Obituary: Daphne Sleigh, Edinburgh politician respected by allies and opponents alike

Daphne Sleigh MBE, politician. Born: 26 December 1937 in Lahore, India. Died: 6 August 2020 in Edinburgh, aged 82.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 7:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 10:06 am
Daphne Sleigh
Daphne Sleigh

Daphne Sleigh, formerly a prominent local councillor and a distinguished politician on the local and national stage who was respected by political foes and allies alike, died peacefully at Edinburgh on 6 August 2020.

A compassionate and caring politician, Daphne was born in Lahore, India, in 1937, where her doctor father was in charge of a military hospital . At the outbreak of war she returned to Scotland with her mother, where she lived with other members of the family in Rutherglen.

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Her mother’s generation owned and ran Fishers Household Supplies, which had branches across Scotland. They were near neighbours of Stan Laurel and his family, and her grandmother was a good friend – Stan looked them up when he and Oliver Hardy toured Britain.

She was educated at Craigmount School for Girls near Hawick. Upon leaving school she worked with French company Guerlain until her marriage to Tom Sleigh, with whom she had three children.

Her working life continued with the Social Work Department, organising Playgroups in deprived areas in north Edinburgh until her election in 1982 to Edinburgh Council as the Member for Fairmilehead Ward, commencing a distinguished 21-year-career in local government politics.

Daphne served over the years at various times on all local government committees and as Conservative group leader on the Council during the period 1993-2002. During that time, she met and married fellow Councillor Lindsay Walls.

She had a national as well as local political profile, serving at one time as the leader of the Conservative group on COSLA, the Executive of the Scottish Conservatives and as Chair of the Candidates Board. As if that was not enough, she was a member of the board of Scottish Homes for nine years and served on the Governing Board of George Watson’s College. She was awarded an MBE in 2003. Her commitment to public service continued after her retirement from active politics in that year.

She had a leading role on the Edinburgh Prison Visiting Committee, served on the Police Clothing Board and was a member of the East of Scotland Advisory board of the Salvation Army.

She maintained contact with the local Community Council and was a co opted member of the Buckstone School Board.

Away from public life and above everything else, Daphne’s unwavering focus was her family. She was a loving wife to Lindsay, mother to Trish, David and Timmy, stepmother to Finlay, and devoted to their children. She loved the sea and the family have happy memories of sunny days at North Berwick. She was a personable and enthusiastic individual with a love of the good things in life and a passion for classical music, opera and early types of jazz.

As many will acknowledge, she was well known for her hospitality and kindness to friends and acquaintances.

In her public life she could be imposingly sharp, even feisty, but she never lost her wonderful sense of humour and was particularly amusing when teasing husband Lindsay about his legendary thriftiness. She and Lindsay were the perfect foils for one another and in latter years she was the first to acknowledge his loving care and dedication to her well being in her frustrating and lengthy battle with dementia. Daphne bore her increasing frailty with characteristic fortitude and determination and together they were as formidable a team in coping with her illness as they were a formidable team in politics.

She will be sadly missed by Lindsay and the family and by all her many friends and colleagues, as evidenced by the substantial tributes received by the family, but she will be remembered and respected as someone who led a very full life and contributed meaningfully to the world around her.

Daphne was buried on 17 August in the peaceful surroundings of the Upper Tweed Valley at Drumelzier.

A thanksgiving service for Daphne’s life will be held when circumstances permit.

Robert C B Forman

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