Matt's Story

Matt’s Story

“Wee things like that cheer me up when I go by and I look at the way it used to be…”

“Being Easter we thought we would try and put some wee gift packs together for the kids: colouring in books, crayons and pencils, puzzle books and we put a wee appeal out in the village… Locals started donating money, local businesses an’ people that had donated to other projects that the Neilston War Memorial Association have done before, started anonymously just sending money, even money getting put through my door. Due to that we ended up making up, I think it was about nearly 500 packs for the kids… And then we got volunteers in the village to go and deliver them. One of the volunteers was only a wee kid hisself… and he was tiny… I’ve got a photie of him, his rubber gloves and his sanitiser and he went round and delivered them to the neighbourhood, which I just thought was absolutely brilliant, before he sat down and had his own egg. Got lots of pictures, the kids from their mothers and thank yous. The kids covered in chocolate and the majority of the photographs is that their heads were down at tables or on the floor colouring away.”

Matt Drennan at the memorial for Iain MacDonald, Neilston, photograph by Wes Kingston

“Seeing the people’s faces that we went to help, old pensioners and quite a lot of them that I know through… remembrance and you chap their door and you’re standing and they’re telling you, “I don’t need that son. Go and give it to somebody else who… needs it.” And I’m saying, ‘No you need it, you’re a pensioner and you’re stuck in your house,’ and they’re saying to you, “Oh ah wish I could gie ye a big cuddle, I wish I could gie you a kiss. You don’t know what this means.” And eh, just even big smiles and saying, “it’s free son?” and I’m saying, ‘Look, there’s cakes in there and there’s biscuits.’ “Ah’m away to get the kettle on, you’ve made my day.’’ That was like, some of the comments. That really came back and made me feel really proud; that I was doing something positive wi’ just a group of ma friends, say unpaid volunteers… We’re doing this in our spare time in between working, when we were getting to go to work. So, it was all free. We were putting ourselves at risk in some respects that we didnae know how deadly this virus was but we thought that we’d need to get out there and go and try an reach out to the people who couldn’t get out the house, who were really in fear that they got this… We lost a lot of good people from the village eh, I’ll not say any names but lost some really, really nice people who were joyful an’ eh really, really caring an’ eh, they’ll be missed.”

“We lost the piper in the village, who done the piping at the war memorial, Iain MacDonald, in May [2020] [not Covid related]. An’ we wanted to do a bespoke memorial for him and yet again put the fundraising shout up and we had the money within days. Shouted about to the boys in the village, could they help get the site ready for the benches and we got these big drums made, big planters to look like big bass drums an’ tenor drums for the pipe band… and it’s looking quite resplendent. Wee things like that cheer me up when I go by and I look at the way it used to be, an’ it was quite a dingy wee corner wi’ a bench that was half wrecked. An’ people said to us at the time, “Oh I wouldnae put that there son, that bench’ll get written on, this’ll happen to it.” And that’s nearly two years it’s been there this May and it’s never been touched once. It looks beautiful.”

Testimony of Matt Drennan,
Distillery Manager & Secretary of the Neilston War Memorial Association
Photography by Wes Kingston
Interview & Transcription by Amanda Robb

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