Samaritans stalwart ‘inspirational’

Margaret Irwin receives a gift for her 40 years service with the Samaritans from Kate Miller, Director of the branch. INCR14-305PL
Margaret Irwin receives a gift for her 40 years service with the Samaritans from Kate Miller, Director of the branch. INCR14-305PL

An inspirational Coleraine and District Samaritans volunteer has been hailed for helping people in dire need for FORTY years.

Big-hearted Margaret Irwin was the special guest at a reception in the Samaritans’ Lodge Road base recently.

And Margaret recalled how on joining over 40 years ago she encountered a very different type of Samaritan service - one of which included lighting a fire in freezing premises!

“ I initially went along to an open evening with a friend thinking that perhaps this wasn’t for me but my friend didn’t want to go alone, however as the evening went on I realised that perhaps this was something I could do.

“Following interview and training I began my duties in the old Samaritan house in Abbey Street, this building was a long way from the lovely building that now houses us today [Lodge Road], no one wanted to be the first on duty in the mornings as first in had to light the fire, the only form of heating…of course I soon caught on and started my shifts in the afternoon or evenings!”

Margaret recalled some of the many changes over her four decades of dedicated service.

Forty years ago, of course, people didn’t have access to phones as they do now.

“We were way before house phones in everyone’s front room never mind mobiles and of course computers to get through to Samaritans by email. Those days saw many more door callers to Samaritans and we regularly supported people throughout the day and night on a face-to-face basis and although we still do that at Lodge Road we tend to answer most of our calls by phone or on email.

“The most important thing I have learnt though is that the ways of contacting us may have changed but the problems people need support with have not changed.”

Margaret’s colleagues praised her many years of dedication serving as a Listening volunteer, committee member, trainer and Deputy Branch Director as well as a busy wife, mother and latterly grandmother.

Kate, Branch director, who made a presentation to Margaret on behalf of the Branch and her colleagues, added: “Our thanks to Margaret for her years of not only dedication but example to all of us who have come after her.

“ Margaret has been an inspiration in all that she has done, and we are all in awe of the time she has given to Samaritans, 40 years is such a marvellous achievement and in that time it can only be guessed at how many people Margaret has supported in their time of need.”

Kate went on: “ Of course Margaret has done all she has but we can never lose sight of what a lovely, warm lady she is, she rarely misses a social night out with us and her bubbly personality and sense of humour shines through at every opportunity.

“It is a pleasure and privilege to know Margaret and to learn from her experiences and wisdom.”

CONTACTING THE

SAMARITANS

If something’s troubling you, get in touch.

* Telephone the Coleraine branch: 028 703 20000 (local call charges apply). National telephone: 116 123 (this number is free to call)

* Email Samaritans: jo@samaritans.org;

* Or visit the Samaritans at

20 Lodge Road, Coleraine.

The Branch also welcomes anyone who would consider volunteering for the local service.