Paul McBride funeral: ‘Called to the bar by God to use his talents for others’

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HE WAS the “perfect son”, the “perfect partner” and a “gift”. And to the hundreds of mourners packed into St Aloysius Church in Glasgow yesterday to pay their last respects, he was Paul McBride, one of Scotland’s most brilliant and maverick QCs.

Aside from a few pockets of quiet chatter and the gentle organ music, the church was as quiet as a courtroom as four alter boys, holding aloft two candles and a cross, led a procession to the back of the building.

Neil Lennon helps carry Paul McBride's coffin from the church. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Neil Lennon helps carry Paul McBride's coffin from the church. Picture: Ian Rutherford

When they walked back up the aisle, they were followed by eight pallbearers, including Celtic manager Neil Lennon, a friend and former client, carrying Mr McBride’s coffin.

Before addressing the congregation, Father Peter Griffiths placed a gospel and a cross on the coffin. Noting the hundreds in attendance, among them prominent names from the worlds of law, politics, football and the media, he said: “The number of people here present bears witness to the gifts and talents Paul so generously bestowed upon his fellow man.”

He praised the 47-year-old, whose body was found in his room at the Pearl Continental Hotel, in Lahore, Pakistan, on 4 March, for his “wit, charm, generosity and keen sense of justice”.

He went on: “It’s not a great stretch of the imagination to believe it was God who called him to the Bar, to use his extensive talents to help others. Those of us who knew him will thank God for the gift that he was to each of us.”

Paul McBride died during a trip to Pakistan. Picture: PA

Paul McBride died during a trip to Pakistan. Picture: PA

As well as judges, QCs and law officers, First Minister Alex Salmond, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, and politicians Roseanna Cunningham, George Galloway and Pauline McNeil were there to pay their respects.

As well as Lennon, Celtic FC, the club with which Mr McBride became so closely associated, was represented by chief executive Peter Lawwell and several first-team players, including Anthony Stokes, Joe Ledley and Scott Brown.

Former MSP Trish Godman who, like Lennon and Mr McBride, was the alleged target of a parcel-bomb plot, was in the congregation, as was Gail Sheridan, whom he defended in her perjury case, and her husband Tommy.

Mr McBride’s fellow lawyer and friend Aamer Anwar, who helped bring his body home from Pakistan, was among representatives of the legal profession.

One of the most moving and witty tributes came from his close friend Tony Graham, who was best man at the civil partnership of Mr McBride and Gary Murphy.

Referring to the extensive media coverage after his death, Mr Graham said: “I’m sure you would have been delighted that the people of Scotland have been reminded just how good you were.”

He revealed that a former teacher once wrote: “Paul is a nice boy and a credit to his family, but to pursue any career he will have to keep his feet firmly on the ground. He is a bit of a dreamer.”

Mr Graham said: “In the 15 years I’ve known you, I’ve never seen your feet anywhere near the ground and it does not seem to have done you any harm.

“You are looking at a celebration of your life here, Paul, that there is so many people here to fill this church. You always said ‘yes’ and you always delivered, professionally and personally.

“Many owed you much, but you never counted favours.”

He added: “Above all, you were your parents George and Mary’s perfect son and Gary’s perfect partner.”

Mr Graham was followed by Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland who, as leader of Scotland’s prosecution service, would find himself arguing against Mr McBride.

Mr Mulholland said: “Paul was a very good friend of mine and a very good friend of many people from many walks of life.

“He was generous in spirit, generous in deed and generous in time. The one thing he was not was shy and retiring.”

He revealed Mr McBride had used the e-mail address topQC@, but admitted it was not ill-fitting. “He was one of, if not the, best-known lawyer of his generation, and one of the most able lawyers of his generation.”

Mr Mulholland said he remembered his first words to the young lawyer when they crossed swords in the 1990s. They were: “You’ve a real talent for making rubbish sound great.”

He said Mr McBride, true to form, gave as good as he got, and the pair became close friends.

“After court, it was always well worth being in Paul’s company as he recounted events of the day with suitable embellishment,” he said. “I always thought he would have made a good stand-up comedian.”

As well as his legal work, Mr McBride was regularly quoted in newspaper articles, appeared on TV debates and joined and subsequently left two political parties, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives.

Mr Mulholland said: “I once said he had a better contacts book than Simon Cowell. I meant it. And he was as comfortable speaking to a down-and-out as he was to the First Minister.”

Stop All The Clocks, a poem by WH Auden which featured in Four Weddings And A Funeral, was read out before Mr McBride’s body was committed for burial.

As the procession left the church and the mourners filed out, At Last by the late Etta James was played over the speakers.

Mr Anwar said: “Much has been said today about Paul McBride. All I know is that it is unlikely that there will ever be another [like him]. Scotland has truly lost a son – he crossed social class and boundaries like no other lawyer before him.”