EVERYONE has their favourite SWOTY moment.
It could be the guest speaker who had you in tears of laughter, or the winner whose tale of courage broke your heart.
The Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year dinner has been a life-affirming, warm-hearted part of Glasgow’s calendar for almost 54 years and it’s still going strong.
As a celebration of women’s achievements in all spheres and all circumstances, it is essential and eye-opening – but it’s also 250 women enjoying a blether over a glass of wine and some fantastic food in one of the city’s most glorious venues.
Evening Times deputy news editor Deborah Anderson said: “There is nothing like SWOTY – it’s a fantastic celebration of what women do when faced with injustice or heartache.
“Our winners and finalists are all remarkable, and while they are all very different, they share one thing in common – the desire to do more than sit on the sidelines.
“They get up and get on with it, changing laws, saving lives, mending communities.
“It’s a real privilege for the Evening Times to be able to tell their stories and shine the spotlight on their achievements”
The first Scotswoman of the Year celebration took place in the Gay Gordon restaurant in Glasgow on June 12, 1963.
It was a lunchtime event, attended by around 100 women, who would scarcely have believed it if you had told them it would still be going strong more than five decades later.
The first winner was charity worker Bessie Johnston, who received the rosebowl from Alexander Gibson, then musical director of the Scottish National Orchestra who said: “We are all delighted that you are the first of many women whose work and achievements will be recognised annually by this award and lunch.”
The rosebowl has been replaced by a beautiful bronze trophy, the lunch is now a gala dinner, and the grand surroundings of Glasgow City Chambers have replaced the Gay Gordon – but the spirit of SWOTY remains unchanged.
Bessie set the bar very high, but the women of Scotland have never let her down.
Our youngest winner so far has been Erin McNeill, who raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity after recovering from a devastating house fire which left her with permanent scars and injuries.
She was 22 when she won the trophy in 2012, our Golden Jubilee year.
For our Silver Jubilee event, won by charity worker Susan Wighton, who risked her life in refugee camps in Pakistan, HRH the Princess Royal was our guest of honour.
Hundreds of speakers, entertainers and guests of honour have attended SWOTY, from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and TV presenter Esther Rantzen, to famous Scots comedy duo of the 60s Grace Clark and Colin Murray and future Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to violinist Nicola Benedetti and pop star Amy MacDonald.
In 1980, heart-throb newsreader Reginald Bosanquet and actress Kate O’Mara presented the trophy to Jean McLeod, who supported people with MS, despite her own disability and the late Charles Kennedy MP, who went on to lead the Liberal Democrats, presented the 1991 trophy to cancer research fundraiser Annette Turner.
Fiona Ross, public relations officer with Glasgow City Council, has been attending the event for many years and fondly remembers sitting beside the daughters of our only posthumous winner, Gwen Mayor, the Dunblane schoolteacher who lost her life protecting her young pupils.
“They were amazing, it was very humbling,” she recalled.
She has many funny memories too.
“Karen Dunbar getting everyone up for an impromptu slosh was hilarious,” laughed Fiona.
“Each year SWOTY never fails to disappoint with a room full of inspirational, amazing women who have made such a difference in their lives.”
She added: “There is never a dry eye when you watch the finalists’ videos.
“I have met such incredible women over the years at SWOTY, and it is an event that everyone looks forward to.
“It is so hard to call each year as all the nominees are such worthy winners.”