McCallum: a gentleman
Andy McCallum, who has died aged 78, was one of the grand old men of Scottish journalism and throughout his life retained a dignity, honesty and fairness that impressed all who met him.
He also had the temper of an Old Testament prophet and woe betide those who crossed his path; but whenever Andy got mean it was always in a just cause and usually because he was taking up his weaponry on the side of the bullied, the dispossessed and the unfairly treated.
In his late 20s, he joined the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette. He worked in newspapers from the Isle of Man to Swindon, before returning to Scotland with the Scottish Daily Express.
Andy’s style was unique and deceptively casual. Sometimes he had the air of an absent-minded professor with bits of notes tucked away in pockets or scribbled on the back of a menu, but when he sat down in front of the old-style typewriters he became possessed and could churn out journalistic gems with breathtaking ease.
When the Express was closed in Scotland as a full-blown independent branch of Beaverbrook Newspapers, casting 2,000 people on the dole and relegating the once proud black edifice in Glasgow’s Albion Street to a mere branch office, Andy was one of the foremost in struggling to save the jobs of the workforce.
When the blinkered management in Fleet Street refused to change their minds, Andy correctly labelled it the biggest disaster ever to have hit Scottish journalism, a black day from which in a sense it has never really recovered.
Undaunted, he was one of the main movers behind the creation of a new, workers-controlled newspaper – the Scottish Daily News – and worked tirelessly over 13 months to persuade a so-called socialist government of Harold Wilson to give it support.
Andy also had memorable encounters with Robert Maxwell, who had put in publicity-seeking appearances at the workers’ co-operative meetings, and these were truly verbal battles of the heavyweights.
During the paper’s all too brief run of six months, Andy was its news editor and he later declared it was the best time for the reading public in Scotland, not least because all its rivals had to be on their toes to combat the new threat.
Andy later freelanced before joining what was then The Glasgow Herald on the staff in the Seventies and he brought his decades of valuable experience to the newspaper, rising quickly to the position of chief reporter.
He was, in a word, a gentleman and as such will be sadly missed in a world lacking in both characters and chivalry.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce, three children and eight granddaug