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The day Glasgow was left spellbound by Mandela magic 

Nelson Mandela accepted the Freedom of the City in 1993, three years after his release from jail.

At the time of his death in December 2013 Nelson Mandela was arguably the most revered man on the planet.

The 95-year-old was also one of the most decorated, having amassed titles and awards from every corner of the globe.

But one stands above the rest as it was announced in 1981, nine years before he was finally released from prison.

Twenty five years ago today, as apartheid crumbled in South Africa, Mandela formally accepted the Freedom of Glasgow - the first city in the world to bestow such an honour on him.

Thousands gathered in George Square to see the man who would soon complete the remarkable journey from prisoner to President.

Mandela told an awestruck audience: "Citizens of Glasgow. We are here today to say thank you.

"For it was your city which refused to forget our plight when I was incarcerated on Robben Island.

"Twelve years ago, in 1981, you bestowed upon me the freedom of your great city, Glasgow."

To cheers and applause, the man who spent 27 years in prison continued: "It was an act of commitment.

Politics: Nelson Mandela salutes the crowd in George Square, Glasgow.
Politics: Nelson Mandela salutes the crowd in George Square, Glasgow. PA

"You, the people of Glasgow, pledged you would not relax until I was free to receive this honour in person.

"I am deeply grateful to you."

The former lawyer also hailed the anti-apartheid march, to mark his 70th birthday, which started in Glasgow.

He said: "The Nelson Mandela marchers set off out for London in June 1988 to demand my release and that all South African political prisoners should be free.

"People of Glasgow, I am now free to be with you."

Those who were there on October 9, 1993 remember the magic of the event with digital clarity.

STV News presenter John MacKay, who was working in radio at the time, recalled: "Straight away what struck you was the aura around the man.

"He walked past, right in front of me, and exuded this aura of calm, of power and of respect.

'He walked past, right in front of me, and exuded this aura of calm, of power and of respect'
John MacKay

"You could see everybody felt the same.

"Everybody looked at him with a degree of admiration that I have never seen before."

As well as the Freedom of the City Glasgow also immortalised the world's most famous political prisoner in 1986 by changing the name of St George's Place to Nelson Mandela Place

Anti-apartheid activist Dr Brian Filling, now the Honorary Consul for South Africa in Scotland, set up the 1993 trip.

He also secured agreement from eight other UK regions, which recognised Mandela in a similar way, so that all the awards would be accepted in Glasgow.

A quarter of a century later Dr Filling will be the keynote speaker at an ACTSA Scotland (Action for Southern Africa) conference at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.

The group is also spearheading the campaign to raised £250,000 to build a permanent memorial to Mandela in the city.

Politics: Mandela delighted the adoring audience with his dancing.
Politics: Mandela delighted the adoring audience with his dancing. PA

A dinner in August at the Hilton, where Mandela stayed during his 1993 trip, raised almost £30,000.

Once the charity is close to reaching its target a competition will be held to find a sculptor.

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has backed the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation.

Speaking at the launch of the fundraising drive last October, Sir Alex said: "For decades the ordinary people of Glasgow have played a terrific role in the anti-apartheid movement and as a Freeman of this great city I am proud to play my part in this campaign to honour a very special man."

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