FORMER Prime Minister Gordon Brown has paid tribute to the "remarkable life" of Willie Clarke.

Fife's longest serving councillor died on October 30, at the age of 84, and was laid to rest at Ballingry Cemetery on Wednesday.

Mr Brown, the local MP from 1983 to 2015, said: "I recall Willie saying that ‘politics is not a sprint, it is a marathon and if you are serious about making change based on the principles of fairness and social justice then you must be in for the long haul’.

"That sums up Willie Clarke's life over many decades – in it for the long haul and always for the people of Fife."

Born in 1935 in Glencraig, Willie was a former miner who went to represent Ballingry on Fife Council for 43 years.

He fought for fairness and justice, was tireless in his support for the local area and its people and set up the first community credit union in Fife.

Willie was awarded the Freedom of Fife in 2016, with the new Lochore Meadows visitor centre named after him last year.

Mr Brown said: "We know from what Willie said later that his mother, Christina, would be the major influence on him to fight for decent homes, having suffered from outside toilets, no bathroom, no bath or shower and, indeed, no pithead baths – injustices had to be removed.

"Leaving school at 15, Willie got his first job at Glencraig Pit where he worked on the surface for the first year until he was legally able to go down the pit at the age of 16.

"While the next number of years would be spent working, his free time was dedicated to political education and political activism, making the case for better and safer conditions for miners and their families."

Scotland's last communist councillor, Willie worked as a brusher at the pit and was first elected as an NUM branch official at Glencraig Colliery in 1960.

He moved up through the union and was elected onto the Scottish Area NUM executive committee in 1977, he was also treasurer of Glencraig Miners Club from 1969 to 1995 when it closed.

Willie represented miners from across Scotland at tribunals for injury and pension claims, and travelled the country to support workers during the miners strike in 1984/85.

Mr Brown said: "I remember Willie spoke at meetings all over the UK, making the case and building moral and financial support for the miners in their historic struggle.

"He was also a member of the STUC Energy Committee and represented the STUC as a member of Fife Health Board in the 1980s where the fight was very much focussed on stopping the privatisation of health services in Fife."

Willie was elected to Fife County Council as the Communist Party member for Ballingry in 1974, and a year later to the new Fife Regional Council.

Mr Brown said: "Sworn in the next day, Willie and his supporters were over the moon.

"However, that euphoria would soon turn to deep sadness as Willie got the news that he had to make his way to Seafield, to discover that five men had lost their lives in an accident, the youngest only 20-years-old.

"It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that Willie saw death in the pits.

"He would also make the point however, that the majority of miners that died as a result of the industry, actually died in their own homes as a result of disease and breathing in the dust of the pits.

"I was pleased when in government to take action for compensation for the families of the miners who suffered or who had died prematurely as a result of disease from working in the pits."

The former PM continued: "In 1985 he saw the completion of the new Lochgelly High School to be followed by a revamped Benarty Primary School into the old junior high.

"The former Crosshill school becoming an education and training centre run by the Benarty Regeneration Group, which Willie had set up to help people in the area get the skills they needed to get jobs.

"Then, to top it all, he saw the former primary school converted into a community centre for the area and worked with the community to develop the credit union."

Willie was a devoted family man, wife to Betty and a loving father to William, Eddie, James, Steven, Gary, John and Robert, as well as a grandfather and great grandfather.

Fittingly, his funeral attracted a large turnout and took place at Lochore Miners Institute, before an internment at Ballingry Cemetery.