1963: year of The Beatles, JFK, The Great Train Robbery … and first Scotswoman Of The Year

TONIGHT marks a very special anniversary of one of the most important and prestigious awards evenings in the Scottish calendar. 

2013 marks the Golden Jubilee of the Evening Times Scotswoman Of The Year Awards and it looks set to be another fantastic night.  This will be my fourth time attending the event and last year I was lucky enough to be performing live on the night in the City Chambers to a room full of awe-inspiring women.

I decided to take a look back 50 years to 1963 when Bessie Johnston, our first Scotswoman Of The Year, was crowned.  Women’s Lib was in full swing, as was the dawn of the mini-skirt, while women were making their presence felt in the workplace.

This was the year US President John F Kennedy was assassinated, The Beatles scored their first No 1 hit with From Me To You, The Great Train Robbery took place and The Profumo Affair was dominating the newspapers with its then scandalous headlines.

I also discovered this was the year actors Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt were born, which led to me getting a little side-tracked watching Legends Of The Fall and Edward Scissorhands back to back yesterday afternoon when I should have been writing this column.

Anyway, back to 1963, which had lots of good stories, including that of Bessie Johnston.  She had worked tirelessly for the Red Cross in Glasgow for more than 50 years and was a great supporter of many other charities.  She had been awarded the MBE in 1953 and also sat on the board of management for the Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital and the Glasgow Western Hospitals Group.  She also worked for the Glasgow Empire Cancer Campaign and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, so was a very worthy winner of the Scotswoman Of The Year title.

Since then, many amazing women have been awarded the title, from Betty McAllister, the outspoken champion of the people of Glasgow’s East End in 1984, to 1999 winner Dr Anna Murphy, who established and developed the country’s first renal unit at Yorkhill Hospital, to actress Eileen McCallum, who won in 2010 for her efforts to raise awareness of the muscle-wasting disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a condition affecting her grandson.  She even lobbied the Scottish Parliament on this matter to help other families living under the same circumstances.

So whoever the winner is, she and her fellow nominees will join the ranks of some incredible women.

Happy 50th birthday Scotswoman Of The Year – and here’s to many more.