Obituary: Ian Berry, MBE, JP

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Born: 14 April 1933 in Portobello. Died: 5 May 2013 in Edinburgh, aged 80.

IAN Berry was a widely popular Edinburgh councillor for the best part of 30 years, between 1977 and 2007, first within Lothian Regional Council, later for the unitary City of Edinburgh Council. By party, he was a Conservative but on the streets of his ward, latterly Duddingston, he was described as “a man for all people” who put the interests of his fellow residents before party politics.

In 2006, the year before he retired, he was invited to Buckingham Palace to be made an MBE for his services to local government in Edinburgh. He also became a passionate historian of his beloved Portobello in particular and Edinburgh as a whole.

In later life, maintaining a love of horses he got from his father – an ironmonger who owned racehorses – Berry was a supporter of the racecourses at Musselburgh, Perth and Kelso. Also a keen golfer, he was a member of Longniddry and of the Musselburgh Golf Club at Monktonhall.

Ian John Berry was born on 14 April, 1933, in Portobello, where his father ran a popular ironmonger’s on the High Street. After attending Holy Cross Academy in Leith, he did his national service from 1951-54 in the Royal Air Force before joining his father’s business, which became known as John Berry & Son. Ian took over after his father died. He married Sylvia Garvey, who would remain his faithful companion and supporter throughout his career and until his death.

He was first elected to Lothian Regional Council (Portobello/Milton Division) in 1977, serving on numerous boards and committees, including the Lothian Borders Fire Board, the Police Board and the highways committee, which he chaired from 1982-85. He was vice-convener of the council from 1985-86.

In 1983, he was appointed as a justice of the peace for the city of Edinburgh by the Secretary of State for Scotland and from 1988-92 he served as a magistrate in Edinburgh’s District Court.

From 1995-99, he served on the board of the East of Scotland Water Authority, again appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and served on its property committee.

While he was a regional councillor for Lothian, Berry was a driving force behind the construction of the Megget Reservoir in Ettrick Forest. The Borders reservoir opened in 1983 and collects water from the Tweedsmuir Hills to service ­Edinburgh and beyond.

Berry’s colleagues across the political spectrum say he was a steadying influence during the uncertain transition from Lothian Regional Council to the City of Edinburgh Council, with its headquarters at City Chambers on the Royal Mile. “Ian was 100 per cent dependable. He would go through the gates of hell for you,” Edinburgh councillor Allan Jackson told The Scotsman. “But he was a personal-type councillor, more concerned with residents than pumping politics. I learned a lot from him.”

In 2002, Berry hit the headlines when he urged Duddingston residents to “be diligent in the locking of doors and windows” after a burglary on Duddingston Road. “I have been noticing a number of dubious people in the area recently,” he said. “We need to know we are safe in our beds.”

Also as councillor for Duddingston in 2005, Berry played a key role in the saga of “speed cushions” to slow down traffic on Duddingston Road, home to primary schools and a nursing home. The council was swamped by complaints that the speed bumps were too bumpy, too steep, were damaging cars and even hurting drivers’ backs. Berry pushed successfully for less-steep bumps, despite the cost of replacing the old ones. The private company that had built the bumps, at an estimated cost of £1,500 each, was forced to replace them with a lesser degree of steepness.

Berry was a key figure in blocking plans for an underpass in Portobello, launching a vigorous campaign in favour of the surface roundabout at King’s Road, which remains today. In 2005, along with furious residents, he also fought the phone company T-Mobile over its plans to site a mobile phone mast in the heart of his patch – Mountcastle Drive in Duddingston – just yards from a doctor’s surgery, a care home from the elderly and a respite home for sick children.

Berry held many honours. He was honorary vice-president of Portobello Unionist Club, a member of the board of trustees of the Portobello Branch of the Royal British Legion (Scotland) and a past chairman of the Portobello Merchants and Hoteliers ­Association.

In retirement, in addition to his golf and horseracing, he travelled the world with his wife – the pair were big fans of holiday cruises. They were also avid theatre-goers, strong supporters of the Edinburgh Playhouse and regular visitors to see London plays or shows. “Mum stuck to him like glue,” said their daughter Veronica. “During his career in local government, people used to joke that she was ‘the Dennis Thatcher’ behind the politician.”

Ian Berry died in Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital. He is survived by his wife Sylvia, daughters Veronica, Cynthia and Clarissa, and six grandchildren.

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