IT was a night full of tears of joy and laughter as the 50th woman to be named Scotswoman of the Year was announced.
In the glittering surroundings of Glasgow City Chambers Banqueting Hall, more than 250 women rose to their feet as Evening Times editor Tony Carlin named Erin McNeill from Menstrie as our winner.
It was the crowning moment of a star-studded night filled with inspirational speeches, laughter and amazing tales of bravery against the odds.
Host for the evening, which was supported by St Enoch Centre for the sixth consecutive year, was television presenter and journalist Cathy Macdonald.
And Glasgow-born Olympic medallist Katherine Grainger kept the audience rapt as she spoke of her bid for rowing gold.
Katherine, who became the only British woman in any sport to have won medals in four consecutive Olympic Games when she picked up the gold medal in London 2012, was guest speaker. She was mobbed by fans hoping to have their picture taken with her – and her gold medal.
Katherine said: “It is absolutely amazing and very inspiring to be here and see a room of this size full of Scotswomen who have achieved so much. I had an amazing summer last year but I think of what I did as being my job. These are all women who do incredible things despite tragedy in their own lives and having suffered heartache.”
Among the nominees was Lisa Stephenson, 44, who raised £250,000 for Maggie’s, the cancer care charity, after being diagnosed with a rare and terminal cancer. Lisa said: “It’s a real honour to have been nominated and I was really quite nervous about coming along tonight. It is lovely to see women coming out and achieving what they want to achieve and being what they want to be, whether they are 20, 40, 60 or 80.”
Julie Love, a Maryhill mum, who successfully campaigned for a change in the law surrounding the deaths of Scots overseas was delighted to be attending the awards. She said: “I have been so looking forward to coming to this. I’m astounded to be nominated and it’s an honour to be among all these wonderful women.”
Sixth nominee Blanche Nicolson, 64, who is client services director of Hansel, the pioneering learning disabilities support charity, was unable to attend after her husband passed away earlier this week.
Stars also turned out to meet our six fantastic nominees with singer Michelle McManus and actresses Libby McArthur and Barbara Rafferty all in attendance.
2011 winner Dr Mary Hepburn, who has spent more than 30 years helping pregnant women experiencing problems with addiction, HIV, mental illness, homelessness and rape, spoke of the impact of winning the award and how it had gained important international attention for her cause.
Susan Nicol, general manager of St Enoch Centre and competition judge, said: “Since being founded 50 years ago, the Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year Awards has done an outstanding job of commending some of our country’s most remarkable women. It is also one of the longest-running competitions in the UK dedicated to celebrating women. I offer each and every winner over the past 50 years my heartfelt congratulations, along with the many other unsung heroines whose selfless actions enrich our lives.”
The night was brought to a close by Ayr singer Nicola Cassells, who gave a stunning rendition of classical hit Time to Say Goodbye.
Nominee Isabel McCue, who set up Theatre Nemo to help people with mental health issues following her son’s suicide after suffering from schizophrenia, said the night had been overwhelming. Isabel added: “I think this is a lovely event in a beautiful setting and it is an honour to be nominated because there are so many women doing so many wonderful things in Scotland. I would hope anyone sitting at home thinking ‘I’m just a housewife’ or ‘I’m just a wee mammy’ can see this and know that if all these women band together then we can achieve anything. Absolutely anything.”