South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie
At the end of the year, I always like to look back and reflect on some of the people I have met and events I have attended in communities across South Ayrshire.
Recently we remembered those that have made the ultimate sacrifice in times of war. 2018 marked 100 years since the end of the First World War and commemorations took place in towns and villages across South Ayrshire.
One of the most inspirational projects was our poppy banner which featured over 4,100 knitted, crocheted and handmade poppies. I would like to thank everyone who got behind the campaign; all your work was very much appreciated.
For the first time ever, the Wallace Tower in Ayr was bathed in red light and Ayr Beach was covered in sand drawings depicting soldiers who lost their lives from 1914-1918.
The Royal Air Force was born during the First World War and I attended a service at the memorial near Turnberry to remember the allied pilots who used to train there. I also attended the unveiling of the latest carving at Rozelle Remembrance Woodland - a spitfire which also recognises South Ayrshire's strong links with the RAF.
We welcomed home local soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland following their six month tour of Iraq, South Sudan and Cyprus. There was a great turnout for the troops and I know how much they appreciated the support.
During the summer we received thirty peace seeds originating from 'A-bombed' gingko trees in the Japanese city of Hiroshima to commemorate the people that died there towards the end of the Second World War. These seeds have germinated and in time will be planted across South Ayrshire to symbolise peace, friendship and hope.
Young people from all our secondary schools took part in the annual Provost's Footprint Challenge. This year we had joint winners with Southcraig School and Kyle Academy coming top of the class with their innovative environmental projects.
Schools and young people were involved as we celebrated Commonwealth Day and the importance of working together to create a better future. Once again this year we also raised the importance of LBGT rights and lent our support to International Women's Day.
Part of my role as Provost it to welcome visitors who come to South Ayrshire from across the globe. This year we greeted two French delegations one from Torcy in northern France twinned with Girvan and one from Villeneuve Sur Lot twinned with Troon with both South Ayrshire towns celebrating an incredible thirty years of friendship with their Gallic counterparts. It was also great to see young people from St Germain en laye take part in a rugby tournament with their twin town of Ayr.
We continue to build relationships with countries even further afield such as China, we already have a well-established educational exchange programme and many of our primary schools now teach Mandarin. Celebrating Chinese New Year is always a welcome addition to our calendar and this year we also greeted a delegation from Liaocheng City in China who were here to discuss potential investment opportunities and explore new cultural connections.
It was a celebration of all things Polish as we joined with our Polish friends to mark Poland's centenary year. We also welcomed the Indian Consul General to South Ayrshire as part of the International Day of Yoga.
There have been lots of charity events again this year particularly involving the Ayrshire Hospice who is currently the Council's main supported charity. Young people from Chernobyl in Ukraine were back again this year as part of a radioactive contamination respite project. We donated £5,000 to the South Ayrshire Dementia Support Association (SADSA) a charitable organisation providing specialist day care seven days a week for those diagnosed with dementia.
Prestwick is leading the way when it comes to being Dementia friendly and I was in Sainsbury's in the town to highlight the opening of a checkout where staff are on hand to help people with Dementia.
I'm also a great supporter of veterans charities such as Scotland's Bravest which is a printing company based in Erskine supporting veterans in learning new skills.
Achievements of a sporting kind were celebrated at a special civic reception at Ayr Town Hall. We looked back on World records, historic league title wins, and gold-medal winning performances as we honoured ten South Ayrshire sportspeople and clubs who made 2018 their own.
Throughout the year the Depute Provost and I have been celebrating with couples marking special wedding anniversaries and we have also been present for some 100th birthday celebrations too.
Christmas is a time of giving but it's also a time to remember those that struggle during the festive season, a quick visit to an elderly neighbour living on their own can make all the difference. It's these small acts of kindness that make Christmas special.
I'd like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.