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Volunteer Interview: Alastair

To give insight into the wonderful world of being a volunteer with Dundee Heritage Trust, we had a chat with some of our existing volunteers, who help make Verdant Works Museum and Discovery Point truly special.

Alastair volunteers as a guide on Royal Research Ship Discovery, having the privilege to walk aboard its historic decks, with a true sense of wonder.

What made you decide to volunteer on the ship?

“I was a solicitor in the city for decades. I initially worked as a Volunteer at the Collections Unit at McManus; I found it helped me to switch off from the stress of business life and tune in to the history of our city, which has always been of great interest to me. After time, I seemed to drift down towards the waterfront where Royal Research Ship Discovery is!

“Though I would help any of the city’s museums or cultural sites out if they needed a hand, my heart is really with RRS Discovery.”

What do you enjoy most about the role, and how does it fit the skills you have to offer?

“My role is mainly as a Guide. I am happy to meet the public at any time. I actually really believe in our fantastic ship, as well as the Discovery Point and Verdant Works Museums, as terrific assets for the city. I want to share their story with as many people as I can and send them home having had a really good time and having learned a lot.”

Have you gained any valued experience/skills as a result of being a volunteer?

“You don’t start out as a Guide or Volunteer, fully formed. It is like everything else in life – you bring a bit of yourself to the table, but with a willingness to learn. The folk you work with are both grateful and supportive of your efforts, and you grow in ability and confidence.

“In all honesty, what is not to like about being able to roam about on-board one of the most famous ships in the world, as you work with your mind, or your technical skills – and you meet fantastic characters as you go. Some of them are your talented and motivated colleagues and others are guests from all over the world.”

In your opinion, what makes the Royal Research Ship Discovery so important to you, and/or the Dundee community?

“RRS Discovery is absolutely unique! From her being built and launched here at the very outset of the 20th Century, right up until now, she encompasses the industrial and social history of the city. The history of the ship spans two World Wars and a Revolution. She is at the forefront of the modern issues which our Museum at Discovery Point is tackling, through our current massive regeneration and expansion – for example, climate science.

“An important part of the legacy of our ship is the early scientific work which was done on-board in the first few decades after her launch, which remains relevant today.

“Above all, can you imagine Dundee without the Royal Research Ship Discovery? We all need to make sure that we can look after her for the future with whatever we have to contribute, in our time or efforts.”

Thanks to volunteers like Alastair, visitors – young and old – continue to hear, and be inspired by, the remarkable stories of RRS Discovery’s groundbreaking voyages.

Another local volunteer who has assisted in guiding – but then worked on the technical side of the ship’s preservation – is Euan. With a love for the heritage of his city, this makes Euan the second generation of Alastair’s family to be working on RRS Discovery at the same time.

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