, particularly throughout December when the House is dressed for Christmas with all the rooms decked with Christmas trees and the spectacular pink Murano chandelier, which dates from around 1760, is lit.  I have a deep affection for Dumfries House.  I held my 80th and 90th birthday celebrations there and the staff certainly made sure these were memorable occasions.  I’m so proud of Dumfries House.


Alloway Railway Tunnel Project

The Alloway Railway Tunnel Project is a great project.  I have walked the path through the Tunnel many, many times and have stopped to eat my picnic lunch in the Tunnel on many a wet day!

OiR is fully supportive of the Alloway Railway Tunnel Project.  Members of all the OiR Walking Groups will enjoy walking through a colourful and lively space rather than a dark tunnel.  Once completed, it will surely act as an incentive to people to get out and walk. It lies on the route of The Blue Bonnet Trail and The Whithorn Way  and is close to The Ayrshire Costal Path should see plenty of footfall from regular walkers and it should also attract new walkers to the area.

I have visited the Colinton Tunnel in Edinburgh a couple of times and am very impressed with its story-telling and artwork.  It’s magnificent.  I can’t wait to see the transformation of the Alloway Tunnel.  

 Amy Kinnaird















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