National Museum of Rural Life

A guest post by Stuart McMillan, Community Development Manager, Venture Trust

Venture Trust, National Museums Scotland and young carers groups in Glasgow have joined forces to enable 12 young people with caring responsibilities to explore changing land use triggered by Scotland’s silent revolution, the Lowland Clearances. You can find out more about the project in this previous post. After their heritage journey, which you can read about here, the group returned home to nice warm beds, dry clothing and a proper roof over their heads. The expedition had been designed to challenge the group physically and mentally, whilst allowing them to experience some of the hardships the cottiers had to deal with when they were cleared from the Lowlands during the 18th century. Along the way they visited sites of historical interest and observed the changes in land use from the 1600s until the present day. Part of the project was to document their findings with photographs and to create a presentation of their findings. Here’s what the group had to say about it…

Presenting our story

The next thing we had to do was to pull all of our findings into a proper presentation. We met up again at the Venture Trust Office in Cumbernauld for a weekend of research, editing and writing, where we worked really hard to create a project which wasn’t just factually accurate but looked interesting too. We decided that we wanted to tell our story and present our research on 4xA2 boards, with as many pictures as possible instead of lots of writing.

Once we had agreed what the overall presentation should look like, what should be on each board and how the journey should be illustrated, we split into small groups to edit the pictures (there were a lot of pictures!), edit and tidy up the journey blog, do more research to make sure we hadn’t got anything wrong and fill in any blanks. It was a fairly intense day with the whole group working hard from around 10 until 4 (on a Saturday!) but by the end of the day we had an edited slideshow, 90% of the pictures decided, the bulk of the captions agreed and most of the blog written. All in all, a good day’s work.

The staff suggested that rather than have another day spent in front of laptops on the Sunday we would have a bit of a reward for all of the hard work and go to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho.  Only one or two of us had ever climbed before and we had an excellent day out, with everyone pushing themselves really hard. We all set ourselves goals based on what we wanted to achieve and everyone did better than they expected. Simon asked what we’d learned and we agreed that we’d all exceeded our own expectations, which proved that sometimes we needed to step outside of our comfort zones to learn about ourselves and that more often than not we are capable of far more than we believe! With another productive weekend under our belts we agreed to reconvene again as a smaller group in a few weeks’ time to put the boards together.

In between these two sessions Stuart sent the proposed captions, descriptions and presentation content to the staff at National Museums Scotland, who kindly proofed them for accuracy and spelling. This meant that when we got back together we could focus on the look of the presentation. When the final session to complete the boards came around we really got stuck in. We met at Venture Trust’s Glasgow office and worked through the final layout. There were bits of paper, glue and photographs everywhere. Stuart said he’d “seldom worked with a more motivated bunch”.

Boards illustrating the group's journey

Two of the boards illustrating the group’s journey.

We had a very productive session and by the end of it we had four presentation boards that everyone agreed illustrated the journey and the experience very well. Now all we had to do was present it….

Graduation day

We decided that the graduation should be held in Glasgow to allow as many family and friends as possible to attend, but that we wanted to host the event in a venue that was relevant to the project. We decided that a museum would be a good choice and after a little bit of research we decided that the St Mungo Museum would be perfect.

We decided on the guest list, making sure to invite all of the partners who had helped us along the way. We invited the Heritage Lottery staff who had funded the project, the Venture Trust staff who had delivered the project and the National Museums Scotland staff who had given us a tour and helped with research and getting this blog live. We also made sure to invite Robert and Margaret from our Young Carers groups as they had done a lot to make sure we had the support we needed to take part.

On the day, we set up the boards and the display stands with our presentation and photographs of the journey. Then the guests started to arrive. Lots of the guests were family and friends and it was good to be able to show them the work we’d all done and introduce them to the people who’d been involved.

Venture Trust staff explained a  bit about the project and how it came about and Sharon read out some thoughts and experiences that one of the girls who wasn’t able to attend had written. We were then called up one at a time for our certificates and a group picture.

Graduation day

Graduation day.

We had a bite to eat and had a chat with some of the National Museums Scotland staff and they invited us to display our project in the National Museum of Rural Life. We didn’t really expect that our work would end up in a museum when we started out all those months ago but it’s been a great project and we all really enjoyed it.

By Maggie McDougall, Stockperson at National Museum of Rural Life, East Kilbride

Visit the National Museum of Rural Life, East Kilbride to see our award-winning Ayrshire herd for yourself and watch them being milked 1950s style every day at 3pm.

With the agricultural show season in full swing, the National Museum of Rural Life’s Ayrshire herd is certainly making a name for itself, with the Museum ranked amongst the top breeders in Scotland.

National Museum of Country Living - Woolly Weekend.

Award winning Ayrshire Nora Louise with Maggie McDougall, Stockperson at National Museum of Rural Life, East Kilbride

The first show of the season was the Neilston Show where our Ayrshire herd won the Supreme Ayrshire Championship for the fourth year in a row, which is a new record! We also lifted the Reserve Championship, the Quey Derby, Best Animal Bred by Exhibitor and the overall dairy section’s Points Challenge Cup.

National Museum of Rural Life's Ayshire herd trophies

National Museum of Rural Life’s Ayshire herd trophies from the Neilston Show.

The following weekend saw the Prestigious Ayr County Show held at Ayr Racecourse. This is a not a show for the faint-hearted. Competition is fierce with some of the biggest and best breeders in Scotland represented as a prelude to their appearance at the Royal Highland Show in late June.  We have been regular exhibitors at Ayr for many years, increasing awareness of the National Museum of Rural Life’s champion Ayrshire herd in south-west Scotland.

This year was particularly successful for us. Nora Louise 2nd won the Heifer in Milk Class and went on to win the Ayrshire Heifer Championship. She then went on to win Reserve Supreme Ayrshire Champion, the Interbreed Group of 4 Reserve Championship, Quey Derby and Best Animal Bred by Exhibitor!

Award winning Ayrshire Nora-Louise the 2nd

Award-winning Ayrshire Nora-Louise the 2nd.

To be placed at Ayr Show is a great achievement but to reach the heights of Reserve and Champion was beyond our wildest dreams. The genuine delight from the other stockmen made our day and my ribs still hurt from all the congratulatory hugs. But this is not a solo pursuit and I couldn’t have done it without the great team on show day.

Ayr County Show held at Ayr Racecourse

Ayr County Show held at Ayr Racecourse.

I’ve been breeding Ayrshires at Wester Kittochside for some 13 years and have produced some fine champions during that time.  The many late nights and early mornings I have spent with the herd have all been worthwhile.

Visitors to the National Museum of Rural Life are able to see our prize-winning herd of Ayrshires on our working farm, as well as many other animals like Tamworth pigs and Clydesdale horses.

Guest post by author Sara Sheridan, who will be talking about her interest and obsession with the 1950s at Back to the 50s at National Museum of Rural Life, East Kilbride, on Sunday 4 May

I can’t help myself. I’m an historical writer and I travel a lot but no matter where I go I’m never far from the siren call of a vintage shop. Sometimes it’s a smart, West London boutique and other times I’ll be on a backstreet in Paris or Madrid and I’ll notice something in a dusty window, out of the corner of my eye. Shopping is not supposed to qualify as research but if your period is the nifty 1950s then it isn’t far off. You’re unlikely to pick up early Victorian pieces for a song but there is plenty booty to be had from only 60 years ago. My mother (now 76) is devastated to discover objects from her younger years featuring occasionally in museum collections. It comes to all of us.

My obsession started young. My father was an antiques dealer and he used to tell me bedtime stories about the pieces he’d bought at auction that day. He’d draw a diamond bracelet or a little silver jug from his pocket and spin a tale about who owned it and how it had been handed down. Some of my friends don’t understand how intriguing a bit of age can make an object – lots of people prefer things to be new and unowned. But I think of second hand items as pieces with tales to tell – and there’s nothing as valuable as a story.

A friend’s son, who is adopted, brought down the wrath of a very politically correct teacher on his parents recently. ‘Mum and Dad say I’m second hand,’ he smiled. The teacher berated my friend at the school gate but she gave as good as she got. ‘Second hand is better. It’s been loved so much more,’ she retorted. She’s right.

Cover of Sara Sheridan's novel Brighton Belle

Cover of Sara Sheridan’s novel Brighton Belle, part of the Mirabelle Bevan muders mystery series.

The 1950s is one of my favourite eras for design. I dress the heroine of my 1950s Murder Mystery Series, Mirabelle, in items from the V&A’s 1950s collection. She has impeccable taste. I do with objects of a lower calibre – a sweet pearl ring I picked up on a trip to Manchester a couple of years ago and a burgeoning collection of little cashmere cardigans with pearl buttons. As Make Do And Mend faded out with clothes rationing, women bought such beautiful quality outfits – their eyes were honed in to lush fabrics that were cut with generosity and sewed double seamed. That’s why they’ve lasted so well.

Sara Sheridan author of Brighton Belle

Sara Sheridan, author of Brighton Belle

Sometimes as I walk around museums (historical novelists are nothing if not swotty) I look at what must at some stage have been personal objects and wonder how well they really represent the person’s life, whoever owned them. What will be left of me in 100 years? And if it is encased in glass will people make assumptions about my life based on a matchbox or a hairbrush? Survivals are so random – it’s just whatever isn’t thrown out or recycled or lost for one reason or another. I like to think that in some of my style choices – fashion or household – I’m carrying a little piece of past generations with me. Like an echo.

A guest post by Stuart McMillan, Community Development Manager, Venture Trust

Venture Trust, National Museums Scotland and young carers groups in Glasgow have joined forces to enable 12 young people with caring responsibilities to explore changing land use triggered by Scotland’s silent revolution, the Lowland Clearances. You can find out more about the project in this previous post. During their heritage journey the Venture Trust group set out to experience some of the hardships that cottiers cleared off the land would have encountered as they made their way towards the cities and New Towns in the 1700s. They travelled across Southern Scotland, visiting historical sites and gathering information for their project on Scotland’s Lowland Clearances. Along the way they had to overcome torrential rain, gale force winds, a mountain rescue and leaky plates! The following account is based on the group’s daily journal and outlines their thoughts and feelings each day.


We all met up in George Square at around 4:30, where we met up with all the staff that were taking us on the trip. We discussed a rough plan of what the trip would look like. We got on the minibus ready to go on the road trip. We were on the road for about an hour or so when we stopped at Abington services for a break. Then we took another wee while to arrive at Wiston Lodge, where we got our backpacks, clothing, and sleeping bags, and discussed sleeping arrangements. We had dinner and a hot drink, we had a wee meeting in the tipi and went through the social contract we had to all sign, then headed to bed.


After a cold wet and windy night we were woken up around 8am where we got freshened up, had a hot drink and some breakfast and headed to the kitchen where we went over our plans for the day.

A wet start to the day

A wet start to the day.

Our plan for the day was to climb a hill so that we could see the land in the area and the different types of farming and land use that we could see. We then went and picked our foods for the weekend, got our trangeas (cookers) and packed them in our bag packs along with our tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag. At around noon we headed off on our journey up to Glentrool and arrived there at around 2:30pm, where we then fastened up our waterproof jackets and helped one another put rucksacks on. When everyone was kitted up we started our walk. It was wet and windy but the walk was enjoyable because everyone was having a laugh and helping each other when the hill got tough and slippy. Half way up the hill Danielle slipped and injured her knee and we had to stop. As a group we came to the decision to come back down rather than split the group. Danielle was helped off the hill by Mountain Rescue and taken to hospital. At the bottom of the hill we used our trangeas for the first time and cooked some dinner – some people were better at cooking than others! After a long drive back to Wiston Lodge we were given nice hot cabins to sleep in for the night because the weather had got a lot worse. It was a difficult day and we all felt bad because Danielle hurt her leg but we learned how to cope with set-backs and prioritise things and to re-think our plans due to circumstances.


After having had a stressful night on Saturday the staff allowed us to have an extra hour’s sleep, we got up and asked Simon and Gee how Danielle was and was told she dislocated her right knee and was picked up by her dad during the night. We had a hot drink, breakfast and went into our support sessions for about an hour where we reviewed the previous day and set our goals for the day ahead, then we had a group meeting and discussed the plan for the day. We then put our lunch into our bags, got ready and headed off to a local wax museum to see if it had any relevant exhibits, Robbie Burns was the only wax work who was involved in the clearances but it did have a dry stane dyke exhibit which we found out was how many of the farms were enclosed. We took loads of pictures too.

In the wax museum

In the wax museum.

We then headed off to New Lanark and the Falls of Clyde to see a mill where some of those who were cleared off the land moved to work. When we got to New Lanark we played a few games whilst walking up to the Falls – one of which was called the Land of Confusion. We looked around the museum and saw the mill and machinery and the houses people lived in. It was interesting to see how people lived at this time and some of those cleared off the land probably had a better quality of life here because the owner looked after his employees. We took some pictures of the exhibit’s historical things and of the waterfalls, which were mesmerising. When we got back to Wiston Lodge we had a communal dinner and a group chat, then went into the tipi and played a few games, had a hot drink then headed to bed.

Viewing the Falls

Viewing the Falls.

View of the Falls

View of the Falls.


After a nice hot bed to sleep in everybody woke up feeling refreshed, happy and raring to go with the day plan. At around 8:30 we got our trangeas out, made breakfast, had hot drinks and went into our group support sessions for 45 minutes then went over and got our bag packs sorted out and headed off on our journey to Tinto Hill!

We arrived at our destination at around 11:30am where we got our kit on, our walking poles and helped each other with our bag packs. Walking up Tinto Hill was such a great experience and I’d do it all over again if I got the chance. There was times when it was quite tough but the encouragement you got off the other members of the team was great and really inspiring, the sights we saw and the pictures we took from walking up the hill were magnificent. We stopped off half way up the hill and had a spot of lunch in the bothy and had a nice wee group chat about our journey so far. After lunch we started walking up the second part of the hill where we took more pictures and had a bit of fun playing in the snow. We took a few wee stops as we were walking because a few people were quite tired and sore but we finally reached the top of the hill and it was such an amazing and proud feeling knowing you pushed yourself to do that and the view from the top was mind-blowing.


Onwards and upwards

At the top of the hill

We made it!

Simon pointed out lots of the landmarks and we discussed how the scene might have looked before the clearances. It was hard to imagine small crofts and villages instead of the massive farms and forestry we could see. It was a real challenge to climb the hill but it felt great and we all made it together.

We arrived back at Wiston Lodge about quarter past four and were to told to be back in the kitchen area around half five to six for dinner, so some people went and got cleaned up and had a shower. Abbie, Dahna and Lauren helped prepare the food for the night’s dinner by cutting and chopping the vegetables and chicken and adding spices and herbs into the big pot, and around half six we all sat down and had dinner as one big group. Dinner was delicious but we used plates that leaked and most of us ended up covered in gravy! After dinner we headed into the tipi and played some fun games including King of the Jungle where we had to do different animal voices and actions. After a few hours of playing games and chatting in the tipi we then had a wee chat and hot drink and headed off to bed.


Woke up on Tuesday morning and Abbie had to get her left foot bandaged because she had hurt it during the night. Fraser, one of the boys from the group, had left with one of the workers because there was an opportunity for him to volunteer at Wiston Lodge for two weeks as a cook, which was a great chance for him. We got into our support group sessions and spoke about what we would be taking home from this course i.e; experience, maturity and confidence. Dahna was awesome as per usual. We discussed meeting up the following week to sort our photos and start work on our presentation. Fraser was offered a work placement which he wants to do J

The next instalment will detail the follow-up weekend, where the group reviews their experience, sorts through the huge pile of photographs, compiles a slideshow and tries their hand at rock climbing to push their comfort zone even further!

A guest post by Stuart McMillan, Community Development Manager, Venture Trust

Venture Trust, National Museums Scotland and young carers groups in Glasgow have joined forces to enable 12 young people with caring responsibilities to explore changing land use triggered by Scotland’s silent revolution, the Lowland Clearances, since the 1700s. 

During the 18th century, Scotland’s traditional system of agriculture changed radically. But as farming methods were modernised and small portions of land consolidated, many cottars and tenant farmers were forced to leave their homes, displaced to the industrialised cities of Glasgow or Edinburgh or seeking new opportunities overseas.

The group’s research in to the Lowland Clearances has already begun, with a visit to the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride.

The group visit the National Museum of Rural Life

The group of young carers visit the National Museum of Rural Life.

Here’s what they had to say about their visit:

“I had never heard of the Lowland Clearances before but now I have an idea what happened and why it was so bad.”

“The staff were very knowledgeable and told us all about the Clearances.”

“I found out that some people moved to America and Canada.”

Now they are about to embark on an epic journey through remote rural landscapes in Southern Scotland, walking, camping and living in these environments.

The group will travel down to Wiston Lodge in Galloway Forest Park and finish their preparations for the expedition. The following day they will travel on to Loch Trool, where they will track the shores, taking in sites of historical interest as they go, before camping on Saturday night and Sunday night. Weather permitting, the group will summit Benyellary where the entire area will be visible and the extent of the enclosures will be apparent.

The project takes a unique and dynamic approach to engaging young people in experiencing heritage ‘up close and personal’ encouraging them to live, breathe and experience the environment first-hand, learning new personal and technical skills ranging from map reading and personal care in the wilderness to action planning and  decision making.

Venture Trust is a charity that supports young people and those from chaotic and disadvantaged backgrounds, and helps them to make a successful transition to adulthood. Many of those we work with have been in care, are homeless, or are dealing with issues such as abuse or addiction. Our programmes give these young people the opportunity to develop new skills and capabilities – by taking them out into the Scottish Highlands away from the influences, stresses and behaviours of their usual environment. The activities they take part in inspire, encourage and support participants to re-evaluate their lives, develop new skills, and return home armed with increased self awareness, self confidence and the life-skills to make their ambitions reality. Long-term community support helps participants to apply their new skills to make and sustain real changes in their lives.

Heritage Lottery Fund

Wendy Barrie & Bosse Dahlgren entertained us all at Burns Unbound! at National Museum of Rural Life, East Kilbride on Sunday 26 January 2014.

No stranger to Burns celebrations, in the past Wendy has staged Burns events for American TV crews and even sung ballads in her folk circuit days! Now she and her husband bring their unique sustainable food event to the National Museum of Rural Life.

Wendy Barrie is a campaigner for the finest local food

Wendy Barrie is a campaigner for the finest local food and will be demonstrating traditional Scottish recipes at Burns Unbound!

Wendy is a well known campaigner for finest local produce, where to find it and what to do with it. She presents cookery shows and can be spotted on the highways and byways checking out the best in her Mini. She provides independent food tourism expertise and is Director of the award-winning A regular contributor on food matters on BBC Radio Scotland, Wendy has published her second cookbook ‘Food Miles From Home.’

Traditional haggis will be demonstrated by Wendy Barrie for Burns Unbound

Traditional haggis and other Scottish recipes will be demonstrated by Wendy Barrie at Burns Unbound!

Bosse is a specialist in environmental farming and biodiversity, and is Vice Chair and Breeding Adviser on the Boards of Linderöd Pigs and Fjällnära cows. Bosse has always been interested in nature and is a leading expert in old breeds and farming heritage, and how this knowledge can be used in sustainable food production. He has received three Swedish Awards in recognition of his work: The Linnaeus Environment Award, The Helsingborg Environment Award and the Special Award from Slow Food Scania.

Bosse Dahlgren is an expert in animal husbandry, eco farming and biodiversity

Bosse Dahlgren is an expert in animal husbandry, eco farming and biodiversity, and demonstrated traditional Scottish recipes with Wendy Barrie at Burns Unbound!

Together they make a great team! Wendy will cook up a range of dishes celebrating Burns for you to enjoy whilst Bosse interjects with fascinating insights into the ingredients Wendy will be using. Even the simplest of foods can have an intriguing heritage.

“That’s one of the things we really enjoy about working together” says Wendy, “Bosse has such an incredible knowledge of food heritage he always has an anecdote for whatever I am cooking!”

Cock-a-leekie soup and other Scottish recipies will be demonstrated by Wendy Barrie at Burns Unbound!

Cock-a-leekie soup and other Scottish recipies will be demonstrated by Wendy Barrie at Burns Unbound!

Wendy will be cooking her very own recipes for Cock-a-leekie Soup, Veggie ‘Haggis’ and Hardiesmill Haggis made from the resident Aberdeen Angus herd at Kittochside, finishing off with a delicious dessert.

A delightful dessert and other Scottish recipes will be demonstrated by Wendy Barrie at Burns Unbound!

A delightful dessert and other Scottish recipes will be demonstrated by Wendy Barrie at Burns Unbound!

By Alyson Orme, Edinburgh Napier University Student who carried out a placement within the Learning and Programmes department in 2013

Since February I have been working on the public events at National Museums Scotland as part of my Events Management university placement. Based in the Learning and Programmes department, I have been working on large scale events at the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight and the National Museum of Rural Life. Each event has a different theme, from Wartime Experience to Robots Live, so it is no surprise that I have had a very interesting experience!

The first big event that I was involved in was Wartime Experience at the National Museum of Flight in May. This gave me an insight into the wonderful world of wartime re-enactment. I also made my career debut as a model for the press activity for Wartime Experience  and it ended up in the newspaper!

Alyson Orme modelling 1940s fashion for Wartime Experience, National Museum of Flight on Sunday 12 May 2013

Alyson Orme (far right) modelling 1940s fashion for Wartime Experience, National Museum of Flight on Sunday 12 May 2013.

The next big event was Robots Live in June. I was excited to see some battles in the Robot Wars arena and have a go at riding a Segway scooter.  I also discovered that I am more scared of a robot dinosaur than most small children. It was a really good and sunny day and I enjoyed seeing the end product of something that I had been involved in from start to finish.

Tyrone the animatronic T.rex performing at Robots Live, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune

Tyrone the animatronic T.rex performing at Robots Live, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune.

In July I became an equestrian expert at the Heavy Horse Show at the National Museum of Rural Life. My job was getting the right horses to the arena on time. This proved difficult at first, but by the end of the day the horses and I were on first name terms. As well as the public events at different sites, I have also enjoyed working at the RBS Museum Lates. I was involved in the Viking Lates in February and the Dino-Night in May. I loved working at the RBS Lates and seeing everyone’s themed costumes.  I also took full advantage of the many opportunities for animal handling at the RBS Lates during my placement.

Alyson Orme with a handling a hedgehog at a National  Museums Scotland event.

Alyson holding a hedgehog at an animal handling session event.

I have had the best time at the National Museums Scotland and met lots of great people who have made my placement really fun and interesting.  I don’t think anywhere else could have offered me the opportunity to work with so many crazy themes, meet people from all walks of life or hold so many small animals. I will be going back to University with lots of events management experience, obscure general knowledge facts and great memories.

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