Glasgow University plans Charles Kennedy tribute

Charles Kennedy, centre, with Vince Gallagher, Clark McGuinn, Ross McKenzie, and the Observer Mace, 1980. Picture: Contributed

Charles Kennedy, centre, with Vince Gallagher, Clark McGuinn, Ross McKenzie, and the Observer Mace, 1980. Picture: Contributed

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The brilliance of Charles Kennedy’s debating skills and his contribution to public life will be celebrated at a series of events organised by Glasgow University in his memory.

The academic institution where Kennedy developed his oratorical talents is to arrange a memorial service to mark the passing of one of its favourite sons.

Charles Kennedy was president of the Glasgow University Student Union when broadcaster Reginald Bosinquet, right, conducted his campaign to become rector in October 1980. Part of the rectorial was a custard pie-throwing competition. Picture: Contributed

Charles Kennedy was president of the Glasgow University Student Union when broadcaster Reginald Bosinquet, right, conducted his campaign to become rector in October 1980. Part of the rectorial was a custard pie-throwing competition. Picture: Contributed

In addition, the Glasgow University Union will hold a dinner to remember the late Lib Dem leader, who was president of the Union from 1980 to 1981.

Meanwhile, current students are contacting Kennedy’s student contemporaries and consulting university archives to find out more about his undergraduate days when he took a prominent role in student activities.

The World Universities Debating Championships have also been in touch with Glasgow University to discuss having a trophy named in his honour.

Kennedy’s prowess as a university debater was legendary. He played a key role in establishing the World Universities Championships and won the British Observer Mace for university debating in 1982.

His Glasgow memorial service will be held after his funeral in Fort William, details of which are expected to be announced shortly by his family.

The Liberal Democrats also intend to organise a London memorial service marking his contribution to the party and UK politics in general.

The university service will be held in the institution’s Bute Hall, where Kennedy graduated with an MA (Hons) degree in Politics and Philosophy in 1982 and near the Union where the politician-to-be triumphed in many student debates.

Bute Hall is also where Kennedy was twice inaugurated as rector, serving in that position from 2008 to 2014.

Kennedy’s death from a major haemorrhage, at his home in Fort William last week, has led to much sadness at his alma mater – particularly among students who knew him as rector.

“He really enthused people to get involved in things because he got so involved himself,” said Rory Slater, Glasgow University Union president.

Kennedy was president of the GUU at a crucial time in its history. A vote had just been taken to end its single sex status, so he was in charge at a time when it was welcoming its first female members.

Writing in the student newspaper, the Glasgow Guardian, after the change, the then GUU president showed some of the qualities and determination he later displayed as a politician. “In marked contrast to the bitterness, divisions and conflicts of recent times, the real concern for the Union must be the provision of good social facilities for all students,” he wrote.

“Sadly, because of the pressure of and pace of events, vis à vis the entire mixing issue last term, this has not always received the fullest attention.”

Chris Sibbald, a former GUU president who ran the Charles Kennedy for Rector campaign, reflected on his more recent association with the university, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2001.

Sibbald said: “He used to hold regular student surgeries and come to student events and he had cross-campus support. He was very popular. He loved the vibrancy of the university. He was seen as being a big university man. He had a huge interest in education, and for me and many others he was just a wonderful mentor.

“He recognised that his frontline political career was over, and with some compassion he wanted to impart his own knowledge and interests. He was just a thoroughly decent man.”

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