Brian McGarr

Sad news from Durham Welfare Rights:

Brian McGarr one of our former colleagues has passed away. A lot of people who are new to Welfare Rights won’t know of Brian. It’s probably only the ‘oldies’ who will remember Brian because he wasn’t active in Welfare Rights for many years due to ill health, but he was one of the pioneers of early Welfare Rights.

He started as  a community activist in Glasgow, then as a WRO with Strathclyde Regional Council, ending his working life with Durham Welfare Rights in the late 90’s.

He was a tremendous influence on the many WRO’s who had the pleasure of working directly with him, and those who knew him from attending his always packed workshops at NAWRA. He was a funny, kind, generous man and a brilliant and innovative WRO.

For those of us who worked with Brian at Durham he was the heartbeat of the service, and he set the standards and the level of commitment that we try to live up to today.

NAWRA members pay their respects to one of our early activists. Brian is survived by his son Christopher.

For details of funeral arrangements please contact Scott McInally.

Readers are welcome to post their thoughts and memories of Brian below.


8 thoughts on “Brian McGarr

  1. Could not agree more with the sentiments expressed above. As well as brilliant and innoviative I would add the word fearless. As a WRO just staring out the lesson I learned from Brian was not to be scared to offer the simplest of submission to the most complex of case and don’t let yourself be badgered by the chair to expand. The facts of the case don’t matter or need to be addressed if the Department get a fundamental part of the adjudication process, such as burden of proof, wrong. Stood me in fine stead over the years.

    I will certainly raise a glass in memory of Brian tonight.

  2. Well where do I start? I could write an essay on the things Brian taught me during my time at Durham Welfare Rights and book about the socialising. He was frequently referred to as the man with a mind like the galaxy. He led the team during many of the years I was at Durham Welfare Rights although his title and salary did not reflect this.
    The years spent in the Tribunal Team with Brian and a small group of others was the most enjoyable period of my working life. It was an absolute pleasure to be at work. Mondays were extra special for reasons that will remain secret.

    Rest peacefully, comrade.

  3. Those of us ‘oldies’ in Sunderland City Council Welfare Rights service remember the brilliant work Brian did in the Welfare Rights field and the impact that he had. He was highly thought of in Sunderland City Council welfare rights service.

    We are sorry to hear that he has passed on and send our best wishes to his family.

  4. Brian was a tour de force of a man. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the law and an absolute commitment to social justice. It was a pleasure and a privilege to have known him, to have leaned from him and to have worked with him. His contribution to welfare rights was outstanding, but, had he chosen an alternative career, he would have been one of the best stand up comedians on the circuit. A larger than life character from a bygone age where individuality was cherished and ‘characters’ were celebrated he was, quite literally, the funniest man I have ever known. Every day was an adventure in with Brian around. For those of us who knew him well he was, and will always be, a legend.

  5. I write in honour of a man who we should all aspire to. My dear friend, colleague, mentor and teacher with whom l have spent many hours sharing endless laughter and sometimes tears. A work ethic and commitment to the vulnerable in society could never be surpassed, if only fate had not exercised such a devastating blow just after Brian’s 50th birthday.

    I too as my colleagues follow the guidance Brian gave me which l have to say l follow every day. This l try to pass on , not always happily accepted, with one particular example. When an unusual query arose on the advice line when l first became a WRO l trotted along the corridor . Having broached the subject, he in a few short words told me to look in my book and then go back when I had the answer. I have to say rarely does a day go by without reference to my books.

    His instructions as far as Tribunals as Derek said has born its fruit over the years. Saying that he did set me up in early days, the ‘Smiling Assassin’, only for my own good, teaching me to think on my feet and get out of sticky situations.

    Where am l going to go for a cuppa on my way back from Lidl? But l’ll always hear the words ‘ Do you want a coffee? Do you take sugar? And his rendition of Copa Cobana at The Quai Lam Christmas dinner. It was a couple of years before dear Howard was going to finish off his Chinese Banquet with dessert… His Napkin!!! Many happy memories!

    Our dearest friends Brian and Ann will always be in our hearts as will Chris.

    Lynne and Emma

  6. I was thinking about what to write about my nearly two years working as the other appeals worker at Durham Welfare Rights with Brian in the early 1990’s, but the wonderful comments that have already been made describe him and their regard for him so well. Yes he was funny, very funny. He could tell you a joke about any subject you gave him and the tragic-comic stories he would tell of his ‘travels’ and ‘near misses’ with John could leave you breathless. And yes, he had such a big heart and super intelligence – all of which he put to use in fighting for people’s rights. I learnt so much from him and it was a privilege knowing him.

  7. Dad, I can’t begin to say how much of an excellent childhood you gave me. I was so fortunate to have you, you did everything with me, when most of my school mates had no dads. I always knew that I was lucky. You and mum always put me first. There’s so much that I could say but nobody else would understand, so I’ll just say, dad, you always were and always will be by best friend and my hero.

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