Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow University service for former rector Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy's family have attended a special service in Glasgow to remember the ex-Liberal Democrat leader who died earlier this month aged 55.

Senior political figures gathered for the thanksgiving service at Glasgow University, where the politician studied and served two terms as rector.

The university has set up a memorial fund to name a teaching area after him.

Mr Kennedy died at his home in Fort William on 1 June after suffering a major haemorrhage linked to alcoholism.

The service of thanksgiving for his life was held at the university's Bute Hall.

It began with an academic procession led by former university piper Donald Campbell, and his brother Alastair, the former journalist and Downing Street Director of Communications who became a good personal friend of Mr Kennedy.

Those attending were welcomed by Chancellor of the University Prof Sir Kenneth Calman.

"We enjoyed each other's company and there was always banter and humour between the serious parts of our conversation," he recalled.

"The last time I was in touch with him was on April 18, returning from Culloden, where I had laid a wreath on the battlefield and realised I was driving through his constituency and I dropped him a note to wish him well.

"And I will always remember him with affection."

Image copyright Glasgow University

The service included a reading of the poem When You Are Old by WB Yeats.

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell then read the words of a psalm. He was followed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a graduate of the university, who read from St John's Gospel.

President of Glasgow University Union Rory Slater spoke of Charles Kennedy as a "distinguished, approachable and, above all, friendly man", going on to describe him as a "true friend and ally to the students of the university".

Breffni O'Connor, the President of the Students Representative Council, said: "Charles had compassion in his blood."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie read the poem Thankful I Am by Leslie Scrase.

It concludes with the words: "When I look back upon my richly varied years, I crave no more, thankful that I have lived... so shed no tears."

Mr Rennie's predecessor Lord Wallace of Tankerness paid tribute.

He said his opposition to the war in Iraq showed his strengths. "Charles showed great courage... he stuck to his principled stance."

But Lord Wallace said Charles Kennedy always showed dignity. "Even in private I never heard him speak ill about those with whom he disagreed, Frustration, yes, but malice, no.

"And I can't help but think how much healthier would be the political climate in Scotland today if people and overly zealous activists in particular could emulate Charles Kennedy and respect the sincerely held views of others."

He concluded: "Charles, we love you very much, we will miss you. Will we ever see your like again?"

'True humanity'

Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the university Prof Anton Muscatelli added his tribute: "We should not mourn his loss for long, rather celebrate his legacy, that true humanity has the capacity to rise above the things that divide.

"If the university has a profound sense of loss, we know that Charles' family and his close circle of friends will be feeling it much more and our thoughts are with them all."

The ceremony closed with the last hymn, I Vow to Thee, My Country, followed by a Latin blessing, before the academic procession was led by both pipers from Bute Hall.

Mr Kennedy studied politics and philosophy at the university and graduated with an honours degree in 1982.

He was President of Glasgow University (Students) Union from 1980 to 1981 and won the British Observer Mace for university debating in 1982.

He received an honorary doctorate from the university in 2001 and served two terms as rector from 2008 to 2014.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Leading politicians at the service included First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Image copyright PA
Image caption Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell attended the service
Image caption Representatives of the Conservative Party were at the ceremony
Image copyright PA
Image caption Former Labour MP and House of Commons Speaker Baron Martin of Springburn attended the service

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