Obituary: Iain McConnell, 71

Iain McConnell. Picture: Comp
Iain McConnell. Picture: Comp
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THE innovative press officer who came up with the bright idea of lighting up the Forth Bridge has died.

Iain McConnell helped oversee the privatisation of South of Scotland Electricity Board into Scottish Power.

With the process involving the shedding of nuclear stations at Hunterston and Torness, the impact on staff, jobs, media and the public was huge, and Mr McConnell was one of a small team who helped smooth the transition.

He possessed the nous to realise that such a huge change deserved to be brought to the public in ways that were different from traditional leaflets, posters and press releases.

He came up with the innovative idea of lighting up the Forth Bridge using off-peak nighttime power from Torness, pointing out that “the only cost is bulbs and wiring”.

He pushed home the message by creating a video that tied in with the centenary of the crossing and recorded his own commentary and produced scenes filmed from the bridge itself to the Transport Museum in Glasgow.

Born in Glasgow, Mr McConnell was educated at King’s Park Secondary and Aberdeen University and eventually settled in Gifford, East Lothian.

Bright and with a questing mind, he moved into air traffic control, working at Heathrow and meeting his wife Heather there. He left London after 14 years to become airport manager on Islay for three years. From there he took a job as DJ and producer at the newly created BBC Radio Solway in Dumfries.

But the scent of public affairs drew him, and in 1988 he moved for a short time to Scottish & Newcastle, before settling with SSEB.

Latterly, Mr McConnell held appointments in public affairs with Wimpey Construction and British Executive Service Overseas.

His contacts through the latter saw him combine his professional interest of public affairs with a lifetime love of Burns, when he engaged former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan to give the annual Burns Memorial Lecture in New York.

Mr McConnell himself never took up Burns and Burns events with anything less than gusto, once delivering the Immortal Memory in Calgary, Canada, at what is said to be the world’s biggest Burns Supper. Afterwards, the mayor made him an honorary Calgarian.

This contact led to his helping to engage Calgary Burns Choir to sing at the Edinburgh Tattoo in 2009 in the 250th anniversary year of the birth of the Bard.

Mr McConnell loved all and every kind of music, as well as singing and playing guitar, piano and pipes.

His family was always his first love – his wife Heather, sons Andrew and Douglas, daughter-in-law Elspeth, and granddaughters Freya, Heidi and Jessica.

Iain died suddenly, at the age of 71, the day after the birth of his third granddaughter.