Remembering Donald Gorrie

I think it is always important to remember those people who built strong foundations for the party during the exceptionally lean times of the 50s and 60s – and look to what we can learn from them right now.

This weekend, Facebook reminded me that it was 5 years since Donald Gorrie died. A councillor for quarter of a century, then MP and MSP, he built the foundations for our strength in Edinburgh West today.

At the time, I wrote this on my own blog:

Sadly, I never knew him that well, although, of course, I admired from afar his work on issues like sectarianism, alcohol, third party right of appeal in planning decisions and showing how STV would work in the Scottish Parliament.

He was a good role model of how to behave  when you’re in a coalition you’re not really happy with. He was never destructive, but he spoke up when he wasn’t happy and spent his time developing ideas. He had that winning combination of the sharpest of minds, the most liberal of hearts and the most determined of mindsets.

There are many other tributes to him in that post as well.

I put some of them into a Storify thingy.

Donald’s wife Astrid has helped to get Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, Cllr Gillian Gloyer and Christine Jardine MP elected in Edinburgh West.

On polling day in June, I handed over a shift at a polling station to Donald’s grandson.

People still come in to the office and say how fantastic Donald was, 10 years after he left public office.

That’s some legacy.

If you have memories of Donald, please feel free to share them in the comments.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • David Crichton 28th Aug '17 - 12:32pm

    Many years ago, as Chair of Devizes YLs, I had the pleasure of serving on the Devizes exec with a young teacher from Malborough College – Donald! As my inspiration to join the Liberals back in 1964 was my late great-uncle Tom Reid, who had been a stalwart of the West Edinburgh Liberals, it was a particular pleasure to see Donald help to establish us as the dominant power in that constiuency (and an even greater pleasure to see us back there now!)

  • I don’t really do heroes, but there can always be exceptions. DG defined, for me, what it is to be a Liberal. I miss him – and so does the party. But it’s nice to see these tributes again. He took great pride in his awkward squad-ness, but I’m glad to see people have talked about his personal kindness and decency as well.

  • Tony Greaves 28th Aug '17 - 10:35pm

    Donald was one of the people in at the very early days of the Liberal local government revival in the 1970s and was always a keen and supportive member of ALC. In West Edinburgh he built up from his original breakthrough in Corstorphine ?West ward. I remember the first long conversation I had with him at the Liberal Assembly (I think in 1975) when he was seeking advice on strategy etc for the new Scottish local authority elections (1976?) – we had had our English local government reorganisation in 1973/74.

    Your “Storify thing” concentrates on his time as an MSP but he was of course the person who made the first breakthrough in the Edinburgh West Westminster constituency in 1997. The lobby correspondent for the local newspaper group that covered both the Edinburgh daily paper (Evening News?) and the Lancashire Evening Telegraph was Bill Jacobs who came to see me when writing a piece on Pendle for the LET. We talked about the rest of his patches and I said I thought we would take Edinburgh West at last where Donald was challenging the Tory incumbent Lord James Douglas Hamilton (who now sits in the Lords as Lord Selkirk of Douglas). Bill said that Donald’s problem was that he was a bit of a toff challenging another toff “and given the choice they will always vote for the proper toff”. He was of course wrong!

    Donald was never completely at home at Westminster and happily moved to the Scottish Parliament at the first chance he had.

  • Tony Greaves 28th Aug '17 - 10:37pm

    Bill Jacobs later went through a difficult period in his life but has now landed on his feet as the much overworked local political reporter at the Lancashire Telegraph (as it now is). Rarely a week passes without my having a conversation with him.

  • We should all read – and weep – at Andy Myles post in memory of DG.

  • Tony Greaves mention of Lord James Douglas Hamilton brings back memories. It wasn’t the first time Lord Jim was beaten by a Liberal.

    In 1964 Lord Jim stood for President of the Oxford Union assuming an easy win. It wasn’t. He was beaten by Garth Pratt, a Liberal of Corpus Christi. Garth, son of a bus driver from Leicester, was a vigorous campaigner and stood in Melton Mowbray in 1964. He married Gill, Eric Lubbock’s secretary.

    I remember attending a Union debate when a certain Kirkwood (known to me at school) walked out shouting very loudly, “Good night” – to which Garth brought the house down by quoting Hamlet “Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”.

    Sadly Garth left the party after being unscrupulously manipulated out as PPC for Rochdale by a certain Cyril Smith. He went on to senior management in the CWS, chaired Kirklees NHS, was a senior County Councillor (Labour) and the driving force in restoring the Huddersfield Canal through the Colne Valley. Sadly he died of a heart attack ten years ago (apparently laughing at an item on the BBC News).

    He would have been a great Liberal MP. The memory of him always brings a smile..

  • Donald was one of those true Liberals who spoke his mind even when he knew it would get him in to trouble! We could certainly do with his like again.

    (And if that’s the @TonyH I think it is, it would be good to get in touch again – Caron you have permission to pass on my email!)

  • John Barrett 29th Aug '17 - 12:52pm

    I was Donald’s election agent when, at the fifth attempt, he finally won the Edinburgh West seat.

    The change made in that campaign from previous ones was that Donald was at last happy to have an efficient and effective campaign run for him, rather than by him.

    Donald was at his best out canvassing and meeting the voters and throughout the campaign he did just that. The literature was focussed on issues that mattered to the electorate and the result made history.

    I put the result down to the fact that Donald’s comb-over hairstyle was dispensed with, by getting him into a hairdresser who he thought was offering him a free haircut.

    I had in fact already paid her and given her clear instructions about what was required.

  • Hi Keith. Would be great to hear from you. And really nice if its Donald who brings us together again! (Caron/mods please do share our emails).

  • David McDonald 29th Aug '17 - 5:25pm

    What a great tribute to a true Liberal. Donald gave great encouragement to our group in Midlothian when we reformed after many dormant years. He always had time at conference to ask how things were in our neck of the woods. He had great courage when he went into coalition with a group of 4 on Lothian Region council in the early eighties. It turned things round for the Region at the time of hard line Labour Lefties. No one quite like him in the Party now.

  • Michael Meadowcroft 29th Aug '17 - 8:39pm

    Donald was also one of the funniest colleagues I knew. He served on the Liberal Assembly Committee during the years of my chairmanship and added immensely to the hilarity of meetings – in between doing the business, of course – with his dry ironic comments.


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