John Smith: Edinburgh prepares final farewell: Tributes continue to pour in as Labour Party faces up to task of finding his successor

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The Independent Online
JOHN SMITH's funeral will take place next Friday at Cluny parish church in Edinburgh, the party announced yesterday.

A spokesman for Mr Smith's widow, Elizabeth, said yesterday that the time of the service would be announced later. Mr and Mrs Smith's eldest daughter, Sarah, 25, flew back yesterday morning from holiday in California to join her mother and her sisters Jane, 22, and Catherine, 21.

'The family are all together now and we have left them to it. They all embraced each other. It was a very private moment,' Mr Smith's press officer, Mike Elrick, said .

Flowers arrived at the family's Morningside home throughout the day as friends and neighbours arrived to offer their support.

Helen Liddell, 48, was one who visited the house. She said: 'When you have been bereaved, you know that the kind and warm things people say do help you to get through the ordeal.'

Mr Elrick said they were 'coping with it very well. Elizabeth is composed, very composed. She has obviously been very touched by the messages of condolence and well-wishers bringing in flowers and making phone calls wishing her and the family well in their time of grief. She's obviously very upset.'

In Mr Smith's Monklands East constituency, near Glasgow, hundreds of people queued to sign 'condolence books' placed in public buildings and shopping centres by the local council.

In the former coal and steel towns of Airdrie and Coatbridge, entries recorded constituents' affection for 'a Highlander who gave us pride' and 'a QC who never lost touch with the ordinary man'.

On the streets people were still struggling to cope with the loss of a man who represented them for almost a quarter of a century.

Political opponents spoke of his decency and commitment to Lanarkshire. Irene Gilchrist, 73, said: 'I never voted for John but it was plain to see he was a great man. Everyone shares this terrible sense of loss.'

Even those too young to go to the ballot box expressed regret that they would never have the chance to vote for 'the next Prime Minister'. Tommy Morgan, 17, said: 'Everyone knew he was someone who got things done. I saw him once and I thought, 'yes, one day I'll put a cross against his name'. Now that can never happen.'

Feelings of sorrow and regret extended throughout Scotland. In Glasgow, the Saltire flew at half-mast on the City Chambers and newspapers rushed out souvenir editions on the life of the man who said he wanted to be the first prime minister born and bred in Argyllshire.

In Ardrishaig on the shores of Loch Gilp, where Mr Smith grew up, Ella Aitken, 71, who taught the future leader of the Labour Party in the local primary school, said: 'Everyone here regarded John as one of their own. We are all devastated. It is a terrible shame that he will not realise his ambition to lead the country.'

MPs returning from Westminster to their constituencies continued to pay tribute to their former leader.

Donald Dewar, MP for Glasgow Garscadden, said: 'John was an enormous life force, a bundle of energy and an extremely committed politician. He fought the good fight, and he would want whoever wins the leadership contest to complete the work.'

(Photograph omitted)