Occasionally people down on their luck would come to them with requests for kitchen appliances.
“We were the Curry’s for washing machines and fridges in London,” he says.
ScotsCare, the charity which Docherty oversees and which was created by Scots for Scots in England’s capital city, still provides electrical items to the needy.
However its services, as many first and second generation Scots who have struggled with life in the Big Smoke would vouch for, now go well beyond the supply of white goods.
This is not the first time ScotsCare has had to remodel, however, as this year it is marking its 400th anniversary, making it one of the oldest charities in the world.
It was set up following the Union of the Crowns when James VI of Scotland moved to London taking with him Scottish courtiers.
In the early part of the 17the century many Scots who saw an opportunity to cash in on the opportunities they believed were opening up in the South headed to London.
Some made a success of it, others did not. ScotsCare, originally known as the Royal Scottish Corporation, was born out of the concern of those who had achieved success to look after those who had failed.
There was a big problem for those down on their luck. Not being locals, they were ineligible for help from London parishes.
It was time for Scots to look after their own. A Scots box was set up into which wealthy Scots paid contributions which were then distributed among the needy.
Famous supporters included Sir Walter Scott and Queen Victoria who annually donated 100 guineas until her death.
Times have changed, but today, the charity, which, has seen a number of Scottish household names support its work, including singer Lulu, actor Ewan McGregor and TV presenter Carol Smillie, is as relevant and necessary as it was several centuries ago.
There are now around 340,000 first and second generation Scots living in London and the charity every year helps in excess of 1,200 people living within 35 miles of the city’s Charing Cross area.
The plight of the impoverished Scottish émigré in London with its, at times, harsh environment remains a major challenge for the charity. Nobody is turned away.
Every day it encounters distressed men and women, young and old alike, and listens to anxious telephone calls. Some people are fleeing violence and abuse, some are homeless and many are elderly and frail.
To meet the challenge, ScotsCare runs assisted housing communities for the elderly and those with disabilities, offers financial aid to students and and helps low income families.
With a major goal being to take individuals “from poverty into self sustainment” the charity offers training and employment.
These are just part of its support functions for those in need.
Regular lunches and events are held to help build a community and one of the charity’s innovations “The Blether Buddies” has proved a success.
Blether Buddies target less socially active clients who find London an isolating and lonely place.
They telephone them on a weekly or fortnightly basis for a good chat.
The “Blether Buddies” team come from all walks of life and some have forged lasting relationships with their buddies.
Docherty, 58, is a former chief executive of the Capital City Partnership that involves key statutory, voluntary, community and private sector organisations coming together to promote change and joint working for community regeneration in Edinburgh and at one time held a similar role at the city’s Wester Hailes Partnership.
A keen participant in marathons, which give him an opportunity to raise funds for ScotsCare, Docherty runs the charity, with which he has been involved for nine years, with pride.
“It is a significant achievement for it to have lasted so long. The charity has been built up on the generosity of those Scots who have done better for themselves. That’s what keeps it alive.”
With no financial aid coming from either the Scottish or the Westminster governments and a less than favourable economic climate, the charity relies on its Stock Market portfolio and property assets that it has built up as well as legacies to fund its services.
“From an English perspective Scotland is a subsidy junkie but here we are in London helping our own and not requiring a subsidy.”
Accusations by some in the south that the charity’s work is discriminatory riles him.
“It’s not a big issue but it does rear its head. I have two answers.”
“If there’s a requirement for a similar charity to be set up in Scotland helping English people then feel free to form one.
“And secondly if we’re not taking care of the Scots in London who does the burden for helping them fall on? We’re doing them a favour.”
The charity is planning a special anniversary event at the House of Commons later this year.
“The charity exists because of the legacy of Scots handed down through the generations. We want as many high profile Scots to attend to make sure that legacy carries on.”
ScotsCare is being helped in its organisation of the anniversary event by Pete Wishart, the SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, who coincidentally featured in a music poll run by the charity a couple of years ago.
The public was asked to vote on Scotland’s favourite song and the version of Loch Lomond by folk-rock band Runrig, with whom Wishart was associated with for 15 years, came out on top.
The anniversary year is also being marked with a poetry competition entitled A Scot in London to be judged by Scots writer A L Kennedy.
It is open to the public as well as ScotsCare clients and supporters. Closing date for entries is 31 August and the winner who will receive £1000 will be announced on St Andrew’s Day – 30 November.
|Glasgow-born Joe McKeraghan…
found himself on the streets of London, his base now for almost three decades
He had been an alcoholic for a number of years and finally decided to stop drinking.
“I found myself with a lot of spare time on my hands and I needed to do something positive,” he says. “That’s when I came across ScotsCare and I came here to help people who were in a similar situation to me.”
It was a move that was to turn his life around. His benefits had just been stopped and he was in no fit state to go back to work, however help was at hand. A member of the charity’s team assisted him with some crucial financial support to tide him over until the benefits were re-instated.
“Once my life was stabilised I was able to apply for jobs again and I was fortunate to be offered one by the Royal Mail.”
Having returned to full-time employment he qualified for social housing at a very reasonable rent. Now on his days off he acts as a volunteer for the charity.
Joe who recently helped organise a boat trip taking more than 600 people down the River Thames to Greenwich is keen to encourage people to become a fundraiser, volunteer or donor for the charity that gave him his life back and
|Pensioner Ann Duck…
unsurprislingly, a lot of time and praise for Scotscare.
After all, she met her late husband Ted through the charity and was also given her current home by it after she went through what she called “horrible things” at a previous address.
Ninety-two-year-old Ann, who as well as being helped by the charity worked as a volunteer for it for a number of years, was born in Wigtownshire the day before the end of the Great War.
The pensioner left school at 14 and went into domestic service. She was interested in cooking and worked in the kitchen.
She cooked in the officers’ mess during her time in the Women’s Royal Air Force.
After that Ann decided to head for London for the Queen Mother’s Coronation in 1937 and seek a job there. “I had been homesick in the past and I thought that if you are homesick in London you just can’t afford to give up and go home.”
She later met her husband who was involved with ScotsCare and she had “good times” attending dances and tea parties there.
She became a volunteer for the charity cooking “Scotch pies, beans and tatties” for monthly lunches at the charity.
“ScotsCare does great work. It has helped me lead a very independent life. Moving your whole life from Scotland to England can be a daunting experience and it is great to know Scots will always look after other Scots.”
lived in London for 30 years. She arrived there from Motherwell with her husband and two young children to look for work and found a job with a local authority.
The couple enjoyed the perks of a stable life including holidays abroad, but at the age of 14, after getting in with the wrong crowd,their youngest daughter then started using heroin. Three years later fell pregnant and moved into her own flat.
Mr X was then diagnosed with liver cancer and had to stop work. His wife continued part time for a while but eventually had to stop due to caring responsibilities.The couple were then forced to report their daughter to social services because of the neglect of her son and he was placed in their care.
Their finances were stretched as assistance from the DWP and social services had been delayed and they were living on a very small income. The couple’s flat needed carpets and kitchen equipment and ScotsCare came to their aid.
The charity supplied them with the finances necessary to buy carpeting and arranged for a new cooker to be delivered. ScotsCare also provided a children’s clothing grant and this helped when their grandson started nursery.
Ongoing support was offered to assist with benefit applications and a freedom pass to ensure Mr. X could get free travel to the hospital for his weekly appointments.
1665 – Great Plague took hold. The charity paid for the burial of more than 300 Scots. “with as much decency as the public calamity would permit.”
1676 – Second Royal Charter states Governors should meet annually on St Andrews Day – hence origin of the Festival Dinner now in its 346th year.
1832 – Death of Sir Walter Scott, a regular donor to the charity.
1901 – Queen Victoria died; she donated 100 guineas annually for 63 years.
1928 – J. M Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, presided over the St Andrew’s Day Festival Dinner.
1975 – Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother opened new charity headquarters at 37 King Street, Covent Garden.
2006 – Scots TV presenter Carol Smillie, a supporter of ScotsCare, modelled the world’s most expensive kilt to celebrate St Andrew’s Day.
2009 – Lord Dalmeny becomes president of the Royal Scottish Corporation.