VASA Special Recognition Award 2023

Ayrshire Coastal Path creator and Trail Manager Dr Jimmy Begg, has scooped a Special Recognition Award at this year’s South Ayrshire Volunteer Awards recognising his exceptional volunteering over an extended period of time.

Jimmy was nominated on account of his exceptional endeavour and commitment in creating and maintaining the Ayrshire Coastal Path. He has been at the heart of the ACP, a jewel amongst the attractions of South Ayrshire, for twenty years. It is no exaggeration to say that without Jimmy the ACP would neither have been created nor maintained to its present-day exceptionally high standard.

Last year marked Jimmy’s 80th birthday yet his drive and enthusiasm for “his baby” is undiminished. He is still to be found heading work parties carrying out the essential, tiring physical work in all weathers and at all times of year to maintain and improve the trail. With his cheerful and gently cajoling manner he encourages all the ACP volunteers to give of their best while enjoying the scenic beauty, fresh air, and exercise, all provided for free.

The thousands of hours Jimmy has devoted to the Path would be a source of pride to anyone doing even a full-time paid job. His commitment has brought untold benefits to South Ayrshire including health (through exercise by both volunteers and path-users) and increased numbers of visitors with interests in nature, environment and history as well as walking. The ACP Guidebook (now in its 3rd edition) was penned by Jimmy and does much in promoting the many attractions of the region. Unselfishly, Jimmy donates all the proceeds from the book towards Path upkeep and improvement.

Complementing the routine ACP management and path work is another long-established South Ayrshire event – the annual Rotary & Ayrshire Coastal Path Beach Clean. This was begun by Jimmy in 2004 in order to remove the huge amount of unsightly industrial and marine rubbish which had collected for many years on the more out-of-the-way beaches alongside which the Path runs. The spring Beach Clean is now in its 16th year, attracting as many as 300 environmentally-conscious volunteers over 20 beaches to remove present-day (now mostly plastic) litter thus ensuring that visitors and residents alike can properly appreciate and enjoy the pleasures of this beautiful coastline. And Jimmy still leads a beach-clean team on one of the southern sections of the Path every year!

The following verse was written by him and is to be found on many of the marker posts and gates along the path:
“Be ye Man – or Bairn – or Wumman,
Be ye gaun – or be ye comin,
For Scotland’s pride – no Scotland’s shame,
Gether yer litter – an tak it hame!”

Jimmy has also been a Rotarian for almost 40 years and prior to that a member of the Round Table (Rotary’s younger brother!). Both organisations exist to carry out charitable volunteer work and Jimmy has been at the forefront of countless projects benefiting society during his time in both.

Jimmy Begg’s contribution to volunteering in South Ayrshire is second to none. His spirit of quiet determination, his meticulous attention to detail, his sense of humour, and his inexhaustible commitment to the Ayrshire Coastal Path and to Rotary, is thoroughly deserving of a “Special Recognition Award” – an entirely fitting tribute to his achievements.

Congratulations Jimmy and thanks to Voluntary Action South Ayrshire for hosting what was a very pleasant and inspiring evening, celebrating the strength and diversity of volunteering in South Ayrshire, and its importance to those receiving support, as well as to those who give it.