A selfless shopkeeper who goes to extraordinary lengths to help her town and townsfolk has been crowned 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.
Organised by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), the awards recognise and reward the remarkable work taking place to improve communities, from tackling the climate emergency to transforming streets and creating great places to live.
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.”
Award winners were announced as part of the Scotland’s Towns Conference, which took place at CentreStage in Kilmarnock, in partnership with East Ayrshire Council.
Other recipients included the Scottish Tech Army, which won the Digital Towns accolade for its work to develop the Supporting Our Local Economy platform as part of efforts to help businesses in East Lothian trade online to overcome the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The team responsible for transforming a derelict building and bringing Angus’ Montrose Playhouse to life won the Creative Town Award after judges heard of their work to create a cinema in the community. It now employs 30 people.
STP Chair, Professor Leigh Sparks, said: “The dedication of people to deliver for their community never fails to amaze us.
“And, whether through responding to the climate emergency, improving our streetscape, creating new homes or urging people to choose local, our finalists and award winners stand testament to the innovation and determination which will create better town centres as part of a stronger, more sustainable Scotland. Their communities should be very proud of them.
“Well done to our finalists, all of those nominated and thank you to our sponsors.”
Scotland Loves Local Awards: Roll of honour
Climate and Net Zero Town, sponsored by Green Action Trust
- Winner: The Furniture Project, Stranraer
- Runner-up: Linlithgow Community Development Trust (Linlith – Go-Solar)
- Runner-up: Visit Inverness Loch Ness TBID
Creative Town, sponsored by Creative Scotland
- Winner: Montrose Playhouse Project
- Runner-up: Aberdeen Inspired, Nuart Festival
- Runner-up: The Wasps Trust, Inverness
Digital, sponsored by Commsworld and Miconex
- Winner: Scottish Tech Army, East Lothian
- Runner-up: Energise Galashiels Trust
- Runner-up: South Lanarkshire Council (Bothwell, Strathaven, Stonehouse and Douglas)
Enterprising Communities, sponsored by South of Scotland Enterprise
- Winner: The Guild Dumfries
- Runner-up: Cambuslang BankHUB
- Runner-up: CentreStage (Ayrshire Arts Academy)
Streets and Spaces, supported by Sustrans
- Winner: Argyll and Bute Council (Lochgilphead Front Green and Argyll Street Improvement Project)
- Runner-up: Dundee City Council and UNESCO City of Design Dundee (Union Street project)
- Runner-up: The Corner Project, Darvel
Town Centre Living, sponsored by Page / Park
- Winner: Clackmannanshire Council (Primrose Street, Alloa)
- Runner-up: Argyll and Bute Council (Campbeltown Town Centre Regeneration)
- Runner-up: South of Scotland Community Housing (Wigtown former Bank of Scotland redevelopment)
High Street Hero, sponsored by Spar Scotland
- Winner: Marion Gilliland, Cumnock Business Association
- Highly commended: Bruce Newlands, Inverclyde Shed, Gourock
- Highly commended: Donna McArthur, Boveda, Glasgow