Born: December 17, 1942; Died: March 13, 2014. AN APPRECIATION
As a journalist I have always tried to keep a professional distance from top-of-the-tree politicians and activists who wield below-the-radar influence in their parties. Occasionally, I break the rule with people to whom I take a shine. Tom Brady was such a man. His death from cancer at the age of 71 comes as a profound shock to me.
For about a decade we socialised together, laughed a lot, gossiped outrageously and genuinely loved one another's company. In recent times, his assiduous attention to his duties as a grandfather left him to drift from the kind of close friendships and frenetic activism which had been the hallmarks of earlier periods of his life.
He was small in stature but big in personality. He was fun loving and carried himself around with a suggestively fruity laugh. He would often look at me oddly. I laughed at the way he laughed rather than any comic import in his conversation.
He had a journalist's curiosity about events and was an inveterate letter-writer to The Herald. He always had a sideways, often highly original take on events. He was a nationalist and interpreted events from that standpoint but he was never narrow. Although he was a party man, he was not blind to other opinions. He was mischievous in debate and wound-up his opponents with a twinkle in his eye. But he never took disagreements personally.
As an East End of Glasgow boy, he was aware of the tales of Red Clydeside. The spirit of Wheatley would have stirred a political curiosity and he had Labour sympathies long before he joined the SNP. But when his politics settled, it was in the Nationalist interest and he never wavered from the belief that self respect, social justice and self determination were a trinity of values that would transform the lives of those he cared about.
He was elected as a councillor for the Calton area in Glasgow in 1968. He had a lifelong eye for publicity, ably demonstrated when he suggested that a dead rat should be smuggled into the corporation to berate the housing convenor about the state of the city's stock. This was duly executed to the discomfort of the administration.
He could shake the opposition and no doubt that was central in the SNP selecting him as their candidate in the Gorbals by-election of 1969. After Winnie Ewing's victory at the Hamilton by-election in 1967, hopes were high but the voters did not succumb to thousands of posters and leaflets proclaiming "Tom Brady is the man".
When I met him, he had retired at the age of 49, having had an offer he could not refuse from the then SSEB or South of Scotland Electricity Board - a fat redundancy cheque and paid-up final salary pension. It allowed him to indulge his activism and play the stock market, which he did with moderate success.
With time on his hands, he might have thought about a second political career but he was a remarkably content man. He was always generous in advancing the cause of younger members and was particularly happy to support current minister Michael Matheson and the twice by-election candidate and former BBC journalist David Kerr. If he found someone pompous or overbearing, he was not above playing the dedicated apparatchik to deliver a career-ending vote of no confidence.
He was an uncomplicated person who took great contentment from family and friends, such as the veteran nationalist Ken Taylor. He also took great comfort from his faith. He was a spiritual rather than doctrinaire Catholic and was one of the first of that faith to be elected for the SNP in Glasgow. He was proud of that. How a little trail blazing has gone a long way.
All parties have activists of great ability and dedication. They go unnoticed but they are the lifeblood of their movement. What a pity Tom will not be around for September 18. When the result is known, I will allow myself a little quiet contemplation as I look skywards and ask: "What are we to make of it all Mr Brady?"