Long-serving officer of Western Isles Council An appreciation

Long-serving officer of Western Isles Council An appreciation

Born: November 16, 1950; Died: April 4, 2014.

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I was lucky enough to know Derek McKim for well over 30 years. He was a colleague, funding collaborator and, I am pleased to say, despite our occasional spats, a close friend. He was highly intelligent and spiritual, with an Irishman's beard and long curly hair. He was also robust in debate and could be slightly intimidating to people who did not know him.

He started work with Western Isles Council (Comhairle nan Eilean) in 1975, having previously worked for Stornoway Town Council, and was with the council until his semi-retirement in 2010, making him one of its longest serving officers. He was a great servant of the council and of the people of the Western Isles. He was in charge of levering European Objective One money into the Islands and he was brilliant at it.

Year after year, the Western Isles would get the lion's share of the available funding. Many millions of pounds came into the islands from Europe because of the Derek's work. He knew the right people in Europe, he knew the politics, he knew the system and he knew how to fill in an application to achieve maximum effect. Still to this day, his name is well known throughout European circles at all levels.

The one problem he had with these applications was meeting the deadline, and tales abound of how he would have to fly off to Inverness or Brussels to hand deliver an application by the due date. His explanation of this would be quite simple - he had been working on it until the last possible moment to make sure the application was as good as it could possibly be, and if that meant starting a rewrite at midnight then so be it.

Later, he headed up the external strategy function of the council which included community planning, European relations and, much to his own surprise, the press office. Typically of Derek, when retirement came, he didn't go - he immediately took on consultancy work on Islepact, a renewable energy project, for Western Isles Foyer, levering in half a million pounds worth of European funding, and Point and Sandwick Development Trust, levering in a million pounds worth of Big Lottery money; indeed there is no road, bridge, causeway or building in the Western Isles that attracted European funding in which Derek was not directly involved.

He was a fine officer and despite, perhaps because of, his uniqueness, he will be fondly remembered and respected by many across Scotland, the UK, in Europe and of course, in his chosen home of the Western Isles.

When he first became ill two years ago, he resolved to fight it all the way with typical tenacity, and was closely involved in planning his medical care from the outset. He was fulsome in his praise of our National Health System, and all those who cared for him in Ospadal nan Eilean, Raigmore Hospital, and latterly Bethesda Hospice.

He loved many people in his life and those who were close to him will know he was capable of great love, understanding and compassion. He was a complex man- an Irish protestant from Dublin with roots in Sligo in who supported Celtic. He was an academic, obtaining a master's degree in his semi-retirement, and he had started a theology degree with Edinburgh University. I am sure he would have completed the course with distinction had ill health not overtaken him.

He liked an occasional flutter on the horses, and loved his dog, Sassy. He was an "almost" loyal Labour party member, and he worked for many years on the board of the Garenin Trust. He was a man who loved literature, politics, Gaelige and Gaidhlig, and music.

His interests and passions were many and varied. He was an Irish Renaissance Man. And therein lies one of the reasons why he was sometimes tardy in his timekeeping - there just wasn't time in life for everything he wanted to do.

It was my great privilege to know Derek and to count him as my friend. Slan leat, Derek a' charaid, bi sinn gh'ad chaoidh agus dha d'ionndrainn, is math a rinn thu.