Tributes flood in for Bearsden man Ali Syed

Ali Syed with granddaughter Humera
Ali Syed with granddaughter Humera

Members of the community have paid tribute to ‘a very dear friend to many’ and political activist Ali Syed MBE who passed away on Monday, August 25.

A Labour man to the core, Ali (79), who had been suffering from a long illness, had been receiving regular kidney dialysis.

He was a trade union activist for many years holding a range of posts in UNISON health branches and in the Glasgow Trades Council, and he contributed to debates at Scottish Council.

His trade union values shone through in all his work, including the many causes he took up - including the plight of the Palestinian people.

He was a candidate at the 1997 General Election for Labour in the Argyle and Bute constituency – a traditional Liberal constituency – but increased the Labour vote by 13 per cent.

Ali was also a stalwart of the Socialist Health Association Scotland for many years, serving as chair and then in retirement as vice-chair. He also served on the SHA UK Central Council and made many contributions at Scottish Labour Party conferences.

Dave Watson, UNISON Scottish Organiser, said: “He will be sadly missed by all his comrades and the very many people he helped. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Ali was a clinical scientist (medical physicist in old terminology) for 35 years and he was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2004 for his community work in Scotland.

While working at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, he was a Nalgo (Unison) representative on the administration committee and was responsible for making the Western Infirmary a ‘No Smoking Zone’ in the 1970s.

This was later expanded to all the other hospitals in the Greater Glasgow Health Board area and became a policy initially in Scotland then nationally in the UK in the 1980s.

In the 1990s he was responsible in standardising the electron therapy dose in collaboration with his colleague John Law of Edinburgh Western General Hospital and also in Nuclear Medicine for Radio-iodine131 therapy. This was extended to USA, Canada and European countries and eventually the whole world.

He was married to Lee Rogan for 11 years and they had three children - Alia, Tanya and Khalid - and three grandchildren - Humera, Ilias and Sofia.

His children said: “We’d like to thank everyone who has shared their condolences and memories with us.

“It was sudden, but our father was always a very active person and perhaps it is fitting that he leaves us so quickly.

“We can only be glad that in the last month of his life he ran with the Queen’s Baton, attended a stop the war rally in Glasgow, and played table tennis with his grandchildren in London.

“His faith, his zest for life, and commitment to local and global causes persisted even through his ill health, so much so that people did not realise he was having dialysis three times a week.

“Our father always defied convention and his love and empathy for people from all walks of life will always be remembered.

“We are also very proud to know that he was invited to become honorary vice-president of Scottish Friends of Syria.

“And we’d like to thank all the NHS Staff at Stobhill Hospital and the Western infirmary.

One close friend paid tribute to Ali on facebook. She said: “Tonight I go to bed in tears because a very dear friend and comrade has died. Ali was a Labour man of the very best kind, a campaigner for peace and justice abroad, and for socialism at home, a community activist who helped hundreds of people, privately, quietly, and with no expectation of reward. ”

East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson said: “I was very sad to hear about Ali’s death. He was a passionate local activist who was rightly honoured for his work in the community, and it was lovely to see him carry the Queen’s baton recently.”