The Photo Request has been fulfilled.

 
 Donald Campbell Dewar

Donald Campbell Dewar

Birth
Glasgow, Glasgow City, Scotland
Death 11 Oct 2000 (aged 63)
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, Scotland
Burial Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland
Memorial ID 19923 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Donald Dewar was the architect of Scotland's devolutionary settlement which delivered the first Scottish Parliament for nearly 300 years. He was First Minister of the Parliament, and hence Scotland's national leader, following its establishment in 1999. Donald Dewar was born in Glasgow in 1937 and attended Glasgow Academy. His school days, in the words of his British Cabinet colleague Gordon Brown, were bookish and often lonely but his entry to Glasgow University allowed him to flourish. He developed considerable skills as a debater and later became chair of the Labour Club and President of the University Union. He finished with degrees in Law and History in 1963 and went into practice as a Solicitor in his home city of Glasgow. He began his political career by becoming the Member of Parliament for Aberdeen South at the age of 28 in the 1966 general election . However, it was a marginal seat that Labour had not expected to win and it was returned to the Conservatives in 1970. Following the loss of his seat in House of Commons, he returned to practicing as a Solicitor and took on other jobs as a Social Worker on the North Lanarkshire Children's Panel and also presented a political talk show on Glasgow's radio station, Radio Clyde. It was 1978 before he was afforded the opportunity to return to Parliament. The death of the Labour MP for Glasgow Garscadden, Willie Small,caused a by election and Dewar was chosen as the Candidate to replace Small. The Glasgow Herald commented at the time that if Labour was to loose the by-election, it was unlikely that quality of their candidate could be blamed for the defeat. However, the seat was won by Dewar for Labour and was seen as the starting point in turn around in the party's fortunes following the ascendancy of the Scottish National Party in the early 1970s. His long held support for Scottish Home Rule lead him to take a prominent and enthusiastic role in the Labour 'Yes' campaign for the unsuccessful 1st March 1979 Devolution Referendum. Following the fall of James Callaghan's Labour Government in the no confidence vote on 28th March 1979, Dewar's expertise in Scottish affairs as well as his steadfastness and intellect attracted the attention of the Party Leadership. In 1981 he was appointed Opposition spokesman on Scottish Affairs, a post he held for 11 years until the 1992 general election. In 1987 he presented a Bill for a devolved Scottish Assembly but it was not allocated any Parliamentary time by the Conservative Government. He held other opposition posts between 1992 and 1997 including Shadow Social Security Secretary and Opposition Chief Whip. However, the pinnacle of his political career was to come after Labour's landslide victory in the General Election of 1st May 1997. With Labour committed to holding a new referendum on Scottish Devolution, he was considered by Prime Minister Tony Blair as the natural choice to conduct the 'Yes' campaign. Blair appointed him Secretary of State for Scotland and on 11th September 1997, the Referendum delivered a resounding 'Yes' vote for the proposition of a Scottish Parliament with tax varying powers. It was then left to Dewar to bring in the legislation that would create the Scottish Parliament. He did this very swiftly, introducing the Scotland Bill to the House of Commons on 17th December (see picture below with his signature). The first Elections to the new Scottish Parliament were held on 6th May 1999. The Labour Party in Scotland, under Dewar's leadership, emerged the largest party in the Parliament and it was Dewar himself that became Scotland's first ever First Minister. The Parliament was officially opened by the Queen on 1st July 1999 (see picture below of him mixing with the crowds in Royal Mile just after the Opening Ceremony)and powers were transferred from the old Scottish Office in London to the new Parliament's Executive in Edinburgh. Dewar set about enacting changes in Scotland's laws that were long over due, including abolition of the feudal system and reform of Scotland's housing and transport infrastructure. His duties as First Minister were interrupted by an operation to repair a faulty heart valve in May 2000. However, it was very much business as usual when he returned to work in August. He was very much part of the Scottish political landscape after three and a half years governing Scotland and there was every prospect of him leading the Labour Party towards the next Scottish Parliamentary election in May 2003. However, this was all to be thrown into uncertainty on 10th October 2000 when Donald tripped and fell on the step of the First Minister's official residence, Bute House,Ê6 Charlotte Square Edinburgh at lunchtime after a meeting of the Scottish Cabinet. He was a very tall person; about six foot,six inches in height and had fallen over before and nothing seemed untoward at that time. It was only later that afternoon that he began to feel unwell. Initially, he was reluctant to stop work to seek medical attention but advice from those working with him at Bute House persuaded him to do so. After examination by a doctor working for the Scottish Health Minister, Susan Deacon, he was advised to go to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for tests. It was there that his condition was found to be extremely serious and he lapsed into a coma. He was transferred to the intensive care unit at the Western General Hospital where a scan revealed that a hemorrhage had caused irretrievable damage to his brain. It is likely the hemorrhage had been caused by taking the blood-thinning drug Wharfarin as part of his post-operation treatment. His son, Iain and daughter, Marion were called from their homes in London and Brussels to be at his bedside the following morning. After consultation with the doctors at the Western, they consented to switch off his life support system.ÊThe First Minister's official spokesman, David Whitton, announced Donald's death on television with the words. "I'm sure everyone will agree this is a sad day for Scotland. Scotland has lost a great man." Donald Dewar's funeral was held in the Cathedral of his native City of Glasgow on 18th October 2000Êand was accompanied by a large attendance of the public just as the opening of the Parliament had fifteen months earlier.ÊÊ
As a person, Donald Dewar was exceedingly modest about himself and his achievements, despite their magnitude and significance. Even when he was feeling unwell on 10th October 2000, he was telling the people around him not to make a fuss and just to carry on as normal. This characteristic modesty, combined with his intellect and genial personality made him very popular and respected among his fellow country men and women and it showed the week following his death. His body was cremated in a private service for close friends and family at Clydebank Crematorium later on the day of his funeral.

Bio by: Stuart Kelly


Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

How famous was Donald Campbell Dewar?

Current rating:

31 votes

Sign-in to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 29 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 19923
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Donald Campbell Dewar (21 Aug 1937–11 Oct 2000), Find A Grave Memorial no. 19923, citing Clydebank Crematorium, Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated.