Labour councillor in Glasgow;
Born: February 9, 1963; Died: October 5, 2013.
GEORGE Ryan, who has died aged 50, was a Labour politician, trade union activist, socialist, father and champion of Glasgow's east end.
In almost two decades representing the Shettleston area he rose to hold some of the city's most influential political positions but was always considered locally as "oor cooncillor", one of the boys who made it. His election created something of a political awakening among friends, a platform for some on the local football supporters' bus into politics, activism and public service.
A lifelong Celtic supporter, his seat in Celtic Park's North Stand almost doubled as a fortnightly surgery, with a rush before kick-off and at half-time by those seeking advice on trade union, constituency or wider political business.
For Mr Ryan, politics was a means to an end: social justice. In the weeks leading up to his death, he was putting together an anti-blacklisting conference for Glasgow, speaking to various people and organisations to try to find a way to stop contracts being given to companies who blacklist workers.
A cause close to his heart, having at one point during his working life been blacklisted, Mr Ryan also oversaw the introduction of Glasgow's pioneering Living Wage commitment of paying low-earning staff £7.20 an hour, as well as the Commonwealth Apprenticeship Initiative which assists Glasgow school leavers into apprenticeships by offering financial incentives to business for creating new posts.
Always an articulate and intelligent voice on the streets and the council chamber, few who knew Mr Ryan will be surprised that tributes came from his political opponents.
Local SNP MSP John Mason spoke of his respect for Mr Ryan's professional manner and straightforward approach, praising a formidable opponent who was not afraid of challenging political leadership if he felt there were serious issues at stake.
Born in Glasgow, George Ryan was brought up in Cranhill area of the city where his family settled when he was two. He was proud of his family's working-class roots - both his grandfather and uncle were miners during the 1926 General Strike and the Depression of the 1930s - and they had a major influence on his later life.
His father, George Sr, played professional football in England before injury saw him return to Glasgow to work as a machine operative at British Leyland.
During his working life, George Sr was involved in the trade union movement and continued to be keenly interested in the world of football. His son followed in his father's footsteps in both these interests, in particular in his love of Celtic.
He was educated at St Modan's Primary and St Gregory's Secondary. Friends from his primary school days say that even as a young boy he hated any form of injustice, and as one of the tallest in the class would always stand up to any of the older boys who were bullying his smaller classmates.
He left school in 1979 to serve his apprenticeship with Arnold Clark. In the same year he joined the Transport and General Workers' Union, where he first became active politically. He served on many lay membership committees with the T&G and was still working as a union representative in his job as a health and safety officer with South Lanarkshire Council.
Mr Ryan began working in local government in 1985, taking on different officer roles with the former Glasgow District Council. Then in the 1990s he moved to South Lanarkshire Council, first as an administrator and latterly in the health and safety role.
He returned to study part time while continuing to work full time. He gained both a degree in social sciences from Glasgow Caledonian University and a postgraduate in risk and occupational health and safety at the University of Strathclyde.
In 1995, he stood as a Labour candidate for the newly-formed Shettleston ward of Glasgow City Council.
At his last full council meeting, Mr Ryan took the opportunity to speak out on behalf of low-paid workers, arguing passionately in favour of extending the payment of the living wage to help challenge in-work poverty.
And with many in the east end affected by the new welfare reforms, he helped lead the way in the anti-bedroom tax campaign on behalf of his constituents.
Recently, he had suffered from a lung condition, which had hospitalised him, but his death has been as tragic as it was unexpected.
In recent days, amid many tributes to Big George, one of the simplest said it all. Overheard in the Kimberly Bar in Tollcross, one working man sighed and said to another: "Well, with Big George gone, that's the working man in the east end gubbed."
He is survived by his partner Linda, his children Christopher, Deborah and Sophie, his father George Sr, his brother Marcus and his sister Anne Mulhern. He was predeceased by his son Sean, who was stillborn.
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