Provost Jim Todd presented James Bircham with a civic recognition certificate this week to celebrate an incredible forty years of dedicated service to people with visual impairments.
James started work within Social Work’s Visual Impairment Services in 1977 as a Social Work Assistant. He then became a Welfare Officer for the Blind, a role he continued until his retirement.
Apart from his ‘day job’, James was also responsible for setting up Kilmarnock Blind Club in 1977, which in the early days had over 100 members. He then established The Tape Services for the Blind in 1983 which recorded the local newspaper and church services. James is still managing both the club and the tape service today.
Not content with just those services, James established the Blind Bowling Club in Kilmarnock in 1978, and after a very short time he was managing Ayrshire and the west of Scotland teams. From this he became the Secretary for The Scottish Blind Bowling Association which involved him taking Scottish teams to Canada three times, Israel twice and New Zealand once to participate in the World Blind Bowling Championships.
He then became President of the International Blind Bowling Association and during this time he arranged for other countries to come to Girvan where the International Blind Bowling Championships were held.
Other activities he organised during his time with Social Work were Holidays for the Blind, which also still continue today. This provided friendship opportunities and something for people to look forward to each year.
The Blind Concert Party was established by James in 1980 and its members loved performing in local churches, women’s guilds, local clubs and groups. This increased the members’ confidence and encouraged other people with disabilities to participate in activities that increased their wellbeing.
Provost Todd said: “What an incredible life James has led. It’s almost unbelievable when you hear about the sheer amount of time and effort he has put in to helping people with visual impairments over four decades.
“We are all extremely proud of James’s achievements both within the Council and in his voluntary work which still continues today. Even though he has been suffering from some ill health, he still manages the Blind Club, Talking Newspaper and Holiday projects. As a lay preacher he has also officiated at many of the funerals of previous members of the Blind Club and has offered emotional and pastoral support to family members. We wish James better health for the future and hope that he can continue this outstanding work for as long as possible.”