By Monica Gibson

Distance doesn’t have to get in the way of family time for East Renfrewshire’s silver surfers, thanks to a series of free computer classes.

June Bannister, from Barrhead, placed a computer on the table and set up a video call on Skype last Christmas, so that everyone could see and chat with her brother Bob at his home in Ilderton, Ontario, Canada.

The 75-year-old learned computer skills at her local library and now she’s urging others to learn how to Skype at free classes run by East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure (ERCL).

The sessions are being held at various libraries in East Renfrewshire over the next few months and June reckons the Skype video calls – where you can both see and talk to someone over the internet on an iPad or tablet – is ideal for keeping in touch with family and friends, no matter where they are in the world.

She told the Barrhead News: “We’d set up a computer at the dinner table and, when we did the video call, it was as if Bob was with us.

“I’ve been Skyping Bob for years and it’s great that we’re able to ‘ding’ each other, as we call it, when we know each of us is going to be online.

“I’ve also been able to watch his grandchildren grow up, whereas before we used Skype, we would just phone each other.

“We’d be talking for about an hour and a half on the phone and it would cost a fortune but, once you get online, a Skype video call doesn’t cost a penny.”

June added: “Being able to see the person you’re talking to makes all the difference and it’s almost like they live just down the road and you’ve popped in to see them.

“I’d encourage people of all ages to learn how to Skype, especially as these classes being held in East Renfrewshire libraries are free.”

Speaking on Skype from Canada, 72-year-old Bob said: “When I first emigrated, we would write home and it would take a month to get a reply.

“And if you wanted to see your family, you’d have to get on a plane and fly back home.

“Now all you need to do is turn on your computer and you get to see and talk to family in Scotland.”

Chief executive of ERCL, Anthony McReavy, added: “Our libraries are definitely not just a place where you go to borrow books, as there’s a huge variety of services people can access through our libraries.

“June is a perfect example of learning how to do something as relatively simple as Skyping can bring families closer together, even if they are spread around the world.”

Click here or call 0141 577 3738 to find out if there’s a Skype course near you and book your place.