It was the year that the deadliest outbreak of ebola started in West Africa and began to spread, the year that Russian conflict in Ukraine and Crimea raised global tensions and the year that a Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur destined for Beijing vanished – just four months before a different, unrelated Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down near the Ukrainian border.
Closer to home, it was billed as Scotland’s big year with everything from the Queen’s Baton Relay to the Battle of Bannockburn 700th anniversary, the Commonwealth Games and, of course, Scotland’s independence referendum on September 18. Add to that the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, and anniversaries including the centenary of the start of the First World War and the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge, and it was shaping up to be a year to remember before it even began.
It was also the year that single use carrier bags were introduced in Scotland, the bedroom tax row continued and there was an all-Tayside derby in the Scottish Cup Final.
Fife’s child protection services came under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in 2014 when three children died within months of each other. In January, three-year-old Mikaeel Kular was killed by his mother. Rosdeep Adekoya had initially reported him missing. After an extensive search near his home in Edinburgh, his body was found in a suitcase in Kirkcaldy. Rosdeep was convicted of culpable homicide and jailed for 11 years.
Two-year-old Liam Fee was murdered in Thornton near Glenrothes in March. His mother and her civil Rachel Fee, 31, were later convicted and told they must spend a minimum of 23-and-a-half years and a minimum of 24 years in jail respectively for the murder and ill-treatment of the toddler.
Meanwhile, just a month later, only 10 miles away, a little girl called Madison Horn was the victim of a horrific attack. The two-year-old was killed by her mother’s new boyfriend, Kevin Park. He pulled the toddler’s hair, lifted her up and repeatedly struck her head against a wall. He also repeatedly hit the toddler. Park was told he will have to serve at least 22 years before he can apply for parole.
International terrorism struck at the heart of Courier Country when Perthshire aid worker David Haines was executed by ISIS militants, making him the third Western captive to be killed by the Islamist extremist group in as many weeks. The ISIS video post showing Haines’ beheading called his execution “a message to the allies of America.” It was produced very similarly to the videos that showed the executions of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, the last of which included Haines and the threat that he’d be killed next. British Prime Minister David Cameron called “the murder of David Haines” an “act of pure evil.”
As the build-up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games continued, the Queen’s Baton Relay made its way through Courier Country with thousands turning out to cheer on torchbearers who were chosen mainly from local communities. While similar to the Olympic torch relay, the Commonwealth baton covered a far greater distance – 190,000 km – visiting all 71 nations who would be sending teams to the Glasgow 2014 games. The relay began at Buckingham Palace in October 2013, where the Queen, who is head of the Commonwealth, placed a message inside the baton – which was then carried around the world for seven months before arriving in Scotland on June 14. The baton then travelled around Scotland for 40 days before the games opening ceremony, where the Queen read out her message.
As well as covering sport at the Commonwealth Games, The Courier covered the news, culture and atmosphere behind the scenes in Glasgow with a news team in place for more than two weeks. There were encounters with everyone from Sir Roger Moore and Prince William to Usain Bolt. Part of the high profile lavish opening ceremony featuring dancing Tunnocks teacakes was devised by Fife’s Andrew Panton (now artistic director at Dundee Rep).
In September a massive fireworks display celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge opening to the public. The bridge was closed for 30 minutes for the event from 10.06pm in recognition of the structure’s 1006 metre span. A procession of 2014 torch-bearers headed by vikings opened the event.
All eyes were on Thursday September 18, however, when a referendum took place on Scottish independence from the UK. The referendum question was ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’. The ‘No’ side won with 2,001,926 (55.3%) voting against independence and 1,617,989 (44.7%) voting in favour. The turnout of 84.6% was the highest recorded for an election or referendum in the UK since 1910.
On September 19, 2014, following the results of the referendum, then SNP leader Alex Salmond announced he would be resigning as First Minister in the November.
As Black Friday chaos forced the Tesco Extra store on Kingsway West, Dundee, to close its doors briefly in the run up to Christmas, the year ended with 26-year-old sous-chef Jamie Scott from Arbroath being crowned the winner of MasterChef: The Professionals. Jamie, who worked as a sous chef at restaurant Rocca, which overlooks the 18th hole of the Old Course in St Andrews, became the eighth champion of the hit BBC show. He set up business at The Newport Restaurant in 2016.
In other news, in a year when the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel was devastated by fire and a man appeared in court accused of burning a dog to death in Kirkcaldy woodland, a number of sixth years at Auchmuty High School in Glenrothes were suspended over their role in a leaving day ‘muck up’ mess.
The year in sport
The 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow saw 4,500 athletes from 71 nations and territories compete for 261 medals in 17 sports, held in 14 venues around Glasgow and beyond. Hampden Stadium was used for the track and field events, with the Emirates arena being used for badminton and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome for cycling. The venues at the SECC, including the new Hydro arena, played host to gymnastics, boxing, judo, wrestling, weightlifting and netball. Other venues were also used including the Barry Buddon Centre in Angus that was used for the shooting. Team Scotland won 53 medals – 19 gold, 15 silver and 19 bronze. Courier Country participants included Tayside’s Laura Muir, Eilish McColgan and Eilidh Child (who won silver in the women’s 400m hurdles).
In other significant sporting events, Germany won (another Scotland-free) Fifa World Cup in Brazil, Eve Muirhead’s curlers shone at the Winter Olympics in Sochi winning bronze for Britain, while the Scottish Cup final between St Johnstone and Dundee United – played at Celtic Park due to Hampden being set up for the Commonwealth Games – resulted in the McDiarmid Park men winning 2-0.
Undoubtedly, the other huge sporting event involving Courier Country was the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Europe won the 2014 competition to retain the Ryder Cup, defeating the US by 16½ points to 11½, for their third consecutive win. Leading 10-6 overnight, Paul McGinley’s team needed just four points to retain the trophy, but they won five matches and halved three more to seal a comfortable victory.
The year in culture
Thousands of 80s music fans again got the leg warmers and day-glo out for Rewind at Scone Palace, with highlights including Billy Ocean, 10cc, Heaven 17, Midge Ure, Go West, Nick Heyward, Bjorn Again and the Boomtown Rats.
The week before, the final Balado T in the Park music festival, headlined by Arctic Monkeys, took place. Despite having run on the same site since 1997, safety concerns were expressed about the Forties Pipeline, which runs directly underneath the former Balado airfield. In 2015 the festival moved 20.54 miles to the Strathallan Castle Estate in Perthshire.
There was an amazing moment when a Perthshire mum learned her son had been living a double life by secretly studying for a degree. Crieff man Liam Blair hid his life as a student from his mother for four years. Liam, 31, only revealed he had been a Dundee University academic minutes before he graduated in psychology.
The amazing moment he unveiled his clandestine studies to mum, Rhonda, was captured on video. He had pretended he was working and living in Perth when he was in fact staying in a flat in Dundee.