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Famous Scots - Gordon J Mcmaster M.p

Gordon J Mcmaster M.P.

GORDON McMaster, a tireless champion for the disabled and a horticulturist of international repute, had been MP for Paisley South since winning the seat for Labour in a by-election in November 1990.

Even though he was a relative newcomer to the House of Commons, Mr McMaster was a senior officer on the all-party parliamentary Disablement Group and was widely admired for his unstinting work in this field. In the last Parliament, he was an Opposition whip for Scotland. Mr McMaster was educated at Cochrane Castle Primary School and Johnstone High School, and later the West of Scotland Agricultural College. He was a horticulturist by trade, and an eminent one at that. He served first as an apprentice gardener for Renfrew District Council. He had also been a lecturer in horticulture at Langside College in Strathclyde and devoted much time to the teaching of disabled students. So highly regarded was he as an authority on horticulture that he appeared several times on Gardeners' Question Time. Mr McMaster was also the co-ordinator of the Growing Concern initiative in Strathclyde in 1988-90.

He served on Renfrew District Council from 1984 - when he was only 24 - to 1991, and was leader of the council from 1988 to 1990, having previously served for a year as deputy leader. Mr McMaster, who was 18 stone, was mugged last month in Bermondsey, London, when he arrived home from a late Commons sitting. The injuries he suffered, principally to his hands, necessitated four operations and involved him, according to his friends, in excruciating pain. He was unmarried. Tom Clarke, MP, writes: Gordon McMaster was one of the most able politicians of his generation, although his obvious qualities were sometimes cloaked by a diffident manner.

He was a very effective local government leader in the former Renfrew District Council, and it came as no surprise when he succeeded the late Norman Buchan (whom he greatly admired) at the Paisley South by-election in 1990. Remarkably, there were two elections in neighbouring seats on the same day - Irene Adams having succeeded her late husband as Labour candidate in Paisley North. As a candidate's minder in those elections, I found it an easy task, as did my fellow minder, John McFall. Gordon was extremely well known throughout his constituency and he was on first-name terms with everybody, especially in his cherished town of Johnstone. Characteristically, he gave the credit for this to his parents, who remained very much part of his life right to the end.

He was proud of his roots and his deep love for his family and his community shone like a beacon. Gordon had been a lecturer in horticulture, and from an early age had shown genuine concern for the needs of people with learning disabilities. He instinctively fought for those whom he considered to be the "underdog". The Growing Concern project which he headed in Strathclyde became a model for other parts of Britain. A keen member of the Labour Party, Gordon was also pro-active in the Co-operative Movement and was of great service to them. He always made it clear that he was a Labour and Co-operative MP. Shortly after his first election he was invited to join the Whips' Office. It was there that his obvious talents surfaced: a skilled organiser, a person who understood other people and a man with an eye for detail. He was one who could carefully prepare for successful strategies in various committees which earned him a standing he deserved. And yet there was always a chuckle underneath. He would joke with Conservative Whips once a plan for defeating or delaying them in committee came off. Hours of work, late-night and all-night sittings were taken in their stride - until illness struck in the last few years of his life. He worked closely with me when he was the Scottish Whip and I was shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. In the rough and tumble of political life he was steadfast in his personal loyalty, even when his private advice ran counter to one's public stance. When I was shadow cabinet minister for disabled people, Tony Blair suggested Gordon should be my deputy and I accepted the idea immediately for I knew that his work in that field was legendary. He had formed close friendships with Alf Morris, Lord Jack Ashley and others in the disability field who will greatly miss his activities. Shortly after joining the front bench, it became obvious to me that Gordon was not himself, and indeed he never recovered his full energies. However, even then he gave all he had. I have fond memories of our visit to the United States in early 1996 to study their disability bill. The highlight was our call to the home of the actor Christopher Reeve, whose story is widely known. Gordon was inspired. He gave all he had to the rest of the visit, but his energy levels were never the same. The condition from which he suffered had taken its toll and those of us who tried to help Gordon with his struggle could only watch with great apprehension. In the end, the battle was lost and we are all the poorer for losing him. My last memory of Gordon McMaster was when I left the platform beside Paisley Abbey a few weeks ago on the town's traditional Sma Shot day. I was one of the speakers and Gordon stood there among his many friends. "Goodbye Gordon," I said, not knowing that this was a final farewell.

Headstone Photograph

Further Information

Title: M.P

Firstname: GORDON J


Date of Death: 28th Jul 1997

Age at Death: 37

Cemetery: Houston Cemetery

  Houston Road

Town: Houston

Region: Glasgow and Clyde Valley

Country: Scotland


Please Note, the marker on this map indicates the Cemetery location, not the location of a particular grave. is a privately owned website with no affiliation to any Local Councils.