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The day US airline security staff met Joe Beltrami

THE private side of Joe Beltrami, the Glasgow criminal lawyer who died last week aged 82, has been revealed at his requiem mass.

His eldest son Edwin told how his father had once failed to make security staff at Boston airport appreciate his sense of humour.

He had flown to Boston to see another of his sons, Adrian, graduate from Harvard University. He intended to stay for one night and had only a very small case with him.

Edwin told some 300 mourners at Saint Aloysius’ R.C. Church in Garnethill, Glasgow: “This aroused the suspicions of the security staff. Here was a man in front of them with an Italian name who had travelled on a seven-hour flight only to go back the next day.

“They began to question him and asked him, ‘Sir, is your trip for business or pleasure?’ Joe considered the question and replied, ‘Well, I’m not here on business, and it is never a pleasure to come to America.”

The mass was attended by many from the legal profession. Among them was Glasgow solicitor Aamer Anwar, who later tweeted: “With many this morning at funeral of last of the legends- Joe Beltrami- one of a kind RIP.”

Also present was former Celtic captain and manager Billy McNeill. Mr Beltrami was a staunch Celtic supporter from boyhood onwards, and travelled all over the world with the club during the glory years of the 1960s.

Mr Beltrami jnr spoke of his father’s love of sport, travel and music. In the company of the former flyweight world champion, Walter McGowan, he travelled to New Orleans to see Muhammad Ali defeat Leon Spinks.

Mr Beltrami was also a “very good classical pianist”, and being able to watch Elvis Presley in concert in Las Vegas was “his crowning glory.”

He was a complex character, a very shy man who tried to mask this with a show of bluster at times, and he was “generous, caring and compassionate.”

A second eulogy was given by Donald Findlay QC, a close friend and colleague of Mr Beltrami’s for many years.

Mr Findlay said Mr Beltrami had been his mentor, close colleague and friend. “Joe has been a towering presence in my life, in the lives of many others, and in Scots law.

“He was truly one of the outstanding Scots of recent times.”

The QC said Mr Beltrami was for many years “a constant source of encouragement, support, advice and, indeed, inspiration” to him.”Whatever I have achieved in this profession, it is in no small measure due to Joe … I owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”

He said that of those people occupying the church pews, “many are here simply because their lives were enriched, both privately and professionally, by Joe Beltrami.”

Mr Beltrami died last Monday. During his celebrated 50-year-long career as a criminal lawyer, he appeared for the accused in some 350 murder trials.

The mass was reminded of the familiar cry of ‘Get me Beltrami’, uttered by countless people who found themselves in trouble with the law.

He recalled one client who sat opposite Mr Beltrami with a Mohican haircut, leather clothes with studs and chains – and a white rat nestling within his jacket.

Mr Findlay recalled how Mr Beltrami “had a unique ability to know when a client was going to be acquitted” by a jury and was also in the habit of turning up at court before him.

He said: “Joe had a stubborn, almost thrawn insistence in the innocence of his clients … The stronger the Crown case, the more overwhelming the evidence, the harder we had to fight … Joe loved trials. He loved the theatre of trials.

“When Joe retired he left a void which no-one has filled, or ever could fill. And today, his passing truly marks the end of an era.”

After the mass the mourners made their way to Dalnottar Crematorium, in Clydebank.