Joanna McVey, a founding trustee of the Fermanagh Trust, announced her retirement as a trustee earlier this year.

Joanna, who is from Enniskillen, is former Managing Director of William Trimble Ltd., which owned the Impartial Reporter.

A community stalwart, alongside her work with the Fermanagh Trust she is involved in a number of voluntary organisations in Fermanagh.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Joanna – who will remain with the Fermanagh Trust in the role of Patron – spoke fondly about her time as a trustee, looking back over what the Trust has achieved since its inception and how it continues to support the local community in various ways.

Talking about the initial formation of the Fermanagh Trust, Joanna described it as a “bit of a magical mystery tour”.

Joanna McVey..

Joanna McVey..

She elaborated: “The Birmingham-based Barrow Cadbury Trust had taken a great interest in Northern Ireland and they had identified Fermanagh as their rural project.

“So for 10 years, from 1985 to 1995, they were going backwards and forwards to Fermanagh, getting to know the community and also providing significant financial support.”

As this couldn’t go on forever, Joanna explained that the Barrow Cadbury Trust’s exit strategy was to facilitate the setting up of a local Trust, which would have complete autonomy.

Joanna and three other people were identified as founding trustees of the Fermanagh Trust – the late Kathleen Richey, the late Lawrence Magee, and Jim Ledwith.

“We were greatly helped by Barrow Cadbury, in going through all the formalities and technicalities of setting up a Trust securely,” she said, noting that Barrow Cadbury’s part of the deal was to donate £50,000 per annum for five years, for the trustees to make grants with and also, for five years, donate £100,000, to invest to build an endowment.

Commenting that she, and the other founding trustees, were given “considerable support and guidance” from the outset, Joanna added: “It was a very exciting and busy time, but quite daunting as well, and we were given complete freedom, so it was a steep learning curve for all of us.”

Explaining how the grants were distributed initially, Joanna outlined: “As trustees, we would go around and get to know people in the local communities, not only the ordinary community associations, but women’s groups, play groups, youth organisations, church-based groups, cultural groups and so on.

“There were a huge number; we pretty much covered the county,” she said, adding: “By getting to know the people involved, hearing what they were doing and what they wanted to do, we knew then that the money was obviously going to be well spent.”

Giving an example of one project that the Fermanagh Trust was able to support by making a financial contribution, Joanna said: “The Arc Healthy Living Centre – before it was the Arc, it was four derelict properties in Irvinestown, and we were able to make a donation towards that which allowed the Arc project to purchase the properties.

“After that, because they had ownership of the properties, they could start to secure other funding, and the rest is history; it’s a very successful project. That sort of activity has happened in a lot of places.”

When asked about the highlights of her time as a trustee of the Fermanagh Trust, Joanna said that in the early days she enjoyed going out and meeting people who were working voluntarily on the ground, in their particular environment.

However, she noted that one of the Fermanagh Trust’s biggest projects was the development of Fermanagh House, to provide a community resource but also to provide an income for the Trust, with any surplus income to be ploughed back into work to support the Fermanagh community or to make grants.

Within the Fermanagh Trust’s endowment, there is a number of named funds, including the Joan Trimble Award Scheme, which Joanna and her family have been actively involved in establishing, and where she is a member of the fund’s advisory grants panel.

“The named funds are a very important part of what we do,” said Joanna, adding: “If there’s a personal loss or a tragedy and the family and the community wants to do something, this is a wonderful way of perpetuating the memory of somebody, but also building up a fund which is administered by Fermanagh Trust and then making grants out of that fund.”

Joanna McVey (centre) pictured with Fermanagh Trust trustees.

Joanna McVey (centre) pictured with Fermanagh Trust trustees.

When asked about the future of the Fermanagh Trust, Joanna believes that it is in “extremely good health” at the moment.

“We’re very lucky with our Director, Laurie McCusker, who’s just been a fantastic operator on so many levels, and we’ve got a very strong team of staff.

“We have a wonderful group of nine trustees, currently under the chairmanship of Ernie Fisher.

“I would like to take this opportunity to wish Ernie well,” she said, concluding: “What is working well at all levels is that the Fermanagh Trust has become part of the scenery in so many ways here.”