Eamon Fitzgerald : Glasgow city treasurer during turmoil of local reorganisation (2024)

Died: April 24, 2024

Eamon Fitzgerald, who has died aged 81, was an economics lecturer and Labour councillor whose expertise in economics and financial management was invaluable as he worked his way up to become city treasurer in Glasgow.

He was born in 1942 near Thurles, Co.Tipperary. His family had a farm which failed in the pressures of the post-war Irish rural economy and by the mid-1950s they had moved to the Scottish Borders. The family worked the land and suffered considerable hardship, with Eamon facing extra challenges due to a physical disability.

Eamon attended Jedburgh Grammar School and left early to take up employment as a draftsman with the Buccleuch Estates. While there he attended evening classes for a great variety of both technical and arts subjects including eventually, entry requirements for the civil service.

He worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Edinburgh, where part of his job included surveys in the Highlands and Islands to define crofter boundaries. The disputes that ensued out in the field stood him in good stead for his well-known diplomacy in later life.

He then took leave of absence to obtain a degree in economics at the University of Strathclyde, after which he moved to London and joined the UK Civil Service, where one of his colleagues in Acton Tax Office was the mother of John Entwhistle, the bassist of The Who. Having taken extensive entrance exams to test his suitability as a tax inspector, Eamon very soon decided it was not for him and returned to Scotland to teach apprentices at Stevenson FE College in Edinburgh.

He was also introduced by mutual friends to Jess, and they married, living first of all in Balerno, then moving back to her native Glasgow when he secured a job at Glasgow College of Building and Printing teaching economics to quantity and building surveying students. He and others were moved from there to Glasgow College of Technology, later to become Caledonian University, where he taught economics in the Department of the Natural and Built Environment until he retired age 69.

Eamon was attracted to the Labour Party in the 1960s, both due to its economic planning policies and its introduction of socially liberal reforms. As a Labour member in Glasgow, he undertook mundane branch duties, including membership secretary in his local Broomhill branch, who also selected him as their candidate for council elections of 1984.

No-one was more surprised than Eamon when he beat the sitting Tory by 255 votes, but the accidental councillor would represent Broomhill and Hayburn wards for more than two decades. He achieved this by never taking any of his constituents for granted and by always paying exceptional attention to their casework and their concerns.

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In addition, he would without fail “walk the parish” (as he would jokingly call it) on a weekly basis, noting graffiti and other nuisances, in many cases heading off problems before they developed.

On Glasgow District Council, his attention to detail and calm good judgement quickly earned him positions of responsibility, including on the private sector housing committee, the work of which was particularly appropriate with Eamon’s background and continuing work in estates and surveying (he later qualified as an RICS surveyor as well as gaining an MSc in public policy).

His time as city treasurer came around the time of local government reorganisation when hard choices needed to be made on the basis of sound judgement and transparent fairness. Eamon provided all of these in abundance.

While doing so, Eamon maintained a wide range of friendships across all factions in the council and in the Labour group. At a time when the balance tipped this way and that between Pat Lally and Jean McFadden, he was always elected to the Labour group executive and was a popular figure in the members’ dining room. His impish sense of humour and his easy charm also made him a real asset in his role as a Bailie – he would go out of his way to put visitors at ease and take a genuine interest in their backgrounds.

In 2007 and after 23 years, he retired from the council, although he continued his academic teaching at what had by then become Glasgow Caledonian University and then acted as an external examiner for other institutions. But what he enjoyed most was spending more time with Jess and their daughter Penny and their two grandsons. Even when Eamon began to experience ill health, including major surgery, he always remained extremely sociable and keen on a political discussion, usually with the same quirky humour thrown in for good measure.

Eamon Fitzgerald was latterly diagnosed with mixed dementia but until a few weeks before his death continued to enjoy the company of family and friends, reading and keeping up with current events, as well as being taken to Firhill to watch Partick Thistle.

He had a hard start in life, but overcame it magnificently, and spent much of his life doing his best to help others. He is survived by Jess and Penny and his grandsons and wider family, and by his many friends. They will all miss him very much.

PETER RUSSELL

Eamon Fitzgerald : Glasgow city treasurer during turmoil of local reorganisation (2024)
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