Margo MacDonald chose music and planned funeral

Margo MacDonald. Picture: Esme Allen

Margo MacDonald. Picture: Esme Allen

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INDEPENDENT Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald stipulated in her will which songs she wanted played at her funeral.

The popular politician died last April, aged 70, following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

In the will, written less than two weeks before her death, Margo also made clear she did not want a public funeral and left instructions for a humanist service.

She requested the songs to be played should include Sheena Wellington singing Robert Burns’ A Man’s a Man for A’ That, Always On My Mind by Willie Nelson and the Mike and the Mechanics track, The Living Years – all of which featured in the celebration of Margo’s life held at the Assembly Hall on The Mound, which had been the first home of the Scottish Parliament while the Holyrood building was under construction.

Her husband Jim Sillars said: “We knew in February she had only a few months to live.

“She made sure the will was properly in place and her wishes about a private ceremony were going to be respected.

“She dealt with the circumstances of death as she dealt with the circumstances of life – by applying her strong character and will to it.”

And Mr Sillars said it was just as well she chose the tunes she wanted rather than leave it to him.

“I’m the least musical person in our whole family,” he said. “I’ve two granddaughters who are singer-songwriters and a son-in-law who is a Proclaimer, but as one of my uncles told me I have no soul for music.

“Margo knew what she was doing OK – and she knew her husband.”

More than 1000 people attended the Assembly Hall service, which included moving tributes to Margo from Mr Sillars, close friend and political colleague Alex Neil and comedian Elaine C Smith, as well as a live performance of Sunshine on Leith from The Proclaimers.

Margo was elected as an SNP MSP for Lothian in the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999, but was 
re-elected as an independent in 2003 and again in 2007 and 2011.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002 but despite her deteriorating health, she continued her work as an MSP, helping constituents and campaigning on causes close to her heart, including the proposed legalisation of assisted suicide.

Mr Sillars told the Assembly Hall event that Margo had captivated the people of Scotland through her “intellectual power, radiance, beauty, warmth, humour, humanity and colossal talent”.

He said: “Charismatic is an inadequate word for Margo. She was dusted with magic. She was a force of nature; a powerful force for good, and a superb example of a willingness for personal sacrifice in order to perform public service, with both physical and moral bravery.”

Margo’s will, now made public, shows she left £179,558 to her family.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com