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.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London