Tag Archives: derek barrie

Derek Barrie dies at 77

The Lib Dems lost a much loved friend, mentor, agent and campaigner yesterday.  Derek Barrie gave six decades of service to this party and the Liberals before it. What he didn’t know about campaigning simply wasn’t worth knowing. As recently as the 2019 election, the advice that he gave was a valuable part of Wendy Chamberlain’s election as MP for North East Fife.

He had become increasingly frail in recent years, but he died quite suddenly having been admitted to hospital last weekend.

He was a brilliant friend to me and we worked so well together back in the early 2000s when I was Scottish Campaigns and Candidates Convener and he was the Party’s Chief of Staff. Together with then MSP Iain Smith, we ran the ground campaign in the 2005 election and jokingly took all the credit for our party’s best General Election performance which saw us gain Danny Alexander and Jo Swinson as MPs.

Later that year, he and I ran the Livingston by-election campaign after Robin Cook died, maintaining our vote with candidate Charles Dundas and stopping the SNP from gaining the sort of momentum that might have given them the Dunfermline by-election.

For years our Campaigns and Candidates meetings would start in the Haymarket Bar across the road from Scottish Lib Dem HQ with dinner and usually some wine before we went back across the road to do the business.

There are not very many people I would let introduce me as the Wicked Witch of West Lothian, though I replied that he should never forget that I could turn him into a toad at any moment. To me, he was Grumps.  When we adapted the English candidate approval system for Scotland in 2002, we had to get a lot of people approved very quickly. This we did over many weekends with a wonderful team of assessors and facilitators. Obviously it was all very professional, but we had a huge amount of fun with the role playing exercises. Derek, John Lawrie and George Grubb often had Rae Grant and I in tears of laughter. There was one notorious time when Rae was laughing so much she had to leave the room.

But all this was pretty late in Derek’s career. He started out as the candidate for East Fife in the 1966 General Election. I think this was the one where he didn’t have a phone in his house and would call his agent from a phone box at pre-arranged times. He came fourth  back then, but in the 70s, a determined group of campaigners, led by Derek, decided they were going to win the seat. It took more than a decade of slog, but they did it when Menzies Campbell was elected at the third attempt, having gained 10% in 1979 and 14% in 1983. They turned the local party into a formidable campaigning machine and it has gone from strength to strength.

Derek was the first Liberal Councillor elected in North East Fife in 1977 and went on to lead the Council.

After he retired from paid party work in 2009 we used to meet up at Conferences and for long lunches where we would reminisce and put the world to rights.

He remained an active part of North East Fife’s campaigning machine, though, and served for several years as clerk to the Scottish Executive where he continued to be a fount of wisdom. He was secretary of ASLDC until a couple of years ago and had become the organisation’s Honorary President.

Derek had been married to Lesley for more than 50 years. They were such a team and he so appreciated her sacrifices for the Lib Dem cause. My husband said this morning that Derek never forgot the campaign widows and widowers who held the fort while their other halves were out working for the party from dawn till well after dusk. Our love and thoughts are with Lesley now.

These are just a few random thoughts and memories from over 20 years of working with Derek. I’m sure many of you will have your own, so please add them in the comments.

On Facebook, people have been paying tribute and their words are repeated here with their permission.

Sheila Ritchie, Scottish Party Convener

Derek has been friend, mentor, campaigner, rock. It was typical of him that, on hearing I was to be Convenor, he summoned me- there is no other way of expressing it- and gave me my orders.

I cannot tell you how much I will miss his wisdom and counsel, but much more, his fellowship and humour.

North East Fife 2019 campaign manager Kevin Lang

Very sad. I learned so much from this man when it comes to campaigning (don’t forget, it’s all about PIG)
I ran a committee room from his house in North East Fife at the 2019 General Election. Even then, and looking frail, he was so engaged and excited about the election and the prospect of winning the seat back.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 8 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • expats
    Does mammon have a soul?...
  • John Hall
    A good article given shortage of space. Could have mentioned the incalculable international support that Israel gets particularly from the USA, both financial...
  • Alex Macfie
    @James Young: Well we are certainly taking Chesham & Amersham seriously. Yes, Hartlepool and Airdie & Shotts were dreadful results for us but we were ne...
  • Andy Boddington
    Roger Lake. I take the point without fully agreeing with it. There is a need to show precision. I follow a convention where no decimal points are quoted above t...
  • Andrew Tampion
    "The Conservative Party did well, however the Welsh Assembly elections and the elections to the Scottish Parliament clearly demonstrate that their influence in ...