Patrick O'Neill, OBE, JP, provost; born Dumbarton, May 3, 1928, died Dumbarton, May 15, 1998

PROVOST Patrick O'Neill, universally known as Pat, was one of life's gentlemen. His unfailing courtesy and kindness to those whom he served as provost and councillor earned him widespread respect.

Pat's contribution to the life of his local community was recognised when he was awarded the OBE in the New Year's Honours List this year. He publicly acknowledged that the honour was as much for his wife, May, as it was for him, for without her forbearance and unfailing support he always said he could not have pursued a career in politics.

Pat was born in the Townend area of Dumbarton, one of a family of four. They were brought up by their grandmother following their mother's death when Pat was four years old. He went to school at St Patrick's Primary and St Patrick's High School, Dumbarton. He served his time as a motor mechanic at Dumbuck Garage, where one of his tasks was taking the young Jackie Stewart to school.

Pat was a trade unionist and lifelong member of the Labour Party, whose commitment sprang from the social teaching of the Catholic Church. When he was first elected to Dumbarton Town Council in 1962, the council was replacing old tenement slums with modern housing. There could have been no more concrete expression of Pat's commitment to social justice. His death occurred on the anniversary of the publication of Rerum Novarum, one of the social encyclicals that inspired him.

Pat was a member of the Allied Engineering Union and served for 25 years as branch secretary. He represented the Labour Party and the AEU at Scottish conferences for 27 years, and was given the AEU award of merit for 39 years' active service.

He held the banner on peace marches at Faslane in the 1980s and worked ceaselessly behind the scenes for local people. On the day of his daughter's engagement party, Pat was told that one of the local burns was threatening to overflow and flood nearby houses. As the family celebration got under way, the father of the bride-to-be was knee deep in water, helping council workers clear the burn.

Pat was a man of many interests. On National Service in the late 1940s, he boxed for the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. Later he became a boxing coach for St Patrick's Boys Club, Dumbarton.

He was a gifted singer and member of his church choir and local operatic society. In 1990 he campaigned to change the venue of the Pavarotti concert in Glasgow, which he believed should have been more accessible to ordinary members of the public. The campaign failed, but he organised a bus to take local people to hear the great international star.

He also campaigned to restore the Maid of the Loch, the last inland paddle steamer to be built in Britain. His dream was to see the Maid sailing once more on Loch Lomond.

Above all, Pat was a family man, devoted to his children and grandchildren and his wife, May. He was the last Provost of Dumbarton District, and the first of West Dunbartonshire. The award of OBE was a fitting tribute to a career of quiet but distinguished public service.