Drumlanrig: Capturing Margo MacDonald’s spirit

Margo MacDonald was a big personality in Scottish politics. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Margo MacDonald was a big personality in Scottish politics. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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MARGO MacDonald’s memorial service on The Mound was a memorable affair – not least for the many anecdotes that were told about the great woman.

One, which was in an early draft of her husband Jim Sillar’s eulogy, was his remark that he and Margo were two halves of one whole.

“She was the better half,” Sillars said. “I don’t say that out of false modesty. The truth was brought home to me one day in Morningside when I was stopped by an old lady, who said: ‘Mr Sillars?’ To my ‘yes’, she said: ‘I do like your wife, but I don’t like you’.”

Sillars also remembered her “fanaticism” for Hibernian Football Club – an enthusiasm that saw her lose her normally sound sense of perspective. “This intelligent woman threw it all away when the whistle blew at Easter Road. If Hibs were losing, it was due to a biased referee,” Sillars said.

When one of her favourite players was sent off for “a brutal kick” on a Hearts player, Sillars recalled that Margo turned to him and said: “He hardly touched him.”

Sillars added: “Once I told her that I found Hibs so boring that I intended bringing a book to the next game – to which she replied that I could make my own tea that night.”

Another speaker was Alex Neil, the Health Secretary and Margo’s great friend.

He retold a story that illustrated the rumbustious political style that was also in evidence in her domestic life.

Neil recalled the night before the famous 1988 Govan by-election that saw Sillars follow in his wife’s footsteps and win for the SNP.

Sillars was addressing his loyal staff and thanking them for their hard slog during the campaign. Before going their separate ways, a tired Sillars remarked ruefully: “It is all right for you lot – you’re going home to your beds. I am going home to a public meeting.”

Poor health failed to dampen Margo’s sense of humour. Neil revealed that Margo always got on well with her carers, who helped her cope with her Parkinson’s Disease.

One younger carer remarked that she loved helping Margo saying: “This is great its just like being with your granny.”

Margo’s instant reply was: “You can say that in here, but when you’re oot there, it’s like being at your aunty’s”.