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Hugh (Uisdean) MacDonald

Nationalist and former vice-chairman of the SNP;

Nationalist and former vice-chairman of the SNP;

Born: July 11, 1929; Died: December 3, 2013.

Hugh MacDonald, who has died aged 84, dined under the gaze of the Shah's secret police, supped with Brendan Behan, sipped brandy with the Hennessy clan who made it, chatted with Eamon de Valera, sang in private duets with Eddi Reader and Annie Ross and helped mastermind one of the greatest political shocks of Scottish history.

Hugh (Uisdean) MacDonald was also an electrician, historian, committed Irish and Scottish nationalist, high-ranking Mason, Knight Templar, antique collector, advertising executive and poet.

He was also a Possil boy, a brother, a father, grandfather and great- grandfather. He was linked irrevocably to ­Scotland by instinct, intellect and a passion that was only stilled by death.

He was, in the vernacular, some man.

Born in Glasgow on June 11, 1929, to a father (also Hugh) and mother who worked as a bottler at a beer factory and soft drinks factory respectively, he forged a singular path through life. He was driven by a restless mind that demanded constant attention through reading, formal study or argument.

He lived as a child and young adult in Killearn Street and immediately displayed his individuality by learning Gaelic at night school and embarking on weekend expeditions to the Highlands.

It is impossible to capture his life fully without recourse to a multi-volume history but certain strands must be annotated because they testify to who he was and what he aspired to be.

He became a valued and innovative advertising director after leaving his trade as an electrician. I only saw my father cry twice: once at the funeral of his wife, Agnes, who pre-deceased him by 17 years, and once high above the Falls of Glomach when, in his seventies, he told me of how his father and mother had to inform a headmaster that there was no way their son could afford to attend university.

After completing his apprenticeship as a "spark", he started work as a salesman, moving quickly into the media where he first became a rep for the Evening Citizen in Glasgow before rising quickly to become group advertisement manager of George Outram, a portfolio that then included the ­Glasgow Herald, Evening Times and 26 local newspapers. He then took up a post with the Kayhan Newspaper Group in Iran where his companions at nearby tables in restaurants could be members of the Savak secret police. Iran was soon convulsed in revolution and my father, reluctantly, took one of the last planes out.

Subsequently, he enrolled me in his campaign to sue the Ayatollah Khomeini for the return of items left behind. The full list escapes me but it did include one samovar, two kilts, three sgian dubhs, a painting of himself walking around Kinlochard, and the Collected Poems of Rabbie Burns.

He then took an executive post with Rex Stewart, the advertising agency in Glasgow, before ill health forced him to retire prematurely.

A series of strokes compromised but never fully extinguished his ability as a wonderfully fluent raconteur and a dedicated reader of everything from the back of a sauce bottle to the poems of Omar Khayyam.

His early retirement allowed him to immerse himself in his passion for masonic history and his membership of several groups that included the Knights Templar. He was a 31st degree mason and was a past master of his mother lodge, St Clair 362.

His love of Scotland was displayed physically by his eagerness to wear the kilt (he called it the 'garb') on every possible occasion but it stretched far beyond mode of dress. He had come to embrace nationalism by observation of the political realities that surrounded him and by his close reading of Irish and Scottish history. He travelled to Ireland as a youngster and forged a strong friendship with Brendan Behan, the great writer, and met leading politicians such as De Valera.

When Dominic Behan, the playwright and song writer, arrived "off the boat'' in Scotland, he was met by my father whose political leanings took him deeper into the Scottish National Party.

He was a parliamentary candidate and a vice-chairman of the SNP but his influence was most marked in the smoke-filled, and malt whisky-scented living room of Garaidh Gualach, more prosaically known as 29 East Kilbride Road, Busby, the home of the ­MacDonald family.

It was there that the campaign to elect Winnie Ewing as MP for Hamilton was so successfully masterminded in 1967 with a cadre including his dear friends George Leslie, John McAteer, Angus McGillveray and Alex Ewing. Margo MacDonald's victory in Govan in 1973 also owed much to the collective brilliance of those gathering in Busby.

This was serious business and my father never lost his focus on achieving independence for Scotland. But, gloriously and raucously, all of the participants in these political discussions were also regulars at the Garaidh Gualach ceilidhs that broke out spontaneously, the fuse wire being lit by the production of a bottle of malt.

Favourite memories include Winnie Ewing continuing to sing gamely when the electricity meter ran out, Malky McCormick, the celebrated cartoonist, falling off the railway wall in the garden while playing skiffle on his banjo, Hamish Imlach, the folk singer, cooking a curry and Danny Kyle, the musician, almost setting the house on fire while attempting an arcane magic trick.

These revelries were invariably and briefly halted by my father entering the room, dressed in mohair suit, silk tie and cashmere overcoat. The collective inquiry was roared: "What are you up to Uisdean?''

"I am off to my work,'' was the advertisement director's succinct reply.

Most of his later years were spent in Islay, where he built a house near Portnahaven. He loved the island and its people and he will be buried there on Friday with a memorial service being held in Glasgow at a later date.

His decline into severe ill health was accelerated by the loss of his much-loved sister, Anne, last year. He is survived by five children, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

He was a great man. One does not have to be a son to say that with certainty, but it helps in declaring it with pride.

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