There have been a number of people in the Falkirk area who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help others this year.
And we have also had our fair share of locals who have battled against tremendous odds, whether it be fighting back against serious disease or overcoming obstacles to achieve success.
Here are just ten of our Top Bairns whose presence made the Falkirk area a better place in 2017:
Grangemouth’s world bodybuilding champ Jim Bennie (74) helped raised £4000 for a project to refurbish his home town’s Zetland Park, which helped propel it to successfully achieve Lottery funding. Superfit Jim accomplished this by organising, and taking part in, a sponsored cycle along the length of the Forth and Clyde and Union canals. He said: “Zetland Park has been a fantastic place for the whole Grangemouth community for decades and it would be great if everyone supported this effort to raise the money to have it regenerated for generations to come.”
Falkirk-born businessman Alistair Campbell OBE (67) put forward an ambitious proposal which could potentially help give Falkirk Town Centre a positive future. Mr Campbell, who was named Business Personality of the Year at this year’s Falkirk Herald Business Awards, said: “I believe passionately in the long term viability and future sustainability of the town and surrounding areas.”
Bo’ness youngster Louis Hanley, who was born with congenital heart disease, underwent heart transplant surgery in November at the tender age of 10. Mum Nadege said: “It’s been tough and Louis was very, very scared. Now the surgery is over it’s difficult to know what he’s feeling because he’s never had a proper working heart before. But the other day he told me he felt like the Hulk.”
Twenty-year-old Fraser Johnston, from Larbert, spent the year selflessly giving older people a new lease of life. Hailed as a pioneer for spearheading the Falkirk-based Cycling Without Age scheme, which takes care home residents out on a trishaw bike to enable them to get out into the fresh air and keep them active in old age, Fraser was given a Pride of Britain award at a glittering ceremony attended by Prince William and celebrities like David Beckham and Sir Rod Stewart in London.
Pat Reid stepped down as Falkirk Provost this year after wearing the chain for a decade, making sure he got across all the pros Falkirk has to offer – without mentioning any of the cons. “There are no cons about Falkirk,” he laughed. “When you are attending events as Provost you have to remember to slip the word Falkirk into every second sentence. I just hope I did the job adequately and to the pleasure of those I have met and worked with over the years.”
Ten-year-old James Robertson was diagnosed with Myocarditis and, showing signs of heart failure, spent time in intensive care fighting for his life. After recovering he went back to school and suffered a heart attack. James was flown down to Great Ormond Street Hospital to undergo major heart surgery. Now on the transplant waiting list, James has been fitted with a HeartWare device – only the 11th child in Great Ormond Street and the first Scottish youngster to be fitted with one – to support his weakened heart while he waits for the life-saving call that brings his vital organ donation.
Mandie Stevenson (27) discovered she had terminal breast cancer in 2015 and was told her life expectancy was five years. She is determined not to waste a second of the time she has left and has been raising awareness of cancer in her monthly column Perfectly Frank, named after her beloved pet pug, in The Falkirk Herald. Mandie said: “Planning my future is very difficult. Cancer can be very cruel. My mum and dad always say take one day at a time, stay positive and good things will happen. That’s what I have to believe.”
The selfless exploits of merchant ship Captain Jamie Wilson and his crew during the rescue of 900 refugees were recognised by a national maritime charity. Captain Wilson, from Maddiston, and the sailors aboard his ship Deep Vision carried out nine separate rescue missions over the course of four days in January and February to save hundreds of refugees – many of them children – from a watery grave. The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society presented an Individual Commendation to Captain Wilson, who already has a Merchant Navy Medal.
Larbert’s Lee Welsh (12) was named Scotland’s Unsung Hero at this year’s Young Scot Awards. The young boxer was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – an aggressive form of cancer last year - but battled back to be given the all-clear in 2017 and raised cash for Glasgow Children’s Hospital where he was treated.
Nursing assistant Betty Wright, from Larbert, proved an example to all when she turned up for her early morning shift as normal at Forth Valley Royal Hospital on her 80th birthday. Betty, believed to be the oldest nursing assistant in Scotland, has spent the last 54 years caring for others and has no plans to retire yet.