Obituary: Liz Macnab, political campaigner whose enthusiasm for life made her friends everywhere

Liz Macnab, tax consultant, company secretary and Scottish Conservatives campaigner. Born: 4 July 1963 in Edinburgh. Died: 21 March 2018 in Edinburgh, aged 54. She is remembered here by her friend Charles Fletcher, chief executive of Caledonia Media.

Liz McNab with John Smith (Picture: Hamish Campbell)
Liz McNab with John Smith (Picture: Hamish Campbell)

It is an iconic Edinburgh image of an iconic Edinburgh girl.The teenage Elizabeth Ogg was eagerly distributing leaflets at the height of the 1979 Scottish Assembly Referendum, called in what was to become the closing days of Jim Callaghan’s Labour government.

At the foot of the Mound, 18-year-old Liz was oblivious to Labour’s John Smith making a beeline for her as Gordon Brown and Brian Wilson stood in the background.

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John Smith was eager to join her in campaigning. Until he discovered she was on the 
other side.

He had leaflets urging voters to say yes. Liz was against the Assembly and leafleting for a no vote.

In later years, along with many of her staunch Conservative colleagues, she gulped and became a supporter of the Scottish Parliament.

The political journey of Liz Macnab was moulded in an age dominated by Margaret Thatcher.

She knew her political mind from an early age. Mrs Thatcher conveniently reflected Liz’s thoughts on the national and international stage.

Liz joined the Young Conservatives, becoming chair in Edinburgh South. She also chaired the Federation of Conservative Students at Napier College when she was doing a course in business studies.

Liz campaigned incessantly, working closely with former Edinburgh MPs Michael Ancrum in Edinburgh South; Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, Edinburgh West; and 
Malcolm Rifkind, Edinburgh Pentlands.

She was later part of the team that campaigned for the successful re-election of George Younger as MP in Ayrshire.

In 2001 she was office manager for the General Election campaign in Edinburgh East and Musselburgh, where she managed target voter campaigning.

Last year, despite periods of ill health, she was keen to support Iain McGill in his pitch for Edinburgh North and Leith. As ever, Liz was full of encouragement, wise counsel and fun.

Elizabeth Ogg was to be a bundle of fun throughout her life. Her mother, Elsie, was a secretary and her father, 
David, a stonemason.

He worked on the creation of the Martyr’s Cross in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket which marks the spot of the public gallows where more than 100 Covenanters were hanged for their beliefs.

Liz went to Sciennes Primary School and later to Boroughmuir High School.

As a youngster, the family took holidays on the Isle of Man, where Liz, a champion swimmer, enjoyed being a star in the water.

She built a band of friends inside and outside the Scottish Conservatives.

She met her husband, Rod Macnab, at one of the party soirees and they became a tour de force.

Liz became his election agent and Rod was elected to Strathclyde Regional Council, taking his ward in Ayrshire from Labour.

Together they worked tirelessly to bring more commercial flights to Prestwick Airport and secure work for the Ailsa shipyard in Troon.

Liz enjoyed cooking and would conjure up any excuse to host people, from a Burns Supper to a Mad March Hare’s party, or simply creating fabulous dishes on any day of the week for her friends. All would eat, drink and get merry into the wee small hours.

As she had a love of all things French, Mme Bollinger was a regular guest.

Liz and Rod were very generous hosts and complemented each other perfectly.

Rod could occasionally come across as slightly pompous. Whenever he did, Liz would sit back, tilt her head slightly and give just the tiniest hint of a smile in the corner of her mouth as he scaled the heights of his latest, important point.

As he reached his conclusion, he would nod in a satisfied manner to all at the table.

Then Liz would pounce, puncturing his case, followed by her hearty, throaty laugh.

Rod would simply smile proudly at her, join in the laughter, throw his hands into the air and say she’d got him. Again.

Liz built a career as a tax consultant working in Edinburgh and London.

She also brought her skills to an unknown world to her, broadcasting, when she joined Caledonia Media, coordinating skills workshops and courses in the UK and worldwide.

She became part of the team that launched and operated Jubilee FM in Queensferry.

She relished meeting journalists from around the world as they descended on her doorstep. They embraced her impish sense of humour.

Probably the most exotic training location she organised was Kaliningrad, Russia. She arranged the programme to be delivered on the cosmonaut recovery ship, Viktor 

This is the ship that travelled to sea to pick up USSR spacemen after their flights. It is now berthed as a visitor attraction in Kaliningrad Harbour.

“Our training’s down to earth!” she sniggered.

Liz treated visitors with a taste of her beloved East Lothian. The landscape, the sea and, of course, North Berwick.

After lobster by the harbour, the journey back to Edinburgh would take in at least one farm or fish shop as her next event was already in planning.

Liz had old-fashioned values. She believed in good manners and politeness. She was a kind, generous and thoughtful 

A charming Edinburgh girl, she was proud of her home city and could tell you legendary tales of the Great and the Good. Not a gossip, perhaps a Lizipedia.

Colourful, unconventional, a complete one-off.

Liz Macnab was never dull.

She was no angel; and when she was a wee devil, you relished being there.

Liz could have become a vibrant member of Parliament and a considerate representative of her community. She was encouraged to follow the idea through, but time intervened.

She was determined to get better but her health deteriorated, particularly over the past year. Sadly, Liz died at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital on 21 March. She was predeceased by Rod.

To the end, Liz Macnab had ideas, plans and the smile and the laughter of that little girl who played on the Meadows.

And when she gets better, we’re going to France.

Charles Fletcher