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A fine man who deserved greater recognition

Donald_Macaulay.jpgGeorge Foulkes pays tribute to Donald Macaulay, the Lord Macaulay of Bragar

Donald Macaulay died at home in Edinburgh on 12 June surrounded by a loving family, including his wife Mary and daughters Donna and Joanne. His life was given fair coverage in an obituary in The Scotsman and his funeral at Warriston Crematorium last Thursday was attended by many friends and former colleagues.

However, like many fine people who do great work but never seek the limelight, Donald’s achievements have not been fully acknowledged. His legal work, as a young advocate, later as a QC and as a Labour legal spokesman in the Lords were characterised by an outstanding ability to plead a case simply and powerfully.

Lord Abernethy, a colleague at the Scottish Bar said: “Donald was much liked and respected as an individual and as a lawyer, he had an outstanding ability to present the facts of the case to a jury. He was lucid and avoided, wherever possible, complicated legal terms.”

Pilmar Smith, former Hearts Vice-Chairman tells me when, as a young bookmaker, he was charged by the police for taking an illegal bet in the days before betting shops, his lawyer recommended a young advocate to defend him. Donald pleaded his case eloquently and, getting him off the charge, obtained a friend for life.

Donald was also instrumental in getting Rangers footballer Graham Roberts a not proven verdict, when he was charged (along with Terry Butcher and Chris Woods) in 1988 with Breach of the Peace following an Old Firm Derby encounter with Celtic’s Frank McAvennie. Footballers are not immune from the law, although some might think so, but Donald argued: “The action complained of was totally within the field of play and not calculated against the crowd”; so they got off. This was a unique test case for which Donald deserved more recognition than he received.

Donald was totally committed to the Labour Party. He stood for us in Inverness in 1970 against the sitting MP Russell Johnston; and he would have risen higher than his legal affairs role in the Lords had circumstances been different. Such are the vagaries of political life.

He did do some preliminary work on the Lockerbie bomber case and led a team, including Professor Robert Black to Tripoli in 1993. But the responsibility was taken over by others and we will never know what might have transpired had Donald subsequently dealt with the case.

He was also one of the wonderful band of lifelong Hearts supporters, following the club through highs and lows. The natural choice therefore, as Chair of the working party that I set up in 2004, as Chairman of the Club, to look at options for a permanent home. They did an excellent job but the Report was overtaken by the roller-coaster ride we were to experience under the ownership of Vladimir Romanov.

Donald was one of a group of fine Labour-supporting Edinburgh lawyers, including Andrew Hardie, Peter Gillan and the late Alan Finlayson who met and drank together as a team in the fine traditions of Edinburgh’s Legal Left.

In 2003, he had a liver transplant at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Although he never returned to the sparkling form he had previously, it enabled him to attend Parliament regularly up until a few years ago. Donald continued his support of the Party, Hearts and more recently, the Better Together campaign. Indeed, the last time I saw him was at the launch of its Edinburgh branch last year. He was a loyal friend, a kindly man, a fine lawyer and a committed Socialist.

Donald’s family came originally from Lewis and, although his parents moved to Clydebank in the 1920s, he never forgot his Island heritage. He was from a modest background, the youngest of a family of seven. In distinguished life and career, he made a great contribution carried through with humility and will be remembered fondly by his many friends throughout the UK and beyond.

Lord George Foulkes of Cumnock is a backbench Labour Peer. He tweets@GeorgeFoulkes

Published 23rd June 2014

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