Obituary: Ted Mcguire, Long-serving Customs and Excise official who was much admired for his charm and style

Born: 15 April, 1931, in Linlithgow. Died: 19 September, 2011, in Edinburgh, aged 80

When Ted died there was, and still is, an enormous outpouring of affection, friendship and fond memories from his many friends, colleagues, neighbours, distant relatives, shopkeepers and health professionals from the many diverse areas of his life. Therefore this is an opportunity for an appreciation to mark his passing and to pay tribute to a remarkable and well loved man.

Ted made a lasting impression and is remembered by all he met. He is described by many as a true gentleman, courteous, charming, kindly, highly respected, amusing, interested in others; a very special man.

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He was born in Linlithgow, an only child but never lonely. He had many friends and a special bond with his cousin, of the same age, who emigrated to Australia.

She writes: “Ted was a gentleman in the true sense of the word and he will be sadly missed.”

A committed Roman Catholic, Ted served as an altar boy at St Michael’s RC Church in Linlithgow. He was also married there, and a requiem mass was held there to celebrate his life.

In 1949 he joined the civil service, initially in the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Then followed two years’ National Service in the RAF in wireless and signals.

He returned to the civil service to work in Customs and Excise, where he remained until 1991. As a testament to his loyalty and easy charm he remained in touch with friends he made in the early days until he died.

In 1967 his father died aged 73 and, as the loyal and loving son he was, he invited his mother to live with him due to her ill health, until she died aged 80 in 1978.

His time in Customs and Excise was initially spent on detached duty, monitoring the distilleries throughout Scotland. When VAT was introduced he was transferred to Edinburgh. He was responsible for the implementation, inspection and enforcement of VAT across a wide area of businesses and supervision of customs staff.

An ex-colleague and friend from customs described Ted as “an excellent colleague”. “He was a reliable and loyal friend with a quiet sense of humour. When difficulties arose he was helpfully constructive. His integrity was accepted without question by everyone, which bears testimony to the high esteem in which he was held and the kind of man he was. I and my wife will miss him so much.”

Another colleague described him as “such a lovely man, one of life’s gentlemen, loved and respected by everyone who knew him”. Due to his immaculate dress, charm and courtesy he was described as “the Beau Brummel of the senior executive coffee room”.

In the late 1970s he met Thelma while skiing with the Ski Club of Great Britain, which was the start of a lasting friendship, even though Ted lived and worked in Scotland and Thelma in London.

They married in 1984, Ted at the age of 54 and Thelma at 43. Thelma was described by an old friend from Linlithgow as “the love of his life”.

They had no children but shared their passion for skiing with their other interests in travel, theatre, playing golf together and bridge.

They were representatives of the Ski Club of Great Britain, taking groups skiing in their holidays, mainly to their favourite resort, Arosa in Switzerland. They both became Ski Club committee members, attending meetings in London on a regular basis.

A letter received this year from an old friend of Ted’s states: “Of all the people I have met during my many skiing excursions I think Ted is the one who stands out most clearly in my memory. He was genuinely warm and friendly, just great fun to be with. I shall never forget him.”

Skiing friends from Germany wrote: “We will always remember him as a very friendly and interesting man who we loved to talk to.”

When Ted retired from Customs and Excise at the age of 60 (obligatory for senior grades), he soon became involved in many activities. He undertook a series of IT courses to equip him for new things and was soon snapped up by an enterprise company to advise newly established small businesses on VAT.

He was also very supportive and interested in Thelma’s career in occupational health, so was pleased to be asked to give advice to the Royal College of Nursing occupational health committee on VAT and accounting issues.

He was soon asked to be their secretariat to assist with conferences, venues, and delegates. His reputation spread and he was also asked to be the secretariat for an international conference on occupational health and safety.

After Ted died, tributes came flooding in from the many chairpersons and committee members he so ably and willingly assisted. For example: “Ted was a true gentleman and very highly respected. He was a joy and fun to work with, and I very much appreciated his good advice and support.”

When his wife Thelma was attending, speaking and chairing sessions at conferences in the UK and around the world he always accompanied her, assisting and smoothing the way for her. He even took over most of the household duties when she was studying for a Masters degree, which made it possible for her to pursue an extremely demanding career, including membership of government committees and undertaking research.

When Thelma was awarded the MBE he was overjoyed. It was obvious to everyone how proud he was of her, taking great pleasure in her achievements, to which she paid tribute during a lunch organised to celebrate her award.

In 2002, aged 70, Ted sustained a very serious injury to his neck skiing in Davos in Switzerland. He was airlifted off the mountain and operated on in Switzerland. During a fairly lengthy recovery at home in Edinburgh, which he endured with typical dignity, patience and good humour, he gradually regained his equilibrium and renewed his interest in life. During the next few years he and Thelma enjoyed travelling the world at a more leisurely pace: cruising, making more lasting friendships and visiting Ted’s favourite place on the Isle of Wight.

He celebrated his 80th birthday last April at a lunch surrounded by close friends, ex-colleagues and relatives who had flown over from Australia. One friend described him as “a debonair gentleman”.

Another said he was as “immaculate as ever, putting all other men to shame”.

“Glimpses of his character always show through, with his shy smile and interest in everyone.”

“We will all cherish our memories of Ted. He was such a treasure.”

And from a very close friend: “I shall certainly never forget Ted and feel so privileged to have been part of his life.”

THELMA MCGUIRE MBE and SHAW TAYLOR MBE