Remembering Mamie Martin at Tarbet

Today, ‘Story on Bikes’, the bike ride telling the story of Mamie Martin (née Telford), arrived in Tarbet to remember Mamie, a daughter of the Manse, a teacher in Helensburgh and a missionary in Malawi in the 1920s. Mamie and her husband Jack left Tarbet in 1921 to go to Malawi. Mamie saw there the need to support the education of girls in Malawi and that work which she started is continued today by the Mamie Martin Fund. The cyclists were delighted to be welcomed to the very Manse where Mamie lived and an extract from ‘Salt and Light’, a book of Mamie’s letters, was read in the Manse garden by Mariot Dallas, Mamie’s eldest granddaughter.

Mamie’s family, the Telfords, are still remembered in Tarbet and their story is told on the Arrochar and Tarbet local heritage website – Mamie would be so happy to know that connections between Scotland and Malawi are stronger than ever and that her conviction about the necessity of educating girls is now widely accepted as true around the world.

The cyclists crossed the loch to Inversnaid with Cruise Loch Lomond and will continue through the Trossachs to Falkirk where some of Mamie’s family now live.

As well as those who are cycling the route, 42 people are doing the equivalent distance at home on the stay-at-home version which has been so popular. The stay-at-home riders are based in Scotland, Ireland and England – an international effort! You can encourage the riders on the fund-raising page.  

MMF cyclists welcomed to the Livingstone Centre

Our cyclists were delighted to be welcomed to the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre today. Both organisations paid tribute to David Livingstone and Mamie Martin, Scots who were important in the history of Malawi-Scotland relations. Douglas Hay, a Trustee of the David Livingstone Trust, welcomed the riders to Blantyre. Douglas said ‘it is a pleasure to welcome the Mamie Martin Fund to the birthplace of David Livingstone, thereby bringing together the stories of these Scots who contributed so much to Malawi. We are delighted that the legacy of their work so long ago is continuing to benefit Malawi through the education of its girls.’

The David Livingstone Birthplace site has been undergoing a major refurbishment project, which will be a vibrant new visitor destination that includes an exciting new exhibition, which will engage all ages, as well as a transformed shop and café.

The bike ride was launched by Alison Cameron, who was a nurse in Malawi and is a Patron of the Mamie Martin Fund. The ride is heading to Tarbet, Loch Lomond, where Mamie Martin grew up. Mamie left there in 1921 to go to Malawi with her husband Jack. Mamie saw the need to support the education of girls in Malawi and that work which she started is continued today by the Mamie Martin Fund. An extract from Mamie’s letters was read at Blantyre and another piece will be read at Tarbet. 

As well as those who are cycling the route, 42 people are doing the equivalent distance at home on the stay-at-home version which has been so popular. The stay-at-home riders are based in Scotland, Ireland and England – an international effort! You can encourage the riders on the fund-raising page.  

Report from Team Ireland

A guest blog post from Eilish Dunworth

We all had plans before Covid-19 intervened.  My plan was to join my sister, Moira, in Scotland to participate in her cycle in aid of girls’ education in Malawi – aka ‘Story on Bikes’. As with many other charitable events, the option of cycling remotely was mooted and quickly gained traction. Why ever not?  Especially given that I live in Waterford close to the now famous Waterford Greenway.

But I was still disappointed to be missing out on the camaraderie that will be central to the actual cycle in Scotland so I put the idea out to a few buddies who enjoy a challenge and do some cycling in their spare time and in next to no time we had Team Ireland with seven enthusiastic participants.  

Our team has two centres – one in Limerick and the other in Waterford. Terri and her Limerick buddies are very keen cyclists and could put the Waterford contingent to shame if it was a competition. But it’s not! We’re doing what we can, when we can and with what we’ve got and in that way we’re enjoying each and every adventure.

One such adventure was enjoyed by Janet and Eilish on Sunday when we cycled a section of the Waterford Greenway and took a small detour to Clonea Beach, where we had a very pleasant swim and a picnic before returning home and all this before lunchtime! A longer adventure involved two keen cyclists cycling from Carriganore to Dungarvan – around trip of 83 kms – on a very calm day, perfect for cycling. 

I can attest that there is no more pleasant way to spend a morning or afternoon (or indeed a full day) cycling on a greenway with friends, safe from the madness of traffic, and promoting a good cause while we cycle. All of Team Ireland wish Story on Bikes a safe and very enjoyable event and perhaps this remote challenge will be the start of many more opportunities for remote connecting.

Photo Exhibition Premiere

Thanks to a generous donor, we now have a collection of mounted photographs of life and work in Malawi, with an emphasis on girls’ education of course. We are delighted to be able to show some of these photos for the first time as cafés and other venues reopen. The Wonder Spot café in Stockbridge, Edinburgh has made us very welcome and we love how these photos look in their art space. The photos can be seen by those in the café (take-away only just now) but also from the street. We’ve chosen bright and cheery photos from the collection to add positivity to the street as we all emerge from lockdown.

The selection and editing of the photos was achieved only because of the help of our photographic volunteer, Sue Dumbleton. In an organisation with minimal paid staff, the contribution of volunteers like Sue is essential to creative work like this. 

The Mamie Martin Fund and Black Lives Matter

Our charity is inspired by the legacy of Mamie and Jack Martin, who worked in Nyasaland in the 1920s.  When we look back at that time, we can find racist and paternalistic attitudes which do not sit easily with our views today and it is important to acknowledge that. However, when we read Mamie and Jack’s story through their own words, we see them learning the local languages, making friends amongst their communities, and working hard to better the lives of their new friends. They stood together with local couples at the baptism of Margaret in 1927, at a service taken by a black minister.  

The Mamie Martin Fund stands in solidarity with all those who fight racism and we appreciate these words from the joint statement of 11 June 2020 by the Malawi-Scotland Partnership and the Scotland-Malawi Partnership:

Scots and Malawians stand in friendship and mutual solidarity, as partners and equals. 

Black lives matter, in Scotland, Malawi and everywhere. It is important to keep saying this, but even more important to act.  If Black lives matter, we cannot accept a world in which each Malawian earns, on average, 100 times less than each Scot ($389 GDP per capita, compared to $38,606).  

As two networks, organisations and friends, there is much more we can do, and we hope to – led by this spirit of dignified, two-way, people-to-people partnerships.

In the Mamie Martin Fund, we take a stand against poverty and inequality by supporting the education of girls and we are grateful to our donors and supporters who help us to do continue this work.

Mamie Martin Fund at the Ministerial roundtable

Mariot reported on our Cameron girls, the 45 girls who are being supported through their secondary education with the help of Scottish Government funding. We call them the Cameron girls because their funding was set up in recognition of the many years of service to Malawi by Colin and Alison Cameron.

On June 25th this year, Mariot Dallas, one of our Convenors, represented MMF at a roundtable meeting with Jenny Gilruth, MSP and Minister for Europe and International Development. The purpose of this meeting was to give the Minister a quick update on projects in Malawi which have received Scottish Government funding.

Mariot explained  to the Minister how significant secondary education is to girls in Malawi and the impact on their future health and security. This discussion was well supported by findings of research conducted for MMF by Edinburgh University Masters student, Anna Freidenfeld.

Six other charities were at the meeting and it was interesting to note  that challenging poverty and inequality through education was a common theme with many of them. The Minister herself has a teaching background and her questions and comments were encouraging and supportive. 

Book a garden visit

Happy Midsummer to all our supporters and friends!In these ‘unprecedented times’ we are all glad of some easing of lockdown restrictions. We offer you this third video tour of Humbie Dean woodland garden. Frank Kirwan, the gardener, has created this for us and is now able to take bookings of groups of up to three adults, to visit the garden in person. Phone him directly to make arrangements so that your visit can be safe – 07768 996382. You will be asked to pay (£5 each) and confirm your booking on Eventbrite so that Frank has a record of visitors. 

We know that only a small number of people will be able to take up this new offer. In the meantime we hope that you all enjoy this lovely video. 

Cycling for Malawi – 70 years on

In 1950, seven-year old Sally enjoyed riding her bike. She says ‘It’s 70 years since I was that child. First bike, a Hercules, I had loads of freedom to go off with friends. I learnt on the City Playground in Newbury (England), grass being softer to fall on than Tarmac.’ 

Now a lot older, Sally bought an exercise bike on the grounds that it would be safer than braving the streets of Edinburgh, where she lives. Even in lockdown, she is right about that! Sally took delivery of the parts and was a bit daunted – ‘The trusty steed has arrived. Once I can figure out the 5 allegedly simple steps to put it together I will be in business.’ A cup of tea later she tackled it and was delighted to ‘be in business’.

Sally is registered on the Stay-at-Home version of Story-on-Bikes and has already logged her first miles. If you would  to join Sally, the booking link is You could encourage her with a donation on Our hashtag on Twitter and Instagram is #storyonbikes 

Volunteering then and now

On this Volunteers Week, we remember that Mamie Martin was a volunteer. She and Jack married in 1921 and set off for Malawi . Jack was serving with the Livingstonia Mission but Mamie’s role as a missionary wife was undefined.

As they began their life together in Malawi Mamie’s passion for education and equality led her to set up classes and boarding schools for girls and women. She didn’t need to do this, and she encountered some difficulties, but she battled on and made a difference to many people. Jack and Mamie’s letters and diaries became the book Salt and Light, and eventually the Mamie Martin Fund was set up, and here we are today, supporting girls through secondary education in Malawi in memory of Mamie. 

In the Mamie Martin Fund today, we rely on volunteers and we celebrate them in Volunteers Week. They raise funds, they serve as Trustees, they lend us their skills in social media, photography, admin, video editing, etc, etc, and together we are making a difference to girls and women in Malawi. I like to think that Mamie would be pleased !

Dr Andrea helps out with Story-on-Bikes

Andrea Adden should have been graduating with her PhD from the University of Lund, Sweden, today but the physical event was not possible due to #Covid19, so she generously gave her time to working with Trustee Moira Dunworth on #storyonbikes. A project like this, which aims to raise the profile of our work, needs a good social media strategy – that takes time and expertise. We are grateful to (Dr) Andrea for her advice and help. She and Moira have been meeting online to discuss hashtag following and other ways of letting the world know about #storyonbikes.

Andrea, a biologist,  has just finished a long study of the Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa). This involved many periods of fieldwork in Australia where she and Moira met in a hostel. Andrea’s work helps to understand how brains work. Any other explanation must be left to her – too complex for the rest of us! We greatly appreciate her help with #storyonbikes and wish her well in her new job in London.