James C. McTavish

Date of Birth

January 2, 1929

Date of Death

March 27, 2020

City of Death

Santa Barbara

If you had the pleasure of knowing James McTavish you would know he was a man who loved the Hibs, his wife Joan, and being Scottish, likely in that order.

He grew up in Leith, Edinburgh, near Easter Road where the Hibs soccer team played, giving him the unfortunate luck of being born a Hibernian supporter. The last time they won the Scottish premier cup was in 1902. It was James’ living dream that the Hibs might win again during his lifetime. He listened to every match, followed the scores, and learned to adapt to technology to tune in on Saturday mornings to watch the games. He got an iPod just to listen to the team’s song “Sunshine on Leith” by the Proclaimers. In 2016 they won the Scottish cup, and he recorded it only to watch it over and over again. It was at that point he declared he could die a happy man.

While working in England he met Joan at a dance. He always made sure to let you know it was “Ladies’ Choice”. When Joan asked him for a dance she learned his first name was James. Since Joan did not know his last name her father referred to him as McTavish, the name usually given to anyone in a joke about a Scot. It wasn’t long before Joan found out that indeed his name was McTavish and the first of countless funny family stories began.

Soon Joan Giddens became Joan McTavish, and the rest is history. They were broke, they were in love, and then they set sail to Canada for a new adventure with their two boys, Robert and Ian, in tow. They had two girls, Lindsay and Fiona, in Canada before making their way to Seattle where he worked for Boeing. James was assigned to work as a design engineer on the Minute Man Missile project which required living in numerous states. The McTavish family moved to Philadelphia after Jim accepted a new job and eventually they moved to Santa Barbara, California. After retirement Jim and Joan returned to live near York, England in a tiny and beautiful village named Sinnington. There they made wonderful new friends, entertained old friends from around the world and took part in all the local activities including quiz night at the local pub.

James passed on a few well known McTavish traits, the first being stubbornness, the second that cheeky ear-to-ear smile, the third, the proper way to hold a golf club, and the fourth, empathy.

Coming from humble beginnings, James made sure he treated a doorman the same way he treated a doctor. He forever saw himself as an immigrant and could always see himself in those coming to America and working for a better life. He was an apprentice coppersmith who made his way to night school to become a mechanical engineer, starting two businesses including a bronze casting company. He was a craftsman through and through. He believed that any job worth doing was worth doing well.

When I remember James McTavish, I’ll remember practicing the multiplication tables with him in the living room at Golf Road. I’ll remember selling his golfballs back to him with my cousins, I’ll remember how he taught us all to swim. I’ll remember him telling stories of Scotland and his youth, I’ll remember him tying my shoelaces – equally. I’ll remember him telling me to make sure my grandma behaves every time she and I left the house. I’ll remember his mischievous wink. I’ll remember overhearing him say “Goodnight Joan” every night I stayed with them. I’ll remember his kindness, his smile, and most importantly the way he called 23andme to complain that the results were wrong when they came in 54.9% Irish, arguing that he was 100% Scottish.

He leaves behind four children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. All have been blessed with the McTavish smile, and will continue to be lucky as they have been born a McTavish.

In the hall of his home proudly hangs the McTavish clan crest. Inscribed are the words that now feel more relevant than ever – Ne Obliviscaris – Never Forgotten.

By Heather McTavish – Granddaughter


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.