Friday 23 November 2012

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old lawyer and father of a Prime Minister called Leo Blair

Leo Blair wanted to become an MP but his dream of entering Parliament was scotched by a stroke at the age of 40, when his son Tony was 11Leo Blair, a lawyer whose capacity for overcoming difficulties and flair for performance proved an inspiration to his son Tony, has died at the age of 89, with Tony, who was with him when he died, saying that he was : "privileged to have him as a Dad" and "He was a remarkable man. Raised in a poor part of Glasgow, he worked his way up from nothing, with great ambitions dashed by serious illness on the very brink of their fulfilment."

What you possibly didn't know about Leo, that he :

* was born Charles Leonard Augustus Parsons in Filey, Yorkshire, the son of a 'pierrot' called 'Jimmy Linton' and  Celia Bridson, a dancer, who gave him up for fostering as a baby to a childless couple, William Blair, a shipyard rigger and his staunchly socialist wife Mary, who lived in a tenement where five or six families shared a the Gorbals (right) in Glasgow, Scotland.

* grew up a product of 'Red Clydeside' and a Protestant by religion, left school at 14, joined the Govan branch of the Young Communist League, becoming secretary at the age of 15 and was a copy boy at the Daily Worker' and then worked as a clerk in Glasgow Corporation’s 'Public Assistance Department'.

* in 1942, aged 18, joined the Royal Signals as a private in the Army, was promoted to lieutenant and demobbed in 1947 an 'acting major' and, his politics  transformed by his experience of life in the officers' mess, became a political 'Conservative'.

* changed his surname from 'Parsons' to 'Blair' and in 1948, married Hazel Corscadden, an Irish Protestant from County Donegal and settled in Edinburgh, where his two sons were born and working as a tax inspector, studied at night for a law degree at Edinburgh University.

* lectured for three years at Adelaide University in Australia living with his wife and sons Tony and William and then returning to Britain, combined a lectureship at Durham University with practice at the Bar, for which he had also found time to qualify.

* became chair Durham Conservative Association and had he had hopes of becoming the city’s parliamentary candidate when he suffered his first stroke at 40 when his son,Tony, was 11 and who later recalled: “One morning I woke to be told he had had a stroke in the middle of the night and might not live through the day, and my whole world fell apart. It taught me the value of the family, because my mother worked for three years to help him talk and walk again.”

* fought back to resume his legal career and told Tony, who was proving to be a handful at Fettes Boarding School, which he hated, 'to knuckle under'.

* experienced tragedy when his wife, Hazel died of throat cancer in 1975 and later remarried and moved to Shrewsbury, Shropshire, with his second wife, Olwyn.

'A remarkable man': Then Prime Minister Tony Blair with his father Leo in Blackpool in 1998* gave visiting lectures at Sierra Leone University before being appointed to chair industrial tribunals in Shrewsbury where one of his most notable decisions – over the rights of bus drivers in Wrexham sacked in 1991 after a strike – was challenged but upheld by the House of Lords.

* underwent a political conversion at the age of 71, when he joined the Labour Party, citing objections to rail privatisation and pride at his son's achievement in becoming Prime Minister.

* had Tony say of him in his 2010 autobiography, 'A Journey', that he shared many of the same traits as his father who was ‘motivated, determined, with a hard-focused ambition’

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