Thursday, 11 May 2017

Before the Western Isles Council: Stornoway 1952

An earlier post looked at one result in the local government election of 1955, when Calum (Baillie Malcolm) Smith was voted off Stornoway Town Council. This one looks back at an earlier meeting, as reported in the Stornoway Gazette of 13th December 1952, which initiated a key stage of his "stewardship".
Calum in the early 1950s
On December 13 1952 the meeting of the Town Council was not the main news item, but as usual the editor of the Stornoway Gazette, J.S.Grant, was assiduous in reporting its proceedings, especially as it had brought some changes to the local government of the town, following the recent death of one of its Senior Baillies. And although the elevation of Malcolm (Calum in Gaelic and to his family and friends, "Safety" by nickname) Smith from the position of Dean of Guild to that of (Junior) Baillie*, with concomitant duties of magistrate, took second place in the report to the announcement of the election of the (Episcopalian) Canon Meadon, it was nevertheless accorded a good share of two columns (unfortunately in very small print).
*"The position [of Baillie] was reintroduced in the 2000s following the title falling into disuse after the 1975 reform of local government."

The election meeting report starts in second column from right. 
The sections relating to Malcolm/Calum Smith
   Election of "Forthright Member" was one of the subheadings about Calum's elevation, showing that he had already made a certain impression among his colleagues: "Dr. Matheson was the first to open the election in proposing that Dean of Guild Smith should fill the vacancy, who, he said, was a very forthright member who had already given great service to the council." The proposal was supported by ex-Provost Smith (no relation) who said, "For a number of years now I have been looking among the coming men of the town  to see those who were disposed to take a real interest, an impersonal interest,  in the community and to do so in an effective and impartial way - which it is difficult for most men to do." He added that the Dean of Guild's record during his years of office had been "a revelation" to him.
   "It's a welcome thing to know," he continued,"that there are those in the community who are prepared to accept that responsibility. I only hope that for no reason will he try to escape."
  Accepting the office of Junior Baillie, the Dean of Guild said, "I don't see that I can escape my obligation indefinitely and I should like to thank you all very much for having done me the honour of inviting me to join the magistracy at this early stage of my career.'
   The report goes on with more of Calum's acceptance speech and "Tribute to Predecessor" - the formerly Junior Baillie who was now promoted to "Senior" to replace the deceased member, and who "endorsed all that ex-Provost Smith has said" about Calum. "I should like to express my own very deep regret and sorrow at the unfortunate circumstances that make it necessary to fill a vacancy in the magistracy of this town," concluded the new Baillie, adding that he could only hope to emulate his predecessor.
   After taking the oath of office and signing the record, Baillie Smith donned his robe and was congratulated by the councillors. He is to resign his post as Dean of Guild.

Salute To A Veteran
 “A PROPHET is not without honour save in his own country, and in his own house” [Gospel according to St. Matthew]. The Father of local politics, Ex-Provost Roderick Smith of Stornoway, would be the last person to claim for himself the gift of prophecy; and looking at his career not even his most determined detractor can say that he has spent much, if any, time in search of honour.
            The Ex-Provost celebrates his eighty-fourth birthday next month; and for forty-four uninterrupted years of these eighty-four he has served as a leading councillor of the burgh of Stornoway. He has also, during that same period, served for a great number of years on the County Council of Ross and Cromarty, the Stornoway Trust, the Stornoway Pier and Harbour Commission, innumerable committees and sub-committees, and in fact in every sphere of local government affecting his native island and the town of Stornoway.
11 & 14/10/1955
[Start of Calum's later tribute to ex-Provost Smith, in his Stornoway Gazette column]
(The ex-Provost was 'honoured' with the Freedom of the Burgh in 1961 - photo, right)

Postscript (from memory and with hindsight): Although he no doubt sincerely welcomed the opportunity to serve the community, as he saw it, in this capacity, Calum was probably not always entirely at ease in the seat of judgment. Being well aware of the social causes of crime and misdemeanour, he no doubt often saw his role less as a punitive one than a chance to encourage reform (notably in the matter of the culture of alcoholism prevalent in some parts of the town) and perhaps on occasion to mitigate any harshness on the part of fellow magistrates. For example, he would sometimes express sympathy for the perpetrators of petty theft rather than for those who put temptation in their way.

1 comment:

  1. Related event coming up (Spring 2019):
    From Stornoway Historical Society - Winter Series of Lectures (5) 25 March 2019. LOCAL GOVERNMENT BEFORE 1975
    The Annual General Meeting of the Stornoway Historical Society will be held on Monday 25th March 2019 at 6.30pm in the Council Chambers, Sandwick Road. All members are invited.
    >This will be followed at 7.00 p m., at the same venue, by the final public lecture of the current winter series featuring Sandy Matheson and Malcolm Macdonald talking about “Local Government before 1975”.
    Entry is by donation. All welcome.
    The Society aims to record its lectures and make them available on YouTube