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Remembering Michael Shea

Brian Taylor | 11:00 UK time, Tuesday, 27 October 2009

I am sure you will forgive me if I depart from partisan politics for a moment. Today I am attending Michael Shea's funeral in Edinburgh.

Michael was renowned for many things. A former senior diplomat, he served as press secretary to the Queen for a decade which included the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer.

A native Scot, he returned to live in Edinburgh where he played an active and enthusiastic role in many Scottish institutions such as the Royal Lyceum Theatre.

His was an inclusive character, inclined to look favourably where he could and to disavow cynicism.

Personable, amicable and charismatic, he had friends and associates ranging from business to the arts, from politics to diplomacy.

This much is known. Let me add a single tale.

'Never retire'

Michael was a prolific writer. His work spread from thrillers to constitutional analysis.

I recall, in particular, one more. Just three years ago, he published The Freedom Years.

I chaired the session at the Edinburgh Book Festival in which Michael expounded upon the content of his book.

With his familiar energy and drive, he explained his thesis that older folk should never "retire". They should banish the word. They should disdain the slump into slipperdom which retirement implied.

Instead, they should adopt new challenges, they should find new activities. They should be busier and more productive than ever, regardless of their revised employment status.

It is simply tragic that aggressive illness and death has prevented Michael Shea from putting his thesis into prolonged, personal practice.

Memento mori.

Still, while he could, he remained active, eager and alert. Scotland is the better for it. He will be missed.


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