Scottish Liberal Lord Mackie of Benshie dies at 95

Lord George MackieLiberal Democrat peer Lord George Mackie died today at the age of 95. As the Herald reports:

A famous Liberal Democrat peer Lord Mackie of Benshie has died aged 95, a decorated airman with Bomber Command in the second world war as well as a renowned farmer.

He was a chairman of the Caithness Glass company and a hotelier at John O, Groats.After the war he took over a farm at Benshie in Angus and subsequently set up a cattle ranch at Braeroy near Spean Bridge.

George Mackie, from a renowned farming family in Aberdeenshire, was elected as MP for the old Scottish Liberal Party in Caithness and Sutherland in1964. But he served only until 1966 when Harold Wilson’s Labour Government went back to the country to seek a larger majority. Mackie lost narrowly.

In 1974 he was offered a life peerage. His brother John, who had been on the Labour benches while he was in the House of Commons, also arrived in the House of Lords as a Labour peer.

It was to Robert Maclennan that George lost in 1966, but they both served on the Liberal Democrat benches in the Lords together.

Scottish Liberal Democrat President Malcolm Bruce paid tribute to Lord Mackie:

George was a great character and sincere Liberal, both as an MP and a peer. George had a great sense of humour and a great sense of fun.

His passing is sad, particularly as it comes within a year of his nephew Maitland.

The Mackie family have been big in farming and food in Aberdeenshire, although George had his own farm, Benshie, in Angus. He will be greatly missed.

Feel free to share memories of Lord Mackie in the comments.

Update: 18th February

More senior party figures have been paying tribute to Lord Mackie.

Lord Rennard:

George Mackie was truly great figure in Liberal Democrat History and the Scottish Liberal Party in particular. This is a brilliant obituary in today’s Guardian.

George Mackie was often in tremendous form at Scottish Liberal Democrat conference dinners that I attended chairing very raucous events. I was in charge of promoting public meetings in the Liberal landslide Liverpool Edge Hill by-election 1979 won by David Alton when Sandy Walkington from the Liberal Whips Office in the Commons was in charge of getting speakers for them. On the eve of poll in a very crucial campaign, all the MPs had to pull out in order to vote in the ‘no confidence’ motion that brought down James Callaghan’s Government. George helped to plug the gap by speaking at the eve of poll rally and having consumed quite a large mount of whisky, he delighted the Edge Hill audience avoiding politics but telling them in his very loud voice “how he loved them all!” George flew Lancaster bombers over Germany in the war and was a passionate European whose commitment was partly on the basis of avoiding the repetition of such horrors in future. When he was at a lunchtime reception in Berlin many years later he was asked by his hosts if he had ever visited Berlin before. “Only at night,” he said and left it at that.

Jim Wallace

The passing of George Mackie feels like the passing of a political generation for our party.

 He belonged to the generation which saw service in World War II – and very distinguished service indeed – followed by many years of service to the party, particularly in Scotland. Today’s generation of Liberal Democrats owes much to people like Lord Mackie who kept the flame of Liberalism alive in some difficult days.

 He was Scottish Liberal Party President when I was first elected to Parliament. As a young MP, and later when I was party leader in Scotland, George was a great source of sage advice and robust encouragement. Being in his company was always a good tonic.

 As a Scottish Liberal, he was committed to the well-being of Scotland within our United Kingdom and playing a constructive role in Europe – an attitude as relevant today as it was through his long political career.

 Because of his leave of absence from the Lords, we did not overlap in the House for very long. But I recall what may well have been his last intervention at Oral Questions. It was succinct and highly pertinent- a model we would all do well to follow!

 My sympathy goes out to Jacqui and his daughters.

 Charles Kennedy

George Mackie was a truly larger than life figure and someone who was always very supportive of me from day one. He was part of that team of Highland Liberals – along with the likes of John Bannerman, Russell Johnston, Ross-shire’s Alasdair Mackenzie and others – who changed the face of Highland parliamentary politics and representation for the better and for good. I shall miss his wit and wisdom indeed.

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10 Comments

  • Tony Greaves 17th Feb '15 - 9:39pm

    George took leave of absence after Emlyn Hooson died – they were close friends in the Lords and George looked after Emlyn when he started to decline. Soon after I arrived in the Lords I sat on the same bench as George. He lent over and peered at me and asked “Who are you?” “I’m Tony Greaves, don’t you remember me?” “Ah, welcome – yes – we used to have a lot of trouble with you!”

    Tony

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 17th Feb '15 - 9:50pm

    “Used to?” 🙂

  • Very good Caron, very good … 🙂

  • I have a bottle of House of Commons whisky which I won in a raffle in NE Fife about 25 years ago. George was there as special guest, along with Ming Campbell, and being the keen young politician then I asked them both to sign it. George did so, but then looked at the whisky, turned to Ming and said something like “you’re giving away this rubbish?”

    A great Liberal who will truly be missed.

  • Sandy Walkington 18th Feb '15 - 9:07am

    So many brilliant stories. We always called him Bomber Mackie.
    When he came up for the eve of poll at the Edge Hill by-election and spoke afterwards to all the workers at HQ – “I think you’re all marvellous, marvellous! And you’d be even more marvellous if someone bought me a drink.”
    Campaigning for Emlyn in Montgomery and receiving a cake from a former Conservative turned Liberal who had baked it specially for Emlyn but asked for the precious plate to be returned. Emlyn gave it to George, George put it on the roof of the car while he opened the door to climb in, then they drove off…
    He only lost Caithness and Sutherland in 1966 because of an unseasonal snowstorm on polling day meaning that many of his supporters had to stay on the hills rescuing new born lambs.

  • Robin Bennett 18th Feb '15 - 10:11am

    The only time I met him was when we went out to stick up posters during the 1962 Woodside by-election. George, being much larger, held the poster while I ran a long handled brush dipped in glue over it. I unintentionally hit him with the brush and he roared. Not someone you easily forget.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Feb '15 - 4:34pm

    I have always been a consistent mainstream Liberal, Caron!

    Tony

  • Tony Greaves 18th Feb '15 - 4:49pm

    I think the snow story was at the Inverness by-election in 1954? (Liberal candidate Johnny Bannerman, Rae Michie’s father). The loss of Caithness was more fundamentally due to the fact that George had (not unreasonably) been spending time in London and his Labour opponent (Bob Maclennan) had been beavering away in the constituency during the short 64-66 Parliament.

    Since Bob joined the Lords in 2001 when he finally retired from the Commons (having represented Caithness under three different party labels) he and George sat together on the LD benches in the Lords, though they were not bosom friends. Meanwhile John Thurso, who had been a hereditary peer up to 1999 (holding the Sinclair Viscountcy) left the Lords and went back to the Commons to represent Caithness, which he still does.

    Tony

  • Tony Greaves 18th Feb '15 - 4:52pm

    I should say Ray Michie (latterly Baroness Michie of Gallanach).

  • Tony Greaves 18th Feb ’15 – 4:34pm
    I have always been a consistent mainstream Liberal, Caron!

    Which is why you were trouble.

    What are consistent, mainstream Liberals for – if not to make trouble?

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