Friday 27 January 2017

Sad death of Tam Dalyell

The former Labour MP and Father of the House Tam Dalyell died yesterday, the 26th January, after a short illness.

Dr Jim Swire, a long time friend of Tam, has written this tribute to him:

1988. TV interview about Lockerbie bombing
We first met Tam and Kathleen after keen dissent began to arise over the handling of the background to the Lockerbie disaster of December 1988 in which our elder daughter Flora was amongst those brutally murdered.

There is nothing on this earth that can counter the intensity of grief at the loss of a child, but the friendship and love of Tam Dalyell and his wife Kathleen often fed our strength and determination to establish the truth about all that was really known about the disaster. We felt enriched by their friendship.
We came to know no other person, politician or not, who so exemplified true caring and integrity as did Tam and his wife.

Because Tam lived within complex strata of society close to the heart of the Whitehall establishment, he was able to elicit confidences and assess allegations with an insider's knowledge second to none. As the truth about Lockerbie began to become clear through the fog of deception he was prepared to use his privileges and the respect in which he was held to progress the search for that truth.

There was a difference of texture about Tam which stamped him immediately as a man who simply could not become contaminated with the half truths and convenient hiding places used by those prepared to tolerate convenient fictions in order to make their lives easier or their ascent towards power smoother. It was similar to how oil and water can share a space but never mix.

Tam did not tolerate fools gladly and many of us will long remember the message he had  recorded on his answering machine, of which the key phrase was DO NOT GABBLE.

Many years of dealing with those of lesser integrity had made him a master at assessing the integrity of others. Nor will we forget his working  'spitting image' kept at his home "The Binns" to the great amusement of both visitors and Tam and Kathleen themselves. Tam had become a thorn in the side of Margaret Thatcher to earn that accolade. But for those he trusted there was no stauncher friend

I have no doubt that had Tam been prepared to compromise his integrity he would have risen to lead at least his party and probably his country. It was a key part of the measure of the man that he could never do that. .

Although nothing can staunch the hurt of our loss of Flora, meeting Tam and his family and having them share in our suffering was an uplifting experience for which we shall be eternally grateful. Tam was a righteous and fearless soldier in the cause of what is right, and with the strength of Kathleen's support he was a tribute to all that was best in the old world preceding the post-truth age in which we are now said to live.

We shall not see his like again, and Kathleen and the family, Linlithgow and a galaxy of other friends and acquaintances will miss him and his unique integrity of purpose for as long as memory lasts.  

Our thoughts are with them all.
Jim and Jane Swire                                 26th January 2017

Footnote: Tam Dalyell was a strong supporter of the British relatives' campaign against the Lockerbie trial verdict and the imprisonment of the innocent Baset al-Megrahi.