GOUROCK'S very own braveheart has celebrated his 90th birthday with a bash for family and friends.

Former parks boss and councillor Jim Hunter has spent the last 60 years in his adopted home town.

But Jim, who enjoys donning the Hunter tartan, was born and brought up in 'Auld Reekie' in the Royal Mile, no less.

Jim, who lives at Riverside Gardens, said: "I've been very happy living in Gourock. The town had wonderful schools for my girls to go to and it's been a great place to bring up my family.

"I'm now in my 16th year in sheltered housing and I'm well looked after. I've still got the lovely view I had when I first came to Gourock."

Greenock Telegraph:

Following a stint in the Royal Navy after leaving school, an apprenticeship with Dobbies Garden Centre in Dalkieth and some time working for a printing firm, Jim first heard about what is now the Inverclyde area and through his then girlfriend, Aileen, babysitting the children of legendary Greenock comedian Chic Murray.

Murray told them all about the town, and Jim recalls: "I remember sitting in the theatre with his wife Maidie."

Greenock Telegraph:

But it was a further five years before he moved to Gourock, having spent that time with the War Graves Commission in France tending to graves on the Somme at Thiepval.

During this time he was responsible for the Gourock Trench Cemetery.

Jim then saw a job in Gourock, applied and got it thanks to his war graves experience.

It was also better paid than the £12 2/6 he was being paid to maintain 17 cemeteries.

He was delighted when he was offered a job in Gourock which paid £13 8/6 and was in charge of Gourock and Inverkip cemeteries, with a house within the cemetery coming with the job. 

Jim moved to Gourock in 1963 with his wife Aileen, a nurse, and daughters Louise and Pauline and welcomed Andrina two years later and is now a proud grandfather of five.

He had a colourful working life, working as a bouncer in Cragburn and assistant parks supervisor and moved to Greenock where he was promoted to depute director of recreational outdoors in 1975.

The grandfather says his greatest legacy to Inverclyde is trees and taking Greenock into the Britain in Bloom competition.

The theme of the 'Oak Tree' has remained with him all his life and was sparked by poignant moment in 1973 when an oak tree planted in Clyde Square helped to put Greenock on the map.

Back when Edward Heath was prime minister a 'Plant a Tree in 73' campaign was launched in the UK, but Inverclyde was already racing ahead in a bid to put down roots for 12,000 trees.

Jim said: "We planted an oak tree in Clyde Square at midnight on January 1 in 1973 as part of the government's programme.

"I was with the provost at the time, Jimmy Boyd, and former provost Simpson Stevenson and Jimmy Miller from IBM.

"At that time I worked for Greenock District Council and we had already been given 250 trees by IBM to plant because they were so impressed with the work that we were doing.

"We gave away 12,000 to schools and local people in Greenock to plant and we continued when the local towns joined together in 1975 and it became known as Inverclyde.

"I had already spoken to the Scottish Office about how important it was to plant trees - we even had our own slogan - 'keep the green in Greenock'.

The tree campaign put Greenock on the map as the town reached the latter stages of the Scotland in Bloom competition in 1973 and then represented the country at Britain in Bloom a year later.

The town and its tree campaign was also the subject of a BBC documentary.

Jim managed to overcome a stammer and went to elocution teacher Carol Fry to help him and that introduced him to the Gourock Drama Group, which was later to become George Square Players, and soon he graduated from building scenery to performing on stage.

Jim has worn many hats over the years. As well as a horticulturalist, he served as a Liberal Democrat councillor for two terms, was involved in the Gourock Highland Games Committee and took over Gourock Garden Party, has run the Gourock Pensioners Group and introduced the Unsung Heroes Award.

He said: "I just thought there were so many good people out there doing good things. I like people, I have always liked people, the people of Inverclyde, although I am an Edinburgh boy."