Friday, 19 March 2010

Former West Lothian Candidate Dies

When I first moved to West Lothian there were two names outwith my own party that the political activists held in awe. One result may have determined the paths of their political careers, but both were held high.

For Labour there was Tam Dalyell for the SNP there was Billy Wolfe. The two went head to head when this was just one West Lothian seat, before there was 'The Question', in the 1962 by election that was the start of the former Father of the House's career. The latter a former leader of the SNP has passed away aged 86 in the final weeks before the next General Election. They were to face each other another 6 times in the contest the closest being in 1974.

The Watsonian* (who had earlier also attended Bathgate Academy on Marjoribanks Street) was still held in high esteem with local SNP activists, even appearing on a recent leaflet from my opponent Tam Smith. That other West Lothian Nat Alex Salmond has paid tribute saying:

"Billy Wolfe blazed the trail in the professionalisation and organisation of the SNP, and he more than anyone transformed it into a modern political party."

It was in the year of my birth that Billy became leader of the SNP after 3 years from 1966 as Deputy leader and he stood down in 1980. He'd led the party to their largest Westminster tally in February 1974 and the first devolution referendum (which sparked 'The Question') in 1979.

Away from politics he ran an Chieftain Forge, a spade and shovel forge manufacturing agricultural machinery, which may well have been used on my family farm in Donegal. But when politics took over he closed the business.

He may have moved just over the boundary in South Lanarkshire but my thoughts go out to his widow Mary, his children David, Sheila, Ilene and Patrick, Tam Smith and all the SNP team in West Lothian.

Read Also: The First SNP blog to pass tribute is Calum Cashley's personal tribute.

*Former pupil of George Watson College, Edinburgh.

1 comment:

  1. Aye Billy wis an inspiration, so he was. Ah huv tae thank the Big Yin above fur lettin' me spend ma youth in Lithca' an' have Billy an' Big Tam Dalyell as a background tae ma politics. Alec an' me knew that Lithca' wis itchin' tae drop intae the Nationalist camp, an' that widda been a plum right enuff, gaein' Tam's VIQ (very important question) but it wisnae tae be. Ma faither used tae go oan aboot his faither an' the shovel factory, an' that's how Bathgate widnae vote SNP, but that wis aw' afore ma time, an' ah dinnae like shovels onyhow.

    It's nigh oan impossible tae underestimate the effect Billy an' his fight in West Lothian had oan Alec growin' up. Billy knew it wisnae aboot tartan, it wis aboot jobs an' services, aboot the schemes, raither than the estates, aboot oor future an' no oor past,

    Billy Wolfe pointed the pairty in the right direction an' we owe him a great thanks.

    An' Big Tam's question's still waitin' for an answer.