On looking over this MACCORMICK FAMILY series, I found that I produced the first segment  back in January 2015.    At that time, I recall I was more anxious to get material on the screen than to spend time developing  a clear plan as to structure and content – my medical issues partly explain the haste.  It began and has continued as ‘a work in progress’ – in other words, I pretty much let my as always free-wheeling mind run where it wanted. 

As a result, I noted in that first part:

“…two figures are prominent in the MacCorm

ick family collection:  John MacDonald MacCormick and his son, Professor Sir Donald Neil MacCormick.  Because of the huge amount of data on the two available on the internet, I have chosen to give more space here to other family members whose activities may be less familiar.”

In retrospect, I now realise  I erred in that decision particularly because in choosing that path, I inadvertently overlooked  two other prominent family members of the DONALD LINE.   

It  saddens me to contemplate that all four, even the younger members, are no longer with us.  And so I present here  a Wikipedia article and three obituaries in order of death, of what most will agree is this leading group in the MACCORMICK pantheon – a son and three grandsons of DONALD MACCORMICK. 

John M.  MacCormick

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Early life

MacCormick was born in Pollokshields, Glasgow, in 1904. His father was Donald MacCormick, a sea captain who was from the Isle of Mull. His mother was the first district nurse in the Western Isles.[2] McCormick was educated at Woodside School, and studied law at the University of Glasgow (1923–1928). He became involved in politics while at university, and joined the Glasgow University Labour Club and the Independent Labour Party in 1923.[3] In September 1927 MacCormick left the ILP and formed the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association (GUSNA), which was designed to promote Scottish culture and nationalism and self-government. The association was sufficiently neutral to act as the honest broker between the various nationalist organisations which would merge to form the National Party of Scotland (NPS) in April 1928. MacCormick was a talented speaker and organiser, and served as the national secretary of the NPS.[4] MacCormick was often known by his nickname “King John”, which he said came from a heckle during a debate he was participating in when upon a question from the floor whether a devolved Scotland would retain the monarchy, or would be a republic, someone interjected and said: “no, it will be a kingdom and John MacCormick will be our king.”[3]

The failure of the NPS to make an electoral breakthrough led him to question current tactics and he concluded that the party’s fundamentalist wing was frightening away potential support because of its support for republicanism and independence. In consequence, MacCormick initiated a campaign to redefine the policy of the NPS, to make it more moderate and to tone down demands for independence. He first stood for Parliament as an NPS candidate at the 1929 general election, when he came third in Glasgow Camlachie, with 1,646 votes.[3] He also stood at Inverness at the 1931 general election.


In 1932, MacCormick began to make overtures to the right-wing Scottish Party, believing that, as the Scottish Party included a number of members of the Scottish ‘establishment‘, their conversion to the cause of home rule would enhance the credibility of the nationalists. To secure an accommodation, MacCormick purged the NPS of radical elements, and moved the policy of the NPS towards that of the Scottish Party. His endeavours paid dividends, and in 1934 the two parties merged to form the Scottish National Party (SNP).[3]HYPERLINK \l “cite_note-SLR-4”[4] MacCormick himself was not a dogmatic politician, and described himself as a radical, by which he meant a form of centrist liberal. His response to the failure of the SNP to make an electoral impact in the mid-1930s was to search for alternative strategies. He considered the basic problem to be that, although many people in Scotland favoured home rule, they were not, on the whole, willing to put the issue above conventional party loyalties.[3] The solution, MacCormick argued, was to make the other parties take home rule seriously, and to demonstrate widespread support for the cause. In 1939 he launched the idea of a Scottish national convention, which would bring together all sections of Scottish society and all shades of Scottish political opinion in favour of home rule. He had made contact with both the Labour and Liberal parties, and although the first meeting, scheduled for September 1939, was cancelled because of the outbreak of World War II, MacCormick pushed negotiations throughout the war.[3]HYPERLINK \l “cite_note-SLR-4”[4]

As a leading figure in the SNP, MacCormick came under increasing attack from the rank and file members for his failure to maintain party structure and organisation. He considered that his preferred strategy of co-operation with other organisations meant that there was little need for the SNP to function as a mainstream political party.[3] He endeavoured to present an acceptable face of Scottish nationalism, and did much to reverse the party’s official anti-conscription policy following the outbreak of the Second World War.[3]HYPERLINK \l “cite_note-SLR-4”[4] MacCormick stood as an SNP candidate for Inverness at the 1935 general election and at the 1937 Glasgow Hillhead by-election.[3]

He resigned from the party in 1942 following his failure to persuade the party to adopt a devolutionist stance rather than supporting all out Scottish independence and due to the victory of Douglas Young over his favoured candidate, William Power, for the leadership of the SNP.[3] Along with a number of dissatisfied delegates to that year’s SNP conference, he established the Scottish Convention to campaign for home rule for Scotland and later formed the Scottish Covenant Association.[1]

Scottish Convention, Scottish Covenant and later years

MacCormick took the decision to join the Liberal Party as he viewed them as being the party most closely allied to his devolutionist ambitions for Scotland. He stood as the Liberal candidate for Inverness at the 1945 general election.[3]HYPERLINK \l “cite_note-SLR-4”[4]

The Scottish Convention succeeded in 1947 in setting up an assembly along the lines planned in 1939.[5] In 1951, MacCormick formed the Scottish Covenant Association, a non-partisan political organisation which campaigned to secure the establishment of a devolved Scottish Assembly.[1] This covenant was hugely successful in securing support from across the political spectrum, as well as in capturing the Scottish public’s imagination (over 2 million signed a petition demanding the convocation of an Assembly, although a number of them were shown to be bogus). In 1948, he stood as an independent candidate at the Paisley by-election, with what he erroneously believed to be Liberal and Conservative support, and lost.[1]HYPERLINK \l “cite_note-dnb-3”[3] His failure discredited claims as to the popularity of home rule, and further served to reinforce notions that the Scottish Convention was an anti-Labour organisation. MacCormick’s failure left the SNP with a monopoly of the cause of home rule.[3]HYPERLINK \l “cite_note-SLR-4”[4]

MacCormick was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow in 1950 as GUSNA’s candidate, serving until 1953. He was also awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws by the university in 1951.[6] This association with GUSNA also saw the formation of a political friendship with a then young law student at Glasgow University, Ian Hamilton, who had run his campaign to be elected rector. MacCormick was involved, along with Hamilton, in the removal of the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950 and its return to Arbroath Abbey. He also mounted a legal challenge, MacCormick v. Lord Advocate, over the right of Queen Elizabeth using the title Queen Elizabeth II, on grounds that there had been no previous Scottish Queen Elizabeth.[3]HYPERLINK \l “cite_note-SLR-4”[4]

In 1955 MacCormick had a book detailing his activities in the home rule movement published, entitled The Flag in the Wind. His last attempt to enter parliament came at the 1959 General Election, when he stood for the Liberal Party at Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, again finishing second.[3]

In the film Stone of Destiny MacCormick is played by Robert Carlyle.

Personal life[

MacCormick married Margaret Isobel Miller in 1939, with whom he had two sons and two daughters. Their elder son, Iain (1939–2014), served as SNP Member of Parliament for Argyll from 1974 till 1979 (and was a founder member of the Social Democratic Party. Their second son, Neil (1941–2009) was regius professor of Public Law and Vice-Principal of the University of Edinburgh, and served as an SNP Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004. He was also the uncle of the journalist and broadcaster Donald MacCormick.

MacCormick died on 13 October 1961. His funeral was held in the chapel of the University of Glasgow.[7]

Party political offices

Preceded by
New position
National Secretary of the Scottish National Party
Succeeded by
Robert McIntyre

Academic offices

Preceded by
Walter Elliot
Rector of the University of Glasgow
Succeeded by
Tom Honeyman

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Professor Sir Donald  Neil MacCormick, Legal academic and politician 20:25 20:38 Monday 06 April 2009

Born: 27 May, 1941, in Glasgow. Died 5 April, 2009, in Edinburgh, aged 67. HE WAS of impeccable Nationalist pedigree, but there was nevertheless always a whiff of the Establishment about Professor Sir Neil MacCormick. The son of “King John” MacCormick, the Glasgow lawyer and leading Scottish Nationalist, Sir Neil followed him with distinction in both professions, although his geniality and generosity of spirit earned him friends across the political spectrum

Donald Neil MacCormick (he used Neil to differentiate him from a cousin called Donald) was the younger of two sons of John MacCormick and Margaret Miller, whom Sir Neil recalled as “a tower of strength” in a happy family life which also included two sisters. Despite juggling a large legal and political workload, John remained a “very engaged dad”, he said.
He was undoubtedly a major influence on Sir Neil. Growing up in a large flat overlooking Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow, he was surrounded by talk of Scotland and politics. “If you were a small boy or young teenager interested in political affairs,” Sir Neil later recalled, “simply assuming the role of an unobtrusive listener gave a great political education in a very particular kind of politics.” At first, however, Sir Neil chose a legal education, reading for an MA in philosophy and English literature at the University of Glasgow, before benefiting from a Snell Exhibition to take a BA in jurisprudence at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating from both with first-class honours. Few other students could point to a famous legal battle – in Sir Neil’s case McCormick v Lord Advocate (regarding the designation of Queen Elizabeth in Scotland) – bearing the family name. Sir Neil started his academic career as a lecturer in jurisprudence at St Andrews University from 1965-67. He then moved to Balliol College, Oxford, as a fellow and tutor in jurisprudence from 1968-72. Thereafter, he held the Regius chair of public law and the law of nature and nations at Edinburgh University, appointed at the unusually young age of 31. His major contribution to academic thought was in the field of the philosophy and theory of law. Greatly influenced by the writings of the late Professor H L A Hart of Oxford University, about whom he published a critical biography in 1981 (a second edition was published last year), Sir Neil could be described an “ethical positivist”. For him it was an ethical presupposition that law be treated to a large extent as detached from morality.

This approach bore fruit in a collection of essays published in 1982 entitled Legal Right and Social Democracy, and his interest in law as an institution of human society in such internationally recognised works as The Institutional Theory of Law (1986) and the more recent Institutions of Law: An Essay in Legal Theory (2007). Other important works included Questioning Sovereignty: Law, State and Nation in the European Commonwealth (1999) and Rhetoric and the Rule of Law (2005). He was a compelling lecturer and brilliant tutor, and political involvement overlapped naturally with Sir Neil’s academic career. He joined the SNP (which his father had left in 1942) in 1967, eventually became one of its vice-presidents and unsuccessfully contested seats in Edinburgh and Argyll (where his brother Iain had been MP from 1974-79) from 1979-97. He finally won an election in 1999, having been ranked second on the SNP’s list for the European parliamentary elections.Sir Neil’s belief in Scottish independence was pragmatic rather than romantic. He refused to see it “as an end in itself”, as he explained in a collection of essays he edited in 1970 – The Scottish Debate – but saw rather a “utilitarian nationalism” which proposed independence as “the best means to the well-being of Scottish people”. Keenly interested in constitutions, whether Scottish, British or European, Sir Neil argued strongly that Scotland would automatically remain a member of the European Union if it became independent, while defending the concept of Scotland becoming a “partner region” of the EU, something he was honest enough to admit fell short of his party’s preferred aim of “independence in Europe”. A member of the Convention on the Future of Europe from 2002-03, which drafted the EU’s proposed Constitutional Treaty, Sir Neil published Who’s Afraid of a European Constitution? in 2005.

Three times voted Scottish Euro MP of the Year at the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards, Sir Neil retired as an MEP in 2004 to complete his Leverhulme Research professorship at Edinburgh. In 1999 he was appointed Queen’s counsel honoris causa, while his knighthood in 2001 for services to scholarship in law furrowed some Nationalist brows. The then SNP leader, John Swinney, defended it as “a recognition of Neil MacCormick’s tremendous academic achievements”.In 2004 Sir Neil received the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Royal Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement, and in 2008 retired from the Regius chair at Edinburgh after 36 years as a professor. Accorded the honour of a series of lectures in his name, as well as an honorary degree, he found retirement provided more time for hill-walking, bagpiping and sailing. In May 2007 Sir Neil was appointed a special adviser on Europe to Alex Salmond’s minority Scottish Government, the election of which gave him much satisfaction. One of his last tasks was to pen a short introduction for a new edition of his father’s book, The Flag in the Wind, although he was too ill to attend its launch at Bute House. He also took much pleasure from a special screening of the film Stone of Destiny, featuring his father, at his home last year. His final book, Practical Reason in Law and Morality, was published just before Christmas. Like his father, Sir Neil was a man of rare courage in illness and pain. He died from stomach cancer and is survived by three daughters from his first marriage to Caroline Barr, his second wife, Flora, and three step-children.

(copyright The Scotsman)

Donald MacCormick

Veteran Scottish broadcaster who presented Newsnight

MacCormick’s father was a Glasgow teacher who died when Donald was six. This resulted in him being extremely close to the family of his lawyer uncle, John, a partner in the firm of MacCormick and Neil. Coincidentally, this partnership, in name at least, would be revived in later years by Donald as Newsnight presenter and Ron Neil, whose father had been the other lawyer in the firm, as his editor in the early 1980s.

Aside from his legal work, “King John” MacCormick, Donald’s uncle, was a Liberal and devolutionist who was also arguably the father of popular Scottish Nationalism through the Scottish Covenant, a petition for devolved home rule which gained widespread support in the early 1950s. Donald was therefore steeped in Scottish politics from an early age.

Educated at King’s Park secondary school in Glasgow, he then became part of a famous generation of gifted and political Glasgow University students, which included John Smith, Donald Dewar, Derry Irvine and Menzies Campbell. MacCormick was chairman of the Labour Club. However, while he retained a lifelong fascination with politics, his interests were diverse and he never sought a political career. Having edited the university’s literary magazine, he taught English at the High School of Glasgow for five years, but broadcasting was his natural calling. He started by presenting a books programme for STV and then, in 1967, moved to Grampian in Aberdeen as a news reporter.

His next step was to join BBC Scotland in Glasgow as a current affairs presenter. The early 1970s was something of a golden age for BBC Scotland, which made serious programmes on which MacCormick worked alongside Magnus Magnusson, the fine industrial journalist Hugh Cochrane and latterly Andrew Neil, who became a close friend. MacCormick’s role was not restricted to politics and he probably came to London’s attention by presenting programmes from the Edinburgh festival.

When Michael Bunce was in the process of reviving the Tonight programme in a late-night slot, he selected a Scotsman, an Irishman and an Englishwoman as his presenters: MacCormick, Denis Tuohy and Sue Lawley. Non-Oxbridge accents were not common in the mid-70s. However, even the most fastidious defender of received pronunciation could scarcely object to Donald’s gentle west of Scotland cadence. When Tonight evolved into Newsnight, MacCormick became one of the regular presenters, along with Peter Snow and John Tusa. He was liked and admired by all who worked with him.

His Newsnight role lasted throughout the Thatcher years, but by the end of it, MacCormick was ready for another challenge and welcomed an approach from LWT. One of his great supporters within the Corporation had been Robin Day, who saw an interviewer in the same mould as himself – non-confrontational but a skilful cross-examiner.

Donald was devoted to the cousins with whom he and his brother had grown up in Glasgow: Iain, who was first a Scottish Nationalist MP and then a founder member of the SDP, and Sir Neil MacCormick, the regius professor of law at Edinburgh University and former Nationalist MEP who died earlier this year; an event that affected Donald deeply.

Married first to Lis MacKinlay, a Glasgow University contemporary with whom he had three children, Donald married the BBC producer Liz Elton in 1978 and they had two children. They all survive him.

• Donald MacCormick, broadcaster, born 16 April 1939; died 12 July 2009

(copyright The Guardian)

Obituary: Iain Somerled MacDonald MacCormick,

Iain MacCormick: SNP politician who was committed to serving his Argyll constituents. Born: 28 September, 1939, in Glasgow. Died: 19 September, 2014, in Oban, aged 74 Although children of political families sometimes make surprising choices – for example the communist writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s daughter became a Tory councillor in Welwyn Garden City – there was never any doubt that Iain MacCormick, son of “King John” MacCormick, one of the founders of the SNP, would, like his brother Neil, who became an SNP MEP, do anything other than undertake a nationalist political journey. Indeed, the very last political act that Iain undertook was to walk, unaided, into the polling station in Oban last Thursday, carrying the oxygen cylinder he needed to keep breathing following his recent operation for lung cancer, and cast his Yes vote for independence. Scarcely more than 24 hours later he was dead, leaving Riona, his widow and third wife, his five children from his first marriage and a very wide circle of friends and admirers to deeply mourn his passing.

Iain Somerled MacDonald MacCormick was born in Glasgow on 28 September, 1939, just after the start of the Second World War. He was brought up in the city in a household which rejoiced in political debate. His father John had only two years earlier been the SNP candidate in a by-election in Hillhead but he subsequently left the SNP, believing that the party should adopt a more devolutionist stance. John MacCormick later stood as a Liberal candidate, believing that at that time the Liberals were the party most committed to home rule, and perhaps that was also in Iain’s mind when he became a founding member of the SDP in 1981; though he returned to the SNP in the first decade of the 21st century. Iain studied history and English at the University of Glasgow and became a teacher, eventually coming to work in Oban, within sight of the Island of Mull where the family had ancestral roots. He first contested Argyll for the SNP in 1970 but failed to unseat the Tory Michael Noble who had been secretary of state for Scotland. In February 1974 Iain stood once more and had an unexpected victory, the more so since Argyll had been represented by a Conservative for 50 years. Noble accepted a peerage in May 1974 and in October that year Iain increased his majority against a new Tory candidate.Argyll was and remains a huge constituency. At that time it also included Ardnamurchan so the problems of adequately serving so many small, remote communities, many of them on islands or at the end of poor roads, was even greater than it is now.Iain, however, was undaunted and travelled the length and breadth of “his” area, often at considerable inconvenience in order to ensure that every constituent got the chance to speak to and make use of their elected representative in order to alleviate their problems and improve their lives. I continue to meet people right across Argyll who remember things he had done for them when he was their MP and who speak of him with great fondness for he was a very human man, entertaining, sociable and always interesting and interested. Many of Iain’s former pupils also remember “Humph”, as he was known in Oban High School, with respect and have been contributing in recent days to some of the Oban Facebook pages to say so.

The five years during which Iain was in the House of Commons were hard ones. Winnie Ewing, another of those who served as an MP from 1974 to 1979, has described in her autobiography what the pressure was like and how their constant struggle to hold Labour to account and get devolution delivered told on all of them. At times they were treated abominably, for something akin to panic had swept through Labour and Tory ranks after the 1974 elections. The imposition of the 40 per cent rule by Labour in the 1979 referendum was the last straw and although the Tories promised “better devolution”, in reality their election ended the matter for a generation. Iain suffered like the rest and the experience of losing his seat compounded the problem. He was exhausted, suddenly without employment and unsure of his future prospects. Those are hard things to bear, especially together. That may have lead to the decision to accept an invitation to join another party but he did not pursue a political career and instead worked for BT in public affairs, spending much of his time in London. However, he remained a member of the Glasgow Art Club and when he returned to Glasgow to work in PR he served on its committee, eventually becoming lay Vice President. It was there that he re-met an old friend from Oban, Riona MacInnes, and they held their wedding reception in the club in September 2009, at which time he returned to Oban to live, having also spent some time in France during his second marriage. I shared a Yes platform in Oban with Iain at the end of April and I was impressed as ever with his clear thinking about what Scotland – and Argyll – needed. But most of all I was struck, as were all those present, with Iain’s absolute commitment to a better and fairer future for our country and its people. His courage on polling day confirmed his determination to see that achieved. Without doubt, his spirit, his memory and his cause will live on. Iain MacCormack’s funeral will take place at 10am on Thursday, 25 September at St Columba’s Cathedral in Oban.

(copyright The Scotsman)

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