Obituary: Jimmy McGinley

Albeit they had had a good result the year before in the by-election at Glasgow Bridgeton, it was the 9,750 votes in the by-election in West Lothian in May 1962 that launched the resurgence of the Scottish National Party. (Dr Robert McIntyre, the then SNP chairman, had represented Motherwell for a fleeting period at the end of the Second World War.)

The by-election in 1962 was the first of seven occasions on which Billy Wolfe, chairman of the SNP, contested me, putting us in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest number of occasions on which the same two parliamentary candidates have contested one against the other. The West Lothian by-election saw the Tory vote implode from the 18,083 which the lawyer Ian Stewart had gained in 1959 to 4,784 involving the same candidate in a lost deposit.

The reverberations were dramatic. Harold Macmillan sacked half his Cabinet, the wrong half as Harold Wilson was memorably to put it, in the Night of the Long Knives. Selwyn Lloyd's first words to me in the House of Commons were, "You are the young man who got me the sack!" "Sacked? What as?" "As Chancellor of the Exchequer." Selwyn Lloyd then went on to explain that it was his panic after the lost deposit in West Lothian that was the last straw that edged the supposedly unflappable Supermac into drastic action involving the dismissal not only of his Chancellor, Selwyn Lloyd, but his Lord Chancellor, David Maxwell-Fyfe, his Education Secretary, Sir David Eccles, his Health Secretary, Dr Charles Hill (the radio doctor), Reggie Bevins, his Postmaster General, and others.

These remarkable events would not, in my considered first-hand opinion, have occurred, had it not been for a young miner turned motor-truck worker called Jimmy McGinley. All right, William Wolfe was a kenspeckle figure in his kilt, industrialist, and commissioner of Boy Scouts. All right, others of an SNP in-group like the late Angus McGillivray were crucial dramatis personae in the spectacular SNP triumph. But it was the agent and young hyper-activist Jimmy McGinley who hustled people into canvassing and set an example by shinning up telegraph poles himself to place a stupendous number of "Wolfe For West Lothian" posters in prominent positions, most of which were quite illegal.

McGinley was a man of demonic energy. Had it not been for his energy and drive, British politics in the 1960s would not have witnessed the rise of the SNP; Winnie Ewing's astonishing victory at Hamilton in 1965 would not have happened. McGinley was again agent when the SNP vote rose to 15,087 in 1964 and to 17,955 in 1966.

And, for the next 30 years, McGinley did his utmost in the SNP cause to evict me from Westminster.

Yet, mirabile dictu, the two of us never had a bad personal word between us and few differing opinions on social, economic or foreign policy matters - except on one subject, diametrically and vehemently opposed opinions on the value to Scotland of the union with England.

In his dealings with those who disagreed with him, McGinley was a man of wit, courtesy and great personal charm. Friendship can bestride politics. He had a real friendship with his brother-in-law the well-known Burns orator Allister Mackie, chairman of West Lothian Labour Party. I am glad for him that before he died he could have been delighted with what he had read about the current White Paper on the devolution proposals for Scotland (however undelighted I might myself).

Jimmy McGinley was born into a mining family in Bathgate in 1937. His mother remained "a great Labour woman" until the end of her days, though I think that blood may have been thicker than politics when it came to placing her cross on the voting paper. After St Mary's Academy in Bathgate, a legendarily good school under its ferocious headmaster Dr John McCabe, McGinley joined the Coal Board, where he stayed for 14 years. Like many of his contemporaries, he wanted nothing so much and understandably so, as to get out of the pit.

In 1962, he was one of the first into the British Motor Corporation factory brought to Bathgate to make trucks and tractors by the Macmillan Cabinet. Quickly he rose to become a chief quality inspector and then deputy quality manager.

In 1976, he left what had become British Leyland so that he could devote himself to three council tasks, as a member of Linlithgow Town Council, West Lothian District Council and Lothian Regional Council. Between 1977 and 1980, he was chairman of housing and the policy committee during a period of SNP council power and latterly convenor of the council in the 1990s during another period of SNP rule.

As a Member of Parliament for another party, I could not but be deeply impressed by his encyclopaedic knowledge of personal cases causing difficulty to the council and of the way that he represented our area. Jimmy McGinley was deeply loved.

Tam Dalyell

James McGinley, miner, technician and politician: born Bathgate, West Lothian 29 May 1937; Convenor, West Lothian District Council 1992-96; married 1960 Ruby Davidson (three sons, one daughter); died Linlithgow 27 July 1997.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain