|You are in: In Depth: Donald Dewar|
Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Tributes and ballad
"Firstly, a personal tribute will be offered by Ruth Wishart. Ruth, of course, is that well-known Scottish journalist and broadcaster and long-time friend of Donald Dewar.
"Kathy Peattie, member of the Scottish Parliament, will then sing a Scottish Ballad, by Rabbie Burns.
"And a principal tribute will then be delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Honourable Gordon Brown MP, who has been a long-time friend and ally and colleague of Donald down long parliamentary years.
"So, now, the personal tribute from Ruth:
Ruth Wishart: "I have the daunting privilege of speaking on behalf of Donald's private army - his friends.
"If there is one tiny crumb of comfort in that knowledge that he is absent from this huge gathering of his family and his friends and his colleagues is that for the first time in my life I will be able to pay tribute to Donald without being heckled by him.
"From which you may gather that being able to count Donald Campbell Dewar as a friend was not an unalloyed blessing.
"Share with him your holiday plans and he would guffaw with derision at your proposed destination.
"This from a man who, in many years of his married life, did not possess a valid passport.
"He had a suspicion, he said, that travel might narrow the mind.
"Invite him to dinner and he would tuck heartily into the reputations of his fellow guests before relieving them of the remnants of their pudding.
"Attend the theatre in his company and you risked his giving a running commentary on the paucity of the production values.
"These remarks generally fell some way short of being sotto voce.
"But all of this was tolerated by his friends because, in return for coping with these idiosyncrasies, you were privileged to enjoy his wonderful wit, to benefit from his erudition, and to have the comforting knowledge that this man would be a foul weather friend.
"With Donald, loyalty was always a two-way street. Many thousands of words have been written about him of these last few difficult days, and the obituary writers have had no shortage of hinterland to explore.
"His love of literature has been well documented. His tastes were catholic, not to say esoteric.
"Last year, the Edinburgh International Book Festival contrived an event in which I was to interview Donald about six books which had had a seminal influence on his thinking.
"As the day drew near, the festival called to say that he had still not been in touch with the list and could I perhaps chivvy him a little because they wanted to have extra sales copies available of those volumes given the first minister's seal of approval.
"It was difficult going back to the festival director with the dispiriting news that none of them was still in print.
"The visual arts were an enduring passion. One of his most pleasurable pieces of business was opening an exhibition of the Scottish colourists in Kirkcudbright.
"His love of sport is legendary. His knowledge of football in particular was extensive. This was a man who could bore for Scotland on the relative merits of 3-5-2 versus 4-3-3, and not infrequently did.
"I last spoke to Donald on Saturday the 7th of October. Tragic news had just reached us. In the last international to be held at Wembley, Germany had defeated England 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying tie. He bore it well.
"There have been less than flattering references to his sartorial style. Many people have suggested that he did not appear to own an overcoat. This was a foul calumny.
"As the archive footage of the Garscadden by-election decisively demonstrated, he did indeed have an outer garment. Its passing was not much mourned in the world of fashion.
"One summer evening, just after he became secretary of state for Scotland, we agreed to meet for supper to celebrate his realising of a long cherished ambition.
"Gallus Glasgow was decked out in halter tops and shorts. Donald arrived in a suit and a pullover. His solitary concession to the temperature was a pair of sand shoes. Sand shoes of a less than recent vintage.
"He'd bought them some years ago, it transpired, because he had been invited to join John Smith and his family on holiday in rural France.
"I rather fear that these sannies represented his entire holiday wardrobe.
"At one lunch he came sporting a tie with a YSL motif. A breakthrough, I surmised, Yves Saint Laurent had finally persuaded him of the merits of designer chic.
"Not at all, he retorted, he'd been presented with it by Yarrow Shipbuilders Limited.
"His elevation to first minister and the presence of young women in his cabinet finally convinced him that owning more than two suits would not be unduly decadent.
"It also ensured that when he was granted an audience with her majesty at Holyrood Palace there would be a higher probability of matching socks.
"He was in every bone and in every sinew a Glasgow man. I mean no slight to Scotland's magnificent capital when I say that Donald's spirits visibly lifted at that portion of the M8 when the skyline of his native city first becomes visible.
"People have talked of Donald Dewar as a solitary man, and that's not so.
"Rather he was a man who cherished the rare bonus of solitude. The fact of his illness last May afforded him unsolicited leisure which, typically, he thought he might use to acquire new skills.
"A sleek laptop computer arrived from his office and he showed it off with all the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a boy acquiring his first train set.
"I never saw either the computer lid or the instruction manual in the open position.
"Importantly, that period gave him more quality time to spend with Marion and Ian, whom he loved dearly and of whom he was enormously proud.
"Ian's daughter Hazel, born in January 1999, is the only woman he honoured with a picture at his bedside.
"His children bear the greatest burden today, but they bear it in the knowledge that their father was a great Scot and a very fine human being."
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown (extracts):
"Donald Dewar would have been the last to acknowledge the true scale of his life's achievements.
"But the friend we lost seven days ago was one of only a handful of people across the centuries of whom it could be said: he founded a new parliament.
"But over decades and with matchless constancy of purpose he more than anyone fashioned Scotland's old democratic instincts into a modern democratic institution.
"And all of us privileged to work under his leadership know that in doing so he changed both Scotland and Britain irreversibly and for the better.
"When people ask, as they have done over the last week, why, with such achievements to his name, with such a breadth of friendship and a hinterland of such continental proportions, why even in ill health did he continue to work himself so hard?
"He went on because he felt his work was not yet done.
"For him constitutional reform was not an end in itself but a means to an even greater end - social justice - and he went back to work.
"At the opening of the Scottish Parliament he said: 'We cannot accept a Scotland where 4,000 children leave school each year without qualifications, where one third of Scottish households are below the average income, where quarter of the housing stock suffers from dampness.
"'We can use the power of government to connect, persuade, cajole, encourage preach and lead seek to change that.'
"'We can and we shall'. And he did. Because what motivated Donald all through his political life was his own simple and unshakeable belief that poverty was wrong.
"Donald refused to accept that the people of Drumchapel or any other community should have diminished dreams or lesser lives simply because of where they were born.
"No one should be born to fail', he said and he never wavered."
Ballad, sung by Kathy Peattie MSP.
1. Simmer's a pleasant time,
Ay waukin, Oh,
2. When I sleep I dream,
3. Lanely night comes on,
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Top Donald Dewar stories now:
Links to more Donald Dewar stories are at the foot of the page.
|E-mail this story to a friend|
Links to more Donald Dewar stories
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>> | To BBC World Service>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy