Obituary: Jimmy Dunnachie

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The Independent Online
In the last decade the House of Commons has become significantly short of those who have earned a living at the sharp end of manufacturing industry, either in management or on the factory floor - and is the poorer as a legislature on that account. It was totally out of keeping with Jimmy Dunnachie's modest nature to boast about anything, but he was justifiably proud of his skills as a Firfields shipyard apprentice and later as a shopfloor fitter at Rolls-Royce, where he worked between 1952 and 1986.

Dunnachie was born in 1930 into a family which, like many other Glasgow people, was proud of its roots in the Scottish Highlands. After school at St Margaret's, Kinning Park, he went to Firfields when the Clyde was still in its great days. Because of the trust and dependability which he naturally inspired among fellow workers, in 1954 he became a shop steward. He was to remain a key member of the Rolls-Royce joint shop stewards committee as block convenor until 1986. The 1960s and 1970s were a period when the attitude of the joint shop stewards committee was of vital importance to a plant employing over 6,000 workers.

Dunnachie is the only man who has been a member of the old Glasgow Corporation, Glasgow District Council, Strathclyde Regional Council, and the House of Commons. In 1972 he was elected to Glasgow Corporation, and earned the praise which Michael Martin, MP for Springburn, now Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, describes: "Jimmy Dunnachie had the reputation from the very beginning of never turning anyone away who needed help, and he continued to do this for 35 years."

Martin also recalls his work as a very new councillor as chairman of the Clearance and Rehabilitation committee of the Glasgow Corporation and later the Glasgow District Council. "He was extremely good," says Martin, who worked with Willie Ross and other ministers, not only Labour ones, in the cause of the rehabilitation of thousands of Glasgow red sandstone tenements.

When he became a member of the new Strathclyde Regional Council, Dunnachie specialised in the social work committee to which Professor Fred Edwards, the distinguished director of social work, told me he had made a very useful contribution, under the chairmanship of Councillor Albert Long.

It was on account of his solid work on all three local councils that the Pollok constituency chose Dunnachie rather than a favoured militant candidate for the Labour candidature in 1985.

I remember well Dunnachie's maiden speech, which encapsulated the issues that he really cared about. He told us on 26 June 1987:

Pollok faces many of the problems that have today been identified as part of inner city living. They are intertwined and have a domino effect on the lives of the people. Unemployment, bad housing, and inadequate social services characterise a constituency that contains no fewer than 12 districts that have been designated as areas of priority treatment.

Dunnachie's deepest concern was the despair that high unemployment produced, mirrored in what he saw as the intolerable housing conditions in that part of Glasgow:

Recent government cuts have meant that large areas in my constituency are on the verge of becoming undesirable slums, unfit for human habitation, with degrading insult to the good people who have to live in them. I hope that the Government will review private sector housing grants so that my constituents who live in the Victorian tenements in the Shawlands and Pollokshields divisons of Pollok can carry out the repairs that are vi-

tally needed to bring the houses up

to a more tolerable standard.

It was by incessant pressure rather than flowery speeches that Dunnachie was among those who have brought about a transformation of the City of Glasgow into an area which has won European prizes for rehabilitation.

In the House of Commons, Dunnachie joined the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers group. Ken Eastham, MP for Manchester Blackley, and secretary of the group during those years, describes Dunnachie as a "warm-hearted and generous colleague". That is how the rest of us found him.

He espoused a number of worthwhile causes, in particular that of the mentally handicapped. He wanted to protect vulnerable youngsters, and in March 1988 successfully introduced a "Gaming Machine (Prohibition of use under 16)" measure as a Private Members' Bill. He also took up the cause of the Kashmiris, and on one famous occasion, by a slip of the tongue, called on Margaret Thatcher as "titular head of the Commonwealth" to help persuade the Indian government to stop the killing of Kashmiris.

His later years were dogged by the incessant struggle against Militant in his own constituency, whose standard-bearer was the local folk hero, the anti-poll tax protester Tommy Sheridan. Indeed, in July 1988, the Scotsman went so far as to describe the atmosphere of his local constituency Labour party as resembling that of Beirut. Albeit that, in September 1991, Militant targeted the Pollok constituency as one of its four "national" targets, Dunnachie fought them off and won the 1992 general election by a larger majority than many of the commentators had thought possible. This was in part because he was sustained by his wife, Isobel Payne, a senior lecturer in further education, whom he had married 20 years earlier in 1974.

Jimmy Dunnachie, by sheer constant hard work and concern for others, rendered unsung service to Scotland.

Tam Dalyell

James Francis Dunnachie, fitter, councillor, and politician: born Glasgow 17 November 1930; staff, Rolls-Royce, Hillingdon 1952-86; Councillor, City of Glasgow Corporation 1972-74; District Councillor, City of Glasgow 1974-77; Councillor, Strathclyde Regional Council 1978-87; MP (Labour) for Glasgow Pollok 1987-97; opposition whip 1988-92; married 1974 Isobel Payne; died 7 September 1997.