2013 in review: The great and the good depart

Author Iain Banks, who died earlier this year. Picture: TSPLAuthor Iain Banks, who died earlier this year. Picture: TSPL
Author Iain Banks, who died earlier this year. Picture: TSPL
The spectre of death cast a shadow over the second quarter of 2013, with the departure of one of the 20th century’s most divisive prime ministers and one of our most beloved authors.

Yet the arrival of spring brought new beginnings, such as a new united Police Scotland, a new clothing line from Scotland’s favourite comedian and a new chief executive for Creative Scotland. There were departures too, as Britain’s most successful football manager blew the final whistle on a long and illustrious career. Stephen McGinty looks back.


SHE was born above a corner shop and died in a suite at the Ritz, yet the life of Margaret Thatcher would touch that of everyone in Britain, for good or ill. When her death was announced on 8 April there were mixed responses – solemnity for some, celebration for others.

Sir Alex Ferguson retired as Manchester United manager this year. Picture: GettySir Alex Ferguson retired as Manchester United manager this year. Picture: Getty
Sir Alex Ferguson retired as Manchester United manager this year. Picture: Getty
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George Galloway tweeted: “tramp the dirt down” but Thatcher was always capable of outsmarting her foes, and had arranged to be cremated – although not before being given the honour of a funeral that certainly looked like a State occasion, though the government insisted it was not. Ding Dong The Witch is Dead reached number ten in the official midweek charts but the BBC refused to play more than a few seconds. The Iron Lady was no more, and a wit in Belfast marked the occasion by spray-painting a wall: “Rust in Peace”.

Iain Banks was delighted to have outlived her, but, sadly, it would not be for long. When the author announced that he had inoperable cancer, it triggered such an outpouring of love for him and his work that he was, almost, lost for words. He broke the news in a statement, released on his website, which began: “I am officially Very Poorly.” He went on to say: “I’m expected to live for ‘several months’ and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll live beyond a year. So it looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last.” In a trace of his black humour Banks asked his partner, Adele, if she would “do me the honour of becoming my widow (sorry, we find ghoulish humour helps).”

Iain Duncan Smith, the UK minister behind the bedroom tax, said he could live on “£53 a week”. Mick Philpott and his wife, Mairead, were convicted of killing their six children in a house fire in Derby, started so Philpott could portray himself as a hero when he rescued them. Despite the jokes about April Fools Day, it was on this day that Police Scotland rose from the table, stitched together from the constituent parts of the country’s eight former constabularies.

Ian Rankin was beaten by a Mastermind contestant who answered ten out of 11 trivia questions on his novels, two more than the author, who was watching at home, could manage.

The Family Spending Report by the Prudential revealed that the average British family costs £1.3 million to run over a lifetime – this includes £38,000 spent on alcohol. An Irish bank included a passage from James Joyce’s Ulysses on a commemorative coin, then apologised for misquoting him. The ex-wife of artist Peter Howson announced she planned to sell 400 of his paintings to provide care for their daughter, who has Asperger Syndrome. Comedian Billy Connolly launched his own range of clothing, including manbags and tea towels at £10.

The Boston Marathon was bombed by extremists in an atrocity that killed three people and injured 15 others. During the police manhunt for the suspects, one million people were put in “lockdown” and told not to leave their homes.

Cyclist Sir Chris Hoy announced his retirement and decision not to compete in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where the velodrome has been named after him. However, Glasgow still had cause to celebrate as the title “Heart Disease capital of Britain” was claimed by Ballymoney in Northern Ireland, which had 129 deaths per 100,000 compared to Glasgow’s 128, according to the British Heart Foundation. It did, however, retain the distinction of most violent area in the UK according to the UK Peace Index. Official work began on re-opening the Borders Railway line closed 44 years ago.

Scotland was revealed in the Sunday Times Rich list to have six billionaires, while sales of Scots properties valued at £1m or more rose by 14 per cent. Two Catholic midwives from Glasgow won a landmark ruling not to have to play any part in abortions. The battle for Britain’s smallest post office was won by Esther Brauer, 82, of Kylesku Post Office in Sutherland, which operates from a wooden shed 8ft by 6ft. It had been thought Margaret and John McDowell had the claim with their shed which measured 8ft by 10ft. Mrs Braur said theirs was “a des res” by comparison: “I could use the extra space.”

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The tragedy of the largely forgotten campaign in Afghanistan punched through the public apathy when three soldiers from Scottish regiments were killed by a roadside bomb. They were Corporal William Thomas Savage and Fusilier Samuel Flint, both of the Royal Highland Fusiliers and Private Robert Murray Hetherington, from the 51st Highland, 7th battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland.


HE could lay claim to being the greatest football manager the world had ever seen, but in early May, Sir Alex Ferguson decided at the age of 71 that it was time to leave behind the beautiful game and his beloved Manchester United, and retire.

During his 26 years as manager of the team, he won 38 trophies and coined a new term, “the hairdryer”, meaning to verbally abuse one’s players with great and declarative gusto. It had been, he said, “an honour and an enormous privilege”. Sir Alex later revealed that it was the death of his wife’s sister at Christmas that made him reconsider his priorities. As he said of his wife, Cathy: “She has lost her best friend, her sister. She’s isolated a lot now and I think I owe her a lot of my own time.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien made a surprise return from a self-imposed exile and moved his belongings from the archbishop’s house in Edinburgh to a church property in Dunbar where he had always planned to retire. However, he was later ordered by the Pope to stay in a monastery for a period of “penance”.

William Roache, the longest-serving star of Coronation Street as Ken Barlow, was charged with two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in 1967. Stuart Hall, the 83-year-old former presenter of It’s A Knockout, admitted sexually abusing girls as young as nine over a 20-year period. In the United States, three women escaped after being repeatedly raped and held captive by Ariel Castro, 52, for ten years in a house in Cleveland, Ohio. Castro was later found hanging in his prison cell.

An excavation revealed that the Jamestown Colony in Virginia resorted to cannibalism to survive a harsh winter in the early 17th century, consuming a 14-year-old girl. David Cameron suffered a stunning defeat in the English local elections as UKIP secured one in four votes. Edinburgh was revealed to be the happiest city in Britain, while the island of Tanera Mor, in the Summer Isles on the North West coast of Scotland, was put up for sale at £2.5m. Reshma Begum was found alive after 17 days trapped in the rubble of a collapsed factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in which more than 1,000 people died. Sir Richard Branson honoured a bet, shaved his legs and dressed in make-up and a female flight attendant’s uniform on a long-haul flight.

Somewhat higher up, Commander Chris Hadfield performed David Bowie’s Space Oddity – 250 miles above the Earth in the International Space Station, as the finale of his six-month tour of duty, during which he promoted space research by using Twitter and posting photographs including shots of Skye, Rum and Eigg.

Actress Angelina Jolie revealed that she had had both breasts removed to reduce her chances of developing the breast cancer which killed her mother. She broke the news in an article in the New York Times entitled: “My Medical Choice.”

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A Scottish academic, Alistair Porter, 66, died after being trampled to death by a herd of cows as he crossed a farmer’s field in Wiltshire, while a Scottish zookeeper, Sarah McClay, 24, was mauled to death by a rare Sumatran tiger at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Dalton-in-Furness in Cumbria.

Online retailer Amazon was revealed to have paid just £2.4m in tax on UK sales of £4 billion. In the same year it received £2.4m in government grants. Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, enjoyed a rowdy welcome from protesters during a visit to Edinburgh. He had to be rescued by police from a locked pub. Afterwards he described the protesters as “racist scum”. First Minister Alex Salmond was later criticised for failing to adequately condemn the protesters and defend freedom of speech.

In an echo of Alfred Hitchcock thriller To Catch A Thief, gems worth £1m were stolen from a hotel safe during the Cannes Film Festival. The sequel came a few days later when a diamond necklace worth £1.7m was purloined from a star-

studded party.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland made history by voting in favour of allowing openly gay men and women to become ministers. Hibs’ chance to end a 111-year hoodoo and win the Scottish Cup was not to be. Celtic won 3-0.

A newborn baby flushed down a toilet in China was rescued from a four-inch sewage pipe after cries were heard from a shared bathroom.

Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell resigned.

Shamed DJ Jimmy Savile’s cottage in Glencoe sold for £212,000 after a bidding war.

A British soldier, Drummer Lee Rigby, was hacked to death on the streets of London by two Islamic extremists who allowed themselves to be filmed and declared: “We swear by almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting you.”


Karen Rodger, a Glasgow mother, gave birth to her third set of twins, beating biological odds of 500,000 to 1. The Queen celebrated the 60th anniversary of her coronation with a service at Westminster Abbey. A few days later she surprised newsreaders at the BBC’s Broadcasting House by appearing behind their heads.

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Lithuanian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Romanov, the owner of Hearts Football Club, whom they wished to question in connection with the alleged embezzlement of £12m. A former dancer and choreographer, Janet Archer, was appointed the new chief executive of the Creative Scotland. Glaswegians finally got to see their city awash with zombies with the release of World War Z starring Brad Pitt. It had filmed there two years previously, with the city doubling for Philadelphia.

Iain Banks, a giant of Scottish literature, died at 59. Scotsman critic Stuart Kelly wrote: “The universe has less Wonder in it today.” In a final interview with Kirsty Wark, the author said of his diagnosis: “my reaction was along the lines of ‘oh bugger’.”

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, 82, announced that he was to divorce his third wife, Wendi Deng, 44. Stephen Hester, the chief executive of RBS, resigned and in his letter of departure explained that the bank had “lost sight of why it was founded and almost died as a result”.

A fight broke out on Loch Ness when George Edwards, who runs Loch Ness Cruises, wrote a letter to the 70 members of Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce criticising those who “dispel the myth” of Nessie, the sea monster.

Photographs emerged of “domestic goddess” Nigella Lawson being apparently throttled by husband Charles Saatchi outside a London restaurant. Hearts Football Club announced that it was to go into administration with debts of £25m, on what was described as the “darkest day” in the club’s 139-year history. Danny MacAskill, the stunt bike rider from Skye, released a new video in which he performed stunts over a giant copy of The Dandy. James Gandolfini, the actor who played Tony in US drama The Sopranos, died of a heart attack while at a film festival in Rome. He was 51.

Plans to abolish corroboration, a unique, centuries-old pillar of Scots law, were formally laid before the Scottish Parliament. Former US president Bill Clinton, on a visit to Scotland, urged those involved in the nation’s independence debate to “sit down and talk to each other”.

Moors Murderer Ian Brady spoke publicly for the first time in almost 50 years. While giving evidence at a mental health

tribunal as part of a long-

running campaign to be transferred to prison from Ashworth psychiatric hospital, he said his crimes were “recreational killings” perpetrated for “theatrical reasons”.

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Abbotsford House, the Borders home of Sir Walter Scott, was reopened after a £12m refurbishment, while a digital head of Mary, Queen of Scots was revealed as part of a new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.