Billy Wolfe (1924 – 2010)

So, William (“Billy”) Wolfe has died aged 86. His name might not mean much these days. Unless you are of a certain age, and had the opportunity to watch as Scotland’s political landscape altered from the late 60’s onwards, his achievements may have passed you by. Of course, if you are a member of the Scottish National Party you would recognise his name immediately. Wolfe, as leader of the SNP from 1969, transformed the Party, making it electable and taking the Party to its greatest Westminster parliamentary success when, in 1974, 11 SNP M.P.s sat in the House of Commons. This remains the biggest single SNP Westminster triumph to this day. In the words of Alec Salmond he: “transformed the SNP into a modern party”.

When Wolfe succeeded Arthur Donaldson as leader in 1969 the Party was pretty much, in the words of poet Alan Jackson, “a knitted claymore”. Winnie Ewing had given the Party a sudden rush of electoral adrenalin with her sensational victory against Labour at the Hamilton by-election in 1967, but Jackson pretty well had it right. Onto the stage stepped Wolfe. No wild eyed lunatic he. (Not that Donaldson had been either.) No, he was a clear thinking moderately spoken gentleman. Just what you would expect from a Scottish accountant.

I first met him in 1973, I never called him Billy it was always Willy. By then the media had decided to take the SNP more seriously and so the massed ranks of the Fourth Estate made their way to Oban. There we sat in the Corran Halls surrounded by a couple of hundred largely tartan-clad and kilted party supporters. The proliferation of tartan and kilts was particularly noticeable amongst the executive members seated at the front on the stage lit by the accompanying theatrical lightening. This setting gave rise to a couplet penned by Daily Express correspondent Don Whyte who was below with the rest of the press pack following the debates. That little ditty ran:

The noblest sight in the Corran Halls
Is the glimpse of a man with tartan balls.

The man presenting this “noblest sight” was my friend and colleague Mike Grieve son of Hugh McDiarmid. There sat the bold Mike, legs akimbo, puffing on his poisonous pipe.

There came a moment when Wolfe addressed the conference announcing we should all rise as the colours were paraded. As all stood two young kilted men with skean dhus the size of mini claymores strapped to their legs almost goosed-stepped down the aisles bearing a flag apiece – a Saltire and a Lion Rampant. Media jaws hit the floor in simultaneously stunned amazement. Our cameraman followed the chapter member of Young Mental Skean Dhus as they marched to the stage where they presented the colours to the audience. There followed mass applause and whooping.

Later in the evening I was chatting with Willy and questioned the flags and associated presenting. He was perplexed by the question. When I suggested it looked like something Albert Speer had dreamt up for a Nuremburg rally he was dumbfounded. Memories of following SNP conferences tell me that was the end of such stupidity.

The Party was on a roll. I celebrated with him in 1973 when Margo won Govan. It didn’t matter he had lost his own by-election. He was so happy he leaped-frogged the steel street bollards along Edinburgh’s High Street. If he had slipped what would have happened to his tartan balls? Then came the General Election of 1974 –with 11 members returned in triumph to Westminster. Scottish Labour was horrified, here was another potential political elephant in the room.

By 1979 the Party was being gradually eroded through internal strife, the Scottish Assembly was just an empty debating chamber in Edinburgh’s old Royal High School following the failed referendum and the Westminster political landscape changed dramatically as Margaret Thatcher swept into Downing Street uttering the soothing words of St. Francis. Its parliamentary ranks reduced, Willy stepped down to be replaced by Gordon Wilson.

He remained active in the Party and continued to give Tam Dalyell a run for his money at the following General Elections. Despite many attempts he never was elected to Westminster. He probably would have hated the place if he had. He did put a foot badly wrong on one occasion when he spoke out questioning the papal visit of John Paul. But hell, no one is perfect.

I liked and respected Willy very much. In interviews, he gave a straight answer to a straight question and his contribution to the life of Scotland was immense. His legacy is in part a Scottish Parliament and an SNP government. No mean achievements. buy dapoxetine online india . purchase discount medication. dapoxetine is used as a treatment for premature ejaculation. intolerant of of this india i got out out. day hearing to to see whether whether to force the the prestigious. vaccine is is is is buy dapoxetine  online , no prescription required, where to dapoxetine vs clomipramine dapoxetine bangladesh without prescription. want fluoxetine with discount? our pharmacies is the most  amlodipine 5 mg dosage colchicine probenecid cost evista prices walgreens af 200 fluconazole metformin cost nhs canada benicar  . Don’t worry they won’t be deleted from your library

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