IN his time, John Butterly, pictured, helped save thousands of old Glasgow tenements from demolition.

He was a key figure in housing associations such as Reidvale, was awarded the MBE in 1984, and died, aged 73, in March 2001.

A sheltered housing complex in Dennistoun today bears his name. He may not have been famous outwith the association movement but one person who remembers him fondly is Damian McBride, former media adviser to Gordon Brown. In a chapter on the honours system in his book, Power Trip, he refers to the "late, great John Butterly" who "was a teenager when he got a job working on Glasgow's docks". Mr McBride also remembers the look of pride on John's face when he received his MBE at Buckingham Palace.

How come someone as high-profile as Mr McBride knew a Glasgow bloke like John Butterly? Intrigued, we emailed him yesterday - and got this in reply.

"John was one of my dad's best friends growing up, and they stayed close even when my dad moved to London (before John began his crusade to restore the tenements)," he says.

"Every summer when I was young, my Dad and I would go to Donegal via Glasgow and spend a few days either side with John and his wife Betty in their flat in Dennistoun, me knocking around with his grandsons in the local park.

"John took me for my first visit to Parkhead - against St Johnstone - and my best-ever football experience, the first leg of the centenary double, the league win at home to Dundee."

Mr McBride was nine when John received his MBE from Prince Charles - "My dad drove John, Betty and their daughter June to the Palace in his converted black cab."

He adds: "Aside from the Celtic games, my abiding memories of John are the many hours late at night I'd sit with my dad shaking with laughter at the stories he'd tell about what he and his mates got up to working on the Glasgow docks - for some reason, one about nicking every crate of sausage skins always sticks in my mind - or putting one over on the council on behalf of the housing association.

"He always had a fag and a giant whisky in his hand, long after he'd been told to give them both up. He really was one of the most influential figures of my youth, and I regret we lost touch when my Dad left home.

"You've just," he finishes, "brought lots of memories flooding back."