A POPULAR councillor has spoken of how a tragic event 50 years ago changed his life forever.

Jim MacLeod was only eight when he was knocked down on the Clune Brae on his way from school on September 11 in 1969.

The accident half a century ago left him paraplegic and a wheelchair user and has had a huge impact on moulding his life.

Jim said: "In some ways, it feels like yesterday and in other ways it doesn't.

"There have been lots of trials and tribulations along the way."

Jim said that the accident had a devastating impact on his parents and took them away from them and his community.

Jim said: "My father had come down and found me on the road.

"I can't imagine what must have been going through his mind.

"It was very difficult for my mother as well - I was an only child, she had previously suffered three miscarriages.

"I spent almost a year in hospital and when I came out I went to Glenburn School but I had another accident there and spent another months in hospital."

Jim was forced out of mainstream schools in his community because at that time they didn't have disabled access and he was sent to Trefoil Boarding School for physically disabled children, run by the Girl Guides Association.

Jim, who lives with his wife Sylvia in Fyfe Shore Road, said: "At the time I couldn't get taught in a mainstream education and I spent four and a half years at boarding school.

"I got a fantastic education there, you can see people who are fortunate enough through rank and privilege who get that opportunity of a great education through that system.

"I only saw my mum and dad once a week all that time and I lost a lot of friendships.

"I didn't really know the area where I was brought up."

He completed his education in Govan in Glasgow.

Jim says he doesn't dwell on the past but admits he would be lying if he said he doesn't think about it.

He said: "There are times when I think what would I have done and how things would have been different and what I would be doing now.

"I do ask 'why did it happen to me?'

"For anyone who has experienced a trauma in their life, it's a natural thing, a human thing.

"I think what got me through is that fact that there are people worse off than me, you only have to watch the news."

The SNP veteran says coping with a life-changing accident at such an early age has helped to make him the person he is today.

Jim said: "I have been very fortunate - I have lots of good friends and I met Sylvia.

"I don't know if I would I have met many of the people I know today.

"In many respects it has moulded me into the person I am.

His own experience also motivated him to become a lifelong road safety campaigner.

He said: "I am very passionate about road safety.

"I don't want to see any other children get killed or hurt.

"There are things we can do about it, solutions such as traffic calming measures and 20mph zones in built up area in housing estates."

Jim has spent many years championing the rights of disabled people.

He said: "There have been a lot of changes over the years.

"In the 1980s and 1990s I become involved in the disability movement to fight for a more equal society and to break down the barriers that existed, it's been quite a fight and there's still a long way to go."

The Portonian also suffered from depression, which in turn prompted a career in trying to help others.

He said: "I had mental health problems about 30 years ago. Two friends committed suicide which affected me very badly and I had a relationship break-up.

"The person that was treating me at the time told me to look around at what's going on around me and think of how to help other people."

Jim took that message to heart and went on to found and sit on numerous organisations in Inverclyde, including Inverclyde Council on Disability, for 24 years.

He was also on the original steering group for the Care and Repair project, an appointee with NHS Argyll and Clyde health board and on the Muirshiel Centre management committee.

A founding member of Branching Out, he is still a director at the Parklea charity along with Sylvia.

He said: "It gave an insight into our community, health, education and transport policy and a whole range of other things and I got involved in politics.

"I saw that as a way of doing things and making a difference."