It's been another year to remember in Renfrewshire and we're taking a look back at what was happening across the area between January and June.

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Special start to 2023 for trio named in King’s first New Year Honours list

The Gazette: Erskine man Willie Smith was thrilled to be awarded the MBEErskine man Willie Smith was thrilled to be awarded the MBE (Image: Newsquest)

An Erskine man had something special to celebrate after he was awarded an MBE in the King's New Year Honours list.

Willie Smith was rewarded for his dedicated work as chairman of Hillwood Football Club, based in the Pollok area of Glasgow.

He formed the club in 1966 to bring children of all religious denominations together and has a long history of supporting grassroots football.

Among the illustrious list of ex-pros who honed their skills with Hillwood are former Scotland stars Alex McLeish and Kenny Burns, as well as ex-Republic of Ireland striker Owen Coyle.

Mr Smith, 72, received his royal honour for services to the community in Pollok.
He told The Gazette: “I wouldn’t have got this if it wasn’t for the support of my wife, family and the people at the club. I can’t thank them enough.”

Also representing Renfrewshire in 2023's New Year Honours list was Ian Reid, chief executive officer of the organising committee for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and Puneet Gupta, co-founder and chief executive officer of PG Paper.


New college gives young people chance to shine

The Gazette: Jamie Hepburn with student Fraser McAlpine and college head Liz McConnachieJamie Hepburn with student Fraser McAlpine and college head Liz McConnachie (Image: Supplied)

Scotland's first dedicated complex needs college was officially opened in Renfrewshire.

Corseford College is based in a wing of the existing Corseford School campus, on the outskirts of Johnstone.

It was formally opened by Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training.

After a plaque was unveiled to mark the occasion, he was given a tour of the campus, visiting its hydrotherapy pool and rebound rooms.

He also had the chance to meet some of the 15 students currently enrolled at the college as they completed their daily activities alongside the dedicated support team and lecturers.

Mr Hepburn praised the pioneering project and pledged his support for future developments.

He said: "It has been an absolute privilege to officially open the doors to Corseford College and learn more about the students’ experiences so far.

"I look forward to learning the lessons from this innovative pilot and exploring how we can better support young people of all abilities to be given access to opportunities in further education."


Pupils on point to help out in cost-of-living crisis

The Gazette: Pupils at Johnstone Out of School Service with one of the blankets they have knittedPupils at Johnstone Out of School Service with one of the blankets they have knitted (Image: Newsquest)

A caring group of children at a Johnstone after-school service took part in a knitting project to help those in need.

Youngsters aged between nine and 11, along with other volunteers, had been busy creating squares for blankets that were distributed to elderly people in the local area.

The project took place at Johnstone Out of School Service, based in Auchenlodment Primary.

Child support worker Elaine Sparkes told The Gazette: "This project began when the news headlines intimated that fuel prices were going to soar which would have a significant affect on the vulnerable especially the elderly, so the knitting of squares for blankets was born.

"I then discussed the idea to my manager and the children, then to parents and staff, and was overwhelmed by the positive reactions.

"So we had everyone, including grannies, aunties and friends. knitting squares - 700 hundred in total."

The after-school service teamed up with Johnstone-based charity Active

Communities, whose knitting group were also working on a similar project, to distribute the blankets to those in need.


Kids were having a ball at free holiday activity camps

The Gazette: Youngsters across Renfrewshire enjoyed a range of fun activitiesYoungsters across Renfrewshire enjoyed a range of fun activities (Image: Supplied)

Hundreds of kids across Renfrewshire enjoyed free holiday activity camps over the Easter break.

The Street Stuff multi-sports camps were fully booked, with around 750 places taken each week.

Youngsters aged between five and 14 enjoyed football, basketball, hockey, tennis, dance and more, with camps staged in Johnstone, Linwood, Renfrew and the Ferguslie and Foxbar areas of Paisley.

Kids also got a free healthy lunch each day they attended to help target holiday hunger.

Street Stuff is a diversionary project run in partnership between Renfrewshire Council, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Engage Renfrewshire and St Mirren Football Club.

Councillor Marie McGurk, convener of Renfrewshire's communities and housing policy board, said: "It's very clear that the kids had a great time running about, being with their friends and making new ones.

"School holidays are a time when children should enjoy having free time to play all day. It’s why we continue to put on Street Stuff holiday camps to ensure children can have a fun break from school and a free healthy meal."


Houston man whose life was saved by two hero cops speaks out

The Gazette: Colin Jackson with the two officers who helped him after he suffered a cardiac arrestColin Jackson with the two officers who helped him after he suffered a cardiac arrest (Image: Supplied)

A Renfrewshire man thanked two heroic police officers who saved his life after he suffered a cardiac arrest.

Colin Jackson, 64, took ill in a car park in Linwood when he went to pick up his wife Diane from work late in April.

She flagged down a young couple for help and they noticed a police vehicle in the car park.

The two officers – PC Jenner and PC Reid – got Colin out of his car and started performing life-saving CPR.

They also grabbed a defibrillator from a nearby shop and used that to help bring Colin back to life.

He was then rushed to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, in Paisley, 

Reflecting on his lucky escape, Colin described the two officers who came to the rescue as "absolutely wonderful."

"They were so helpful to my wife at the time as well," he said.

Colin also told how he planned to use his own near-death experience as an inspiration to help others.

He added: "Once I'm fit enough, I'm going to be doing a CPR course myself."


Thousands flocked to Lilias Day celebrations

The Gazette: Many local residents dressed up to celebrate Lilias DayMany local residents dressed up to celebrate Lilias Day (Image: Newsquest)

It was party time in Kilbarchan as thousands of people turned out for the annual Lilias Day celebrations.

A colourful parade with floats, charity stalls and entertainment for all the family was on offer.

There was music from the Kilbarchan and Houston Pipe Bands, as well as the Lochwinnoch Samba Band.

Among the other highlights of the event were a battle re-enactment, a tug-of-war tournament, bouncy castles, pony rides and a dog show.

And it was a special day for Amy Sharp and Skye Stockton, who both took on the role of Miss Lilias to make up for the event being cancelled twice during the Covid pandemic.

Graeme Stockton, joint-chair of the Lilias Day committee, described the event as "one of the busiest" in years. 

He told The Gazette: "We were delighted at the turnout and all the businesses and charities with stalls did very well.

"I would say there were around 4,000 people at the event and we had absolutely tremendous weather.

"Lilias Day raises tens of thousands of pounds for local charities and helps support our local organisations."