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Oban Spring Clean - A History

Hope MacDougall’s appreciation of Oban and Scotland as whole is evident in her vast collection of both physical and photographed farming equipment, fishing nets, landscapes, and individuals. But did you know that she founded the first ever “Oban Spring Clean” in March of 1979?



Along with the Department of Environmental Health, MacDougall sprung to action to combat what the Oban Times recognized as a “litter-bound” city in the late 1970s. She involved local residents in doing so, including Oban youth groups like Oban Youth Club, Scouts, and schools. Together, they mapped different areas of the city that were in special need of assistance, including the railway embankment at Soroba and the local swimming pool. Once mapped, different groups were assigned target places to clean over the course of a week; the Scouts took the pool area whereas the youth club tackled the waterfront. The Oban Times also promoted that anyone autonomous from an organized group could retrieve trash bags from the Tourist Information Office.


With Hope MacDougall’s inspiration, throughout the last week of March 1979, a honed effort was made to void the city of litter. Fortunately, her efforts sparked further conversation around the environment in Oban, evident in a letter to the editor, in which a writer expresses their concern over the longevity of their work: “But will it last?” (Oban Times 1979). The writer later answers their own question in the same piece: “But the real answer could actually be in the hands of every Oban resident” (Oban Times 1979). This resident called upon their neighbors to push the movement beyond Hope MacDougall’s designated week by taking individual responsibility to maintain cleanliness. Instead of spending a week cleaning litter, do not litter to begin with!


Similarly, in another article in the local paper, shopkeepers were called upon to remind patrons to dispose of their wrappers in a trash bin, and for the government to hire more street cleaners and garbage collectors. Without Hope MacDougall’s institution of “Oban Spring Clean,” this conversation may not have been initiated.


In addition to inspiring individuals and businesses to take measures to maintain cleanliness beyond the last week of March 1979, she also sought to inspire future generations to make the clear streets truly last. To do so, she instituted a competition amongst local youth to write essays, poems, and slogans promoting the health of the environment through anti-litter rhetoric. Kirsteen McKellar’s winning slogan read “A mother dog looks after her litter so why can’t you?”. This competition also highlights Hope MacDougall’s interests: she was both a lover of the Oban environment and the arts.


Hope MacDougall's efforts clearly had an impact at the time and on the future of Oban, evident in the 1980 Oban Spring Clean the following year, recorded in the Dunollie Archives, and the fact that this tradition has continued to this day. In fact, the 2024 Oban Spring Clean is starting this week on Saturday 23rd March!


This blog post was written by Helen Anderson who did some great work in our archive this summer, thanks to the MacDougall McCallum Heritage Foundation's Scholarship and using documents which can be found in the Miss H. MacDougall’s Community Activities, etc. binder in the Dunollie Archives located in the 1745 House Museum's Reading Room at Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds.

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