Obituary: Alex McKinnon, activist, 88

Tributes have been paid to Alex McKinnon, activist, champion of miners’ welfare and community stalwart, who has died at the age of 88.

A well-known figure in Midlothian, Mr McKinnon had a string of social and political achievements and even met Nelson Mandela.

Born in Ayr in 1923, Mr McKinnon was the third-youngest of a family of nine.

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He moved to Midlothian to become a Bevin Boy – young men conscripted to work in the coal mines in the Second World War – at Lingerwood Colliery in Newtongrange.

He later moved to Monktonhall Colliery where he stayed until his retirement.

Soon after moving to Midlothian he met his future wife Margaret, and the couple married in 1948, remaining inseparable until Margaret died in 2010.

They had four children – Roseanna, Alex, June and Patricia – five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. In 1950, they moved to Easthouses and remained in the area for 60 years.

Mr McKinnon was never happy with work at the pit and as a union member began to support better working conditions.

He became a trade union official at Lingerwood and latterly Monktonhall.

A life-long Labour Party member, he began his political career as one of the last unpaid Newbattle district councillors before becoming a Midlothian County Councillor and JP.

He improved situations for many families as a member of The Rent Assessments Panel for Scotland and the Rents Tribunal for Lothians and Peebles.

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With his desire to help those in need, he was appointed to Lothian Health Board, and it was during a conference he came close to death after catching Legionnaires’ disease.

His activities in the Labour Party were extensive – as secretary for Easthouses Labour Party and member of Midlothian Labour Party executive – but he will primarily be remembered for his role as party agent and secretary for MP Alex Eadie.

When offered the chance to stand as MP in Dundee, Mr McKinnon turned it down in order to be with his family.

Mr McKinnon established a local campaign for the freedom of Nelson Mandela when the ANC leader was imprisoned and met Mr Mandela when visited Edinburgh after his release.

He was also a member of Mayfield Labour Club and Easthouses Gala Committee.

Following retirement in 1983, Mr McKinnon became involved with the Scottish Old Age Pensioners’ Association, eventually becoming president.

In 2010, he moved from Easthouses to Newbyres Village Care Home in Gorebridge due to ill health.

Daughter Patricia Wilson said: “Dad was a wonderful man. He gave so much and did not expect anything back in return. Everything he did was with a passion.

“I feel so very privileged that Alex McKinnon was my dad.”