Andrew Welsh, his political life and his personal achievements
Andrew Welsh, who died at the age of 77, spent half a century at the heart of the Scottish independence movement.
He was also a husband, father, teacher, linguist and guitarist. We look back at the life of this most determined politician who was one of the 11 revolutionary deputies of the SNP in 1974.
Andrew Paton Welsh was born in Glasgow on April 19, 1944.
Her father was William Welsh, a bank accountant, and her mother, Agnes, ran the house.
The youngest of three children, he attended primary school in Cardonald with his brother Rogan and sister Maureen, before moving on to Govan High School.
Living in Ibrox’s shadow helped form a sure love for the Glasgow Rangers, but it was a devotion to his country that would set him apart from the rest.
He entered the SNP at the age of only 16 and already had the desire for politics and the interests of his nation at heart.
Andrew left school to take a job with the National Commercial Bank.
From there he went to the University of Glasgow to study politics and history in 1967.
Quickly joining the Scottish National Association, he befriended Sheena Cannon, who was also on the same course.
After a court that lasted their college days, the couple married after graduation in Sheena’s hometown of Dunoon in November 1971.
The couple are said to have a daughter, Jane, married to Roly Smith. The couple have a 13-year-old daughter, Zara.
He and Sheena together would be a formidable heart at the center of the nationalist movement throughout their marriage.
After graduation, Andrew began teaching history at Stirling High School.
Sheena also taught, first in elementary school, then in secondary school, before supporting children with additional educational needs.
In February 1974, Andrew campaigned for the seat of Central Dumbarton but finished fourth.
Determined, his political hopes are not disappointed.
Soon after, he won the local election to become a member of the Stirling council, but by October of that year that was all about to change.
He impressively beat Tory Jock Bruce-Gardyne on his own home ground, Angus, to become one of the now famous SNP 11s.
“Our lives have been turned upside down,” Sheena said.
“I mean it’s always a lot of work to be an MP, but that was also during the days of the Labor minority government.
“There were constant late nights. He was often absent. But I knew then and I still know now that this was what Andrew wanted.
Entering parliament for the SNP, he spoke on behalf of his party on issues of local government, housing and later small businesses and agriculture.
He became Deputy Chief Whip in 1976, helping to refine SNP devolution plans and assumed the role of Chief Whip in 1978.
The referendum of March 1979 saw the SNP still resolute in its position of deconcentration.
In pursuit of their dream for Scotland, Andrew and the other party members asked Callaghan to move forward with the creation of a Scottish assembly, but he refused.
As chief whip, it was up to Andrew to put the SNP’s motion of censure into the hands of an ash-faced Michael Foot.
Mrs. Thatcher pressed it at home, and on March 28, 1979, it was passed by 311 votes to 310.
In a move that essentially began nearly 20 years of Tory rule, it has seen the SNP lose nine of its 11 seats, including Andrew’s.
“He suffered for it, they all did it,” Sheena said. “We have lost seats and a lot of sleepless nights. But on second thought, Andrew still believed that Callaghan and his government could have gotten out of this problem.
“He was acting on behalf of the party,” Sheena said.
A new leadership role
After losing his seat, Andrew returned to education, teaching public administration and economics at Dundee College of Commerce and Angus College, Arbroath.
In the 1983 election he ran again – unsuccessfully – but was elected the following year to Angus’ council as the SNP took control.
Sheena had already been elected there in 1980 and from 1984 to 1987 Andrew became provost.
In 1987 Andrew ran again, this time back in Westminster, representing Angus East as one of the three SNP MPs.
He becomes vice-president of the party and becomes chief whip again.
In Holyrood’s historic first election in May 1999, Andrew’s dream of being a politician in a Scottish parliament came true.
He was elected for Angus with a majority of almost 8,000.
He served under a dual mandate until his resignation from Westminster in the 2001 general election.
Remained MSP until 2011, he retired at 67 years old.
Retaining his seat in the 1992 and 1997 elections, he successfully led the It’s Scotland’s Water campaign against privatization plans north of the border.
He was opposed to Trident and campaigned against the storage of nuclear waste in Scotland.
Known for his organizational skills, he took a stand against the decision to include Scottish schools in the council’s removal of control and, in March 1989, led an SNP Commons sit-in to delay Lawson’s budget.
In October 1991, he was appointed head of transport.
He voted to ban fox hunting and was outspoken in his efforts to thwart plans to extend daylight saving time.
Andrew is said to have said this was done to meet “the narrow interests of a faction in the southernmost part of England”.
Despite his calm demeanor, Andrew was a passionate linguist, speaking French, Spanish, Mandarin and some Italian.
He was eager to travel more with Sheena during their retirement years, as he was limited during his tenure as an MP, wanting to stay close to Parliament.
Although they managed to visit Canada, China, Russia, Florida and the Caribbean, Alzheimer’s disease would unfortunately deprive the couple of additional vacations.
It would also unfortunately deprive them of the possibility of celebrating their golden wedding anniversary which should have taken place in November.
The Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers fan, who loved to play the guitar, became a free man in Angus County and in January 2013 was appointed Angus’ deputy lieutenant.
He has also served on the Court of the University of Dundee.
But of all the accolades in her life, perhaps it was walking her daughter Jane down the aisle that was the greatest honor of her life.
Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon attended Andrew’s funeral at St Andrew’s Church, Arbroath on Thursday.
A sad afternoon in Arbroath to bid farewell to Andrew Welsh – a boy from Govan who made Angus his home and served over the years as a Provost, Member of Parliament and MSP. Andrew was a giant of @leSNP and the Scottish independence movement. We will miss him. pic.twitter.com/ubSnmMYXKB
– Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) June 24, 2021
Describing Andrew – a husband, father, and grandfather – as “a kind and gentle person,” Sheena, Jane and their friends and family at large celebrated his life in the church where he was former.
The hymns chosen were the same as those of their marriage 49 years earlier.