Volunteers at Methil Heritage Centre bid a fond farewell to manager Graham Ritchie last week as he retired after 16 years in the post.
An afternoon celebration was held last Wednesday, ahead of his final day on Thursday, and it was a bitter sweet week for Graham who joined the team as a musuem assistant in 1999.
“I’m actually a farmer and when I started to talk to the cows, my wife told me to get myself a job!” he laughed.
“I went along to the job centre in Leven to have a look and get some advice and they told me about the museum assistant post.”
Graham, who’s had a varied career, including a start in the military, managing a community centre and working for Coal Board Estates, spent his first few years liaising with the Friends of Methil Heritage Centre group, putting up exhibitions and welcoming guests to the centre, based in Lower Methil, before being appointed manager in 2007.
“One of the great things here is that you get to try everything – there’s no sitting about doing nothing, there’s always something to do.”
He has witnessed the whole area change over his nearly two decades in the job, with big industry all but disappearing, replaced by new housing and commuters. But the centre has remained a constant.
“Henry McLeish summed it up when he said this place gives Methil some civic dignity. For years and years, they took everything away from here, but the centre is about giving back. I have felt emotionally rewarded by this role and have loved every minute.”
One of his highlights came in the form of a royal visit, when Prince Philip visited the centre in 2011.
“That day was just wonderful in every way. When we sent the letter to Buckingham Palace inviting him to the exhibition, we never expected to hear back, so when they replied it was a shock. I think we were the envy of lots of other voluntary organisations!”
Another took place just last week, following a talk by local historian Mike Taylor.
“There was a wee old lady sitting with a bundle on her lap, and when the talk finished, she opened it up to reveal a stack of photos which were of her grandfather who was a medical orderly in the First World War. These pictures are absolutely unique and of huge national importance – and this happened a week before I retired!”
So what does the future hold for a former museum manager?
“I won’t be walking away completely – this place has a way of climbing into your heart and staying there.
“Hopefully, if they’ll have me, I’ll join the Friends so I can still help out – having put so much in I just couldn’t walk away. I’ll also help out at the Glenrothes Heritage Centre, which I’m already involved with, and hopefully some fishing too! Oh, and a masters degree as well...”
Gary Nurse, chairman of the Friends of Methil Heritgage Centre, said these kinds words: “Graham is a unique kind of person who has worked at the centre for nearly 16 years. It wasn’t work to Graham, it was a passion. He loved the job and the people he met that he thought nothing of volunteering to open after hours for group visits. No job was too small for Graham to tackle, and he had the charm to rope in others to help.
“He has brought the centre to what it is now, a great success, with an average visitor figure approaching 5000 per annum.
He will be sadly missed, by the Friends of the Centre, visitors and the local children who pop in regularly. We wish him well in retirement and hope he can fulfill his dreams for the future.”