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Scots Independent

The Flag in the Wind
Features - Stewart Martin Ewing
1926 - 2003

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Born in Glasgow, Stewart Ewing was educated at Woodside Secondary and the University of Glasgow. After graduating in Arts, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant, in which profession he forged an outstanding career, both In private practice (acting for a number of major clients across the political spectrum including for example the Viscount Weir) and as a senior lecturer in taxation at Strathclyde University, which had absorbed the Scottish College of Commerce where, earlier, he met a charming young colleague, Winnie Woodburn, and lost no time in scooping her up. Together they founded a Scottish political dynasty which has passed into legend in Scotland and much further afield. During the 47 years of their synergetic marriage, Stewart stood as a rock and an intellectual guru alongside his wife as she systematically took the Scottish, British and European political world by storm. He himself flirted with local politics — in the late 1970s he unseated the leader of Glasgow District Council in a swashbuckling campaign — but it was as Winnie’s manager and strategic adviser that he excelled. "Stewart’s family", SNP Leader John Swinney said, "have lost a husband and a father and Scotland has lost a staunch patriot who made an outstanding public and private contribution to the cause of Scottish independence". "He was a fine man", Alex Salmond added, "and a tremendous support to Winnie. The SNP had great affection for him as well as great respect for his wise counsel".

Fergus Stewart Ewing MSP delivered this moving eulogy at the service in St Gerardine’s Church, Lossiemouth, before a congregation of more than five hundred Nationalists and others who came to celebrate Fergus’s father’s life.

My parents first moved to live in Lossie in 1973. Mum had chosen their house at 22 Kinneddar Street. Dad had not seen it. He arrived at night and didn’t know Lossie. Next morning he took a walk. He went north - and saw the sea. He tried the East and again saw the sea. In desperation he went west, and again saw the sea. He returned to the Goodwill and asked Winnie: "Are we living on an island?" But he came to love this part of Scotland. And realised he was on a peninsula.

My dad was born in Glasgow in 1926. One of five boys and one sister Margaret, he excelled at school, Woodside Secondary. He was brilliant at mathematics and also won the class prize in French. He was a fluent French speaker all his life.

Dad went to Glasgow University where he took an MA in Maths and Natural Philosophy. One of the things very few people know about him was his wish to become a surgeon. Initially he was accepted for the Faculty of Medicine. It was after an accident which resulted in a detached retina he gave up the pursuit of his intended life’s work.

He switched courses and became a Chartered Accountant. Apparently he showed early signs of his aptitude for this career, when he "looked after" the pocket money of his younger brother, Billy! Many of his clients became his friends. Some are here to-day. He also lectured in Accountancy and Taxation first at the Scottish College of Commerce, which in due course became Strathclyde University. His lecturing style gained a reputation, and the minutiae of the Income and Corporation Taxes Acts would be interspersed with anecdotes about the life and times of the SNP.

Billy Wolfe wrote a book called "Scotland Lives". My father called this "Scotland’s Lifts - the ups and downs of the SNP". He advised his students when examination time loomed that those who wore SNP badges would be at an advantage! It was always in jest and I have been struck over the last two decades by the number of people I have met who recall fondly my father’s classes.

My parents first met at the Scottish College. I have it on very good authority - my mother actually - that when he first asked her out she refused because she already had a date. He persisted and when they did date for the first time, to her amazement, he proposed. She was stunned. But determined he was, and in 1956 they were married.

Then I came along, followed by Annabelle and Terry. I remember the day when Terry was born. Dad took Annabelle and me out to Rouken Glen park. I asked him, "Why are we going to the park? We never go to the park". He said: ‘Never you mind’. But in bringing us up, he firmly believed that education is the most important gift a child can have, and was unstinting in his generosity and support. Although he was always baffled that none of the three of us was as gifted in Maths as himself.

Dad persuaded my mother to stand in Hamilton in 1967, a seminal event in Scottish - and indeed UK and European politics. He produced material for innumerable campaigns. These included badges using the Malky McCormick Font with the words "Scotland". High profile shopping bags emblazoned with slogans such as "Winnie Again". Sometimes he would wind up my mother with an ironic inflection and mock painful expression to the words "Again"! He produced cassette tapes of various popular - or not so popular - tunes which would be interspersed with voice-over messages from the candidate, and leading lights of the Party.

These techniques gave the party a high visual profile and brought a sense of excitement, of momentum into a campaign. Patience was not a virtue he would have claimed for himself, and he did all of these things, from conception, to production. Not for him the endless round of committees or meetings.

He stood as Parliamentary candidate to make up the numbers, and was prevailed upon to stand for the District Council Election in 1977 for Glasgow. He did so on the basis that he stood in an unwinnable seat, against the then leader of Glasgow Corporation. I recall he commissioned a jumbo poster for the fascia board above the campaign rooms on Maryhill Road, which read:

"VOTE SNP ON 3rd MAY". But when we put it up, we found that it was too long to fit. Eventually we cut down the message so that it fitted the space, It then read "Vote SNP 3 May". Well, more than 3 did and he became the councillor for Summerston, and every other Sunday the three of us would deliver his newsletter to his constituents.

John Young, the Tory councillor, in a letter of condolence reminded us of the time when my father refused to leave the meeting of a committee of which he was not a member when it went into private session. My father was led out of the Chamber by a policewoman who later told John: "What a charming man Councillor Ewing is".

In the European years, my father’s role increased in its scope and he frequently would send, in various guises, letters to local and national papers. Not for Dad the cliché-ridden banal prose so favoured by other politicians. He was incisive, coruscating and provocative. His political instincts were, to paraphrase a former Leader of the Party present here to-day, "Attack, Attack, Attack". But always with humour and style. His was also a rare intellect allied with a shrewd understanding that politics is about people and dignity - about communities such as Lossiemouth and Milton Duff, about the country he loved.

Dad worked for independence. Had Dad lived to see that status, he would not have expected a diplomatic posting (I see nods of agreement from the Party leaders past and present) .... But whilst he was - as the London Times said - an intensely private person, his contribution to public life in Scotland was immense, and he leaves a huge legacy.

He loved his family; he was a doting grandfather of Ciara, Jamie and Sophie and he shared with us as a family a very happy day at this Christmas past at Annabelle’s home in Comrie.

He did not live his life for selfish purposes, but in devotion to the service of others and to Scotland. That is a form of nobility without title. The rank is but the guinea stamp, the man’s the gowd for a’ that.

His generosity was spontaneous and unlimited, his integrity absolute and his company was often hilarious. He was a patriot, a stalwart, a Nationalist.

He was a rock in our lives. He was proud of his family, and his family are proud of him.

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