Obituary: Jimmy Cook, former councillor, 84

Jimmy Cook

Jimmy Cook

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Jimmy Cook, long-serving Labour councillor and convener of Lothian Region, has died, aged 84.

Born in Fountainbridge on April 3, 1928, Jimmy was a typewriter engineer by profession, an active and dedicated trade unionist and a lifelong Hearts supporter.

But it will be for his 34 years in local government in the Capital for which he will be best remembered.

He stood several times as Labour candidate in local elections in Murrayfield in the 1950s, but he was first elected to the former Edinburgh Corporation as councillor for Calton ward in 1962, winning by just 15 votes after a recount.

He lost his seat in 1968 to the SNP, but was re-elected at a by-election in 1969.

He served as a bailie from 1972-74 and was elected to the new Lothian Regional Council when it was formed in 1974.

He served at different times as transport convener, chairman of Lothian and Borders Fire Board and chairman of Lothian and Borders Police Board.

In 1986 he was elected as convener, Lothian’s civic head, chairing council meetings and representing the region at all sorts of events, and held the post for four years before being succeeded by Eric Milligan.

Over the years, Jimmy led a wide range of campaigns, including one in the 1970s to save Edinburgh’s “steamies”, which succeeded in holding off the closure of public laundries for five years.

He also campaigned successfully to save the then-Playhouse cinema from the threat of demolition in the late 1970s and its revival as a theatre, though it later passed from civic ownership to private hands.

He was a fierce defender of public transport, campaigning against privatisation of the buses.

And he always believed Edinburgh made a mistake in getting rid of its trams in the 1950s. He repeatedly called for trams to be brought back, persuading the city’s transport committee in 1973 to call for a report on how European cities operated their tram systems.

Former Lord Provost Eric Milligan said Jimmy would be remembered with great affection for his tireless service.

“No issue too important, no issue too trivial was Jimmy’s maxim,” he said. “However, his unashamed populism and pawky, often self-deprecating and almost schoolboy sense of humour concealed from many the strength and depth of his socialist convictions.”

He retired from local government in 1996 when Lothian Region disappeared under reorganisation.

Jimmy was also a keen supporter of blind charities and chairman of the Royal National Institution for the Blind in Scotland.

He died at the Western General Hospital after a short illness and his funeral was held at Warriston crematorium last Thursday.

His wife Hermina died in 1992. He is survived by his step-daughter Eva.