A CURATOR who has been a permanent fixture at the McLean Museum for 40 years is retiring.

Val Boa says the job has been 'her life's work' and told the Tele she was leaving on a high following the James Watt bicentenary celebrations.

She leaves as the museum and Watt Library are rebranded the Watt Institution after a £2million refurbishment.

Val, 65, said: "I've received cards, gift and and goodwill messages.

"It's been quite overwhelming.

"I feel the museum has always been a welcoming place, we hear from so many people who have emigrated to Australia or Canada and want to trace their roots.

"Ancestry and family history have become very popular."

Val says the displays and stories behind them have moved so many people over the years.

She said: "We have a quilt which has the names of those children who lost their lives in the Blitz, looking for names of their loved ones and WW1 exhibition.

"I've enjoyed when we've marked anniversaries and we've often used things we have in the collection.

"We had some fabulous World War 1 posters we put online as part of our WW1 exhibition.

"The museum touches a lot of people but it's also educational.

"A lot of children don't respond so well in a classroom situation but we had one lad who came in with his and he was fascinated by our steam engine model and was full of enthusiasm for this.

"It can unlock potential."

The modest museum boss was also swift to praise the wonderful art collection from local artists such as Alison Watt to work by English and international stars.

Val was brought up in Glasgow and studied, not history, but geology, at the University of Glasgow. She completed a post-graduate certificate in museum studies and then a diploma.

She says she has had many highlights in her career since she came to Greenock but she has particularly enjoyed this year's James Watt celebrations.

Val added: "It's incredible to think he had his idea for the separate condenser in 1865.

"Watt was such an important person and a worthy hero. He wasn't an academic but when he had an idea, he could visualise it and bring it to life.

"His son also donated a statue of his father to the Watt Library and gifted money so local people could learn about technology."

Val says the collection, which pre-dates the opening of the museum in 1876, is unique.

She said: "This has been my life's work and the history of Greenock is unparalleled - and I've always enjoyed working with members of the public."

Val says the museum is welcoming more foreign visitors thanks to the surge in cruise business and in response the reception desk now has welcome written in different languages.

She explained: "Myself and the other staff have tried to preserve the past but also look to the future. It is hard to leave 40 years behind but like the museum, I'm looking to the future and have a busy retirement planned.

"I am looking forward to spending more time with family and friends and travelling."