Steve Cardownie: George Grubb was one of life’s nice guys

Lord Provost George Grubb pictured at the City Chambers. Picture: Jayne Emsley
Lord Provost George Grubb pictured at the City Chambers. Picture: Jayne Emsley
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It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of one of life’s nice guys, the former Lord Provost Rev George Grubb who passed away last Saturday night.

I had never had any dealings with George prior to him being elected to the position in May 2007. The newly formed Liberal Democrat/SNP coalition had nominated George for the post and although he never envisaged being Edinburgh’s First Citizen, he was honoured to accept and did so with grace and humility.

Unfortunately, the council meeting where he was to be elected was marred by the antics of the then Labour group and its leader, Rev Ewan Aitken, who, instead of extolling the virtues of their candidate for the post, confined himself to launching a tirade against the coalition and ­leaving it to the seconder, Eric ­Milligan, to advance the proposition that Councillor Elizabeth Maginnis should be Lord Provost. It was unfortunate that Ewan’s contribution marred what was supposed to be a grand occasion but if it bothered George he was too much of a ­gentleman to show it and he was duly elected.

George was one of life’s good guys who did not readily embrace the authority that goes with the position and some councillors chose to exploit this “flaw” during council meetings by heckling, speaking longer than Standing Orders permitted and raising spurious points of order. Much to their disappointment, George was unfazed by this and continued to chair the meetings in a polite and courteous manner.

Indeed, I have had the privilege of serving as a councillor under six ­different Lord Provosts and I can ­honestly say that none of the others were subjected to the treatment meted out to George – but maybe in his ­passing they will have cause to reflect on their actions when he was in office.

I only comment on this because it demonstrates the kind of person George was and how he treated others, despite being subjected to the kind of provocation that would have tried the patience of most.

Another example of George’s laid-back approach occurred when I was with him as part of a delegation to Barcelona. No sooner had we dropped our bags off at the hotel, than he was the subject of an attempted mugging at the hands of two athletic-looking Spaniards. Four of us were walking through the city centre trying to decide where to go for something to eat when the two ne’er-do-wells descended on George and tried to relieve him of his wallet by shouting and aggressively manhandling him.

George calmly kept his hands in his pockets and did not retaliate which left his would-be robbers so flummoxed that they fled empty handed. One of them, not realising that I was part of the company passed me at arms length, so I decided to take the opportunity to properly introduce myself which caused him to stop in his tracks and face me. I extended an invitation to him in my broadest Leith terminology to engage with me at closer quarters but he declined and ran down the street.

George was a picture of calm and serenity during this commotion and when he did speak, it was not to pour scorn and damn the individuals responsible, but to ask: “Do you fancy a pint?”

So today I will raise a glass and toast the memory of George; as I said above but it’s worth repeating – one of life’s nice guys. Cheers George.