RBS - Finding Scotland's Real Heroes

Finding Scotland's Real Heroes is back

RBS - Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes is back

Royal Bank of Scotland is proud to sponsor the STV series  RBS - Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes for the third year running. After an incredible response from the public over the past two years, we’re back and looking to celebrate the work of more unsung heroes in local communities across Scotland.

Find out more about our 2015 finalists below.



Icon expand Community Champion of the Year

This award is dedicated to the individuals in your area, your neighbourhood and your communities that have a made a difference to the lives of those around them – dedicating their time and energy to make a real difference where it matters. 

Nominee: Jessie Douglas from Niddrie 
Jessie Douglas tragically lost her son in a motorbike accident eighteen years ago, leaving behind a two year old son. Jessie realised there was very little (if any) support for young people dealing with grief and the loss of a loved one. Along with the assistance of the local church Jessie started up Scotland’s first dedicated child bereavement charity – Richmond’s Hope which still runs today offering counselling and away days to help young people cope with their bereavement. 

Nominee: John O’Byrne from Glasgow 

John O’Byrne has been volunteering for sick children in Yorkhill Hospital (now The Royal Hospital for Children) for the last nine years. A wheelchair user himself, John spent much of the first 16 years of his life in hospital with Brittle Bones disease and so knows what it is like to be a child living on a hospital ward. Having established the John O’Byrne Foundation he raises money to help buy gifts, days out and ‘fun days’ for long term sick and terminally ill children. 

Nominee: Ashley McIlvenny from Barrhead

Seeing a need for something in the area and inspired by her own parents who looked after adults with learning disabilities Ashley, a young mum of four children, set up Include Me 2 Club. The social club, started in 2011, runs every Tuesday night for young adults with physical or learning disabilities aged 18+. There are more than 75 members who attend to take part in bingo nights, discos, karaoke or quizzes, as well as days out throughout the year. 


Icon expand Hero Animal of the Year

It is not just people who can be heroes, they also come in the four-legged variety and this category honours our furry heroes. 

Nominee: Damson the Dog from Edinburgh

Jane Knights’ life changed in an instant several years ago when a spinal abscess and onset of meningitis nearly killed her aged fifty-three. One year later Jane left the hospital in a wheelchair and entered a world of carers and assisted living. Things were tough until Canine Partners matched her with golden retriever Damson. The four year old dog has given Jane back her independence – opening doors, passing Jane’s purse over to the cashier at shops, even helping her put the washing out. Jane says all it takes is Damson to put his head on her lap for her to feel better. 

Nominee: Jewel the Pony from Edinburgh

Shetland-cross pony Jewel is the heart and soul of the Riding for the Disabled group at Ravelrig, Edinburgh. His small size means he is perfect for nervous riders and his placid nature means he works a lot with riders who come to the centre with physical or leanring disabilities. Jewel’s short legs also mean he is ideal for riders with autism as the lower height allows them to maintain eye contact with their instructor, giving them focus and confidence, compared to a full sized-horse. It’s all in a day’s work for Jewel! 

Nominee: Spike the Dog from Fife

Ken suffered from tinnitus from a young age leaving him unable to hear what most of us take for granted. He lip reads in order to have a conversation and uses a four legged hearing aid in the form of Spike, an eleven year old cockapoo. Spike will let Ken know when the doorbell goes, alert Ken to a text coming though on his mobile phone, and even give him a warning if the smoke alarm goes off before leading him safely out of the house. Spike also helps raise money and awareness for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. He and Ken will give talks and demonstrations to help show how a hearing dog can provide much needed support for someone like Ken. 


Icon expand Scotland's Real Heroes Courage Award

The definition of courage is bravery or strength in the face of adversity, whether that is in times of danger or times of hardship. This award recognises all our courageous heroes, in their many forms. 

Nominee: Suzanne Davies from Newtonhill 

In April 2014 thirty-five year old Suzanne Davies, a mother of two young children, was diagnosed with a Grade 4 brain tumour and given a limited outlook. Suzanne agreed a craniotomy, while remaining fully conscious, which was followed by a challenging course of chemo and radiotherapy. While still having regular checks, Suzanne’s outlook is better. Today Suzanne has decided to dedicate her time to fundraising and raising awareness of brain cancer. In the last year Suzanne has raised over £30k and her work continues. 

Nominee: Paul Surgeon from Kirkintilloch 

Paul was driving to work when he saw a car veering off the road. He stopped and flagged down a passing lorry driver to help, pulling not one, but two of the passengers from the car. With smoke and flames appearing Paul first helped free Caitlin’s trapped legs and carry her free and then ripped out the front seat to pull Gary out of the back seats. Moments later the car was in flames. Caitlin suffered from a broken back, neck, leg and arm, while Gary is now paralysed from the chest down, but both believe Paul’s acts saved their lives.

Nominee: Allison Barr from Mid Calder 

Fifteen year old Jak Trueman passed away earlier this year from a very rare form of cancer. Jak dedicated his final months to raising money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma charities, collecting £60,000 in total. Despite her own loss, his mother is now carrying on her son’s wish to raise enough money for a project he called ‘Jak’s Den’. She is hoping to reach her £100k target by Jak’s birthday this year to build a ‘’safe haven’ for teenage cancer sufferers to hang out and play while undergoing their treatment. 


Icon expand Young Hero of the Year

There is no age restriction on being a hero! These are our younger heroes.

Nominee: Leah-Grace from Glasgow

When Leah-Grace was just five years old she walked in to her little sister’s room and found her mum having a seizure. Staying calm she placed a pillow under her mum’s head and put a blanket over her. She then dialled 999 to ask for an ambulance and using her ‘gift of the gab’ gave them as much information as possible about what was wrong with her mum. Leah-Grace then looked after her little sister until the paramedics got there to help, making her a hero to her mum that day! 

Nominee: Lee from Glasgow 

Fifteen year old Lee is an old man in a young body, nicknamed ‘Granda’ by his pals! Not happy that many of the elderly in his local area were alone Lee spends most of his spare time cleaning, ironing and running errands for them, including getting up at 6.30am in term time to ‘do his rounds’ before school starts. Lee is also one of only 24 Police Scotland Youth Volunteers from Glasgow, walking the streets and helping anyone that needs it at major events throughout Scotland. 

Nominee: Best Buddies Edinburgh 

Best Buddies is a group of around 30 young students who give up their time to meet and socialise with members of ENABLE Scotland’s Edinburgh branch, all of whom have learning disabilities. Socialising can be challenging for those who have learning disabilities as the charity says only one in three people who have learning disabilities can name one close friend. Social nights and events with members from Best Buddies means making friends. 


Icon expand Carer of the Year

This category honours those who care for others whether that is their own family, others in the community or provide assistance for the carers themselves. 

Nominee: Karen Anderson from Evanton

Karen’s 13 year old son has autism and needs a strict routine to help him cope. With little in the area for children with autism or their parents Karen helped set up a library for autistic children and became ‘The Storyteller’. Autistic children find it hard to maintain focus so Karen’s alter ego dons a silly hat and uses an array of funny voices and faces to keep the children’s concentration. Meanwhile parents can share tips and advice on coping mechanisms. Taking it one step further Karen developed Carers United working with other parents in the area to provide services helpful for autistic children and their parents. 

Nominee: David Forbes from Aberdeen 

David’s mum fell gravely ill twelve years ago when David was just 21 years old. Needing around the clock care David decided to give up his career to become her full time carer. It was a further blow when the day centre they relied on so much closed eight years ago. Not to be defeated David gathered a number of other volunteers and set up Future Choices which now runs ever Tuesday. The club offers pick up for carers and users alike, and offers both a little respite for the carers and an important social event in the week for those who attend. 

Nominee: East Kilbride Dementia Carers Group from East Kilbride 

The charity group provides day care for people with dementia and support for their carers. While they do have a small core team of paid staff they rely heavily on volunteers, including the voluntary management committee who all have first-hand experience of dementia. The ‘home from home’ atmosphere means those who attend often believe they are simply visiting friends for lunch rather than attending day care. While a higher ratio of staff means the care provided can be a more ‘personalised service’ – day trips out or a simple gesture like a hand massage makes all the difference to those in the groups care. 


Icon expand Fundraiser of the Year

This category looks at some of the amazing achievements of fundraisers across the country, raising money for charities close to their hearts. 

Nominee: Liz Smilie from Prestwick 

Ten years ago Liz met a young boy receiving treatment for cancer. He told them both about the Malcolm Sargent House in Erskine, a respite home for terminally ill children and their families. So touched by his bravery and inspired by his story was Liz that she has spent the last ten years raising money for the Clic Sargent children’s cancer charity. Last year alone she raised £56,000 

Nominee: Tom Gilzean from Edinburgh 

Ninety-four year old former Royal Engineer and WWII veteran lost his wife ten years ago and since then has spent 363 days a year on the Royal Mile shaking a can to raise over £400,000 for local charities. No matter whether it is rain or shine, and despite catching pneumonia four times for his efforts, Tom is there with his war medals and his charm. 

Nominee: Linzi O’Neil from Fife 

Linzi has a rare genetic disorder called Elhers Danlos Syndrome and intestinal failure, leaving her in pain most days. Regardless Linzi has raised over £60,000 for several charities pushing herself to her limits with challenges like bridge walks and white water rafting. The money raised helps charities close to Linzi’s heart, including those that help sick children in hospitals and those that work with horses. 


Icon expand Hero Mum or Dad of the Year

These are the hero mums and dads out there who are amazing parents to those around them who need them the most. 

Nominee: Susan Hunter from Penicuik 

Susan is mother to four children of her own, but has also been fostering for nearly twenty years. After working in a secure unit for teenagers Susan felt she could do more to bring the best out of the young people she worked with, in her own home. Teenagers are the most difficult age group to place when looking for a foster home and placements are sometimes with only a few hours notice. Susan doesn’t keep a tally but estimates she has worked with over 40 teenagers over the years and all despite battling breast cancer three times. 

Nominee: Vicky Walker from Nairn 

Vicky is mum to two children, aged 12 and 5, both with autism. It is a daily struggle caring for their individual needs and living in the Highlands with no immediate family around them. Vicky set up the Nairn Play and Leisure Saturday Club for families who have children with additional needs to socialise and enjoy arts, crafts and games. Not content with stopping there she also set up Crafty Carers for parents to get together during school hours, enjoy some crafts themselves and talk about their experiences. 

Nominee: Joe and Betty Middleton from Bathgate 

Joe and Betty have been Tom’s foster mum and dad for 17 years. Now 20 Tom feels like one of the family and believes he owes everything to them. He is one example of the 185 children Joe and Betty have fostered over the years, alongside raising three of their own children. Now in their 80’s Joe and Betty still provide respite foster placements to children needing a home and are regularly in touch with many of those they have helped looked after over the years. 


Icon expand Sporting Volunteer of the Year

These are our energetic heroes who give up their time and expertise to bring the community around them into the world of sport. 

Nominee: Carol Jones from Glasgow 

In the heart of Glasgow there is a unique tennis club, one where anyone can take part, run by Carol Jones. A keen tennis player for over twenty years Carol wanted a club with no elitism. Every Tuesday Carol and her team of three volunteers run coaching and play sessions for those with mental health issues and learning disabilities. 

Nominee: Gregor Gardner  from Falkirk 

Painter and decorator Gregor Gardner combined two local judo clubs nineteen years ago to form the community club he still runs today. He dedicates three nights a week to working with players of different levels – competition players, juniors and the more recreational participants, including those with physical or learning disabilities. 

Nominee: Janice Millar from Ayrshire 

Following treatment for cancer Janice was left feeling over weight and despondent. She turned to running to help her through it and having now run two marathons and raised thousands of pounds for cancer research Janice has decided to bring more people to the sport that helped her. She trains young people from the local high school, encourages the mums and dads to join in from the sideline and encourages locals from the community to come out and take part in a her Friday social runs. 


Icon expand Hero Neighbour of the Year

Honouring the people who live next door and who have shown remarkable dedication to their area, their communities and their neighbours.

Nominee: John O’Hara from Glasgow 

John, aged 52, is works for the Glasgow Housing Association, but he has made the area he works in his own, becoming the neighbour that every one wishes they had! Over the years he has given up weekends to help residents with their gardens, paint fences and pick up groceries when they have been too ill or elderly to manage themselves. He has organised everything from cinema trips for children, Christmas presents for those who would go without and tea dances for the older tenants. He also spends most of his spare time raising funds for charities that are close to the hearts of those in the neighbourhood. 

Nominee: Donna Fitzpatrick from Irivne 

Donna runs the local newsagent in her neighbourhood meaning she has an ear to what people need or want in their area. For the last twenty years she has also voluntarily run the local community centre to help keep underprivileged children in the area off the streets and provide a safe place with activities for the elderly, young mums and teenagers alike. There are Breakfast Clubs, a Ladies Retirement Club, family orientated Bingo Clubs and an Allotment Club so as not leave out those with green fingers but no gardens! 

Nominee: Margaret ‘Mum‘ Miller from Glasgow 

Margaret Miller moved to Springboig when she got married – in 1936. This year she turns 105, making her a Hero Neighbour not just to this generation but to their parents, and in some cases their grandparents! Known locally as ‘Mum Miller’, Margaret likes to be there for any of her neighbours who need an ear, still cooks up a lovely homemade jam for anyone who asks and regularly helps her twelve year old neighbour with her history homework – after all she lived through most if it! Every Monday Margaret is heads out the door to run the local Stroke Club, which was the first of its kind in Scotland when she set it up in 1973. 


Icon expand RBS Community Project of the Year

These are the projects from around the country that making a huge difference to the communities around them and the people who use them. 

Nominee: Paragon Music from Glasgow

Based in Glasgow the charity runs music and dance workshops for adults and young people with a wide range of learning and physical disabilities. Aiming for inclusivity, no one is turned away and the workshops are open to anyone. Sessions range from one on one tuition to group workshops, dependent on need and of course it is not all just about music and dance. Paragon offers those who attend sessions a chance to put on a performance, as well as socialise and have fun. 

Nominee: The Social Bite from Edinburgh 

Social Bite is a sandwich shop chain with a difference. Set up in 2011 it is based on the concept of a ‘social business’. It is a not-for-profit business which aims to tackle social problems by donating all profits to charity. As part of their commitment to social equality at least a quarter of their staff are formerly homeless people. Now, with the help of Social Bite, they work in either the central kitchen in Livingston or serve behind the counters in their outlets. 

Nominee: The Coming Home Centre from Glasgow 

The Coming Home Centre has grown from ad hoc meetings in church halls to a drop-in centre available Monday to Friday every week. Ex-service men, many of whom have suffered from conditions like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression or alcoholism, meet, relax and get involved in a range of activities. Unclaimed or stolen bikes donated to the charity by Police Scotland are mended by the ex-service men and sold on. The profits are spent on woodwork materials and tools to allow them to also turn their hand to some woodcraft. Both provide job satisfaction and a new focus for the 85 ex-servicemen who use the centre.


How to vote

Once you’ve decided who your favourite heroes are, you can find out how you can vote for them at stv.tv/realheroes. The winners will be revealed in a star-studded awards show to be shown on STV later this year.



RBS - Finding Scotland's Real Heroes

Meet some Real Heroes

Find out how life has changed for some of the winners from previous RBS - Finding Scotland's Real Heroes series on STV.

Alan Soutar, Angus Darts Academy - Arbroath, Sporting Volunteer of the Year 2013

Dale Young, Scott Hindmarsh and David Loughlin, ACES - Kilwinning, Young Community Champions 2013

Alf Collington, Falkirk Foodbank - Community Entrepreneur of the Year, 2013

RBS - Finding Scotland's Real Heroes Get involved in your local community

To get involved in your local community, or to find out a little bit more about how Royal Bank of Scotland helps out in your community, visit:

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