MacQueen Brothers Charitable Trust

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OBAN based MacQueen Bros. Charitable Trust is well-known locally and across Argyll for its ongoing generosity towards a wide range of deserving groups and projects.

Over the six years that it has been running, the Trust has managed to raise between £50,000 and £100,000 annually.

In this time more than half a million pounds has been raised and donated to the local community and other organisations.

The MBCT is managed by a team of five trustees. Graham MacQueen, one of the directors of MacQueen Bros. Ltd, is a trustee along with two other employees of the Removal and Storage firm, Linda Fraser and Gary MacEwan. The team is rounded off by Frank Walton, a former president of the Rotary Club of Oban, and Morag MacKenzie, both of who are very well known in the community. Morag is one of the volunteers which run the charity shop entirely unmanaged.

The Trust began as a by-product of the MacQueen’s Removal and Storage firm. The company began to sell unwanted furniture from removal jobs in their warehouse. This went on for many years.

However, there was always surplus, especially when donations of furniture and other items started coming in. It then became clear that an actual shop and formal recognition as a charity was the logical next step.

Six years ago the council gave the MCBT the use of the White Building on Oban’s North Pier and the Trust became a registered charity.

Graham MacQueen is understandably proud of what it has achieved to-date. He said: ‘It started in a fairly small way in the warehouse and it’s grown from there.’

‘Over the years we have helped a huge number of organisations all over Argyll and further afield.’

For example, the Trust is the main sponsor for the Argyllshire Gathering, which is one of the largest annual events held in Oban. It also recently sponsored the Argyll Sports Hall Athletics Final.

The MBCT was also involved in bringing the National Mòd to Oban in 2015 with a donation of £27,500. A donation of £7,500 has also been made to the Oban War and Peace Museum.

The Trust has supported the Oban Communities Trust by making a donation towards purchasing the Rockfield Centre from the council for their use.

Other notable donations include the Lorne Ladies Shinty team, Kinlochleven Prisoner of War Camp Memorial, Cancer Research UK. The Roses Charitable Trust on Coll and Bunessan Primary School on Mull.

There have also been donations made towards local pipe bands and Duke of Edinburgh Awards projects as well as projects on the Islands of Luing and Lismore.

Of course, none of the great work done by the MacQueen’s Trust would be possible without the support and donations of the local community.

‘The generosity of the local community is amazing. We get all manner of things donated. People could easily sell it themselves but they choose to donate it to us.’ Graham said. Mathesons Furnishings also donate furniture, which the MBCT is very grateful for.

Donated furniture, or unwanted pieces collected during the MacQueen Bros. Ltd removal service, are still processed in the warehouse of the removal firm.

The containerised storage part of the business is useful for the charitable trust as it means there is always room to store donated items until there is space for in either the warehouse or shop.

The lower quality items may be kept in the warehouse and sold from there while anything of higher quality is brought to the shop where things are generally easier to sell and also tend to make more money.

‘People have come to rely on our shop for second-hand furniture.’ Graham continued.

As the aim is to raise money, and because a £145 fee (+VAT) is incurred per turn for dumping any unsold items, the charity is understandably selective with the furniture it uses. Even so, there are items coming in to the warehouse and leaving again constantly.

The Trust’s Community Charity Shop operates six days a week from The White Building on Oban’s North Pier. This building is owned by Argyll and Bute Council, who generously allow the MCBT to use it rent-free.

‘We really appreciate the Council giving us the building and its in such a good location.’ Graham said.

The same team of volunteers, including trustee Morag MacKenzie, have been running the charity shop for the six years that it has been open.

Glynis Dewar, one of the volunteers at the shop has said, “It’s very worthwhile working here. The trust does lots for the community.”

‘You get to meet so many interesting people from all over the world.’ Isobel Cormack, another volunteer, added.

George Cormack, who volunteers in the furniture section of the shop said, ‘What I like about it is that it all stays local.

People are very generous and we don’t get paid so the costs are low.’

As well as furniture the shop sells a range of books, bric-a-brac, books, paintings, home ware, jewellery, collectables and tested electrical items. Books are particularly good sellers.

Some of the more unusual items to have been donated to the shop over the years include a life-size fibreglass horse, a Polynesian ‘totem pole’ a functioning model lighthouse and a large piece of Chinese wall art.

It can sometimes be difficult to know the value of some items, such as pieces of jewellery, and therefore pricing items for sale can be tricky. Quite often research is required on the items for this purpose. Responsibility for this often falls to Fiona Woodrow, another volunteer at the shop.

Graham expressed his appreciation for the part the Oban Times has played in the success of the Trust.

He said: ‘The Oban Times’ Under £100 section has been very effective over the years to help us raise over half a million over the past six years for local causes. It’s free advertising and we usually get instant responses from it.’

Local radio station Oban FM also supports the MBCT.

Use of the council’s building and free advertising are just two of several ways to keep costs down, therefore maximising profits and enabling more grants and donations to be given out from it.

MacQueen Brother’s collect furniture for free with removal vans and the firm covers all overhead costs for the shop, such as insurance, heating and administration.

Unusually for a charity, there is no paid management which is yet another cost-cutting strategy.