Obituary: George Grubb: The epitome of all that is best about the party

It is often said, rightly, that the Liberal Democrats are like a family. We share good times and bad. We sometimes quarrel and we frequently spend more time around each other than is healthy. It also means that, when we lose one of us, we feel it as intensely as losing a close relative.

That’s certainly how I and other Liberal Democrats feel at the loss of George Grubb. The first ever Liberal Democrat Lord Provost (mayor) of Edinburgh, George was not only a friend and mentor, he was an inspiration to me and so many other Liberal Democrats in the City.

He was the very epitome of all that is best about the party. A radical liberal at heart, it was quite something to hear George rail against institutions (even the monarchy) in the softest and most polite of tones. He devoted his life to helping others, first as a church minister and then as a local councillor. However for me, George was more than a role model. He was a good friend, a confidant and guide, who not only married my wife and I but oversaw the funeral of my grandmother.

Politically, George first stood for the party in 1999 for the “unwinnable” ward of Queensferry in west Edinburgh in order to “get some experience”. He found himself elected with a majority of 300. In fact, George is one of those rare liberals who stood for office and never actually lost an election!

George also broke the infamous ‘Queensferry curse’, where no party had managed to hold the ward beyond a single term for more than 20 years. Not only was he re-elected, he was returned with a thumping majority four years later and well over 50% of the vote.

In 2007, when the Lib Dems became the largest party on Edinburgh City Council, George assumed the position of Lord Provost and Lord Lieutenant, the 350 year old role as civic head of Scotland’s Capital City. It was a job he loved and cherished alongside his wife Elizabeth as Lady Provost. He carried out his responsibilities with skill, humour and grace until his retirement from local government in 2012. Outside of Edinburgh City Chambers, George continued to champion the causes he cared so passionately about, including international development and the eradication of poverty.

So as I think about George’s life and his devotion to public service, I know I walk in the footprints of a liberal giant. The best tribute I can make is to be the best councillor I can for the ward he once represented. I will also think about a man who was guided by his faith, a belief in what was right and who brought an enviable ability to always see the best in people. I have no idea if there is a heaven but, if there is, I know George will be looking down and guiding me, my fellow ward councillor Louise Young, Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP and Christine Jardine MP, to be the best we can be.

As I close my eyes and think of George, I see the cheekiest of smiles and hear the heartiest of laughs. When I open my eyes, I find I’m smiling and laughing too. How we will miss him.

* Kevin Lang is a Councillor for the Almond ward which George Grubb represented from 1999-2012.

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  • Well done Kevin. And RIP George.

  • Barry Lofty 13th Jun '18 - 2:41pm

    I did not know George Grubb but what a remarkable man he must have been, a lovely obituary by Kevin Lang

  • Bridget Stevens 13th Jun '18 - 4:21pm

    Beautifully put Kevin. Thank you for saying what I’m sure we all feel about George, a truly lovely man who will be sadly missed.

  • Mike Falchikov 13th Jun '18 - 6:57pm

    Yes, indeed, a lovely tribute to a lovely man. He was great company ( and could be very funny and irreverent as well). He loved the city of Edinburgh and was very knowledgeable about its history and was much respected as Lord Provost, as evidenced by tributes from the other parties in the city.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 13th Jun '18 - 7:57pm

    Kevin sent this to me yesterday when I was at work and I blubbed at my desk. Then I blubbed all over again last night when I set it up. He really is bang on about George, who was one of the kindest, wisest people around.

    He had an absolutely wicked sense of humour, too. Back in the early 2000s, when I was running the candidate approval process in Scotland, he was one of the assessors. He took the role-playing exercises very seriously indeed – and used to make it his mission to challenge the rest of the assessing team’s professionalism and ability to keep a straight face. There was one time he was on particularly good form and I heard a snort behind me and Rae Grant, who was facilitating that day, had to leave the room to “clear her throat.”

    George always treated everyone so well, he was always considerate and respectful and he worked so hard for his constituents. His life was one of service. I am really glad he got to be Edinburgh’s Lord Provost. It wasn’t just the ceremonial stuff, for which he was a great ambassador for the city, but it takes some considerable interpersonal skills when the Council was as finely balanced as it was, to keep everything on track.

    We’ll all really miss him up here.

  • John Barrett 13th Jun '18 - 8:32pm

    Well said Kevin.

    George was a lovely man, a well loved council colleague and a good friend for many years.

    He was also a very modest man and had to be persuaded to stand for the role of Lord Provost, something which it looked like he and Liz were born for. They were not only great ambassadors for the city and the party, they brought a humanity to politics in a way few others have managed.

    He was equally at ease meeting both those in need and royalty and always had time for friends who would pop in for a cuppa and a chat. Always enjoying the latest news, or gossip, even when his health was failing.

    He was one of the best and will be missed by many.

  • Louise Young 13th Jun '18 - 10:10pm

    Wonderful tribute Kevin. You are absolutely right. He was everything that was good about our party and the best political gentleman I ever met. It was a pleasure to serve alongside him while he was Provost – a role he performed with such dignity and statesmanship. Across the political divide he was liked and respected. So so sad that he is gone x

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