Real lives: Maggie Henderson wins volunteering award for being all heart

Dionne Jones congratulates Maggie Henderson with a bouquet.
Dionne Jones congratulates Maggie Henderson with a bouquet.
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BIG-HEARTED Maggie Henderson is celebrating with friends and colleagues after being named volunteer of the year for Scotland and Northern Ireland by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The 81-year-old received the accolade after 14 years of service to the Foundation’s store in Bathgate, where she sorts and tags sale items and helps train new volunteers.

Maggie said volunteering for the BHF was always a pleasure and added that the work filled a void created by the death of her beloved husband, John.

Born in January 1931 to miner William Wylie and his wife Catherine in the Lanarkshire town of Bellshill, Maggie went to primary school in Mossend before attending Bellshill Academy.

Soon after leaving school, she took a job at Gow grocers in Uddingston – the first of many before she settled in long-term employment as a factory operator for British Leyland.

Maggie also retained a healthy sense of fun and enjoyed nights in the dance halls of Blackburn after her parents moved there so her father could find work in the local mines.

It was while on a night out in 1950 that she met her husband John.

“There was something that just clicked,” she said of the encounter, “and I’m glad there was. He was a very good husband and a great fisherman!”

Maggie and John married shortly after their first meeting and life settled into a routine in Blackburn, which became the couple’s long-term home.

But tragedy struck 16 years ago when John died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving Maggie on her own. She said life became very tough.

“I was on depression drugs for a while,” she said. “Things were hard and the doctor said to me one day, ‘Why don’t you try volunteering?’

“I wasn’t sure at first but I was on the way to the opticians one day and happened to see my friend in the window of the local British Heart Foundation store. I went in, she told me she worked there and that was me started. I’ve been there ever since.”

Her motivation for joining the BHF was simple.

“I just feel that if you are not doing something then you are sitting there looking at the four walls, and that is not going to help you,” she said. “And the work they do is so important. My husband died of a heart attack and, about two or three years ago, I had a new heart valve put in myself. It’s a pleasure for me to go out and raise funds for the help they provide.”

Maggie’s colleagues at BHF’s Bathgate store said the award was thoroughly deserved.

Area manager Dionne Jones said: “It is due to the input, commitment and time of people such as Maggie that BHF Scotland can provide services to raise vital funds to help the fight against heart disease locally and nationally.”