Real Lives: ‘Absolute gent’ Harry had the Tyne of his life

Henry Albert Fletcher, a former Midlothian councillor and one of the oldest men in Scotland, has died at the age of 105.

Known as Harry, he was born in Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, in 1906. After leaving school at 16, he went on to work on the railways.

He moved to Scotland to be with wife Molly after the Second World War, when he served as a bomb loader with the Royal Air Force.

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The pair were married at Gilmerton Parish Church in 1943, and Harry settled in the area after completing his RAF duties soon after.

Harry and Molly, along with her daughter from an previous marriage, then moved to Eskbank in 1945, and remained there for more than 40 years.

After the war, Harry returned to working on the trains. He became an elder with the St John’s and King’s Park Church, a role that he would keep for more than 50 years.

It was this involvement which prompted good friend David Smith, now former Provost of Dalkeith, to encourage Harry to run for the town council as a Labour candidate in 1970.

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David said: “I knew that Harry had Labour convictions – he often referred to his young days and the bitter hardship in Jarrow. Harry became a most able member of the council. He was fair and sensible. He had an alert brain and was always ready to express an opinion. He was completely trustworthy.”

After local government reforms in 1975, Harry became the Labour candidate for Dalkeith on the newly created Midlothian District Council, and was a member for the next three years.

As well as serving the community through both the council and the church, Harry was the first secretary of the Dalkeith Citizens Advice Bureau when it was set up in 1966, and remained on the committee for 21 years.

In his retirement, Hibs supporter Harry was heavily involved with the Dalkeith Probus Society, as well as being an avid supporter of the Dalkeith History Society.

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In 1983, he became the first resident at Crystal Mount sheltered housing, where he remained until four weeks before his death. Molly passed away in 1991.

Councillor Adam Montgomery, another former Dalkeith provost, recalled posing with Harry for the council Christmas card. He said: “Harry was running late and I asked if there was a problem, but he just needed to get his tie straight for the photo. He was an absolute gent.”