To many people, James Douglas was Jim or JDD ("Call me JD squared"). Following his death on August 13 at age 80, we celebrated a memorial service for him; celebrate is the right word, for Jim would not want us to be solemn or pompous. Thirty years ago I wrote thanking him for being so gracious (I was a late contributor to one of his dictionaries). He wrote back from St. Andrews (on a card from the Roxburghe Hotel, Edinburgh): "Please, oh please, let it not be known that I have been 'gracious.' … It would spoil my maverick reputation."

He signed himself "Anne-Marie's friend, Jim."

It was so often such little things that revealed the man. No one, for example, was ever so assiduous in writing to acknowledge services rendered as he was. His declining activity must have had something to do with the Post Office's financial woes. Jim was in some ways a back-room boy, not often in the limelight but for all that very widely known, successful and influential. He did not always get the credit when bigger names were involved.

James' first years were spent in Glasgow. His father was a shipyard laborer, and his mother died when he was 2. His only sibling, his elder brother Alex, died 18 months ago. Alex's widow Doris and two daughters, Jess and Sandra, were latterly James's closest family. His humble beginnings—he recalled moving house to Scotstoun with the family's belongings in a cart—included his first school, one for PDs: "Physically Deficients." No PC in these days!

While at Hyndland Secondary School, several of his lifelong friendships began. After a couple of years of clerical work he joined the RAF in 1941, serving in the Signals for five years in places like Malta and Gibralter. While in the Forces he took exams which got him into ...

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