This is for people who have made a difference in 2013, sometimes in acting together, sometimes in acting alone.
Our increasingly machine-like society likes to pretend that individuals don’t matter, that it is the function not the person that makes the difference.
History makes that stance hard to defend. The committed, determined and inspiring individual so often is the game maker, the engine of change for the better.
Many people confuse attractive, often egocentric, attention seekers with the inspirational. These are often the opposite – taking other people’s light and oxygen, making a great deal of noise, sometime bullying, usually achieving very little, although few even notice this, so blinded are they by the performance.
Inspiring people are inspiring by example not by rhetoric. Argyll has been lucky enough to have some it’s good to be able to point to at the year’s end.
Starting with those who have worked together – Argyll has seen groups affiliated to the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association appearing around our coasts, working together to build their St Ayles skiffs and to row them, in training and in competition with others from around Scotland and elsewhere.
Islay, Seil, Lochgilphead, and Tighnabruaich are just some communities who have done this. Tighnabruaich’s skiff won in a field of four first time out – a fast craft – in its home contest. Seil and Islay also hosted competitions – with Seil holding the first competition in Argyll, finishing with a row-past under the Bridge over the Atlantic. Two months later, Islay’s Festival of the Sea saw plenty of skiff action; and the same two teams, Seil and Islay, signed up for the first World Coastal Rowing Championships at Ullapool on Loch Broom.
The whole coastal rowing initiative is simply fabulous. It creates a reason for people to learn physical making skills – in the process of building a boat together. It’s a communal activity at all points – building, training, competing and celebrating – win or lose. Most communities have several teams and some have more than one skiff.
It puts us in touch with the water and gets us on to it. It is bewildering that a place as water-rich as Argyll really has such relatively little activity on the water. But with kayaking rocketing in popularity and coastal rowing now well embedded, and some of our sailors from the Holy Loch and Rhu lighting beacons in their sport, things are looking up.
Sponsors are individual companies whose support really makes a difference.
One we would instance as having made a massively successful impact on communities across mid Argyll is Scottish Gas, in its three year agreement, now completed, to support the Mid Argyll Community Swimming Pool – MACpool.
This pool was built with funding raised from and by the community. It is used extensively by individuals and sports clubs in the community and its hinterland. Children and pensioners learn to swim, enhancing the capacities of both to enjoy their lives more, to develop self confidence – and to stay safer in a place surrounded by and shot through with water.
Scottish Gas marked the completion of their support for MACpool by bringing Britain’s successful Olympic swimmer, David Carry, to take a masterclass in the pool with a lively flotilla of young swimmers – and boy, did they concentrate when given the privilege of access to such a leading example of what is possible.
The seeds of what Scottish Gas has done for MACpool will continue to bloom. This has felt like a real relationship between a national company which focuses its sponsorship on the sport of swimming – and a community in real need of this resource against the background of an inert and whimsical local authority.
The hero of Helensburgh’s Heroes
Phil Worms, the driving force behind major creative initiatives in Helensburgh, focused on building the digital and performance skills of the town’s young people, has been driving the Heroes Centre proposal for a couple of years now.
He has identified a suitable building, a disused Victorian warehouse by the rail line into town, which was a handling station for receiving and distributing materials coming in by rail. He has the plans – and they are both functional and fun, reaching out inclusively into the community through the planned technical and social resources for the place.
He has recruited a cluster of notable celebrities and well known professional practitioners with local connections who are acting as ambassadors and advocates for the plan,
He has attracted political interest and support – from the Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop and most recently from Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s Minister for External Affairs and International Development who visited for a tour of the building.
He has a team of volunteers like himself who raise funds, take workshops, do administration and generally recruit support for the enterprise.
This can make a real difference to Helensburgh and to the chances of its young people. Worms plans a pioneering Digital Academy linked to music, film and performance. He has deployed his own professional skills and his wide-reaching contacts in the relevant industries to further the public consciousness and the achieveability of the project.
This needs to happen. We celebrate Phil Worms doughty determination that it will.
The generator for Argyll and the Isles Tourism
Mike Story will be embarrassed to be singled out from what has indeed been a team effort to create and galvanise the tourism sector across Argyll and the Isles to act strategically and in concert to grow the industry in which, more than any other, Argyll has all the resources to be a national star.
But we have made our conviction clear that the talented, selfless and hard working individual in the right place at the right time is the game maker – and that individual in this story has been Mike Story.
A genial man with a massive portfolio of senior management experience in international marketing, hospitality and brand development – and in areas, like Asia Pacific, where the national agency, VisitScotland, has no expertise of its own – Mike Story has the gifts of creating cohesion in others; of instinctive inclusivity; of building and offering support where it is needed most to get things moving; and of grasping quickly the attraction and potential of ideas and initiatives.
He has made all the difference to date in Argyll and the Isles Tourism’s recruitment of membership and support at all levels of the industry and of government. The spirit and reality of collaboration has been energising within and enviable without.
He has taken the body to new and major league prominence – for its ideas and its performance. He has professionalised it. He made Argyll proud of it and believing in its ability to succeed.
He has now moved on – but not, fortunately, from Argyll whose business interests will, in new ways, remain the focus of his attention, so this tribute is also a valediction.
The seeker after truth
Dr Christopher Mason, historian, former senior councillor in Glasgow and Director of the Actual Reality Trust is an exemplary seeker after truth.
The outdoor education company whose Trust he directs and with which he has long been involved, has demonstrably been mistreated by senior officers and a Council Leader at Argyll and Bute Council in matters around the sale of Castle Toward and its estate in which it was a tenant and which came into council ownership through a local authority boundary change.
This mistreatment appears to have involved breaches of the code of ethical standards in public life.
Dr Mason has made a complaint on that basis to the relevant authority.
He is now instituting legal action against those involved.
He has also complained about and to the national audit commission, Audit Scotland, about that agency’s own clear dereliction of duty in neglecting to investigate this matter as it requires to be investigated.
He is a meticulous interrogator of evidence and a skilled case builder. He is not going to go away.
We need people like this, who are prepared to persist while remaining judicious and implacable in equal measure. We need more of them. We must support them.
Without them, those who weight the scales in the shadows would get away with it.