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Leo Blair (1923-2012), British barrister, academic, and father of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was in foster care as a child. 

Leo Blair was born Charles Leonard Augustus Parsons in Yorkshire, England to an unwed couple who were travelling entertainers. His mother, Augusta Bridson, changed her name to Celia Ridgway, and his father, Charles Parson, had the stage name Jimmy Lynton.

Being born out of wedlock meant that Leo was considered an ‘illegitimate’ child. The stigma of illegitimacy and a hectic performing lifestyle led Celia and Charles to give Leo to a couple they met while on tour in Glasgow.

Leo’s foster parents, James and Mary Blair, were very poor. They lived in a tenement house sharing a lavatory with five or six families. James was a Clydesdale ship worker. Mary was a devoted communist who had suffered two miscarriages.

Mary tried to prevent contact between Leo and his biological family. Celia and Charles got married three years after Leo was born, and sought to reclaim him when he was thirteen.  

Mary Blair was so distraught at the fear of losing her fostered son, that she shut herself in at home and threatened to take her own life; Leo resolutely decided to stay with the only mother he had known... (Langdon). 

As a teenager, Leo Blair was a member of the Scottish Young Communist League and wanted to go into politics. Instead, he joined the British army in 1942 to serve in WWII. He was promoted to Lieutenant and was an acting Major when he left the military in 1947. 

Mary Blair attempted to sever connections between Leo and his birth family while he was in the army. First, she wrote to the Parsons and told them he was presumed dead. Then she destroyed his “box of family trinkets.” Thinking his birth family had no interest in him, Leo changed his name legally to Leo Charles Lynton Blair.

Leo Blair did not reconnect with his half-sisters until 1994. By then, his son, Tony Blair, was Leader of the Labour Party. Tony Blair, his wife, and their three eldest children were also present for the family reunion.

Military life influenced Leo Blair to become a Conservative. After the army, he worked in Glasgow at the Ministry of National Insurance. In 1948 he married Hazel Corscaden (aka Hazel McLay), an Irish Protestant from County Donegal.

Leo and Hazel soon started a family. Their first two children were boys, Tony and William. Leo studied law at night at Edinburgh University while working for Inland Revenue as a tax inspector. 

Leo and his family moved to South Australia after he completed his law degree. He was employed as a law lecturer at the University of Adelaide for three years. Hazel gave birth to their daughter, Sarah, while the family was living in Australia.

Leo became an academic at Durham University after returning to Britain. During this time he also qualified as a barrister and became active in Conservative politics. 

In 1963, Leo’s political aspirations were curtailed when he had a stroke at the age of forty. He was unable to speak for three years. Hazel helped him to recover his ability to speak and he taught himself to play the piano again. Hazel died of throat cancer in 1975.

All three of Leo and Hazel’s children pursued law careers. Leo joined the Labour Party in 1994 when his son Tony became the leader of the Labour Party. 

Leo moved to Shropshire with his second wife, Olwyn, after they got married. In his later years, Leo was a visiting lecturer and industrial tribunal chair. He suffered another stroke in 1997 and passed away at the age of eighty-nine.


“Blair: “Why adoption is close to my heart.” The Guardian, 21 December 2000.

Childs, Martin. “Leo Blair: Barrister who began as a Conservative but followed his son into the Labour Party.” Independent, 19 November 2012. 

Langdon, Julia. “Obituary: Leo Blair: Lawyer and lecturer whose struggles in life inspired his son Tony.” The Guardian, 19 November 2012.

“Tony Blair’s father dies, aged 89.” The Guardian, 12 November 2012. 

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