By Karen Carruth

The people who receive the audio version of The Scottish Farmer are grateful to be able to keep up with the news and views of the farming world, even though they may no longer be able to read it themselves.

East Kilbride Talking Newspapers (EKTN) is a tremendous charity, based in East Kilbride, that provides this service free to those that qualify.

All you have to do is sign up, and a memory stick will arrive each week with the stories read out to you in the comfort of your own home, or wherever you wish to hear it. You listen to it, return the stick in the prepaid wallet and it comes back the next week with the latest paper recorded onto it.

A service as such doesn’t happen easily. And it is volunteers that give their time to organise, read, and post, so that listeners have a service they can rely on. 

Alan Drummie has been volunteering for this service since 2006 and is now the EKTN Scottish Farmer section coordinator, and is committed to providing a reliable service to the listeners.

I meet Alan at his home in East Kilbride, along with his wife, Sheena. Alan talks about joining Talking Newspapers (TN) directly after retiring from his newsagents that he and his wife run for 40 years.

“My good friend, the late John Strang was involved in TN and said to me I should come along.” He did, and he now runs the service along with the help of a team of faithful volunteers.

Alan continues: “The SF’s talking newspaper is part of the larger East Kilbride and District Talking Newspaper charity, which reads the EK News, but we have our own volunteers who only do the farmer.”

He tells me the weekly routine is as follows: he gets an online copy of the paper which he downloads, he then picks the stories from the paper to send to the readers. Having done it for so many years Alan knows which reader is best to read each section. He sends out the stories to each reader and they record themselves from their home and email a digital file to Alan. One of his readers is based in Canada, as you can basically do it from anywhere. Alan reads the editor’s leader piece himself for the recording. He then creates a master (this is where the skill is involved), and edits out all the coughs, hesitations and anything else that pops up on the recording uninvited.

All this takes around eight hours for Alan. He usually has it finished by Sunday night and then he takes it down to the East Kilbride Arts Centre where there are facilities to make the final recordings. Then his right-hand men, Ian Graham, Willie King and Robert Hosie, help produce the USB sticks that are then posted out to the people who have signed up for the service.

It usually goes without a hitch, however, an unexpected hospital stay had Alan calling Sheena from his hospital bed to get Robert to bring up the admin laptop to allow him to do the mastering, as he is currently the only one that can do it. She reluctantly agreed. She is still shaking her head now, as he tells the story.

He is in the process of trying to convince some of the volunteers to learn how to do the mastering or he suggests this article may encourage some others to volunteer to help with this side of things, he would be delighted to train up some more people.

Although the service is primarily for those with sight issues, a few special cases also receive the free service. Someone called asking whether their family member who had recently suffered a stroke and was in a coma could have a copy as they wanted to play it to them. In cases like these, the charity will always try to accommodate.

Alan shows me a pile of thank you letters and cards sent to the charity from the people who receive the recordings, and quite often from their family members. One was particularly poignant as it pointed out that the ability to hear the contents of The Scottish Farmer had allowed the letter writer’s grandfather to still be abreast with all the farming news, and that meant he was completely involved in all the farming chat with the family and most importantly for him, his grandchildren.

The service is completely free and Talking Newspapers supplies everything you need to listen to the recordings. You initially receive a little boom box, as Alan calls it, which you simply plug the memory stick into. You send the memory stick back in the pre-paid envelope and the following week the new one arrives.

Apart from his work on TNs Alan is a man of many talents. He has had to give up curling, which he loved for many years, as his legs aren’t quite what they were, however, he has recently built a new workshop in his garden for all his woodwork projects.

He is now the man to go to for trophy boxes, which he makes by hand for local institutions, and societies, at his last count he thinks he has made around 40. He also shows me a guitar he made, which is beautifully crafted.  He also talks of his love of gardening, electronics and photography.

Deirdrie Ozmond, the secretary of the EK Talking Newspaper Association, has huge admiration for the work that Alan does.

She says: “Many people in East Kilbride village will remember Alan Drummie as the newsagent in Stuart Street.  Now in his so-called retirement he devotes time to being editor of the audio version of the Scottish Farmer.

“Alan’s devotion to the process of getting the paper out to the listeners is amazing – he has to work around holidays, illness, other commitments.  He has a phenomenally detailed understanding of the technical knowledge essential to the electronic delivery of the paper.  We, the readers, use a variety of equipment to do the readings and occasionally things go wrong, but he is always able to sort them out.

“His calm, unflappable approach has earned him great respect and admiration from his colleagues. Feedback from the listeners is uniformly positive and there is no doubt that the service provided under Alan’s guidance is very much appreciated.”

Alan says over the years he has met many lovely people through Talking Newspapers and even though the readers no longer have to meet up in the studio anymore to record their pieces, he does enjoy the Monday meet up to do all the admin and the postings, which gives an opportunity to catch up on the chat. A couple of times a year everyone involved in TNs for The Scottish Farmer gets together for a lunch out.

He finishes by saying he would dearly love to just say thank you to The Scottish Farmer and everyone who supports the charity, either by volunteering, or those that send donations, it is greatly appreciated.

If you or a family member has sight issues and would like to apply for the Talking Newspaper service, contact Deirdrie Ozmond, on or call on 01355 260341.