Celebrating 15 years of John Mather Awards

Celebrating 15 years of John Mather Awards

Former Ayrshire College students are set to benefit from the generosity of the John Mather Charitable Trust for the 15th time on Wednesday 6 March, at a special awards ceremony to be held at the Riverside Lodge Hotel in Irvine.

The John Mather Awards are an annual event which celebrates the achievements of Ayrshire College graduates who have learned a trade and gone into employment, an apprenticeship or set up their own business within the past year.

The graduates are invited along to a special ceremony, where they will receive ‘tools of the trade’ to help them in the workplace.

Graduates from beauty therapy, complementary therapy, hairdressing, make-up artistry, hospitality, aeronautical engineering, engineering and renewables, horticulture, motor vehicle, and trades will all receive a set of tools worth £92.

John Mather Charitable Trust's Trustee Marlynn Mackay is looking forward to the event, which she’ll attend as always with her husband Bill Mackay, a former trustee of the Trust.

John Mather, who was the best man at Marlynn and Bill’s wedding, started working at Clydeport at the age of 16 and worked his way up to the position of chairman. The fact that he didn’t go to college or university was always a regret of John’s, and it was one of his main reasons for setting up the Trust shortly before his death.

Marlynn and Bill explain: “John was a close personal friend of ours. His father died when he was in his teens and so he went off to work early. He stayed with Clydeport all of his life, working his way up through the Accounts department, becoming Finance Officer and then Managing Director.

“John organised a management buyout of Clydeport when the government decided to privatise it. He made an arrangement with one of the banks to lend money, interest free, to any Clydeport employee, and advised them all to buy up shares. I remember Derek, a young lad who made the coffee in the boardroom, was going to borrow £1,000. John said straight away ‘no Derek, you’ll borrow £20,000’. So they all became shareholders in the privatised port. 5-10 years later an offer came in from a different port authority to buy it, and they all made megabucks.

“In his personal life, which we were privileged to share with him, he had a really good circle of friends. He loved a party and it’d always be organised to the nth degree. Everything John did was big. He retired to Dunoon when he was 60, and he was only 64 when he died. He didn’t really get much of a retirement, in his last few years he was dogged with ill health. But he definitely had a good life before that. He lived life to the full.  

“In his work he was meticulous and fastidious in the presentation of everything. He knew every employee of Clydeport, right down to the apprentices. I remember walking out with him one day and there was a boy painting something. He said “excuse me a minute Bill”, and across he went. He knew the boy by name and was enquiring after the boy’s father, who apparently wasn’t well. I don’t know how many employees there were, but it was certainly in the four figures, yet he knew them all by name and their families. He had an incredible memory. I’ve never forgotten that – him going across to this boy to ask about his father.

“Not going to college or university was always a big hole in his life. So he set up the Trust with the sole purpose of helping and rewarding young people in the west of Scotland. He was quite definite that the monies should only benefit people from the west of Scotland.

“Right now there are three categories to the Trust: rising stars, who are recommended from colleges and who could benefit from spending two years working in the United States, for example. Tools of the trade – where the likes of Ayrshire College comes in – and the hardship fund, which we’re looking to tweak to focus more on offering scholarships.

“John would absolutely be proud of the work that the trust is doing. This [the upcoming John Mather Awards] is just the embodiment of what the Trust is all about. He would be absolutely thrilled to see this.

“Family members of the students often come up to us after the award ceremonies, it’s fantastic. I remember a father coming up to me with tears in his eyes. He said he was a joiner and when he was starting out he didn’t have a tool to his name. To see these boys walking away with the tools, it was quite emotional for him. John would be thrilled to bits. That’s why the Trust has been so supportive of the College.

“When I think back to the first time we went to the old Kilmarnock Campus, compared to this building, oh my goodness, it’s just fantastic. I’m very conscious of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s amazing what [Ayrshire College Principal] Heather Dunk has done, and the other people involved here at the college. What strikes us every year is the enthusiasm of the staff – and that must rub off on the students. If John’s looking at us from up there somewhere, he’d be very happy. I’m sure of it.”

21 February 2019

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