A great woman passeth – Janey Buchan is dead


By Ian Smart

Norman Buchan once said to me that you can’t be sure that you are an atheist unless you have survived seeing Orvieto Cathedral.

Janey shared that scepticism about religion.  Lots and lots of time I thought she was wrong: about the European Union; about devolution; about the unchallenged virtue of the State of Israel.  Tonight, however, on that biggest question of all, I hope she was most wrong of all.

Although if she is sitting now in the company of St Patrick and St Vincent de Paul I’m sure she will be asserting almost immediately that they are a crowd of right wing bastards.

It is almost impossible to value the contribution of Janey and Norman Buchan to the Scottish Left.  No, it is impossible to value.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to enjoy their hospitality remember a home ……….. I was going to say a home of whatever, but actually a home is enough in itself.

I have never seen a house with more books.  Or experienced a place with more diverse company.  And the only risk of being thrown out would have come with the assertion that “I don’t want an argument”.

It was a place of argument, as much as it was a place of food and drink and music and of, yes, sanctuary.

Wee Norrie was, at least, a bit cogniscant of the compromises supposedly neccessary to make your way in modern politics but Janey never was.

The dialectic was everything.  Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxembourg, Leibnicht, Gramsci but never, ever Stalin echoed across the West End into the small hours.  Night, after night, after night.

And the music.  Folk music, the workers music.  Not just Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger; Scottish Ballads and songs about the struggles of working people of diverse type; international songs about freedom from oppression in countries (shame on us) we had barely heard of.  And, just occasionally, Verdi or Bellini to remind you that sometimes everyone was due a moment’s release from the struggle.

Grief has two dimensions.  Who you have lost but also what you have lost.

Courtesy of Ian Smart – http://ianssmart.blogspot.com/
Ian Smart is a long-standing member of the Labour Party with a particular interest in and commitment to Scottish Home Rule.  Mr Smart was a founder member of Scottish Labour Action and has sought repeatedly to secure election to the Scottish Parliament.