Leo Blair

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Leo Charles Lynton Blair (born Charles Leonard Augustus Parsons; 4 August 1923 – 16 November 2012) was a British barrister and law lecturer at Durham University.[1] He was the author of the book The Commonwealth Public Service. He was the father of Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and of Sir William Blair, a High Court judge.


Born as Charles Leonard Augustus Parsons in Filey, Yorkshire, England, he was the illegitimate[2] son of two middle class travelling entertainers. His father Charles Parsons (16 July 1887 – 19 January 1970) had the stage name Jimmy Lynton while his mother Mary Augusta Ridgway Bridson (1886–1969) was known as Celia Ridgway and was a daughter of Augustus William Bridson (1849–1933) and Maria Emily Montford (1864–1944).[3] The couple met on tour in England. Their hectic lifestyles prompted them to give up baby Leo, who was fostered out to (and later adopted by) a working class couple, a Glasgow shipyard worker named James Blair and his wife Mary, taking their surname. On 2 June 1927 his biological parents married and tried to reclaim him, but Mary Blair refused to return him and later prevented him from contacting his biological parents. (Leo later had a reunion with his half-sister, Pauline Harding, née Tordiffe.)

Blair grew up in a tenement in Golspie Street, Govan, Glasgow, and attended Govan High School. When he left school he worked as a copy boy on the Communist Party newspaper The Daily Worker and was Secretary of the Scottish Young Communist League 1938-41. He studied law at the University of Edinburgh,[4] becoming a barrister and later, a university law lecturer.

Blair married Hazel Elizabeth Rosaleen Corscadden (1923-1975), from a Protestant family in Donegal, Ireland. They were married by the future Moderator, Rev William Roy Sanderson at Barony Church in Glasgow.[5] They had two sons, both of whom attended Fettes College, an independent school in Edinburgh. Their first son, Sir William Blair, a banking and finance law specialist, became a High Court judge. Their second son, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (Tony Blair), was born in 1953 and also became a barrister before becoming a politician and (in 1997) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. At the end of 1954 the family moved to Adelaide, Australia for 3 1/2 years, where Blair lectured in law at the University of Adelaide.

Blair and his family later returned to England, living in Durham, where Blair lectured in Law at Durham University Law School. He was a member of St Cuthbert's Society, one of the university's collegiate bodies. Despite having been a communist in his youth, Leo became active in the Conservative Party. He had ambitions to stand for Parliament in Durham, plans which were thwarted when he suffered a stroke.

Blair's first wife, Hazel (born 12 June 1923) died on 28 June 1975 of thyroid cancer. He remarried and lived in Shrewsbury, Shropshire with his second wife, Olwen, until his death. Cherie and Tony Blair named their youngest son Leo after him.

Blair was a "militant atheist" according to his son Tony.[6]

Blair died at the age of 89 on 16 November 2012.[1]

Academic work[edit]

Blair's book The Commonwealth Public Service (1958) was described by the journal Canadian Public Administration as "an excellent primer on the Australian Federal Public Service".[7]


  1. ^ a b "BBC News - Tony Blair's father Leo dies at the age of 89". Bbc.co.uk. 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2012-11-16. 
  2. ^ Blair: 'Why adoption is close to my heart', 21 December 2000, The Guardian
  3. ^ Edward J. Davies, “A Descent of Tony Blair from James V, King of Scots”, The Genealogist, 22(2008):247-55
  4. ^ "Blair's birthplace is bulldozed in Edinburgh". www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com. 
  5. ^ "Very Rev W Roy Sanderson". www.scotsman.com. 
  6. ^ Blair: 'Tony Blair on finding religion via reason', December 2009, The Washington Post
  7. ^ Review of "The Commonwealth Public Service", Canadian Public Administration, 2:4, p.255

External links[edit]