We are not makers of history, we are made by history.
One of my greatest regrets to date was not studying history at school.

As joint school geography champion and joint history champion, alongside my school friend William McNicol (congratulations on your new arrival by the way) it was a tough choice at an early age to choose between the subjects.

No doubt then head of the history department and now Provost Martin Brennan will deny his attempts to bribe me to pick history with his promises of getting to watch Braveheart if I did. 

I joke of course, but History is important.

Last week there was a holiday not promoted too much in Scotland — Martin Luther King Day. It celebrates the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr, an influential American civil rights leader.

When learning about the American civil rights movement I always imagined what it must have been like to walk with such giants of history. Hopefully our American friends will remember those lessons as tensions seem to increase all too often on the other side of the pond. 

Sometimes we have a habit of forgetting our own history and often forget that if we want to go somewhere, together as an area and a country, it’s important to remember where we came from.

Sometimes our history isn’t something to be proud of but regardless it is still our history. Local historian Shaun Kavanagh gave a talk this week about Inverclyde’s history; our sugar works, tanneries, shipyards, bottle works, iron works, and our spice trades that were based on slave economies. A shameful part of our history that perhaps we don’t remember enough to ensure we don’t support modern versions of slavery. 

However, in 2018 there is a lot of history to be proud about. 
The year 2018 celebrates 100 years since women won the hard-fought right to vote, it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Education Act that saw Catholic schools come under the control of local authorities, and it marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. 

The right of women to get the vote, started by those brave suffragettes, has seen women rising to the top of their fields in politics, business, sport and media.

But their efforts are demeaned and disrespected by the pervasive inability to pay women the same as their male colleagues. 

This is still very much a live issue in Inverclyde and just because people don’t hear about it much, don’t think it doesn’t mean that many of us are still committed to righting that historic wrong. 

The 1918 Education Act in addition to the Act’s provisions on Catholic education, was a piece of far-reaching legislation that contained several radical changes. For instance it introduced new, county-based education authorities — the precursors of what we have today; the school leaving age was raised from 14 to 15; and there were further restrictions on under-15 year olds being employed in factories, mines and quarries — nowadays we’re trying to expand work experience opportunities! 

Most of these matters have been overtaken by further changes in the administration of education, or by subsequent education or employment law. 

But the provisions on Catholic education remain — enshrined in our modern education system and 100 years on Catholic schools are an integral and highly successful part of public education in Scotland.

Finally the third 100th anniversary this year is the end of the Great War. There are no longer any survivors and there are probably no people in Inverclyde that remember the war still with us but it is important that we remember that event. 

I believe that these three important anniversaries have helped shape Inverclyde over the past 100 years and it is only right that in this year we mark them appropriately.