Obituary: Trish Godman, former Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament

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Trish Godman, former Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament. Born: 31 October, 1939, in Glasgow. Died: 21 July, 2019, in Clydebank, aged 79.

Trish Godman, who has died after a long illness at 79 was elected to the first Scottish Parliament in 1999. She ­represented her West ­Renfrewshire constituents for 11 years and served as a Deputy Presiding Officer at Holyrood for eight years.

As an MSP she was a ­passionate defender of local interests, not shirking from rocking the boat if need be. As a Deputy Presiding Officer she was direct and courteous and always sensitive about the need to protect the interests of backbench MSPs against any Government intent on limiting scrutiny.

She was a Labour politician of the mainstream whose socialism was moulded by her sometimes adverse life experiences, defined in early life by managing the strains brought on by raising three young ­children in Pollok whilst enduring the harshness of relative poverty.

It speaks volumes for Trish Godman’s determination and moral courage that she ­managed to raise three boys, go to college, launch a career as a social worker and chart a path towards a political vocation where she saw politics as the vehicle for changing the lives of the marginalised.

That she managed to do all of this at a time in the 1970s, when working class women were expected to simply ­manage their often meagre lot, is all the more remarkable. She conducted herself with a quiet dignity that was always underscored by a perceptible steeliness in everything that she did.

Trish Godman attended Jordanhill College of Education in 1974, gaining a social work diploma in 1976. Much of her working life was taken up in the East End of Glasgow helping those whose lives had been scarred by addiction. Her instinctive empathy made her an ideal social worker and her efforts turned lives around. After all, she, by dint of determination and education, had turned her own life around.

Her marriage to Norman Godman (known affectionately as Bowie) in 1981, was the launchpad for years of happiness and cut against the ­sadness of a failed first ­marriage. Bowie and Trish were ideally suited. They viewed the world in much the same way. They were devoted to one another. Their principles were heartfelt and ­pursued with no notion of self aggrandisement, let alone self promotion.

Trish Godman joined the Labour Party, seeing it as the best, if at times imperfect vehicle, for bettering the lot of the less well off. As an activist she was in the vanguard of the movement to smash Labour’s predominantly male culture and would be a lifelong champion in ensuring that the rights of women were promoted, particularly those who were vulnerable and easy to exploit.

She came to public prominence in 1989 when she ­challenged the incumbent Labour MP George Galloway for the nomination in ­Hillhead. Trish was on the ­party’s soft Left but she regarded Galloway as faux, with even at that time a bent towards demagoguery. She did not succeed but almost ended the rise of a politician who would later be as well known for his flamboyance as the causes he espoused.

She was elected to Strathclyde Regional Council in 1994 and served on the Social Work Committee. After local government reorganisation she represented the Hillhead ward on Glasgow City Council, being the Social Work senior vice convenor for four years. She managed to rise above the Labour Group’s seeming love affair with internecine ­warfare.

In 1999, she took her place for that historical photograph capturing the first 129 MSPs to be elected to Scotland’s Parliament. It made her so proud. As her health faltered in recent months, the current Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh, sent her a copy of that historical picture, a snapshot which captures the mood of anticipation which marked those ­early, heady days.

At Holyrood she convened the Local Government Committee for four years (1999-2003) and served as a Deputy Presiding Officer for eight years (2003-2011). In 2010, she sought to introduce a Bill to criminalise those who ­purchased sex, at the same time emphasising that those who sold sex were the victims in a relationship defined by the power to exploit the ­vulnerable.

She performed her duties with great diligence despite the strain of having to cope with her youngest son, Gary Mulgrew, being ­sentenced to three years in jail in the United States for wire fraud in 2008. She was furious that her son was extradited under a law meant for combating terrorism and whose one-sided nature was a charter to abuse the rights of British citizens. She was not shy in telling Westminster colleagues as much, given they had passed it.

As she prepared to leave Holyrood she became embroiled in a frightening incident when she was sent a suspect explosive device through the post. Similar packages were sent to the late Paul McBride QC and current Celtic manager Neil Lennon. It is thought she was targeted as she had worn a Celtic strip in the Parliament’s Garden ­­lobby, essentially for a dare.

Trish Godman was a trailblazer in the matter of women in football grounds. At a time when it was almost uniformly a male-only event, this Govan lass would have none of it. She followed Celtic with a passion that was a match for any man. Even in her final months in St Margaret’s Hospice in ­Clydebank, she would watch games from her bed, taking great delight in the clubs ­treble treble.

After Parliament she served on the board and later chaired Quarriers. Her vocation to help those who needed it had come full circle since her days as a social worker in the 1970s. She felt she ‘owed’ Quarriers who had helped her grandfather and his two brothers in the early 1900s after they were abandoned.

Trish Godman’s life is a ­monument to the empowering value of education in transforming lives. Her ­marriage to Bowie was as perfect as any relationship between two ­people could be. Together, they lived their lives by the values that meant so much to them. Her religion was a ­trinity of ending poverty, ­promoting the rights of women and extending a helping hand to all who needed one.

Three sons can feel chest-puffingly proud that they called her mum. Her party colleagues can give thanks for the contribution of a sincere and well-liked comrade. Those whom she helped as a social worker and as a politician can reflect that she made their lives that bit ­better. Helping those who needed help was her life’s work. She did it with an impressive integrity and that is her epitaph.

BERNARD PONSONBY