By Pat Gibbons‘ daughter, Patricia
Illustrations by his granddaughter Susan Laws Artwork
Photos by Jim Stevens
Every reporter longs for that dream assignment.
This issue, Clydesider’s editor sent me on one of mine.
My mission – to interview the team of volunteers at Bankie Talk, Clydebank’s talking newspaper for the blind and visually impaired.
Back in the 1990s, my Dad, Patrick Gibbons, was Mr Bankie Talk.
It was such an integral part of Dad’s life.
The organisation’s current chairperson, Irene McKelvie, greeted me enthusiastically on the phone.
“Come down and see what we’re up to! We record ‘The Post’ on a Wednesday. You are more than welcome…”
I smiled to myself, Wednesday had always been Bankie Talk day for Dad.
Nowadays, Bankie Talk’s premises are at the former Our Holy Redeemer School.
Irene hands me a mug of tea and introduces me to her husband, Rodger, who also volunteers, as treasurer.
There is a real buzz as everyone gets on with the many tasks involved in the distribution of a weekly publication.
One lady is handling the familiar plastic wallets, containing a memory stick recording of the Clydebank Post, which the team send weekly to local listeners.
My attention drifts at the sight of the wallet (roughly A5 in size) and I apologise: “Sorry, Irene, that wallet takes me back. Dad used to get them delivered to our house.”
We thought they were ingenious.
Fully tactile, they clamped together just like a freezer bag, which was easier for the recipient.
After listening to their cassette tape, listeners put it back in the wallet, took the address card out of the clear pocket on the side and flipped it over so it came back to our home address.
Dad then carted the whole bag of 90 cassettes to the Town Hall, no mean feat.
Then he had to erase them all, initially just four tapes at a time, which took ages.
Finally, he would record that week’s new issue of the Post, a long and laborious process, before humphing all the newly recorded cassettes back to the Post Office to start all over again.
Irene shows me round.
I feel a wee twinge of ‘if only…’ when I see the purpose-built soundproof recording studio.
Dad would have given his eye teeth to have such an impressive facility!
I remember picking him up at the RNIB place near Partick Station after a fact-finding mission to tour their premises and see all their equipment.
He was so excited at the prospect of bringing that to Bankie Talk.
The late Frank Duffie, Dad’s successor, actually achieved it and catapulted the organisation into the future by moving into the former Hall Street Police Station and setting up a proper studio.
Frank changed over from cassettes to CDs and was instrumental in moving the team to their current home in Clyde Street.
The technology has advanced even further and the news now comes via memory sticks.
Irene continues: “Readers work in threes normally, and we currently have a team of six.
“The recording lasts half an hour for the first half. We are trying to add a lighter tone with a quiz and a poem and not be so strait-laced.
“At Christmas time, we actually had a singer-songwriter with a guitar and a poet who had written a poem about Clydebank, we are trying to engage more with our audience.”
I smile to myself, Dad felt the exact same way: every week, he would play a quick blast of a famous song…less than 30 seconds’ worth, to entertain his audience without infringing any copyright laws.
Bankie Talk currently have 35 recipients of the newspaper.
They lost some over Covid and are keen to build it up again.
Irene tells me: “Bankie Talk is Clydebank’s talking newspaper for the blind, yes, and the visually impaired: that last bit is very important!”
I tell Irene Dad used to call them his VIPs.
He thought all his recipients were VIPs and treated them as such.
Bankie Talk volunteers wish to increase their audience.
“That’s really what we’re all about to give an advantage to people who wouldn’t otherwise see the Clydebank Post and improve their lives.
“The delivery and receiving of the memory sticks is free of charge and delivered by the Post Office direct to your own home.”
Bankie Talk recently appealed for volunteer readers in Clydesider magazine.
There was a good response and they recruited a new cohort of readers.
I can’t see the volunteers, but I do enjoy hearing their interesting and interested voices, precious voices of Bankie Talk, without whom the organisation could not exist.
Three sound engineers are following every word and making sure the levels are just right.
They too have been volunteering for a long time.
Irene tells me Bankie Talk had no funding this year and is actively looking for sponsors.
“A few of our clients gave us donations, which we’re really grateful for, but we are appealing for further sponsors or donors.
“It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, every little helps.
“Now we have Clydebank Housing Association magazine up and running that will help.”
Bankie Talk is helping CHA with their magazine and would be happy to work with other housing associations and organisations once it is fully up and running.
The team has also relaunched their library facility.
They have about 1,000 audio books in their audio lending library, set up some years ago by former chairperson the late Carol Ann Gallagher.
These were initially on CDs but are now on memory sticks.
Carol Ann, who dedicated over 20 years to the organisation, nominated the group for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services in 2015 and they won.
The Awards ceremony was in the Town Hall with the Provost and then two of the team went to London for a celebration on the Mall.
I marvel at the innovations at Bankie Talk since Dad ran it – the sound mixers, the computers, the recording studio…it’s a world away from the former Witness Room in the Town Hall where Bankie Talk first began in 1988.
I think of Jessie and John, Tom and Nora and Betty, all readers I met back when I read in 1992.
In the background, I can hear today’s readers informing listeners about the Roman Fortlet discovered at Carleith Farm in Duntocher.
Dad would have been tickled at that story.
He always said the Antonine Wall was at the foot of our garden!
I say goodbye to Irene, Rodger and the rest of their team of volunteers happy Dad’s legacy is in safe hands.
I certainly hope my article will bring them more listeners, sponsors and funding.
They provide as vital a service nowadays as Dad did for his VIPs back in the 90s, a lifeline really…
If your sight is not quite as sharp as it used to be and you would like to receive a copy of the Clydebank Post on memory stick, please call Bankie Talk on 07469792648 and leave your name and number or email: email@example.com
Similarly, to donate to Bankie Talk or if you are able to help with fundraising they would be delighted to hear from you.
Every little helps!
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