Iain Mann

Born: November 19, 1932;

Died: December 25, 2023

Iain A D Mann, who has died aged 91, became a household name to many people who read the letters page of The Herald on a wide array of topics.

In researching for his obituary, the first electronically recorded letter I can find is on October 9, 1998 in response to a letter from Iain Logie who was recalling the opening of the Ascot Cinema in Anniesland. Iain recalled in this letter that he too had been at the opening, going on to say, “In the pre-television days of the 40s and 50s, the Ascot was the entertainment hub of the local community, with full programmes changing twice weekly and sometimes three times a week.

“The Ascot balcony was also a popular venue for the younger generation on Saturday evenings, before perhaps going on to a local dance! How sad to see the derelict building today, empty, neglected and in a poor state of repair. In a more enlightened or resourceful society it might by now have been converted into a community and leisure centre for the local residents of Kelvindale and neighbouring Claythorn, to compensate them for the loss of almost all their green spaces in recent years.” Of course, the Ascot went on to be developed as residential property, with the façade being retained. This pleased Iain.

And whilst Iain’s letter writing declined in recent years, he nevertheless retained a keen interest in The Herald and the letters pages as well as he and Mary, his loving wife, trying to complete the crosswords each day. Mary would start off in the morning before before handed to Iain to try and complete. Mary often would come back to him with another thought she had had in relation to one of the clues. A team effort indeed. And in his very last few days in hospital, Iain was still completing some of the clues in The Herald crossword.

Iain Alexander Dewar Mann was born in Knightswood, Glasgow, the only son of Robert John (Jack) and Elizabeth (Lily) Mann. Iain’s first school was Bankhead Primary. In September 1939 he moved to Jordanhill College School and spent the rest of his school career there except for an 18-month period at Perth Academy in 1941/42 while evacuated.

On leaving school Iain began a five-year apprenticeship in accountancy while simultaneously studying for a law degree at Glasgow University. He graduated in law in 1954 and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1956. National service followed and he accepted a three-year commission in the Royal Air Force, spending all but a few months of his service at RAF Kinloss in Morayshire.

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On qualifying as an accountant, he joined an accountancy firm but he quickly realised he wanted to be in a journalistic environment and so joined George Outram & Company, well-known publishers at that time of the Glasgow Herald and other newspapers and magazines, as deputy to the chief accountant. His job at George Outram got Iain close to journalism; it was one of his early career ambitions to become a sport journalist. We all know that his formidable letter writing in later years was the fulfilment of that early ambition. And there is no doubt that Iain was an able man with words, often composing complex and thought-provoking letters in relation to myriad subjects. I have no doubt he could have become a successful journalist had he chosen to do so.

Iain’s longest role in business was in Yarrows PLC, starting there in 1965. The late 60s and early 70s were turbulent times in the shipbuilding trade. Clyde Shipbuilding was in the doldrums and the clamour to nationalise the Clyde shipbuilders was gaining momentum. At this same time, the board of Yarrows, had the foresight to see that elements of their business were very successful, particularly naval shipbuilding and so Yarrows (Shipbuilding) was created. Iain was instrumental in this. And as predicted, in 1969, with Harold Wilson’s Labour government in power, Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) was born and part of Yarrows was subsumed into UCS.

The 70s continued to be turbulent years. It saw a short-lived Tory Government under Ted Heath and then in 1974 Harold Wilson was, again, back in Number 10. It was at this point that the new Labour government immediately set about its main nationalisation scheme, introducing the “Aircraft and Shipbuilding Nationalisation Bill”. Iain managed to persuade the Yarrow’s Board to appoint him as the company’s official “man at Westminster”. He attended every debate on the Bill in both the Commons and the Lords, and also all 38 sittings of the Committee Stage

Iain continued to work for Yarrows until 1986, when he needed emergency surgery and had a triple heart by-pass. At this time, this was pioneering surgery and Iain was one of the first people in Scotland to undergo this life-saving operation. It was during his recovery from this operation, Iain decided to take early retirement and this was when his prolific letter writing took off.

In reviewing Iain’s files on his laptop where he meticulously filed his letters I added up that from 1998 to 2020, across The Herald and the Sunday Herald he wrote 1,620 letters. Some shorty and pithy; some long and complex with multi-layered arguments.

The last letter he saved on his computer on 17 January 2020, in many ways sums up Iain. A fiercely patriotic Scot who loved his country but often asked the difficult questions about its future.

“Gordon Casely’s letter ‘Minister’s stushie over the Stone’ brought back some long-forgotten personal memories. In 1951 I was a first-year student at Glasgow University, and remember the excitement when it emerged that the daring removal of the Stone from Westminster Abbey and its return to Scotland had been carried out by a group of Glasgow fellow students (although I never knew or met any of them).

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“My sentiments were mixed, however, as my father was at the time the officer in charge of the Glasgow Police Special Branch responsible for finding and recovering the Stone (not, it seems, a very difficult task, as it was being held in a Sauchiehall Street stonemason’s yard owned by a well-known supporter of Scottish Nationalism!)

“The intriguing mystery remains, however. Is today’s Stone really the one brought back from the Holy Land, or was it replaced centuries ago and replaced by a lump of worthless Perthshire sandstone just before the English troops arrived? Does the real Stone remain buried in some unknown Scottish field where it was hidden by those who removed/stole it from its London display cabinet? Will we ever know? I doubt it. Iain A D Mann, Kelvin Court, Glasgow.”

Iain will be very much missed by his family, his many friends who enjoyed his company and conversation and I suspect by some of you reading this today, who often got in touch with him to agree or disagree with his latest letter!

Iain is survived by his widow, Mary.

Donald-Iain (D-I) Brown