Obituary: Adam Montgomery, Provost, councillor and shop steward

Adam Montgomery
Adam Montgomery
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Adam Montgomery, Provost, councillor and shop steward. Born: 5 November, 1950 in Irvine, Ayrshire. Died: 10 January, 2018 in Edinburgh, aged 67

Steeped in the mining tradition, the son of a miner and Communist Party member, it was perhaps not surprising that Adam Montgomery would find himself drawn to left wing politics and the coal industry.

His grandfather worked the pits for 58 years from the age of 11 and his father, a safety inspector, investigated more than 150 fatal accidents down the mines. He himself was a lifelong member of both the Labour Party and the Co-operative Party and as a young man his first job was with the National Coal Board.

He was all too aware of the issues faced by the working man in the 1960s but it wasn’t until after he began working for the local authority, and representing fellow colleagues in the union NALGO, that he realised he could make a greater difference to the lives of others by stepping into the world of local politics.

When he stood for Labour in his own Penicuik ward he wrested the seat comfortably from the Conservatives. That win signalled the start of more than 30 years’ public service that saw him put the interests of his local community and the wider public at the core of his working life and become leader and Provost of Midlothian Council.

Though born in Ayrshire, where his father and grandfather had both worked in the Barony mine, he said his adoptive home of Penicuik was in his heart and soul and it was there that he made his mark.

Educated at Auchinleck Primary and Dalkeith High – following a move to Danderhall, Midlothian when his father became a safety inspector for the National Union of Mineworkers – on leaving school he worked for the National Coal Board as housing and estates officer, based at Newtongrange.

By the mid-1970s he had joined Edinburgh District Council as a housing officer in its estate management department and was a shop steward for NALGO, the National And Local Government Officers’ Association. He became the council’s NALGO branch secretary in 1982 and is credited with making a considerable contribution to staff conditions as well as raising NALGO’s profile both within Scotland and nationally.

Four years later made the move into local politics as a Lothian Regional councillor but always remained true to his principles and beliefs, constantly striving for the best for his ward and its community. He was re-elected in 1990 and 1994 and following local authority reorganisation he became an elected Midlothian Council representative.

During his long public service – he held roughly 1,600 surgeries over his career – he was council leader from 2003 to 2007 and took great pride in the council’s affordable homes building programme. He was also involved in decisions to build new schools and refurbish buildings, including Penicuik Town Hall, fought for the new Penicuik Centre with its swimming pool and library, and supported Broomhill Day Centre as part of its management committee. He had also been doing rail link study in a bid to get trains running again to Penicuik.

When Edinburgh City Council attempted to introduce road pricing he led a campaign against the unfairness of the proposals which only applied to vehicle owners outwith the city. He argued it would be punitive for Midlothian residents and businesses and won a concession that it should only be considered if it applied to all vehicles. In the end the congestion charge plan was overwhelmingly defeated by residents in a referendum.
He had a special interest in sport and leisure and football had always been a big part of his life: he was in the Dalkeith High School team that won the Scottish Cup and played amateur football for Danderhall, Cockenzie and Pathhead into his 30s. He also spent 10 years coaching Eskmill Boys’ Club, was instrumental in Penicuik Athletic reforming in 2002 through the provision of a new pitch in the public park and took great pride in the fact that both of his sons went on to play for the club.

More recently Cllr Montgomery unveiled the Millerhill Carbon Tower, a sculpture commemorating the local coal-mining heritage, and picked street names in the new housing development in the Millerhill/Danderhall area from information in a book, A History of Newton Parish, written by his father George.

Council leader Derek Milligan said: “During his three decades as a councillor he worked tenaciously both for local people in his ward and the wider community in his role as Provost. His experience, commitment, warmth and enthusiasm and indeed his dry sense of humour will be missed.”

Married firstly to Jane Hannan, he is survived by his second wife Karen, his children Scott, Mairi and Ross, three grandchildren and his brother Robert.

ALISON SHAW