Community activist known for her work in Govan

Born: February 23, 1947

Died: March 27, 2019

MAY Nicholson, who has died aged 72, was the dynamic, caring and outgoing founder of the Preshal Trust in Govan where with her example, inspiration and drive she brought together people from all sectors of society to care for the broken, the poor and the needy.

May was born to Isa and Thomas in Feegie/ Ferguslie Park in Paisley in a traditional room and kitchen with a tiny WC on the landing – born there in that hole-in-the-wall bed where Brian, Ann, Thomas and Huey were also born. Later the family would move to a slightly bigger house but the poverty never left them and Isa struggled to make ends meet when Thomas drank away much of his wages from the mill.

May, taking after her grandfather on her father’s side, was the most wonderful story teller. She would tell of these times - how all the houses had the same colour of doors and curtains, factory paint and material; of how the butcher would give them an extra sausage as she was such a skinny thing but how that sausage would then go to her father.

However the humour, if you listened carefully, did not disguise the depths of that poverty and deprivation. Whatever the circumstances of it all, it brought May, who was a bright and gifted girl, into a downward spiral of depression, addiction and self-harm.

May was able to escape the ravages of her addictions when her friend took her to a Stauros meeting on 22nd September 1981. It was the night as she put it, “Jesus changed my life completely”. The transformation that was wrought in May’s life was so full of grace and love that it became a powerful force in the transformation of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives throughout Scotland.

One of May’s many memorable phrases was “Love you hunners” and in her case that love made everyone feel important and valued. With that love she brought life to the broken, hope to the hopeless, purpose to the lost. May had the gift of being equally at home with the powerful and the powerless. The authenticity of her Christian life touched many.

In 2002 she had a vision to enlarge her work with needy people in Govan – a vision that became the Preshal Trust – moving from a church hall, to the somewhat dilapidated Disabled Drivers building, and then to the fantastic building that is there today with the most wonderful garden attached.

With the return of cancer in 2018, May was so frail again, yet still did more than many of us until the illness finally took her. She who greatly loved will be greatly missed by the people of Govan and by daughter, Tracy and son, Alan. Just over 800 people attended a service of thanksgiving for May’s life in Paisley Abbey with tributes from Sir Brian Souter and Donald McDonald.

In the tradition of Mary Barbour, May Nicholson was an outstanding woman of faith and courage who transformed the lives of the poor and broken in Govan and continues to do so through the work she founded.