Dr Jack Kane, OBE, former Lord Provost of Edinburgh; born April 1, 1911, died

October 10, 1999

JACK KANE earned a special place in the history of Edinburgh as the city's first Labour Lord Provost. He bore his high office with dignity and humility and brought to it a quality of decency and integrity that made him an outstanding first citizen. The opposite of a pompous politician, he was a plain man who was quiet, courteous and approachable, but who never left any doubt about his strength of purpose.

The way to the top for him was long and hard. When he was elected in May 1972 to serve a three-year term, 34 years had passed since he joined Edinburgh Corporation in November, 1938. He represented Liberton first, broken by war service of six years in the Royal Artillery, then, from May, 1949, Craigmillar, one of the city's poorest areas. Throughout his career he fought strenuously for deprived communities across the city. He was not a man to give up easily. His elevation to the civic chair followed a lengthy period as leader of the Labour opposition in the Council. A steadfast fighter, he would put his group's case with determination and conviction.

Jack Kane was born in Addiewell, West Lothian, the youngest of three brothers, and later lived at Stoneyburn. He grew up in the austere conditions faced by mining communities between the wars. After his family moved to Niddrie Mains in Edinburgh in the thirties, he and his brothers organised a tenants' defence league which opposed evictions and rent rises, and later formed a local Labour party, which opened his path to the Town Council.

An effective campaigner, he organised a march of mothers with babies in prams to the City Chambers to demand a medical service for the Niddrie Mains area. This initiative was typical of his approach. He was instrumental in bringing many amenities to Craigmillar and also encouraged people elsewhere to press for improvements such as

sheltered housing and play groups.

He was chairman of the Craigmillar Festival Society, which was formed in 1962, and remained its honorary president at his death. The Jack Kane Centre in Craigmillar, opened in the mid-seventies, was named after him at the insistence of local people as a mark of their esteem. It provides facilities for a wide range of sports activities and has a community wing which was added through his support.

When he became Lord Provost, he said he was not impressed by memorials in stone but interested in ''the social problems that beset us''.

In an address to Edinburgh Presbytery (an event that caused surprise as he was an agnostic), he said he was worried that we had a passive rather than an active democracy. ''Too many people are prepared to let things happen to them instead of taking part in deciding what is happening. They are too ready to be pushed around by bureaucracy.''

He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Edinburgh International Festival. In 1974, he refused the offer of a knighthood in the New Year's Honours List, although the award was regarded then as automatic for the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow. He thought the honour would ''separate me from the kind of people I have tried to represent,'' and added: ''For very personal reasons, I did not want to take it because I did not come into local government looking for anything like this.''

But other honours were bestowed. He received an OBE in 1969 and in 1976 was awarded an honorary

doctorate by Edinburgh University.

Jack Kane was also the last Lord Provost of Edinburgh before local government re-organisation in 1975. At the final gathering of Edinburgh Town Councillors in May of that year, when it seemed a new era was at hand, he said realistically that

different problems would face authorities in future ''but there will always be problems''.

It was characteristic that he then joined the new Lothian Regional Council in the Niddrie/Craigmillar seat, making him the first civic head of Edinburgh to continue in public life after leaving office. He stood down two years later on the eve of his 66th birthday ''to spend more time with my family and see friends,'' but still had abundant commitments, which included being chairman of the Electricity Consultative Council for Scotland and the board of trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland. In 1983 he became chairman of Age Concern Scotland.

He was educated at Bathgate Academy and began work as a clerk. From 1936 to 1955 he was a librarian, then district secretary of the Workers' Educational Association (South East Scotland) from 1955 to 1978. In his biographical details, he gave his recreations as reading and walking.

He is survived by his wife, Anne, two daughters, a son and one grandson.