I met him on a few occasions, first when I worked as a researcher for Bruce McFee MSP - we were running a campaign to save the threatened Ferguson's Shipyard in Port Glasgow and Jimmy had gotten involved. He came into the office, and shared some tales and advice with us. It was a treat to be in his presence, although he felt my tea-making skills weren't up to scratch!
Later, he spoke at a meeting at the Pearce Institute in Govan - at length and without notes. My mum and dad had come along (unusually for them) to hear him, and were as captivated as the rest of us. His stories at times seemed to be a series of anecdotes, but by the end, he had gathered all of them elegantly together to illustrate the central thrust of his argument. It was quite an experience.
It was mentioned by one of Jimmy's close friends on the radio this afternoon that he often 'held court' after meetings, and SNP campaign conference in Glasgow in 2007 was such an occasion. He had been looked after at conference by the Trade Union Group, but found himself in the wee small hours surrounded by members of the party's youth and student wings. It was quite something to sit near this great man and listen to his experiences, asking questions and soaking up his wisdom. He was principled but realistic, explaining to us his place in the SNP had come by understanding that Labour was no longer the party he had joined.
At the time, he said:
"I have waited a long time to see forces emerging within the New Labour Party that would bring the party back to its roots, "
"But I have been waiting in vain and with every year that passes, Tony Blair and New Labour move further to the right. They are now indistinguishable from the Thatcherite Tories."
He made a great contribution to our cause in the relatively brief time he was a member, making the trip up from the Isle of Bute to give of his precious time despite his age and failing health. The most recent contribution I recall was during the Glasgow East by election.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have met Jimmy. Scotland is a greater place for having had him, and a dimmer place tonight.