LEADING figures from the armed forces yesterday paid tribute to the “remarkable life” of Scotland’s former chief inspector of prisons and ex-SAS commander Clive Fairweather.
They were joined by government ministers, other senior politicians and representatives from charities which help former service personnel at a memorial service for Mr Fairweather, who died last month after a short illness. He was 68.
Friends and family of the “maverick” father-of-three told how Scotland had lost a special man who believed in “championing the underdog” and undertook years of public service with “unrelenting good humour”.
His glittering military career – which included commanding the SAS team which recaptured the Iranian embassy in 1980 after terrorists held staff hostage – was praised by a number of former colleagues who recalled countless good-humoured tales from his time in the army.
Major General Andrew MacKay told the 600-strong gathering at Edinburgh’s Canongate Kirk: “By anyone’s standards, Clive was unique, a one off. He enjoyed nothing more than taking on a different view, he was a maverick. He had a willingness to speak the truth to people in power and help those unable to speak for themselves. To act in the way he did, challenging authority, required moral courage. He had genuine support and care for the underdog, the disadvantaged.”
The retired major general told how despite his prestigious service career and accomplishments, Mr Fairweather never lost his human touch which was evident in the way he fought for prison reform in Scotland, in particular improving conditions for female offenders.
The SNP’s foreign affairs and defence spokesman, Angus Robertson, housing and transport minister Keith Brown and former Scottish Parliament presiding officer Alex Fergusson were among the congregation which heard how Mr Fairweather’s long military career began with him joining the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and rising to commanding officer and the rank of full colonel. He went on to complete three tours of duty with the SAS and was security adviser to the Iranian and Jordanian royal households in 1970-71.
He guarded Adolf Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess in Berlin’s notorious Spandau prison and was second-in-command of the SAS at the time of the Iranian embassy siege in London in 1980. His last job in the military was as security officer for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Between 1994 to 2002, he worked as chief inspector of prisons in Scotland and was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2003 for his lifetime of public service. He later became chief fundraiser for ex-service personnel charities Combat Stress and Gardening Leave. He also pursued a career in journalism in later life, regularly writing in The Scotsman, drawing on his many years in the military and the prison service.
Reverend Neil Gardner, who led the poignant 70-minute service, described how Mr Fairweather led a “remarkable life”.
He said: “An unruly influence is how best describes his life. He stood up for many people who left us too early he too has been asked to leave early, earlier than he deserved.”