Tributes have been paid to Michael McGovern, the ‘face of the QMU’ for more than thirty years, who has died at the age of 68.
Michael worked as a porter at the QMU and was known and loved by generations of UofG students and staff. He was still resident above the QMU building and, according to Union General Manager Bill Blackstock, was regarded very much as “the public face of the Queen Margaret Union”.
Below are some tributes paid to Michael by University staff, students and former students.
‘I first met Michael properly when I lost my headphones in the QM around Halloween. I went to the porters box in a bit of a flap because they’re very dear to me. He couldn’t have been more understanding, and cracked a memorable dad joke to cheer me up. It went something like:
“There were three nuns driving to mass, and a vampire jumped onto the bonnet and covered the windscreen. One nun said to the other ‘Mary, show her your cross’. The other nun leaned out the window and said ‘get off the car you silly bastard’!”
I’ve had two other memorable conversations with Michael, and very many friendly exchanges of small talk in between. We spoke about the Rolling Stones, his life in London during the Swinging Sixties where he saw Hendrix strutting about, his friends harmonica audition for the rolling stones (he didn’t get it because he was better than Jagger, but he did get paid £5 for his trouble), and his ardent opposition to the poll tax. Michael was a principled, considerate, kind man with stories to tell and always an ear to lend. I will miss him dearly and freshers’ week (indeed the Union and University experience as a whole) will be an incredibly strange and partly empty without him.
He told me his favourite song by the Stones was ‘Off The Hook’, and I’ll be playing it over and over in memory of him.’
[Isaac Roy, Current Student Representative (2016-Present)]
‘I still remember with fondness my days as a student and how Michael would be sent to chase me from the building for holding impromptu canteen meetings – but it was always done with a sense of humour and him calling me ‘son’.’ I will never forget the huge hug he gave me on Byres Road, just after I won the Rectorship, and the big smile he had on the day of my installation. I was proud to consider Michael a friend, a kind man with a big heart who gave his life to this University, the QMU, and its students. He is irreplaceable and I hope the University and the QMU will take steps to pay a lasting tribute to this beautiful man’s memory.’
[Aamer Anwar, University Rector (2017-Present)]
‘Michael was the very first person I met when I first entered the QMU. I had no idea how the Union worked, so I nervously asked if it was okay for me to sit inside. He was friendly and made me feel at ease almost instantly – something that’s very hard to do for me. Time passed and my morning chats with Michael were something I looked forward to every day. We talked about a lot of things, our lives and our opinions. When I mentioned that I’d been badly bullied at school I got the feeling that this otherwise gentle man wanted to rip my tormentors’ heads off. He told me about the long and difficult path his life had been. We laughed a lot together. He was gutted that he missed me performing in Glasgow Uni’s Got Talent, so I sang a song just for him. When I had to leave uni because my health deteriorated so much, he organised a ‘get well soon’ card signed by all the staff members in the building.
Michael was my friend. He was a kind, caring, funny man who hadn’t let a hard life harden him. He could see people who needed a little extra friendliness and gave it to them without hesitation. The thought of never again coming through the QMU doors to be greeted by his welcoming grin breaks my heart. I once knew someone who said people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Michael may have been in my life for a reason and a season, but I’ll remember him and what he did for me for the rest of my life.’
[Julia Mark, Former Student Member (2017-Present)]
‘Michael was a wonderful, warm character who really made the QMU feel like home. He was always up for a chat, and you could tell that he loved getting to know students and sharing his stories with us. Michael loved to talk about his travels, and often when I spent time with him he would go on Google Maps and show me places around the world that he wanted to visit. He was well known for his silly side, but he was also devoted to his place of work and the friendships he had forged there over the years. It was always a pleasure to chat to someone so friendly and welcoming. He was definitely someone who made a lasting impression on the people he met, and it really feels like the QMU won’t be the same without him. He will be greatly missed.’
[Cat Acheson, former Publications Convenor (2016-17)]
‘Michael McGovern was the face of the QMU. He was the first person you would see when you walked in the building and you would always be met with a smile, and if you were lucky, a truly terrible joke. This summer as I started my presidential term, a number of former QMU members from years ago came to see the building, and he took the time to walk them around while answering any questions they had. You could tell from the way he spoke that his heart was in the Union, which I think is something truly amazing to have from someone that worked here for over thirty years. He always said he would never stop working in the porters’ box: Michael, you were true to your word. His commitment, loyalty and humour will never be forgotten and always celebrated. You will always be at the heart of this Union.’
[Priya Khindria, President (2017-Present)]
‘I’d just like to say that Michael was an absolute asset to the Union. No matter how down or awful you were feeling, he could always make you smile. He will be sorely missed.’
[Chloe Tobin Kemmer, former Current Student Representative (2015-16)]