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My Friends who have died

Maria Margaret Strachan - My Friends - Past

Maria and Ian have had the good fortune to get to know many nice people over the years. In this section we give a brief description of some of these friendships with people - some of whom unfortunately died at what seems to be a far too early age. You will read in some of these cases that the circumstances were indeed tragic if not wholly damnable and it will bring into question the role of individuals and groups withing the Social Services regime. From this you may draw your own conclusion!

Ann Maxwell
Ann introduced a higher standard of nursing care for those with mental health problems in the Monklands area. As a lead manager of the Psychiatric Nurses team she brought a level of care, compassion and understanding which had previously been sorely missed. Her enthusiasm was unmatched. We first met Ann when she visited Drumpark Cottage to give us support and advice in relation to some of our residents mental health issues. She brought wisdom and understanding based on real experience rather than a text book, and with it she brought an air of relief that here was some else who could understand the difficulties we were having in obtaining adequate support from social services. Maria and Ann used to swap stories and undoubtedly were able to support each other in this still very challenging area of person care.
Ann died following a period of intense pressure on her as an individual following allegations made against her. A still very young woman, her loss was felt greatly by us and especially since Maria lost a good friend and ally. This was one of our first exampled of pressure from social services leading to someones' death.

Charlotte Starrs
Charlotte was a bright girl who had spent much of her childhood in Childrens Homes. She was a strong (to say the least) character and would not take a telling lightly, nor would she allow a friend to suffer at anyones hand or tongue either. We got to know Charlotte when her social worker at the time was looking for a supported lodgings place as a stepping stone towards 'independence' and a place of her own. She was, at that time, at Kerlaw List D School in Ayrshire and was just 16 years old. Her story and background was such that we felt that she deserved a chance albeit was clear that it would not be straightforward. When Charlotte came to stay at Drumpark Cottage, our 'fears' were proved right. We often had trouble from people when they first came to stay as they sought to establish themselves in their own right and I suppose get used to the way that the rest of us behaved. Our experience and friendship was so unique that we have devoted a separate section for Charlotte - she was after all our third, but adopted, daughter.

Paul Conaway
Paul was Danny's younger brother. Like Danny and the rest of the family he had spent all of his short years in childrens homes. Magically when kids turn 16, social services deem them to be adults and so they are turfed out of one institutional regime and into the homeless hostel regime. The only real difference being that nobody is around to give instructions!
Paul visited us occasionally - a character indeed and had a maturity and vision on life which was perhaps in some repects older than his years. Through him we got to know Alan from the Bethany Trust in Edinburgh and his family. They were involved in a very similar vocation to ourselves although they had the benefit of being supported by the Baptist Church in Edinburgh
We were saddened deeply when told that Paul had been found dead from a drugs overdose just several days after we had met at Christmas 199*. Alan thought that Paul hadn't overdosed intentionally but had been experimenting with drugs not knowing how potent they were. A tragic end to a short life but we learnt from Paul and enjoyed his company

John Mulvey
John was a mischievous boy and soon became one of our favourites. He related well to Maria and our own family and became a good friend for Ian as well. John was a gifted individual who had an interesting, if difficult childhood.

Joe Baird
Joe died when he was just 42 years old. Yet his story was interesting, tragic, full of misinterpretation from social services and care institutions, and touching.

Margaret Clark
Margaret and Maria were born on the same day - 9 May 1952. That must have been one special day indeed. They grew up together, went out together, swapped clothes, shared friends. In many respects they were twins. Over they years they remained friends, falling out with each other and falling back in again! Margaret was very special to Maria and we feel that it is appropriate to devote an entire section to our friendship with Margaret. Please link into it as it is interesting if not amazing and the story of true friendship.

John Porch
John Porch was a good friend who despite being very able also had very significant difficulties - our experiences with him as friends together were often hilarious. He was a loving man who had a sense of humour - both of which thankfully overshadowed his loneliness and insecurity.

Rosemary Tweed
Rosemary came to stay at Drumpark as she was homeless. Rosemary was a quite private person who wanted to be independent but various circumstances had led her into her situation. It was perhaps made more difficult as she didn't share her thoughts or feelings easily, and this I am sure didn't help her difficulties in relation to her suffering from epileptic periods. She left Drumpark to get her own accommodation and we met her now and again in Coatbridge. She met & married ___ and was blessed with 2 sons. We learnt with much heartache that she had died following an epileptic fit and this re-kindled our fond memories of Charlotte. Rosemary seemed to thankfully have found some peace with her young family and our prayers go to her husband and family.

Jean Gallacher
Jean Gallacher stayed at Drumpark Cottage and became very friendly with Michael Devlin. They would rarely be seen apart. Both smoked liked chimneys - Michael was reasonably safe whereas Jean was forever burning herself. She suffered from epilepsy and never seemed to read the signs that a fit was on its way. Maybe she did see or feel the signs but just chose to ignore them as she was quite 'headstrong'. She needed a reasonable degree of care if only to maintain a safe surrounding for her. When she left Drumpark we learnt later that she had lost fingers from her hand following a fall into a fire whilst in a fit.

Michael Devlin
Michael was much the same age as Jean. Michael arrived at Drumpark as a homeless person. As many others, he was referred by the Homeless Persons Unit in Airdrie. Michael was proud of his independence and communicated little about himself. A person having regular habits we bumped into him a few times after he left. However he needed some basic needs to overcome his loneliness and Marias kindly approach with him was just as much as he needed.

Jim Bryce

Hugh Brady
Hugh was an ex coalman hailing from Mossend in Bellshill. White haired and red-faced, he posed a fierce figure after a night at the pub. Without drink he was a quite compassionate fellow who was polite and helpful. He suffered I think from a background which we never really categorised (as one shouldn't - people are individuals) but linked with the syndrome of a spoilt boy who has never got over the split from his mother. More than several others fell into this loose description but we could see the emotional hurt and loneliness quite evidently and quite similar behavioural traits. Maria just loved them and gave them the trust and love that perhaps they were missing. Social Services could never understand this as it didn't fit into their categories of care or care behaviour - Maria just knew that it exactly fitted their basic human and spiritual requirement and that God would do the rest.

Jean Gallagher
We first met Jean and Michael Gallagher when they moved into Spindlehowe next door to us. Being young parents bringing up young families in a brand new estate meant that we soon built up a close friendship. Skipping over the back fence to share coffee or experiences was a daily occurence. Many stories exist around this special period and again we have devoted a section to this. Jean sadly died after a long battle with cancer, but not after many happy holidays together; parties together and arguments as well!

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