Elderly taking the lead out in the community

Historian Gordon Rigby
Historian Gordon Rigby

A trio of elderly Wiganers are proving they truly are young at heart by playing active roles in their communities in spite of their advancing years.

The town hall has highlighted their work to coincide with this week’s Older People’s Day which celebrates the contributions made by the elderly.

Volunteer Isaac Olunrankinse

Volunteer Isaac Olunrankinse

As part of the council’s #BelieveImOnlyHuman campaign, the three spoke to the Evening Post about their efforts.

Retired teacher Gordon Rigby volunteers at Wigan Archives and Local Studies, which has bases at the Museum of Wigan Life and Leigh Town Hall.

The 80-year-old’s current project is painstakingly transcribing a diary written in the 1660s by local man Roger Lowe from Ashton.

The diary is part of the treasured Edward Hall collection and gives a unique insight into working class history of the period.

I get a lot of satisfaction volunteering here and you learn all the time

Gordon Rigby

Gordon’s transcriptions will be typed up and digitised – preserving the document for future generations.

Gordon, who used to teach English and PE, said: “I get a lot of satisfaction volunteering here and you learn all the time.

“I am really interested in learning about the history of working class people and learning about their lives and the issues of the day.”

Gordon, whose wife Kath passed away 20 years ago, is one of a number of hardy volunteers at the archives helping to preserve the history of Wigan, Leigh and the surrounding towns and villages.

Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson

He said: “There is a social side to volunteering as you meet like-minded people. You meet very good friends, a lot of lasting friendships.

“Volunteering for older people is another excuse to get up in the morning. It gets you out of the four walls and is great if there’s an interest you want to pursue.”

Hannah Turner, local and family history officer with Wigan Council, said: “Gordon is a fantastic volunteer and a lovely person.

”Last year 75 volunteers gave more than 7,500 hours of time to support Wigan Archives and Local Studies.

“Gordon and volunteers like him bring so much value to the service and we are proud of all of them.”

Isaac Olurankinse, 78, is a committee member and former chair of the Worsley Mesnes Tenants and Residents Group. For many years he has supported tenants to improve their area.

He said: “I volunteer to help make the area a better place to live in. There are good people in Worsley Mesnes and over the years we have really helped improve the estate.”

As well has helping to improve the estate the group organises trips away for elderly people in the summer and an annual Christmas party to bring the community together.

Isaac, a great-grandfather of four who has lived in Wigan since 1961 after emigrating from Nigeria aged 25, was this year selected as a role model for volunteering in a national competition.

He says he is now keen to get more people to volunteer in his community.

He said: “I am not getting any younger! We are trying to encourage younger ones to volunteer and to get involved.”

Kevin Johnson can usually be found at Alexandra Park Bowling Club, Newtown, most days come rain or shine.

The club is a haven for hundreds of bowlers and is kept in beautiful condition in no small part thanks to Kevin’s skill with the paint brush.

Kevin, 76, is a retired painter and decorator and uses his painting skills to keep the white boards, fences, seats, railings, gates and clubhouse colourful in good condition.

There is always part of the club that needs to be spruced up and Kevin’s painting is admired by visiting players.

He said: “When people come from other clubs they say ‘You’ve been at it again Kevin’.”

The grandfather-of-five, said: “The season is ending but there are still lots of people who are coming here. Some have lost their loved ones. It’s very social and is therapy for a lot of people. It’s not just a bowling club, it’s a community.”

#BelieveImOnlyHuman aims to unite borough residents by celebrating difference as well as highlighting what we all share in common.

It will challenge all prejudice based on race, religion, sexuality, mental health and physical disability, age and gender.

Find out more about the campaign at www.wigan.gov.uk/believe