NOTEBOOK SPECIAL by BILL HEANEY
Big Jim Morrison stepped out of the shadows today to reveal why he is standing in the Dumbarton Constituency for the Scottish Parliament.
As the millionaire many times over owner, with his wife, Emily, of the 100-acre Wards Estate at Gartocharn, Jim needs neither the money nor the hassle of representing politically one of the most deprived communities in Scotland.
The magnificent house and extensive grounds of The Wards are just up the road towards Drymen, but a million metaphorical miles away from the council flat in Dumbuck Road, Dumbarton, where Jim was brought up.
His father, Bob, was a member of Dumbarton Labour Party and became unemployed when the Burroughs Machines factory at Strathleven Industrial Estate shut down in the Sixties.
He was one of the shop stewards who attempted unsuccessfully to fight the closure of the factory where everyone had previously felt secure in their jobs.
Especially after a royal visit by HM the Queen and Prince Phillip, pictured left, who were presented by Burroughs with adding machines for Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
But then the roof fell in and US-based Burroughs, which was one of the principal supporters of Dumbarton FC – their managing director was chairman of the club – upped sticks and left for the then new town of Cumbernauld. There was a time when the football club nearly went with them.
Dumbarton was in shock at the time Denny’s shipyard had already closed as had Singer’s, one of the largest factories in the world. Thousands of men and women were thrown on the dole.
When it became Jim’s turn to go to school at St Patrick’s High in Castlehill he had to suffer what he calls “the stigma of receiving free school meals”.
Poverty and poor health was writ large throughout the local housing schemes. Good houses for working class families were thin on the ground and jobs were in short supply.
Many of the houses were unhealthy and uninhabitable due to dampness, which was a curse at that time.
The local Labour Party buckled down and Ian Campbell, pictured right with Bill Heaney after being elected, who later became the Member of Parliament, galvanised people like Ian MacDuff, Pat O’Neill, Ian Bell, Jimmy McKinley, Hugh McGuire and Jack Hannah into attracting jobs into new industrial estates such as Broadmeadow.
Factories were opened and jobs were created.
Labour then set about demolishing the slums in High Street, Church Street, McLean Place, College Street, College Park Street and Artizan and built a new town centre which in retrospect does not seem like such a good idea.
Hindsight is 20/20 vision however. Maybe the architects and contractors who took on the job have more to answer for than the councillors and officials whose intentions were good but which in the end saddled us with the concrete jungle that the present unfortunate generation has inherited.
Jim Morrison suffered the kind of poverty which affected many families in Dumbarton at that time.
He said: “It was a different kind of poverty from what we see now though. Children are really suffering now. There are serious addiction problems and so many one parent families.
“The SNP offer of £10 a head for every child under six years old is pathetic. £10 a week won’t take children out of poverty. It will simply underscore to families the fact that they are in poverty.”
Why did he decide to stand for the Scottish Parliament?
Jim, pictured left, said: “As a family, we are comfortably off. I am a member of the community council up here. It was my birthday recently and my wife was going to buy me an electric bicycle.
“My eyes were opened however to the terrible poverty that exists in so many houses in Dumbarton. I had been helping some people who couldn’t afford it with their IT, the installation of laptops for their children who were off school during the pandemic. That kind of thing.
“I just thought to myself why not forget the bike and stand for parliament. I consider that Labour has lost its way. It’s not the Party that it was in my father’s day and I don’t believe the SNP will resolve the child poverty problem which is immense.
“I know I am not going to win the seat but I may be able to influence the result. Labour’s majority at the moment is very small indeed and the SNP are not up to the job. A few hundred votes for me could make all the difference. Who knows what might happen?”
Jim Morrison did well at school, where one of his teachers was John McFall, the retired MP for West Dunbartonshire, who was recently appointed Lord Speaker in the House of Lords at Westminster.
He said: “I was a bit of a techie. When I went to school and university or college, we received grants. We didn’t leave school or college up to our eyes in debt with student loans.
“There were jobs available for most people leaving school or Uni and I went into the telecoms industry. I was very successful and made a lot of money. Subsequently, there were stories about me in the newspapers, much of which were untrue.
“I want to get out there and fight to help eradicate child poverty, which is a scandal and which politicians keep vowing to do but then never get round to doing.”
Top picture: Jim and Emily Morrison’s home at Gartocharn on Loch Lomondside.
Seven candidates will contest the Dumbarton constituency in next month’s Scottish Parliament election.
Listed in alphabetical order by surname, they are:
- Jackie Baillie – Scottish Labour Party
- Maurice Corry – Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
- Andy Foxall – Scottish Liberal Democrats
- Toni Giugliano – Scottish National Party (SNP)
- James Morrison – Independent
- Andrew Joseph Muir – Independent
- Jonathan Rainey – Scottish Libertarian Party
Polling stations for the elections on Thursday May 6 are listed here.