Review of 2014: Edinburgh trams come to life

Edinburgh's troubled tram system finally went live. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Edinburgh's troubled tram system finally went live. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Scottish capital rubs its cynical eyes in a season of surprises and sorrows

TS ELIOT wrote that “April is the cruellest month”, and for the parents of a young girl and a young woman, and the children of a beloved teacher, no line could cut so deep.

For admirers of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, May would deliver its own blow to the heart while June saw a spectator sport in Scotland rocked by the worst accident in its long history. The spring of 2014 delivered a mixture of sorrow and surprises as well as the first “Royal crawl-about”, the surfacing of the first female submariners and a “will they/won’t they?” debate over whether demolition was a suitable spectator sport for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.


A series of tragic deaths was to circle April like a halo. For the parents of Keane Wallis-Bennet, school should have been the safest place for their daughter. Yet in a tragic accident a wall in the gym building at Liberton High School in Edinburgh collapsed and killed the 12-year-old pupil who was changing at the time for a PE class. One friend tweeted: “Sleep tight, beautiful.”

Sir Bob Geldof was forced to pen his own painful tribute to his daughter Peaches Geldof after the daughter of the singer and the late Paula Yates was found dead at the age of 25 from what was later revealed to be a heroin overdose. Bob Geldof described her as “the wildest, funniest, cleverest, wittiest and the most bonkers of us all”. The previous day Peaches had posted an image on twitter of her mother, who had also died of an overdose.

Ann Maguire, a foreign language teacher at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds became the first teacher to be killed in a British school since the Dunblane massacre in 1996. Will Cornick, a 16-year-old pupil, stood up in the classroom, stabbed her seven times in the back and neck and then sat down and said: “Good times.” Later, when sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and told by the judge that he might never be released, he displayed “a chilling lack of remorse”.

In Nigeria, 276 girls and women were abducted from a school in Nigeria and held hostage by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It prompted an internet twitter campaign in which people, see below, held up signs reading: “BringBackOurGirls”.

The organisers of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 announced that the opening ceremony would involve the live demolition of five of the six remaining Red Road flats in what would be an example of the city “embracing the future”. The announcement triggered a huge groundswell of anger. A week later the plans were cancelled, apparently because of concerns over “safety and security”.

A Royal Navy nuclear submarine, HMS Tireless, arrived in the southern Indian Ocean to help in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Cromlix House, a luxury hotel bought by Andy Murray for £1.8 million, opened to the public in his hometown of Dunblane. Prince George conducted his first “Royal crawlabout” at Government House in Wellington, New Zealand, where he was introduced to ten young babies born at the same time.


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A message in a bottle, penned by George Grierson, a five-year-old schoolboy in 1961, was washed ashore 53 years later but only a few yards from where it was cast off. The author had hoped it might circumnavigate the globe but instead it appeared to have spent five decades bobbing about in the Solway Firth. Further up the coast, a new walking route crossing Scotland from Helensburgh to Dunbar was opened to commemorate the Scots environmentalist John Muir. Hundreds of viewers complained to the BBC after Jamaica Inn, a drama adaptation of the novel by Daphne du Maurier, was broadcast with dialogue that was inaudible.

Donald Trump, pictured right, who previously said he would no longer invest in Scotland because of wind turbines, bounced back to buy the Turnberry Hotel and its accompanying golf course from the Leisurecorp Group, based in Dubai, for £35m. Margo MacDonald, the most popular MSP in Scotland and a champion of independence, died at home after 20 years battling Parkinson’s disease. Her husband Jim Sillars said: “The brightest light of the Scottish political firmament has gone out.”

Sandy Jardine, who played for both Hearts and Rangers, died at the age of 65.

Max Clifford, the publicist, was found guilty of eight indecent assaults on teenage girls and later jailed for eight years.


THE images were beamed around the world and shocked anyone who had ever fallen in love with Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art. A student’s use of a gas canister of foam next to the hot surface of a projector started a fire in the basement of the famous building. The fire spread quickly, destroying the iconic library and driving up through the roof, reducing parts to smouldering ruins. A fund-raising committee was quickly set up, with both Peter Capaldi, a former student and now the actor playing Doctor Who, and Brad Pitt lending their services to help raise the estimated £20m necessary to restore the building.

Stephen Sutton, 19, raised an amazing £3.3m for Teenage Cancer Trust but could not be saved and died, triggering a bout of national mourning. He had come to prominence by highlighting his “bucket list” of 70 things he wished to do before he died. He had managed almost all of them.

Ian Rankin was named the nation’s favourite writer in a poll that put Robert Louis Stevenson in second place and Robert Burns in fifth, behind Iain Banks. Jeremy Paxman, author of countless withering put-downs to politicians, announced that he was to quit Newsnight after 24 years. He was not alone in stepping down from an exalted position as Esther Brauer, 83, announced she was to retire after running the Kylesku Post Office in Sutherland for 61 years. Craig Ferguson also announced he was stepping down as the presenter of The Late Late Show.

Three women Lieutenants – Maxine Stiles, Alex Olsson and Penny Thackray – became the first women to qualify as submariners in the 110-year history of the Royal Navy.

A botched execution in Oklahoma using an untested combination of drugs led the condemned man, Clayton Lockett, to writhe in agony for 45 minutes before finally dying of a heart attack. Monica Lewinsky wrote an article for Vanity Fair in order to help people through their “darkest moments of humiliation”. She said it was time to “burn the beret and bury the blue dress” and added: “I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton.”

The Scottish Parliament announced plans to give women the right to check up on a partner’s violent past in a bid to tackle domestic abuse. New laws were unveiled to give Scotland “one of the most robust regimes in the world” for restricting air weapons.

Neil Lennon stepped down as manager of Celtic after an at times turbulent four years, saying he was “increasingly frustrated” and “unsettled” at remaining in post when less money was being invested in the club.

In a surprising tactic, Alex Salmond praised Vladimir Putin, then rampaging uninvited across the Ukraine, and described Scotland as a “nation of drunks” in a GQ interview with Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spokesman. He later called it a “matter of regret” that some of his comments were reported “out of context”.

Trade unions in Turkey held a one-day strike in protest at the country’s worst mining disaster, in which the death toll had hit 282. Terrorists in Nigeria detonated bombs at Jos, killing 118 people. A museum to commemorate the 11 September, 2001 attacks opened in Manhattan. President Obama described it as “a sacred place of healing and hope”. The month closed with the official opening of the Edinburgh tram system. Rail fans came from as far away as Berlin to use the new service which had gone wildly over budget, finally costing £776 million.


Three spectators were killed when they were hit by a rally car at the Jim Clark Rally in the Scottish Borders in the worst incident in Scottish rallying history. A witness said it was like “a bowling ball hitting skittles”. A Scots veteran marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings by parachuting out of a plane above Normandy in a repeat of what he had done seven decades previously, while below more than 2,000 veterans gathered on Sword beach for the main ceremony which was attended by the Queen and President Obama.

A Scots page boy, Charles Hope, heir to the Earl of Hopetoun, fainted as the Queen laid out the plans for the next legislative session. Rik Mayall, below right, who entertained a generation in The Young Ones and The Dangerous Brothers died at the age of 56. More than 4,000 people took part in a midnight march through Glasgow to “reclaim their streets” after a series of rapes in the city. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped while hitch-hiking in the West Bank. One made an emergency phone call in which he was heard to whisper: “They kidnapped me.” The caller heard shouting in Arabic and then automatic gunfire. The incident led to violence in Gaza which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians. The World Cup began in Brazil.

King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicated in favour of his son, who ascended the Spanish throne as King Felipe VI. The Queen’s Speech at the opening of parliament revealed that maintaining the Union was the top priority of the coalition government. “My government will continue to implement new financial powers for the Scottish Parliament and make the case for Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom,” she said. President Obama made a dramatic intervention into the debate by saying America wanted a “strong, robust” and “united” Britain. He added that the UK appeared to have “worked pretty well”.

At the Edinburgh Film Festival, Hobbit actor Elijah Wood declared: “The independence of Scotland. F****’n’ go for it, man.” He later revealed he thought he was being asked about independent cinema.


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