Special Feature


For centuries they were the favoured form of communication – hand-written missives from thank you notes to love letters, or a long, newsy dispatch to friends and family.

Then the rise of the internet and mobile phones effectively killed off the art of letter-writing, with electronic messages increasingly replacing old-fashioned pen and paper.

But a 21st century initiative among Scots schoolchildren is currently reviving the penpal tradition – with a twist. The youngsters of Kippen Primary School in Stirlingshire are now letter-writing friends with a group of the older people from Contact the Elderly.

The charity, which aims to ease loneliness among the older generation through regular afternoon tea parties, has been actively encouraging young people to get involved in its work through its Future of Volunteering initiative.

And the inspiration for the Penpal Project came after the charity’s Executive Officer Morna O’May, saw a volunteer’s young daughter make and deliver Christmas cards to some guests. She realised the potential for greater inter-generational co-operation and approached Kippen Primary.

Both pupils and staff reacted enthusiastically, and the project is now in full swing in the P6/7 class, fitting deftly into the curriculum.

Class teacher Mrs Vicki Stone said:

“This is a vitally important project for all involved. It develops the children’s letter

writing skills but also links them with a person they might otherwise not have had the

pleasure of knowing. We hope that the class letters bring pleasure to our pen pals,

there is always excitement when we receive another letter.”


The pupils’ first topic of the year was World War II and their new penpals were a huge help to their research, happily sharing their personal memories of the conflict and giving the youngsters a better understanding of their community’s history.

The children say it has also given them a greater appreciation of their elders and their knowledge – as well as their funny stories.

And they were pleased the project had fostered a better connection with the older generation. They agreed: “It feels good to bring a little bit of happiness into someone else’s life, however small.”


As for the recipients, one Contact the Elderly guest summed it up:


“It’s so lovely to receive the letters from our penpals, it is interesting to hear what

they are doing at school. I didn’t think they would be very interested in anything I

had to say but they have been full of questions for me, some of them quite funny”


Currently the project only involves the P6/7 class, but other Kippen Primary staff and pupils could become involved in a School Tea Party planned for their new penpals.

Contact the Elderly is also aiming to roll out the penpal initiative to other schools in Scotland, potentially getting schools across the country on board.

The project was funded through the Stirling Soup Initiative and has already been highly commended in two categories of the Generations Working Together Awards – Innovation and Reducing Isolation and Loneliness. Morna O’May said

” It’s been such a huge success and is giving so much pleasure to both ends of the

generational spectrum. It would be fantastic to get more schools involved.


“The power of a personally-written letter just can’t be underestimated and in this

digital age it’s a real joy to see the youngsters reviving this dying art so



And for anyone considering following their lead the Kippen Primary children have some useful advice:

“Writing might not be your favourite thing, but think about how happy your penpal

Will be when they receive your letter,” says Lily Bell, 11.


“Don’t worry if you aren’t the best letter writer,” counsels Robert Weir, also 11,

“they’ll just love to hear from you.”


To find out more about becoming a volunteer or guest of Contact the Elderly in Scotland, please contact morna.o’may@contact-the-elderly.org.uk or 01786 871264 or visit www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk.


Contact the Elderly:

For further media information please contact Alison Shaw on 07760 193375 or alison@hummingbird-comms.com




Alison Shaw
PR Consultant
Hummingbird Communications (Scotland) Ltd

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Special Feature

Kippen Football star donates his Scotland shirt


Former Kippen FC, Stirling Albion and Everton Goalkeeper Iain Turner marked his retirement from the game by donating a Scotland shirt to his local football park.

Iain wore the shirt as part of the successful Scotland team captained by David Weir who won the Kirin Cup Tournament held in Japan in 2006. The shirt will be displayed in the Pavilion at the Kippen Football Park.

Iain said, “My football career started in Kippen, so it seemed the right thing to do to donate it to the Kippen Sports Development group who manage the facilities. I hope that it might help inspire some of the local boys and girls to follow in my footsteps”.

The shirt was accepted by Paul Goodwin, Chair of Kippen Sports Development who said, “It was a real pleasure to meet Iain and to hear about the successful Kirin Cup campaign.  It is not too often that we hear about Scotland winning tournaments, so it makes it rather special. We would like to thank Iain for the kind gesture on behalf of everyone in Kippen”.

Paul Goodwin

Special Feature

Kippen Sports Development Ltd (Sports Field) End of year update

The Sports Field Management team was supplemented by the arrival of Cameron Skinner to the committee which is responsible for the ongoing management of the sports field. The Group has a lease from the Mitchell Trust to ensure that the facilities are kept in good order for community benefit.

Sadly, with no senior Kippen Football team playing at the park this year this has had an impact on our income from rentals. The good news is that the McNicoll’s family have agreed to still collect donations for us from second hand books sold in the store.

The main users of the facilities remain Kippen Primary school and the Kippen Junior Football Club. We were delighted to have extended use by the Cubs and Brownies as well as several one-off events such as the Kippen Trail Race and several kids’ birthday parties. We are delighted to report that we will have additional support from the Windmill Fund that will allow us to enhance our usage options with some additional deep drainage works.

Our main challenge is the cost of basic maintenance and insurances is nearly £2000 per year and our income is just not generating enough money to keep the sports field in a sustainable position. Over the coming months we will be consulting with any interested parties in the village as we seek to find a solution to this conundrum.

Any suggestions can be posted on our new Kippen Sports Field Facebook page or send by email to our Chair at   paulgoodwin@bigbluestar.co.uk

Paul Goodwin

Special Feature

Kippen Street Fayre 2018

The sun shone, the music played, and the costumes were fantastic – it’s fair to say that the 2018 Kippen Street Fayre was a great success.

The warm weather was particularly welcome after last year’s downpour which didn’t let up until late afternoon. The Disney theme also went down well, resulting in some of the most imaginative fancy dress costumes seen in a long time. From Pinocchio and the Queen of Hearts to Mary Poppins and Cruella de Vil (to mention just a few), it was great to see adults and kids alike getting into the spirit of things. This year’s King and Queen, Ewan Milligan and Ava Scott, along with attendants Charis Bell, Freya Hadley Stove, Edward Boyd and Grant O’Donnell, led the street parade with the help of local piper Murray O’May. They were also joined by Special guests Elsa and Anna from Frozen (aka Shooting Starz) whose appearance on stage went down a storm (although we have to say the boys were better at following the dance moves than the girls!).

Charlie Sullivan won the sausage competition for her pork, rhubarb and lime recipe which local butcher Cameron Skinner made on the day. People also had the chance to have a go at making their own sausages, which helped raise more than £80 for Contact the Elderly.

People came from far and wide, with one visitor from Derbyshire winning the prize for the furthest travelled.  The dog show, sponsored by Struthers and Scott, was very popular, especially the agility course which saw some underhand dog swapping (one black lab looks very much like another, right?).

Stallholders, local pubs and cafes did a roaring trade, especially those offering liquid refreshments to help quench the thirst in all that heat (not that anyone needed an excuse for a cocktail or two).

The raffle was popular as always and helped raise more than £500 for local groups and charities, thanks. A big thanks to the all the local businesses who donated prizes.

Musical entertainment was provided by Old Play, the Dodgy Characters, Alan Stewart and the lovely young singer Christie McEachern, who kept the crowds entertained throughout the day.  Thanks are due to those involved in organising this year’s event and everyone who came along on the day to show their support.  Special thanks also to Kippen Windfarm Initiative for their generous grant, which helped buy a number of new gazebos for this year’s event.

Special Feature

The World’s Largest Vine!

As many of our readers will know, in the first half of the twentieth century, Kippen was renowned as the home of the biggest vine in the world, (second largest was in Kew Gardens.)  This, and other vines, had been planted in 1891 by Duncan Buchanan in greenhouses in Cauldhame.

Income from the vine was initially derived from the sale of grapes (as far afield as Harrods), given that fruit from abroad was not readily available in those days.  As time went on, this income was supplemented by an increasing volume of tourist trade.  In the early 1960s, it was estimated that the vine was attracting over 20,000 visitors annually, with peak daily numbers in excess of 1,000.

However, maintenance of the vine and its companions was extremely labour-intensive and very specialised, and in 1964, Selby Buchanan reluctantly decided to cut it down.

The full history of the vine, with many illustrations, was documented in 1991 in a booklet by Alan Edwards (a member of the Buchanan family with personal memories of the vine).  This had gone out of print, but was resurrected in 2013 by Kippen Heritage, and has been available to buy in McNicolls, Rhubarb Lime and The Inn.  That reprint sold its last copy recently, and a small print run resulted in its re-introduction in early March.

It is intended to publish an expanded version towards the end of this year, telling what has happened to offspring of the original vine since it was cut down.  It is known that many greenhouses in Kippen, from Cauldhame to Shirgarton, have cuttings.  There are also plants in Culzean Castle, with Alan Edwards in Angus, and at locations in Surrey and Buckinghamshire.

The Wee Vine would very much like to know of other descendants, so please email us details (and photos) at enquiries@theweevine.org.

Stuart Thomson & Rick Dekker


Special Feature

Volunteering in the Solomon Islands

My name is Torin Price and I am currently a 6th form student at Balfron High School.

Come summer next year that is going to change in quite a dramatic way for me. After a 5-day selection course on the Isle of Coll I’m pleased to say that, as part of a volunteering programme with Project Trust, I will be spending a year in the Solomon Islands!

I’ll be sent with just one other person from the UK and I will be teaching English to secondary school students whilst immersing myself in the local community – helping in whatever way I can. Although I don’t know exactly where I will be posted, I’m told it will be a rural setting. I and my partner will live within that rural community for a full 12 months.

Project Trust itself is a charity that specializes in sending school leavers away for a year to help communities in less developed nations. They send pairs of volunteers to 21 different countries around the globe for 12-month periods. They primarily focus on sending people to teach in primary and secondary schools, although they can also offer opportunities in social care and outward bound.

The organization started in 1967 and is now reaching its 50th year of operation. In these 50 years the Trust has sent over 7,000 volunteers abroad to South America, Africa, Asia and now Oceania. They are one of the most respected gap year organizations in the UK, offering a once in a lifetime opportunity for school leavers to immerse themselves in a completely different lifestyle, culture and community to what they’re used to.

The Solomon Islands lie in the southern Pacific Ocean, just east of Papua New Guinea. The small nation has a population of 599,000, only a thousand people more than Glasgow! There are 6 main islands and over 900 smaller ones. The country is hugely diverse with 70 local dialects spoken. Even though the official language is English, only 2% of the population actually speaks it.


final final

The economy is very poor with its gross domestic product (GDP) per person similar to many African countries, which makes it fall under the classification of underdeveloped. As a result, many basic facilities lacks funding for maintenance or even staffing, including schools. This means that the country often has to rely on foreign aid to support the education system, which is where I come in.

To do this I’m required to contribute to the funding. For me to travel to the Solomon Islands, cover living costs and insurance, and not put any of the expense upon the community, I need to raise just over £6,000.

So, over the next 8 months I will be wearing myself thin fundraising, trying to reach my total by the end of July. I’m planning on hosting multiple events, whilst also doing a sponsored swim/run and hosting several afternoon teas, amongst other things. I would really appreciate any contribution (no matter how small) to help me reach my total.

If you would like to get in touch to find out any more information, or to give me a donation towards my year away, please contact me at: Ardenlea, Fintry Road, Kippen (Tel 01786 870395; mobile 07402151709); email torinprice@gmail.com. Or donate online on my Virgin Money Giving page:


Please feel free to visit my Facebook Page where I’ve got more information, and I will post updates on my progress and advertise any events that I’ll be holding.


Torin (Price).