JEAN DONNACHIE, a down-to-earth and friendly woman, assumed one of her fellow female slimmers at her club was a snob because she never ever spoke to her.
That was until one night when the woman asked to shake Jean's hand.
"I know you won Scotswoman of the Year with your friend for stopping the dawn raids on asylum seekers," she said. It's a true honour GLASGOW shopping mall St Enoch Centre is again backing the Evening Times Scotswoman of the Year awards.
Susan Nicol, the centre's general manager (right), said: "We are delighted to be supporting the event once again this year.
"The Scotswoman of the Year awards are so important because they recognise ordinary women who have achieved extraordinary things.
"The awards ceremony will be an evening for those women who have inspired others with their actions.
"It is both an honour and a privilege for us to pay our respect to these great women with our continued support for these wards.
"St Enoch Centre has played a key role in the local community for many years and the completion of our redevelopment programme further underlines our commitment to Glasgow and its people."
"When I read your story, it brought tears to my eyes thinking of what those people went through."
Jean was taken aback as the woman continued: "I'm afraid I've always been one of those people who judged people by the colour of their skin.
"But after reading your story, I no longer do."
For Jean, joint winner of the Scotswoman of the Year 2008 trophy with her friend and neighbour Noreen Real, that two-minute chat was one of the highlights of her year.
She says: "It may sound silly but it meant the world to me just knowing that we had changed the attitude of just one person.
"I walked out of that club feeling 10 foot tall."
For both Jean, 68, and Noreen, 60, of the Kingsway high flats at Scotstoun, it has been a whirlwind of a year since they picked up their award in January, but it hasn't without its sorrows.
Just before last year's ceremony, Jean's eldest son, Brian, was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
And the family have also been struggling to get the right help for Jean's teenage granddaughter who has a severe form of epilepsy.
As if that wasn't enough, Jean's brother, Donald, was diagnosed with cancer, although he is now recovering.
And Jean had to deal with her first birthday after the death of her beloved husband, Eddie, in May, 2008.
Noreen also hasn't had her troubles to seek.
In May, her much loved only sister, Mary Trainer, died of cancer at only 63.
"She died in my arms in hospital," Noreen says. "I sang to her all the songs her husband would sing to her and I told her to go and join him.
Noreen herself was seriously ill with scarlet fever.
"But going out and doing things in the community as Scotswoman of the Year has helped me a lot," Noreen says.
Noreen and I were close but Scotswoman of the Year has brought us closer," says Jean, looking at her friend. "I like to think I have now taken the part of Noreen's sister."
"I can't get through anything without Jean," admits Noreen. "We're always there for each other."
"This centre has been a godsend," says Jean of the health and wellbeing centre at Kingsway Court, where they are just waving off the last of the older folk who come to their daily lunch club.
Every few minutes, the door opens and they greet friends from all over the world with a hug and kiss. Many asylum seekers are now being allowed to stay, making Kingsway a more settled community.
Jean and Noreen are resilient women and they have tried to concentrate on the good things.
"We've tried to honour our title," says Jean. "Finding out we had won was fantastic.
"I now say that Eddie (her late husband) arranged for us to win. I think he was saying c'mon, Jean, don't sit there and mope'."
Certainly, both women have got stuck into their work.
Both have gained in confidence over the year. "I've found a lot in myself that I didn't know I had," admits Jean. "I used to sit in the background a lot but now I voice my opinions."
And though Jean still has a dicky knee to contend with and Noreen a bad back, they gamely took part in the Race for Life and also did the high-kicking can-can for five minutes at the Irn-Bru Can-clan event in Glasgow Green in the summer.
And there are other things they have to look forward to.
Filming is due to start soon on a feature film, Kingsway. Directed by Jim Loach, son of Ken, with Rona Munro as screen writer, the film will tell the story of how Jean and Noreen took on the Government over immigration raids and won.
They don't yet know who will play them, but as far as the community is concerned, there is no doubt who the real stars of the story are. MAKE YOUR NOMINATION NOW ...
THE search is on for the 2009 Scotswoman of the Year, again sponsored by the Evening Times and St Enoch Centre.
At the beginning of the year, Scotland hailed anti-immigration raid campaigners Jean Donnachie and Noreen Real as Scotswomen of the Year 2008.
The title International Scotswoman of the Year was bestowed on the heroic Mary Miller, who founded the Jeely Club in Castlemilk and who is working in trouble-torn Zimbabwe with children suffering from HIV and Aids.
Visually-impaired Olympic gold cyclist Aileen McGlynn won the title of Scots Sportswoman of the Year while businesswoman Rabinder Buttar, founder and chief executive of ClinTec International, Scotland's leading global clinical research organisation, won Scots Businesswoman of the Year.
But another year has passed and the Evening Times is looking for this year's candidates for Scotswoman of the Year.
We know Scotland is full of many such women because every year we are inundated with incredible stories of the unselfish women out there who give their all for others.
The 47th holder of the titles Scotswoman of the Year, Scots Businesswoman of the Year and Scots Sportswoman of the Year will be announced at a dinner in the banqueting hall of Glasgow City Chambers on Thursday, January 28, 2010.
It's the highlight of the year but first we need to find the successors to this year's remarkable winners.
And that's where you come in.
Tell us about the women who have inspired you with their courage and strength, their passion and commitment.
So please send us your suggestions and also your nominations for who should be named Scots Businesswoman of the Year and Scots Sportswoman of the Year. It's easy to nominate your heroines - e-mail your nominations to: firstname.lastname@example.org