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Maria Strachan's History

Maria's Work at Drumpark Cottage 1985 to 1991

CHAPTER ONE

Maria and Ian moved with Andrea, & Lucy to Bargeddie in 1982. Our first son, Ian Edward was born in August 1982. In 1984, Ian started work on building an extension at the rear of the building. This was essentially to provide a new garage, extra bedroom and an office. The project got bigger and took longer than thought. (Not helped by Ian managing to sub-contract the brickwork to a bricklayer who was allergic to rain in what seemed to be the wettest year!). Drumpark Cottage was already a big house with good sized rooms. The work progressed and completion in 1986 led to an even bigger house!

In 1984, Maria agreed to help the Innocents (who were active in the area and helped young single mothers who had just had their baby). One girl was homeless and the Innocents were looking for someone to give her accommodation for a few days or a couple of weeks. Maria offered her help and a bedroom. This led to further help for other girls in similar situations.

Shortly after this had started, we responded to an advert placed by a Social Worker in Coatbridge looking for a home for young adults leaving Childrens Homes - 'supported lodging'. The idea was to give a sheltered place for someone to help them become more independent as a stepping stone to getting their own accommodation. The social worker contacted us for an initial meeting to explain the procedure and discuss the help expected. This meeting led to then a series of meetings where we basically wwent through the same procedure as adoption. Our background was checked and references taken; and long discussions took place over our values and family relationships. Arrangements were made for Danny to come to stay with us. Visits took place first of all together with a couple of overnight stays.In 1985 the final move happened although his bedroom was finished in the extension for several more months so an upstairs bedroom was used.

We accepted Danny as a son and treated him so. Maria spent a massive amount of time with Danny. He was very immature - although just turned 16 his education and values had stuck at less than 12 yrs old. Danny had found his father hanged and clearly the trauma had 'frozen' him. Maria taught him how to wash himself properly, how to prepare basic foods - in fact all lifes basic life skills that most of us take for granted. Maria also helped and encouraged him to study and attend college. Even simple things like travelling or catching the right bus was a challenge for him. Maria had many gifts and thankfully one of them was patience. Maria perservered and eventually Danny achieved results from college. Eventually he moved to stay with Maria's mum - Mrs Carty in Viewpark in 1992 before buying his own flat in Glasgow. He also gained full time employment in Glasgow gaining a good job in the Post Office.

Word of Maria's help for the Innocents spread to the Homeless Office of Monklands District Council, and we were asked if we could offer accommodation for another young person for a short term until long term accommodation could be found. So by 1987, we were accepting more and more homeless people on a full board basis. Maria found it difficult to refuse as we were very aware that for most of these people the only option was sleeping rough outside.

We also had a regular visitor to Drumpark Cottage. Big Jimmy Loughrin was a 'down & out' - a big tall man who slept rough and spent his fortnightly benefits on drink. When drunk he was loud - either singing or shouting but would have his quieter humerous moments also. When sober he was normally hungry and placid. Maria always ensured that he ate a full meal - and a change of clothes if at all possible! We later found out that Jimmy used to trade his 'new' clothes in for drink by bartering with colleagues. Jimmy slept for months in an empty house in Shettleston and walked every day for miles. He supplemented his government benefits by taking scrap metal he had 'found' and selling it to scrap metal dealers. At one point we used to let him sleep in our boiler room under the stairs as it was warmer than sleeping outside and the winters were particularly cold.

Jimmy had acquaintenances in Blantyre. A variety of local homeless men used to visit us because Jimmy had told them we were always good for a meal. It was one of these men that told Maria that Jimmy was in Barlinnie awaiting trial for murder. He had been charged along with a man from Blantyre with murdering a fellow homeless man and attempting to dispose of the body in a rolled carpet. We visited Jimmy in Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow a number of times. An experience indeed and taught us more about a different side of life which is rarely seen by most people. Maria's faith in God was immensely strong - and here was a sign of how she was able to accept others as a brother or sister. We contacted Joe Beltrami the Glasgow lawyer who was to represent Jimmy and we said that we would act as character witnesses for Jimmy. We had come to know Jimmy well and we knew that he was not the type of person who went assaulting let alone murdering people. We equally knew that when drunk he would be stupid enough to give someone else a hand to dispose of a problem - the body!! His criminal record extended to many breaches of the Peace, resisting arrest, and petty thefts. We attended Glasgow High Court as character witnesses a number of times. When the trial finished, Jimmy was found not guilty of murder - it turned out that the other man was found guilty then his record of violent assaults came out. Jimmy had been in prison awaiting trial for almost a year and so the sentence he got for helping to attempt to get rid of the body had been served. Jimmy came to see us a few times after that then must haved moved on as we didn't see him after that.

s a summary of the work that Maria carried out at Drumpark Cottage in Bargeddie. As many of the people involved are still living, names have been changed to protect their identity. The story of Drumpark tells of exceptional love and care that Maria showed to many people.

Her work was hard and incredibly stressful, yet she was able to care for difficult people when many others had failed. This section of her story attempts to tell of the good times and the not so good times - unfortunately though amongst the many good times and success stories the difficulties that Maria faced with the authorities have to be told. These difficulties led to her death, and the death of others. It is a story that has to be told.

Link to Drumpark summary page

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