In 1973 a group of orangewomen travelled to Canada to join with our Canadian Brethren in their 12th July. Whilst there, Sister Helen Hosie, the group organiser, and other senior orange sisters learned of the tremendous work done by the Canadian Brothers and Sisters to provide care for their senior members. At that time the Canadian Membership was large and vibrant and had invested their income wisely and very successfully. The Canadians had several residential care homes for their senior members and this impressed the Scottish Ladies who came home from that trip fired up with enthusiasm and with a vision of how they could achieve something similar for the senior members here in Scotland. With the guidance of Sister Hosie and under the auspices of the Ladies Orange Association of Scotland they set up the Ladies Orange Home Fund and very quickly started raising funds for this project.
The original intention was to model themselves on the Canadian set up and to purchase and run some kind of Residential facility for senior members. The ladies worked extremely hard on their fund raising ventures and over the next few years raised several thousand pounds. It became very clear however that whilst the ladies were dedicated to the work and were successful with their fundraising, the cost of suitable property was spiralling and the changing legislation surrounding residential care of the elderly was making it increasingly difficult for them to achieve their dream. The Ladies were however making a very big impression on the Male Section of The Institution in Scotland who were viewing at the Ladies success perhaps just a little enviously.
An approach was made to the Ladies by the then Grand Master Brother Tommy Orr and his Trustees for them to consider joining forces with the Male Section and after much discussion, in 1977 the Ladies Association agreed to join forces with the Male Section and the name of the committee as it was then, was changed to the Scottish Orange Home Fund. Application was made for charitable status and this was granted in 1978 when the Scottish Orange Home Fund became a registered Scottish Charity.
Whilst the original vision of the Ladies had changed direction it was still the aim of the newly formed charity to be able to make some kind of provision for Senior Members of the Institution in Scotland. A working committee comprising Male and Female members was formed and they had the idea that if they couldn’t offer residential care for our seniors then they could at look at being able to offer a holiday break for those who might otherwise for whatever reason not be able to enjoy a holiday. During that first year a holiday break was organised and around 50 senior members set off on a week long coach trip to Blackpool. This was a very successful trip and the committee realised that to offer a holiday for senior members was something that they could achieve and maintain and the first Home Fund facility, a caravan situated in Ayr was purchased. Four senior members would enjoy a shared holiday every week throughout the holiday season. The caravan in Ayr served its purpose for a few years and in 1982 was replaced with a Swiss Style Chalet in the East Coast Fishing Village of Port Seton.
“The chalet” as it became known, was hugely successful and for 22 years it provided much needed holidays for senior members. Each week throughout the season 4 women, 4 men or 2 couples would enjoy a shared holiday break in this wonderful facility. Members would come together with others from their own lodge or district lodge and sometimes they would be paired with members from other districts. Friendships were forged that lasted a lifetime and senior members enjoyed this time spent in the company of like-minded people. It gave them the sense of how loved they were and reminded the Institution that their biggest asset was their membership and how we should look after those seniors, some of whom had given a lifetime of dedicated service to the Order.
As the 2004 season came to end, it became clear to the committee that the lifespan of “the chalet” was perhaps also coming to an end. Several problems were beginning to appear and with Grand Lodge approval the committee began to look at how it should be replaced.
An exciting start to the 2005 season saw a brand new Lodge being purchased. It was placed on the pitch at 8 Moray Court which was the site of the original chalet where it remains today.
Sadly Sister Helen Hosie passed to Glory in early 2004 and did not see the new facility but on opening day in April 2005 her son Andrew was with us when Brother Rev. H L Williamson dedicated the new facility to the Glory of God and in memory of Sister Helen Hosie and the other sisters whose vision it had been to help others.
The Lodge was named Olympia Lodge and was seen as an extension of the recently acquired headquarters , Olympia House in Olympia Street Glasgow. Olympia Lodge continued to provide holidays exclusively for senior members for three years.
The working committee of the Home Fund, some of whom had originally been inspired by Sister Hosie so many years before, had the ambition to extend the work that the Charity known as the Scottish Orange Home Fund did. It became apparent that some of our members were struggling with so many of the problems of the rapidly changing world, sickness, poverty, unemployment, stress/anxiety etc., and their suggestion to Grand Lodge was that it would be a good plan to be able to offer those members in need a holiday or respite break regardless of whether they were senior members or not.
The plan to purchase a second facility to enhance the work already happening was discussed with the then Grand Master Brother Ian Wilson and his trustees. It was envisaged that having 2 facilities would allow us to continue to offer shared holidays exclusively for Senior Members but would also allow us to offer Respite Breaks or much needed holidays for members other than seniors. Brother Wilson and his colleagues embraced the idea and urged the committee not to wait but to go ahead and purchase a second facility and to have it operational as soon as possible. In May 2008 our second facility opened in the popular Seton Sands Holiday Village. This was followed some 7 years later in 2015 with a third facility this time on the West Coast at Wemyss Bay Holiday Park near Largs in Renfrewshire.
Having three holiday facilities allows us to continue to offer holidays for senior members but we are now able to offer respite to those members who are recovering from illness or who have experienced some of the problems life throws at us today. It also allows us to offer family breaks for those younger members who, for whatever reason might find it difficult to have a family holiday.
Having three facilities also brings with it hugely increased running costs and we are fortunate to have not only a hard working fund raising committee but a network of friends comprising individuals, private lodges and district lodges who give us the most wonderful support and help us to raise the funds we need annually to allow us to keep the facilities up to the standard our members deserve. It is not an exaggeration to say that there are no schools, or churches, or other organisation willing to help us in our fund raising and this means it is our members, their families and friends and our supporters who are continually digging deep into their pockets, continually working hard on raising funds on our behalf, always coming up with more and more innovative ideas how to raise funds.
If you ask “has it all been worth it” all I can say “absolutely”. Members constantly share with us the benefits they have felt from having a break at one of the facilities.
Senior members tell us that living on their own is no fun and to be able to share a holiday with other seniors is just wonderful for them. For 1 week they can enjoy time away from home, in good company, shopping all done, no worries about keeping warm. Members recovering from illness tell us it was just what they needed. For those facing difficult issues like unemployment, those coming to terms with a devastating medical diagnosis or the loss of a loved one, or those who simply need to recharge their batteries after the busyness of life, we can give them the opportunity to do this . Younger members are not forgotten and are able to have quality family and bonding time when they might otherwise be unable to enjoy a family holiday. Hearing some of the heartbreaking and heartwarming stories told by our members I would say most definitely yes, yes, yes it is certainly well worth the hard work.
We would like to think that Sister Helen Hosie and those other Sisters who had the vision, more than 40 years ago to help fellow members of this wonderful Institution, would be happy to know that, their vision has been fulfilled and surpassed with the help of Almighty God and the members of the Loyal Orange Institution of Scotland.