Heartfelt tributes were paid on Tuesday to former Perth and Kinross Provost Mike O’Malley, the district’s first – and only – Labor civic leader.
His funeral was held in St John The Baptist Church, Perth, following his death in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, on January 15, after a short illness. He was aged 75.
The requiem mass was conducted by Canon Steven Mulholland who acknowledged the “sense of loss and sadness” at his passing but emphasized his “deep commitment” to public life and his love of family and friends.
In a wide-ranging and warm eulogy, his great nephew Adam Knowles described “Big Mike,” as he was known, as “a great servant to the people – completely dedicated.”
He also referred to him as “a passionate ambassador for the city of Perth.”
Mike was born in Alyth on January 22, 1946. He was the third son of Thomas and Mary O’Malley, who immigrated to Scotland from Co. Mayo in Ireland in 1930.
He went to school at St Stephen’s RC Primary in Blairgowrie before heading to Lawside Academy, Dundee, to complete his education.
A scratch golfer in his youth, he was Perth and Kinross boys’ champion and played at Rosemount, Blairgowrie.
Mike met his beloved Kate in Perth and the two were married in 1974.
He had a very successful career with British Telecom, formerly the GPO, and he also worked on behalf of – and indeed became lifelong members – of the Communication Workers’ Union and the Labor Party.
“However, it was his work representing his community which endeared him to so many,” explained his great nephew.
He was elected to Perth and Kinross Council in 1983 to represent the North Muirton ward and faithfully served his constituents for 20 years.
“It was the last four years of that term, from 1999-2003, that he served as Provost, the district’s first – and only – Labor Provost,” recalled Adam.
“A mark of his popularity across the political spectrum was that his nomination for Provost was by a Conservative – and that vote was seconded by an Independent.”
He only curtailed his political career in 2003 as his wife needed more support following long-needed surgery to her knee.
“He was a great servant to the people – completely dedicated – and was known as a man who would help people get things fixed,” added Adam.
“Over the years, Mike amassed a huge bundle of thank you letters and cards from all of the people he had helped over the years, a real testimony of his passion and the pride he took from his role.
“That people took the time to thank him is no surprise – Mike was well-liked, with a warm and friendly manner about him.”
Away from politics, Mike worked closely with the people in his ward and became secretary of North Muirton FC.
Along with Jimmy Carle as manager, North Muirton Under-18s became the team to beat.
Mike’s interest in football continued – Celtic was his first love – but through his time in Perth he went on to support St Johnstone as well.
And due to his strong links with Ireland, he also maintained a strong interest in Achill Rovers, sponsoring them on several occasions.
Mike and Kate enjoyed many foreign holidays during their married life and loved to travel.
They also built a bungalow in Achill, birthplace of his mum, Mary, and they, as well as friends and family, enjoyed many happy times there over the years.
Sadly, ill-health brought their travels to an end in their last years together and they had to give up their independence to move into residential care. Mike was preceded by wife Kate in 2019.
Concluding his eulogy, Adam paid tribute to the many hospital and health care staff, Catholic Church representatives and devoted family and friends who visited him, wrote to him and looked after him over the years.
One of the Bible readings on Tuesday, which was followed by a service at Perth Crematorium, was given by Jackie Knowles, daughter of Mike’s brother, Tom O’Malley.
Among those who paid their last respects at St John’s were current Provost Dennis Melloy, as well as representatives from the council.
Provost Melloy previously paid tribute to Mike’s diligent work on behalf of his North Muirton constituents following the devastating floods of 1993.
“He will also be long-remembered for the legacy of the Perth flood defense scheme, for which he was an ardent campaigner,” he said.
Friend for over 50 years, former Labor councilor and deputy provost John Flynn described Mike as a “real people person.”
He also spoke fondly of his “quick wit,” adding: “He loved the craic and was a great socializer.”
Tuesday’s church service was live-streamed and retiring collections were taken there – and at the crematorium – for Mary’s Meals.