Obituary: Janey Buchan (1926-2012)

John Hein January 18, 2012
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Former MEP, civil rights campaigner and patron of the arts Janey Buchan has died aged 85.

Mrs Buchan was a Scottish Labour MEP for Glasgow from 1979 to 1994, when she retired from the post aged 67.

She died in a nursing home in Brighton on Saturday.

She was inspiring to and influential in the LGBT movement in Scotland in the dark years between decriminalisation of gay male sex in England/Wales in 1967 and its eventual decriminalisation in Scotland in 1980 and continued her involvement as Life President of the Scottish Minorities Group (later Scottish Homosexual Rights Group and subsequently Outright Scotland). Her late husband Norman was also a strong supporter of our cause.

She had taken an interest in LGBT campaigning, she told me, after learning that a gay concert pianist she knew had committed suicide and was outraged that anybody should feel that their career should be in any way restricted because of their sexuality.

Her first “outing” was when she was invited by the Lord Provost of Glasgow to attend an LGBT conference on behalf of Glasgow Corporation. Normally invites like this were used as political patronage by the controlling factions within the Corporation and she never got any of them. However, in this case, none of the other Labour councillors wanted to be associated with the terrible perverts involved and, as an insult to her, Janey was asked to attend The Provost was gobsmacked when Janey told him that she would be “honoured” to attend and we were honoured when she did!

Before she retired from public life and moved from Glasgow to Brighton to be near her son, she was always available to speak at any LGBT rally. She’d ask if she should wear her normal clothes or her “Dowdy Granny” outfit which she felt reached out better to older socially conservative people. But it was generally the young people who were most inspired by this feisty heterosexual woman who would take no prisoners when it came to fighting discrimination.

Another aspect of Janey was her kind support for individuals. She’d often send a short handwritten note expressing her support and concern to somebody who was going through a hard patch. I recall when she asked me to drop off something of that kind (along with a small gift) at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh for the late Gerard Kelly who had just been involved in what was clearly a “queer bashing” incident although the papers in these days were a bit more discreet.

I only wish the Order of Perpetual Indulgence had got round to Sainting her.

John Hein – ScotsGay Editor and former Convenor of the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group.

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