Town mourns loss of Sir Tam

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The passing of Tam Dalyell last week will be a void that not only politics will struggle to fill but also Linlithgow.

The former Labour MP and Father of the House Commons died last Thursday aged 84 after a short illness, his family said.

He was a member of the House of Commons for 43 years, firstly as a MP for West Lothian from 1962 to 1983 then Linlithgow from 1983 to 2005. Before that he was a teacher at Bo’ness Academy.

He will be remembered for his tenacity and relentless pursuit of what he thought was right.

The sinking of the Belgrano in the Falklands War, the West Lothian Question, his persistent campaigning against military action in a number of war zones including Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait and Yugoslavia are all national issues he fought tirelessly on.

But he was just as dogged and determined at local level too. We spoke to residents in Linlithgow about Sir Tam and it was clear he had an impact on people’s lives.

One resident said he had problems changing his tax code after switching jobs.

It had been an ongoing problem for 18 months but he took his complaint to Tam’s local surgery and within ten days, the issue had been sorted.

Another man Bill McMillan (85) said: “We got in trouble with a builder who left us high and dry.

“Years later Tam asked us how we were getting on and what had happened and he said why didn’t you come to me instead of a lawyer.

“He said he could have helped us. We never thought at the time but that was the sort of person he was.

“He always stopped to ask how we were doing. He just always took an interest. Locally he was a terrific MP.”

Bill’s wife Anne (77) said: “We went to hear him in the church speak against the Iraq war – he didn’t bother that wasn’t his party’s line, that was his line.

“I think that’s what most people really admired him for. Even if you voted for another party you still had terrific admiration for him.”

Barry Jareckyj, mid-60s, said: “He was always very straight talking, very polite and would always be very engaging.

“That’s what I liked about the man. Whatever his politics were he was very straight forward, very honest in his opinions. He was a big voice in what he said about the Falklands War.

“I fully agreed with everything he said because of my connections I was in the military at that time and as a consequence of that I actually left I suppose in a way he had quite a big influence.

“The fact he was up front and willing to engage in very difficult issues like the Falklands War, when a lot of people were saying exactly the opposite – those sort of people are few and far between.”

John Smith, who lives in Linlithgow and was a reporter for the Scotsman for 23 years, said: “He was a reporter’s dream. A politician of fiercely independent mind – he did what he thought was right. And he invariably gave you the strong quotes to match.

“I would speak to Tam on national or international issues – and there were many he would be involved with as a fully-paid up member of the “awkward squad” – or purely constituency matters.

“He was an assiduous local MP, and he never forgot why he had been elected in the first place, and returned so often.

“If the Commons had more politicians of his integrity, who pursued what they believed in with such unwavering commitment, it would be a much better place.”

A book of condolence has opened in the Burgh Halls so local residents can leave messages for Tam’s family.