Obituary: James Wright McLeod, senior customs and excise official

James McLeod. Picture: Contributed
James McLeod. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 26 October, 1920, in Glasgow. Died: 14 June, 2013, in Glasgow, aged 92.

JAMES (“Jim”) Wright McLeod was born on Calder Street, Glasgow in 1920 to George, a lead glass worker, and Mary McLeod. He attended school at Albert Road Academy, along with his elder brother George.

James McLeod for obits

James McLeod for obits

Jim took the civil service exam and in 1938 moved to London where he was employed at the Royal Hospital Chelsea until enlisting in the Navy as an Ordinary Seaman following the outbreak of the Second World War. He served on board HMS Duke of York when Sir Winston Churchill crossed the Atlantic to meet with President Roosevelt in December 1941 and was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant in July 1942.

He fought most of the war in tank landing craft based at Troon in the Firth of Clyde and trained in various locations on the west coast of Scotland in the lead up to the Normandy landings. He was promoted to Lieutenant in February 1944 and was part of the British force that successfully landed swimming tanks on Gold Beach in Normandy on 6 June, 1944.

Jim was then given command of tank landing craft LCQ 381 and sailed through the Suez Canal over the equator via India to Malaya with the purpose of taking part in the invasion of that country in Operation Zipper, an operation that was cancelled following the Japanese surrender.

In Aden, on the return journey from the Far East, he met future wife, Muriel, and they returned to England and were married on 25 January, 1947. Their marriage lasted 64 years until Muriel died in April 2011, and included many happy times and the birth of six sons.

After the war, Jim returned to civilian life and employment with the civil service, though he maintained an active naval career. In 1947 he took up a further War Office appointment, returning to Malaysia for a short time.

Serving with the RNVR after the war through HMS Claverhouse in Edinburgh, Jim served initially as Navigator with the rank of Lieutenant Commander (attained in 1961) aboard the reserve minesweeper HMS Killicrankie. He finally retired from active naval service in 1973.

After the war, Jim re-joined the Custom and Excise service working at London Airport and Docks before moving to Edinburgh with his growing family of three boys, Iain, Graham and Duncan in 1954. Gordon and Ronald were born from the home in Silverknowes and Eric from Traquair Park West in Corstorphine.

Jim was a talented rugby player and it was only the outbreak of war that stopped a potential representative career. In London, he played for and captained the London Civil Service Club from scrum half against various club and representative sides from 1951 to 1954.

Following the move to Edinburgh he joined Edinburgh Northern RFC, his arrival heralding the rise of that club as a major force in Edinburgh rugby for most of the latter half of the 1950s.

The seven-a-side team he captained won the inaugural Edinburgh Northern Sevens in 1955 and again in 1958 and 1959 while in 1957 they won the Edinburgh and District competition.

Jim maintained an active involvement in rugby after his playing days and was for many years both an active referee and secretary of the Edinburgh and District Rugby Referees Society. Woe-betide any of his sons who omitted to take exact details of any phone call during those years!

In recognition of his services to Scottish rugby, in 1974 Jim was given the honour by the Scottish Rugby Union of being invited to be the touch judge for the Ireland V Scotland game played in Dublin that year. The official Scotland team photo shows him standing proudly beside a team that included the likes of Sir Ian McGeechan, Andy Irvine, Gordon Brown and many other Scottish rugby greats.

Prior to his retirement in 1978, Jim held a variety of posts within Customs and Excise, rising to the post of Assistant Collector of VAT for Stratchclyde.

Life after retirement was a good and happy time for Jim and Muriel. They had moved from Edinburgh to Helensburgh in 1976 and after a brief period living in MacMerry, settled there in Douglas Drive after his retirement.

Jim loved music, and played the piano, clarinet and violin enthusiastically and with competence. The family and friends share many memories of the rugby club parties in Traquair Park West. Following roast dinner on a Sunday he’d entertain the family and the inevitable visiting friends with music on the piano.

He was the life of any party: at one Burns night at the Edinburgh Northern clubhouse he had the audience in stitches when he abruptly stopped playing his fiddle to scrabble around on the floor picking up the coins that were being thrown.

Jim’s repertoire of jokes and tall tales are remembered by many; he and his friends did a lot of laughing – especially at his own jokes!

There were no dull moments as he had many hobbies and interests including making music both with the local Helensburgh orchestra and the fiddlers group, as well as gardening, fly fishing, and wine-making (perhaps best forgotten). He also served as coach and president of Helensburgh Rugby Club, as well as being a selector for Glasgow and District Rugby Union.

Jim and Muriel made several extended trips to stay with family in Australia and New Zealand and his grandchildren there have very fond memories of a very fit and active pair of grandparents.

Jim died in Glasgow on 14 June, 2013. He leaves a legacy of six sons, six daughters-in-law, 12 grandchildren and, to date, six great-grandchildren – with one more on the way.

He was a thoroughly decent and honest man, with an extremely strong and acute sense of decency and fair play, someone who more than made his contribution to society and who brought more than his share of laughter to others.