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25 January, 2011

Respected politician who was Donald Dewar’s agent Born 14 August 1929; died in Aberdeen 31 December 2010, in Inchmario, Aberdeenshire, aged 81.

George Whyte (Photo: Arthur Strong)
George Whyte (Photo: Arthur Strong)
Aberdeen councillor George Whyte was a committed politician who joined the Labour Party in 1950, becoming vice-chair of the North-East Federation of Labour Parties in 1952. He was also a member of the Transport and General Workers Union from 1951.

As his friend for more than 50 years, my first memory of George is as a member of the Labour League of Youth, and then as an editorial board member of the Labour paper, the Aberdeen Clarion. Later he became Secretary of Aberdeen South Constituency Labour Party.

In 1963, George was appointed the election agent for Donald Dewar--later First Minister--and led the team to win Aberdeen South in 1965, Dewar’s first seat at Westminster, ousting Lady Tweedsmuir.

George was for many years a member of Aberdeen City Council, elected to represent the Torry ward in 1972. From 1975 to 1984 he served on Aberdeen District Council. He was re-elected to the council, for the Duthie ward, from 1995 till 1999. He served on the city’s arts committee and one achievement was the conversion of a vacant cinema into a film theatre.

George was never afraid to oppose any move, even by his own party, if he felt it was wrong. He was of the view that anything that was morally wrong could never be politically right. For more than 50 years he tried to live out his Christian faith in his private and public life. In this he was strengthened through his association with the Moral Re-Armament movement.

A staunch member of the Church of Scotland, he initiated in 1994 the rebirth of the Christian Socialist Movement in Aberdeen, which now has branches in Glasgow and Edinburgh. He also initiated the twinning of Aberdeen with Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo.

He and his friend Jim Wyness, then lord provost of Aberdeen, set up a project entitled Tools for Bulawayo. A supply of sewing machines was especially appreciated by the women of Zimbabwe, which I saw being used when I visited a children’s home near Bulawayo.

Another of George’s achievements was a media conference in Aberdeen, held in November 2001, to which he invited the French journalist Bernard Margueritte, president of the International Communications Forum and former BBC presenter Martyn Lewis.

On his death from prostate cancer, at the age of 81, tributes came from around the world. Mr Margueritte wrote from Warsaw, Poland, that George Whyte “embodied the very best of the Scottish virtues. Scotland has lost one of her best sons.”

In March 1963, George wed Helen McNeil, who died in October 2007.

Finlay Moir

This obituary first appeared in The Scotsman, 20 January 2011

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