We are very saddened to hear about the passing of one of our band stalwarts Jimmy Liddell (pictured below on left). Jimmy was not only a great player; he was also heavily involved with the management and running of the band. He was instrumental in securing the current band sponsorship many years ago of which we are still very grateful. He was a great character, known by many and our thoughts and condolences go to his family at this sad time.
James Shaw Liddell Tribute (4th November 1926 – 6th February 2016)
Whether known to you as father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, cousin, band member, work mate, colleague or simply friend, James Shaw Liddell was a remarkable man who lived a full and rewarding life.
First and foremost a family man, he was born at Hurst House, Castlecary by Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire, on the 4th November 1926 to parents William and Annie. ‘Jimmy’- as he was universally known - had three sisters, Alice, Isobel, Ann and one brother, Sinclair.
In a move that was to shape the rest of his life, Jimmy started to take piping lessons at the age of 9 and played in the Banknock & Haggs Pipe Band from age 11. He left Cumbernauld High School in 1940 to become an apprentice Marine Engineer at John Brown Shipbuilders in Clydebank.
Conscripted into the army in the days of national service after the Second World War, Jimmy wanted to be a paratrooper but as he could play the pipes he joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders instead, attended the piping school at Edinburgh and played in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Pipe Band at Stirling Castle.
Not for the first time piping was to change his life, because it was when stationed in Stirling that Jimmy was to meet his future wife Beth at Millers Dance Hall in the town in 1946 when he was a young PE instructor. Romance ensued and Jimmy and Beth were married on 3rd September 1948 by the Reverend Doctor Sutherland from Church of the Holyrood in Stirling, Jimmy’s Chaplain in the army.
Their marriage was to endure for a full sixty two years and produced seven children - four boys and three girls – Elizabeth, Stuart, Jim, Eleanor, Sinclair, Alistair and Alison – who between them gave Jimmy ten grandchildren and seven great grand children.
On leaving the army, Jimmy had returned to Bonnybridge and John Brown’s to complete his apprenticeship and after they were married, Jimmy and Beth moved to Clydebank where Jimmy began the next phase of his life, starting his 50 year career with John Brown’s, initially in various engineering posts, installing water turbines in several locations in the North of Scotland, building our hydro electric legacy which is still providing renewable energy to this day.
While maintaining the family home in Clydebank, Jimmy and Beth also rented a cottage at Tummell Bridge near Pitlochry, before moving to Weem in Aberfeldy where Sinclair was born, to complete this work. Jimmy and Beth also invited their nephew Jim from Falkirk to join their large family in order that he too could serve his apprenticeship at John Brown’s where their four sons were also apprentices by now.
Jimmy’s career meanwhile was going from strength to strength. He attended Strathclyde University from 1966 -70 gained various mechanical engineering qualifications and a diploma in Management Studies and in 1974 became a member of the Institute of Shipbuilders and Engineers and another Diploma, this time in Safety Management one of only 400 people worldwide to hold the qualification at the time.
Then a works superintendant with 750 employees under his control and responsibility for production planning, Jimmy became Group Safety Manager in 1975 a post he held until his retirement in 1992.
He was then responsible for Health and Safety across all of John Brown’s construction and installation sites worldwide. An onerous responsibility given the hazardous nature of the employment but one which Jimmy was to perform ‘par excellence’ to the extent that he was to be presented with an ‘Oscar’, or at least the Safety World’s equivalent – the coveted Sword of Honour – having helped in consecutive years to turn John Brown Engineering into one of the top 30 safest companies in the world, an award I know Jimmy properly took enormous personal pride in.
Jimmy was presented with the sword at very prestigious event in the Goldsmiths’ Hall in London in 1985 attended by representatives of all the various Nations as well as the Board of Governors of the British Safety Council. While the award was symbolic it is worthwhile considering that it was achieved by Jimmy’s efforts in reducing the Company’s Accident Incident rate from 49 per 1000 employees to 2 per 1000. It is no exaggeration therefore to say that Jimmy’s efforts probably saved scores if not hundreds of employees from being injured, maimed or worse over the course of his career at JBE.
A man described as an ‘institution’ in the Herald in May 1992 when he retired after fifty years service in a career which included his becoming the works’ youngest foreman and its first health and safety manager and whose contribution to safety management was referred to by colleagues’ as ‘immense’.
Jimmy more modestly described himself the ’last of a breed ‘ in correctly recognising that employment patterns were changing, making a 50 year career unlikely to be repeated..
Intertwined with his professional career and his growing family was the other love of his life – piping.
Having learned to play at an early age Jimmy soon became supremely proficient. He had been playing solo and in first grade bands before becoming Pipe Sergeant in the Renfrew Pipe Band which he played in until 1972 when it became the British Caledonian Pipe Band (Renfrew) after the airline of the same name. Then sponsoring two bands – one in London the other in Renfrew - in 1975 it was decided to only have one and Jimmy became Pipe Sergeant with Harry McNulty - ex of the Edinburgh Police band – Pipe Major.
Jimmy was later to describe the day at Balloch Highland Games several years later when he was ‘Acting Pipe Major’ and the Band won the first prize in Grade One as perhaps his “most treasured memory”.
And so Jimmy’s globetrotting was to begin as he was to travel the world with the band and of course he would appear regularly on TV where Jimmy became a proverbial member of the Piping elite, popping up on our screens whenever the occasion- from New Year to New York’s Tartan day parade - warranted it.
Jimmy played before the Queen and other Royalty, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Ambassadors, Bob Hope and his Holiness the Pope. He appeared across the world, at football stadiums, on Top of the Pops, in TV documentary ‘Flying Scots’, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and in many venues too numerous to mention, from Palaces in the Middle East to the World Cup in Mexico and the Astrodome in Houston Texas.
His last oversees trip with B Cal was in 1988 to Hong Kong where at the finale the band – the only non military band present - led all the others into the arena to receive a standing ovation from the vast audience after which it was off to Taiwan where they played at the Chang Kai-Shek Memorial before heading back home. As if that was not enough, Jimmy was then to join the Scottish Power band – aptly named the ‘Power of Scotland’ – and latterly become its Administration Manager.
The Scottish Power pipe band is among the finest bands in the world having been regular and consistent prize winners in major Pipe band competitions in recent years. The band have appeared before the Queen at Braemar, for the Pope at St Peter’s in Rome, with Sir Paul McCartney at the SECC and the Lord Mayor’s show in London and at many other prestigious venues and occasions at home and abroad.
Jimmy rejoiced with individual pride in their success and the superb quality of their product with Roddy McLeod and colleagues in the band whether at Cowal, the Scottish Championships or the World Pipe Band Championships where they were runners up but he also kept his promises to local clubs, playing at every Burns supper of Clydebank Bowling Club for an astonishing 47 years in a row.
Seen by millions of viewers on television networks throughout the world in full, specially commissioned highland regalia – not least at the official opening of the Scottish Parliament - the band consists of the crème of Scotland’s solo pipers and drummers many of whom have won major honours for solo performances and of course it was during this period Jimmy penned his own ‘piece de resistance’, Autumn Dream- being played today in his memory.
Having started composing personal piper to celebrated Scots Chairman of British Caledonian Airways Sir Adam Thomson, ‘Autumn Dream’ was included by Band Leader Jim McLeod in his CD and is now widely recognised and played across the globe.
Jimmy enjoyed travelling the world with the Scottish Power band, often with Beth, playing at tattoos in America, Canada, Europe, South America, The Middle and Far East and across the UK but always loved to come home to Scotland.
They were to celebrate their diamond wedding in September 2008 with a congratulatory card from the Queen and the very next month - over forty years later from being invited aboard the iconic QE2 for a private viewing before it went into service - they were to board the QE2 once more before the world famous liner made its way to Dubai for the last time. Both enjoyed the day immensely chatting with the Captain and former colleagues – fellow members of the ‘untouchables as they were known - before the ship set sail for its final journey.
Unfortunately Beth’s illness and subsequent death rendered such occasions fewer and fewer but Jimmy was never far from Beth’s side during this period taking her to Dobbies and Cameron House and other venues ensuring her last days were as enjoyable as possible.
A large part of Jimmy died that day too but he refused to be too depressed and set out to make sure whatever time he had left was spent as actively as possible and Jimmy was soon to be seen travelling literally the length and breadth of the country, dropping in on his daughters Eleanor and Alison and son Jim every weekend and visiting his favourite venues across the nation from the House of Bruar and Auchterarder in the north to Erskine and Hayes in Symington in the south, often accompanied by close family friend Lee.
His family were always the recipients of his considerable largesse on these visits as he would never arrive empty handed often with bags literally bursting at the seams with cakes, biscuits and .. yes calculators, calendars and even compasses... plus every item of stationary you could imagine. His passing will certainly leave a hole in the pocket of retailers across the country.
More importantly, Jimmy’s passing leaves a gaping hole in the lives of all his family and his many friends who were able to assure him of their love and respect as Jimmy lay in Erskine and Paisley hospitals over the last few months. As gradually Jimmy’s standard response of being in ‘excellent’ health when asked by Health Professionals how he was, became a parody of his actual condition – Jimmy’s famous stoicism was maintained – until eventually it too had to give way.
Jimmy was however able to pass on one last request to his sister Isobel and brother in law Jimmy - who sadly passed the day after Jimmy’s own passing - so perhaps I should leave the last word to the man himself. Jimmy asked that the song, “Darlin’ Say You Will Love Me When I’m Old” be played at his funeral, as it is being played today, saying and I quote:
“It mentions a lovely wife with 7 kids which we had and only God could make us part and that was certainly Beth and I”
James Shaw Liddell was a remarkable husband, a remarkable father (father in law), grandfather and great grandfather, a remarkable piper and a remarkable manager in Browns but above all he was a remarkable man who will be missed by all who knew him and all whose lives he touched. As today’s turnout demonstrates,
Jimmy was held in high esteem by all who knew him.
(May he Rest in Peace).
Thank you very much to Allan Wilson for his kind words.