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Perth Amnesty Group celebrates 60th anniversary of Amnesty

Perth Amnesty Group 1986
Perth Amnesty Group 1986

History of Perth Group

Beginnings 

Inspired by Amnesty International’s celebration of its 60 years, we researched the beginnings of our AI group in Perth . 

It was founded around 1980 (?) by Alison Elphinstone. She was employed by Perth & Kinross Council as a community worker. The group met in a Cathedral room, and established a good working relationship between Alison’s Council colleagues, and the church.  Other members included the Chairman, Robin Brooks, Jane Forbes, Ruth Harris, David Steuart from Perth Theatre, Elizabeth Pyefinch, Judy Thorpe, Jean Kirby, Cathy Marshall and her husband, Annette Perry and Lyn Slowman.

Notable achievements include:

  • In 1982, hosting the venue for the annual AI Scottish Conference, the first time the Conference was held outside Edinburgh or Glasgow. About 100 Amnesty members from all over Scotland attended. They discussed human rights in Central America, the use of psychiatric medicine in Russia to silence dissidents, and how to improve communication with Scottish media.
  • August 1984, the P & J reported they had compiled an excellent audio-visual education pack. We understand this was a highly rated piece of work, used in schools as well as in talks for adults - unfortunately it is now lost.
  • Prisoner of Conscience released March 1985, Monsieur Memed Ahmed, a prisoner in Mauritania, for whom they had been campaigning, for several years, was released. The group were very humbled to receive a letter from him, saying:
    • My wife & I have been very moved by your efforts: our grateful thanks for your constant, effective and deeply humanitarian support during the years of repression.’

This news brought great excitement and celebration.

 

The photo shows a typical Perth AI meeting with the group writing letters to prisoners.

Pitlochry Group

The Perth group birthed the Pitlochry Group, which was started by the late Elizabeth Pyefinch who had been a member of the Perth group. Jean Kirby was present at the first meeting and an active member for many years.  

Their notable achievements include:

  • Initiating a 50th Anniversary Service in 1998, commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Church of Scotland at Tenandry, near Pitlochry The local MSP, John Swinney, attended.
  • In 2000, the Pitlochry group was named Amnesty’s UK Group of the Millennium for its breadth & commitment to this work. As well as adopting prisoners of conscience, campaigning, the most striking aspect of their work was what they did locally, especially with children, to raise awareness of Amnesty’s aims and achievements.
  • Prisoner of Conscience released: Dr Issam al Iryan, one of their three Egyptian prisoners.

 

There has always been a good relationship between the Perth and Pitlochry groups. Cathy Marshall was the most recent secretary of Pitlochry Amnesty. When she and her husband were the only remaining members of the Group, they decided to end it, and thoughtfully delivered collecting tins, a huge candle and various other materials to the current Perth Secretary.

Elaine Cameron

Perth Amnesty Group Treasurer 2021

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