THE man who gave Gazette readers a much-needed chuckle laced with homespun wisdom every week, David McNeill, has died. He was 80 years old.
The Gazette’s own topical cartoonist passed away peacefully at Lanark’s Lockhart Hospital after suffering a stroke several weeks ago.
In the case of ‘Davy’ McNeill, that tired old cliche that ‘we’ll never see his likes again’ is probably sadly all too true.
Very much a man of his time, he was born, a son of the manse, in the midst of the Great Depression of the Thirties in one of Scotland’s already most beleaguered areas, Cardonald.
These factors were all to shape the kind of human being David McNeill would become, with a lifelong compassion for the underdog and a heartfelt devotion to public service.Following his education in Glasgow, he did his National Service in the Royal Air Force between 1951 and 1953 where he specialised as a radio operator.
He returned to civvy street to take up a post as an accounts clerk with the old Scottish Co-op CWS, based in its imposing headquarters on Glasgow’s Morrison Street, living locally in ‘digs’.
Always game for some creative fun, David sought some light relief from his rather dry and formal duties at the ‘Co’ by joining an amateur drama group in Pollok and it was there he first encountered the local woman who was to be his wife for 53 years, Mary Thomson.
They appeared on stage in a play together before Mary decided to play a far bigger role in David’s real life.
She now reveals that their courtship began in possibly the most Fifties fashion possible.
“I wanted to go to the cinema to see Bill Hayley and His Comets in the movie Rock Around the Clock but there had been a lot of rowdiness wherever the film was shown,” recalled Mary.
“I told David I was too frightened to go alone and asked him to go with me.”
Having successfully protected Mary from the Glasgow teddy-boys, their relationship flourished and, in 1960, the couple wed in Paisley, David’s father conducting the service.
In the meantime, David decided on a change of career and re-trained to join the environmental health department of the then Glasgow Corporation.
He went on to serve local authorities in Motherwell and Wishaw, East Kilbride and then the Lanark-based Clydesdale District Council.
Mary took up a principal teacher of guidance post at Biggar High School and went on to serve the Lanark and Forth area as a Labour councillor from 1999 to her retiral at the last election; they found their dream home off Lanark’s Broomgate in the mid-Eighties.
After David retired from local government, he used his artistic skills to run his successful Dolls House shop in New Lanark; after that he was the Gazette’s voluntary – unpaid – cartoonist.
He’d always been artistically talented and drew many a cartoon, free of charge, for the magazine of his union, NALGO. He saw this as part of his service to the trade union movement he was such a staunch supporter of all his days.
David’s funeral was on Monday. He is survived by Mary, three sons and four grandchildren. Mary wishes noted the “excellent” care David latterly received from the NHS.
Davy’s repeated visits to the Lanark Gazette office to ensure he was meeting his deadline led you to conclude that this was a guy of the ‘old school’ – determined never to let anyone down.
And he never, ever did.