THE year 2021 was not a good one in so many respects, but it was for Eye on Millig.

I have interviewed many inspiring people for this page, and told many fascinating stories.

Frequently I have been helped by local historian Alistair McIntyre of Helensburgh Heritage Trust, and Robin Bird, the retired Merseyside local newspaper editor who has become an expert on RAF Helensburgh in World War Two. Readers have also chipped in with good ideas.

I have never done this before, but I hope this roundup of some of the year’s best Eye articles will bring back some memories.

Former colleagues featured in the first two weeks of January. The first was about the Advertiser’s local democracy reporter Andrew Galloway, in which he explained how an LDR covers local authorities - in his case Argyll and Bute Council - for local papers in a partnership between the BBC and the News Media Association.

Another former colleague, Julian Calvert, a senior lecturer in media and journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University and editor of the Lochside Press website, said that the LDR was particularly important for big scattered areas like Argyll.

READ MORE: Eye on Millig - 'Low flight in Halifax bomber over Helensburgh and Rhu inspired festive greeting card'

I was particularly pleased that this article featured in full in an issue of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors newsletter.

The following week featured a book found by former Advertiser editor Fiona Howard. The children’s classic ‘The Wind in the Willows’, which she found in the town Oxfam shop, turned out to have been written by Kenneth Grahame of the Cunningham Grahame family, who spent early summer holidays near Inveraray.

Alistair McIntyre came up with the story of noted poet John Walker, son of the tenant farmer of Hill of Camstradden, near Luss. An irrepressible sense of humour was the hallmark of his poems, many of which were on local topics.

This was followed by the tales of two other local poets, burgh baker and shop-owner James Hunter, and Frances Porter Stoddard of Cardross, wife of leading lawyer David Murray.

February subjects included John Ralph Hubbard, known to all as Johnny, who lost his life piloting a bomber on a night raid on the industrial Ruhr area of Germany in 1942.

German Heinkel aircraft arrived on Garelochside in 1940, flown by pilots escaping from Norway. Their arrival was heard by ex-Provost Billy Petrie, who even managed to climb aboard one to glimpse inside the cockpit.

READ MORE: Eye on Millig - 'Church row in Rhu rocked village and made parish minister famous'

March arrived with a look at the colourful life of in demand Helensburgh artist Julia Gurney, who paints watercolours, mostly of scenes in the Loch Lomondside, Clyde and Argyll areas, who feels that her painting experience has been enriched by her membership of Helensburgh Art Club.

Penny Johnston, the only member of the well-known Kidston family still living in the burgh, told me about her older brother Lieutenant Adrian Kidston, who served in Britain’s only Mountain Division in World War Two and who lost his life in a seaborn attack in Holland on November 1, 1944, aged 21.

Robin Bird revealed RAF Helensburgh’s close links with the Blackburn Aircraft Company, which built Sunderland flying boats in the shadow of Dumbarton Rock.

In April Alistair McIntyre produced a fascinating history of Glen Douglas school, which he attended, and the arrival of the West Highland Railway.

Next came an amazing interview I had with 81-year-old Fionna Duncan from Portincaple, one of the best-known names in jazz in Scotland.

Early in her performing career she sang with the very popular Clyde Valley Stompers, and she went on to win the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Scottish Jazz Awards. She still teaches and performs.

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Jamie G.MacTavish of Arrochar, Tarbet and Ardlui Heritage Group, helped me tell the story of a Clydebank couple who lost their lives at the Honeymoon Bridge in Glen Croe when on a honeymoon trip in a hired car in January 1950. It went off the road and plunged into the burn below.

In May I found out about a talented rugby player, whose parents lived in Helensburgh and who - unusually - played for both Scotland and England, who lost his life early in World War One when his Royal Navy cruiser was torpedoed by a U-Boat.

Surgeon James Henry Digby Watson, a centre and captain of Edinburgh Accies who also played for the Barbarians, was killed in action on October 15, 1914 at the age of 24. He is commemorated on a stone tablet in Helensburgh’s St Michael’s Church.

A tragedy closer to home came on June 16, 1925 when a large tree landed on a packed open top charabanc on Loch Longside while on a Three Lochs tour. Three died and several people were injured.

Early in July Robin Bird noted that of the scores of flying boats and seaplanes attached to RAF Helensburgh in World War Two only one remains today. It is on exhibition at the Solent Museum in Southampton.

The following week I featured Albert Richard Brown, a self-made businessman who is regarded by Japanese society as a founder of the modern Japanese shipping industry. In later life he and his wife Louisa moved to Shandon, where he was a keen yacht racer when not working in his Glasgow office.

READ MORE: Eye on Millig - 'Parish minister at centre of Row Heresy case is well respected now'

That month a 97-year-old woman thought to have been the last surviving link with RAF Helensburgh and the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Rhu died in a Suffolk nursing home.

Frances McLaren was born in Old Kilpatrick, but moved to Rhu when her home was destroyed during the Clydebank blitz. Helensburgh Heritage Trust presented her with a framed certificate of appreciation of her wartime service, which she treasured and kept at her bedside.

August saw me telling the story of the GB cycling team performance director at the Tokyo Olympics, Stephen Park OBE from Helensburgh, who four years earlier guided the GB sailing team to the top of the sports medal table at the Rio Olympics. He had competed in the sailing team at the 1992 and 1996 Games.

Later that month came another meticulously researched series from Alistair McIntyre, this time on Shandon, its pier, Hydro, golf course and station, featuring among others shipbuilder Robert Napier and golf professional Tom Haliburton.

Something completely different came at the end of the month, when an Arrochar bed and breakfast owner told of the years she spent in Afghanistan serving as a Commander in the US Navy.

Brenda Steele MacCrimmon spoke of her work with the women and children of that country, now in the hands of the Taliban, and of the efforts to help those left behind escape the brutal regime.

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Probably my favourite page because of the sheer joy involved came at the start of September, when Anna Burnet from Shandon and her crewmate John Gimson won the silver medals in the mixed Nacra 17 sailing class at the Tokyo Olympics.

They were cheered on in the final race by a breakfast time audience of relatives and friends at the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club at Rhu, fortified by the largest ever order of hot filled rolls provided by Robert Ryan’s Brae Shop at Rhu. The excitement was conveyed beautifully by Anna’s ‘selfie’ of herself and John with their medals.

The month ended with the story of one of the pioneers of wireless telegraphy, Andrew Gray, general manager of the Marconi Company and big brother of celebrated World War One artist Norah Neilson Gray, a member of the famous Glasgow Girls. The family lived in West King Street.

October included details of the Rosneath setting of several stories written by the renowned Victorian author Margaret Oliphant, who spent summer holidays on the peninsula.

A month later innovator architect Danny Campbell, who grew up in Rhu, told of the growth and growth of his architecture firm Hoko. He produced handmade Danish Kolumba blue bricks which were on sale at £25,000 each.

This was part of a crowd-funding campaign, and I read last week that the campaign had reached its £500,000 target. I am sure we will read more about him in the months ahead.

READ MORE: Eye on Millig - 'Inside track on Rhu sailor's silver medal success at Tokyo Olympics'

The same applies to two talented local actors, both of whom featured in the incredibly popular crime series Shetland.

Former Rosneath Primary and Hermitage Academy pupil Fiona Bell played a killer dying of cancer in the sixth series, while Jim Sturgeon, formerly a farmer at Drumfad in Glen Fruin, told of the dramatic change in his way of life from the farm to the West End stage.

It never ceases to amaze me how many interesting people have Helensburgh and district links - and I look forward to hearing of many more.

Nearly all the articles I have mentioned can be read on the Helensburgh Advertiser or Helensburgh Heritage Trust websites.

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If you have a story from Helensburgh's past - or present - you think might make an interesting topic for a future Eye on Millig 'long read', email the details to