Myra steps out as Duns Citizen of the Year 2016

Duns Citizen of the Year Myra Watson with Jim McDevitt.
Duns Citizen of the Year Myra Watson with Jim McDevitt.

Duns Walking Group leader Myra Watson is the first female recipient of the Duns Citizen of the Year award.

The award is made to someone from Duns, Chirnside, Greenlaw, Swinton, Longformacus, Abbey St Bathans, Preston and Gavinton who has gone the extra mile for the community.

It recognises their hard work and commitment, and with 15 nominations out of the 57 received, Myra fits the bill perfectly.

Myra founded Duns Walking Group almost 25 years ago, and since then has poured her heart and soul into the organisation.

As well as regular local walks, she arranges at least four walking holidays each year for group members, having undertaken intensive research beforehand into travel, accommodation and food both during the day and in the evenings.

Myra is also careful to ensure that all abilities are catered for, avoiding the possibility that someone could be left behind.

It is important to Myra that she doesn’t lose touch with those members of the group who are no longer mobile and she visits them in their homes to keep them abreast of events.

In an emergency, Myra is just the person you would want to be there to handle it, and when one of the Duns walkers slipped on a trip to Ben Nevis and needed to be airlifted off the mountain with a broken arm, it was Myra who took charge. The lady in question said at the time: “Myra was a superb leader and kept the situation under control.”

As well as the walking group, Myra is treasurer of the Duns branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and she also regularly arranges litter-picking walks.

The Duns Citizen of the Year award is organised by the Rotary Club of Duns, along with the Berwickshire News, and and after presenting Myra with her award, club president Jim McDevitt said: “I was delighted that Myra was chosen this year as Duns Citizen of the Year. We had a record number of nominations this year, but she was a clear winner of the award.

“Her tireless work for Duns Walking Group in particular has clearly not gone unnoticed.

“She is one of life’s unsung heroes.”

After receiving the honour Myra said: “I am still gobsmacked at being selected for this special award in Duns. It is such an honour and I’m proud also to be the first female selected.

“I began hillwalking in the Scottish Borders approximately 36 years ago and soon afterwards enjoyed climbing mountains, backpacking and traipsing around lonely glens throughout Scotland where I gained a wide experience which I found relatively easy as I had an interest in maps from an early age.

“All of these activities I still enjoy with friends when time allows and finally managed to climb all of the 282 munros (Scottish mountains over 3000 feet) in 2007.

“During that time many holidays were spent doing conservation work in a variety of wonderful locations in Scotland and I have enjoyed being an active member and treasurer of our local branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust for the past 25 years.

“Two weeks spent on a 200 mile annual trek across Scotland organised by the ‘Great Outdoors’ magazine was an enormous learning curve, walking 20 miles or more each day, following my own route with a backpack containing food and tent etc, climbing mountains in rain, snow and brilliant sunshine.

“For a few years as a member of the Borders Search and Rescue Team based at Kelso further valuable knowledge was gained and I contributed to many exercises and some rescue situations.

“Back in 1989 friends asked if I could take them on some walks so this led to forming a small local walking group (Duns Walkers). To begin with the walks I organised were every Monday evening, between four to six miles locally around Berwickshire from June to September then after some time a longer walk was added on a Sunday once a month, further afield within the Borders.

“All of these walks still continue today with some of our original walkers and hardly ever is a walk route repeated - there are so many beautiful areas around us to choose from.

“I still find it necessary to recce some walks as things can change and obstacles can occur - footbridges wash away; fences are erected with gates moved; footpaths become overgrown and impassable; cattle in fields on a right of way etc. Safety of the walkers is always in my thoughts. This also helps to keep me fit! Believe it or not, one of the most difficult tasks when planning a walk is finding a suitable parking place at the start for half a dozen vehicles!

“A couple of years after forming the group I decided to try a weekend away which was a success and it wasn’t long before I was asked “when’s the next one?”. During the past 25 years we have had some lovely times on these weekends, now four times a year, in Scotland, England and Ireland and it has allowed me to indulge, explore and walk in many new areas.

“In a few weeks time about 30 of us are off to the Isle of Lewis for six days, so this is in the planning stage at the moment.

“Since I retired five years ago I have been a volunteer leader for ‘Walk It’ Health Walks in Duns. These health walks to encourage folks to be a wee bit more active, take place on a Monday and Tuesday on alternate weeks and have proven to be very popular as well. The Monday morning walks are low level, at a slower pace around Duns for an hour with a cuppa at the end and the Tuesday morning walks are about 4.5 miles around different parts of Berwickshire, finishing with a soup lunch.

“Over the years folks from all paths of life have joined us, from people in their 20s to some well over 80 and very fit. With anything between 10 to 25 people on each walk, it’s easy just to turn up, join in and it’s free. Many long lasting friendships have been made through walking with the group and also on my own travels I have met some wonderful folks from near, far and wide.

“The best walk is always the last walk we have been on - which this week was a lovely walk in sunshine at Ednam along the banks of the River Eden and a visit to the Thomson Obelisk with beautiful panoramic views over Kelso and our beloved borderland.”