High Street Hero
Winner: Marion Gilliland, Cumnock Business Association
A selfless shopkeeper who goes to extraordinary lengths to help her town and townsfolk was named as Scotland’s High Street Hero.
Marion Gilliland has run her family gift shop – Presents and Correct – in Cumnock, East Ayrshire, for more than 30 years, becoming a powerful force for good in her community.
Not only has she made her store a safe place for all, but she has helped secure tens of thousands of pounds of improvements for other businesses, goes above and beyond to meet customers’ needs, champions charitable causes and supports seriously ill friends – all while dealing with her own health challenges.
That work, individually and as a leading light in Cumnock Business Association, saw her named as High Street Hero at the Scotland Loves Local Awards. The category was sponsored by Spar Scotland.
Marion, 50, who helped serve her first customer in the shop aged eight and is currently recovering from a stroke, said: “Every part of this business is in my blood.
“Cumnock means so much to me because of the people. Here in the shop we try to make sure that everyone’s looked after.
“I just do what I’m here to do – it’s just my job. I’m so grateful to anyone who nominated me.”
On her recent health issues, she added: “Two weeks ago I took a stroke. I got a tremendous service from the NHS at Crosshouse. It’s been a scary few weeks, but my family and staff have been outstanding. My shop could have closed were it not for them.
“The support I’ve had from customers has been outstanding. They have been amazing. We are very lucky here in Cumnock. The people here support those who have been there for them.”
Marion’s colleague and long-standing friend Alyson Kidd, who works with her at Presents and Correct on Townhead Street, led the praise for her.
She is currently going through stage five renal failure and has benefited directly from Marion’s kindness, including her raising more than £5,000 to install a dialysis unit in her home.
Alyson said: “We’ve got a saying in our family – WWMD. What would Marion do? If we’re faced with something and we don’t know how to approach it, we just think WWMD and usually find a solution.
“I was recently thinking about Christmas and what I got people last year. Then I realised I didn’t. I was in hospital, things were bad and Marion sorted it out.
“She’s the type of person who’s so subtle. She just scoops you up and makes sure everything’s seen to. She just knows what to do.
“To say Marion is a high street hero is an understatement. She is one of life’s true heroes and really cares for her community and customers.”
Gift-wrapping fees in Presents and Correct, which Marion has declared a safe space for anyone who needs or wants to call in, are also donated to the MND Association, a pledge that has so far raised more than £24,000.
As part of Cumnock Business Association, Marion recently supported other businesses in the town to access shop frontage improvements totalling £30,000 – helping them through the application process, even while in hospital.
Tracy Murray, Town Centre Regeneration Officer at East Ayrshire Council, works closely with Marion.
She said: “Marion’s usually my first port of call when I need something done. I know I can rely on her to get things done.
“She’s so passionate about Cumnock and ensuring the right things happen – but she does it very quietly. She does it because she cares. She loves Cumnock and loves the people. It’s amazing.”
Claire Donnelly, of Cumnock Business Association, added: “Marion’s a high street hero because of her commitment to the town, the community, the fact that everyone’s welcome in her shop and that she’s committed to helping other businesses in the town so that Cumnock’s a great place to be.
“She is just a great ambassador for Cumnock.”
There were two runners-up in the strongly-contested category, which received hundreds of nominations from across the country.
Donna McArthur, founder of Boveda Hair and Beauty on Maryhill Road, has been a powerful advocate of the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card and the difference it can make to people and businesses.
She has long supported a number of other community causes while also working to cut carbon emissions.
As Glasgow City Council distributed £105 Scotland Loves Local Glasgow Gift Cards to 85,000 low-income households across the city, Donna backed calls for other businesses to sign up to ensure as many as possible benefitted from both the disbursement programme and longer-term through wonder use of the card generally.
She offered an additional £10 to the face value of any council-provided card.
Her nomination stated: “Donna believed all businesses should get behind the campaign to encourage beneficiaries to take up the card use locally. We have been really encouraged by the clients that have chosen to redeem their gift cards at Boveda.
“Post-pandemic, Boveda recognised the need for extra support and rewards for its team and invested in three 100% electric cars. These have been crucial doing community visits for hair and beauty services.
“Boveda believes success comes directly from its team, and all the locals who work in their community and thrive in their business.
“It supports Eastpark School, a special needs school for whom it has raised nearly £5,000 through various events such as a fashion show involving the local school, John Paul Academy.
“Boveda’s mantra is business and communities working together for the benefit of all.”
The success of all those nominated was recognised as part of the Scotland’s Towns Conference, which took place at CentreStage in Kilmarnock on Wednesday (November 16th), in partnership with East Ayrshire Council.
Donna said: “It was great to be nominated for the High Street Hero Award. It was testament to the Bóveda team with their enthusiasm in supporting the added value for our clients to redeem their Scotland Loves Local Glasgow Gift Cards.
“Business and communities working together is at the heart of everything we do at Bóveda. The synergy and collaboration that this creates is for the benefit of everyone in our community. It brings everyone closer together.”
Bruce Newlands, of Gourock, is a driving force behind Inverclyde Shed, as well as being the owner of McGilps pop-up on Kempock Street in his home town.
His nomination stated: “Bruce moved to our town only a few short years ago. However, he has fully immersed himself in trying to build a better Inverclyde through his work.
“He helped set up the Inverclyde Shed to target social exclusion and has built that to a substantial membership, negotiated community asset transfer for an unused property and been instrumental in securing funding to regenerate it into a community resource.
“An architect to trade, he has a vision and direction to lead on building some fabulous creative ideas for the new space and the many people who use it. In addition, he is involved in community growing projects all over Inverclyde, with one orchard space just off the main shopping street of Gourock. He works hard at bringing communities together and involving as many as possible in his work.”
Through his art business, TRANCND, he has also been responsible for ‘guerrilla’ lighting installations of art by children in local primary schools and as part of local light festivals.
On his work at McGilps pop-up shop, the nomination added: “‘He has created a space for new and micro businesses to bring their products to the high street with minimal risk. This beautifully restored shop really adds value to the street and with its diverse offering.
“He really is the epitome of a high street hero – one of life’s genuinely nice guys.”
Bruce said: “I was humbled to be nominated for this award and even more so to read about others’ work in their communities. We’ve got some good people in Scotland, doing great things for their local community, high street, and the wider environment. I’d just to thank everyone at the shed. It exists for its members who all play an active role in making it the success that it is.”
Bruce Newlands, Inverclyde Shed, Gourock
Donna McArthur, Boveda, Glasgow
High Street Hero was sponsored by Spar Scotland