Tributes to Jim Nicoll, known as "Nick", are flooding in from former Daily Express correspondents, stringers and photographers around the world.
Many owe their reputations and success to the "ultimate backroom boy"
who manipulated their movements while on foreign assignment. Nick was variously the night foreign editor, associate foreign editor, deputy foreign editor, foreign desk manager and finally, for a short period before he retired, foreign editor — the job he always dreamed of attaining.
Foreign news ran in Nick’s veins. He never wished to be a writer or foreign correspondent, travelling abroad only once for the Daily Express — to seek the truth when the Express published pictures of alleged political prisoners jailed in Ghana.
Nick’s forte was masterminding the smooth running of the Express foreign desk. His analytical mind and shrewd networking skills earned him friends for life and provided the driving force behind a formidable line-up of journalists who were the envy of Fleet Street.
A congenial and talented "herdsman"
this brilliant news gatherer inspired confidence, top performance and, above all, success. Stringers were kept happy. His experience and local knowledge were legendary when he sent correspondents to cover difficult and dangerous stories — often in world trouble-spots.
When he retired in 1984, he was given a prized possession — a massive Giles cartoon depicting Major Nicoll manipulating an RAF-style control board to strategically move such Express stars as Brian Vine, Phillip Finn, David Eliades, Robin Stafford and many others on worldwide assignments.
A dedicated family man with a son, Angus, born in 1950, he was ever conscious that his men and women were family-orientated, demonstrated by phone calls to wives and partners with regular news on progress.
Nick invested his life and a huge amount of energy in the ‘DX’, often starting work at 5, 4, 3am, whatever it needed.
His lifetime work in Fleet Street was honoured by the Queen in 1987 when he received an MBE — a cherished endorsement to the fact that he had earned the love and respect of his peers.
Born James Alexander Gordon Nicoll in Arbroath, Scotland, on 7 January, 1919, he was educated at Arbroath Academy, graduating with honours, before starting work on the Dundee Courier.
His older brother, Ed — still alive and well — worked for the Arbroath Herald.
At the outbreak of World War II he volunteered, but poor eyesight denied him service as a glider pilot, so he joined an anti-aircraft battery.
Promoted from the ranks to Major Nicoll, when war ended he became part of the Control Commission in Germany (1945-1948) to de-Nazify many Germans.
His first taste of foreign news gathering came in 1949, when he joined Reuters in London and in the same year he married Mary Laugharne, living first in Tooting before moving to Dulwich. In 1951 he moved across Fleet Street to the Daily Express.
In later years the declining health of his wife took a toll on Nick’s life and morale. His son’s marriage and the arrival of three beloved grandchildren rekindled his zest for life. He and his wife moved to St Albans to live closer to the family.
When Mary died in 2000, Nick’s health declined through a mixture of aggressive Parkinson’s Disease and depression — brought on through frustration of not being able to do what he used to do.
He died peacefully in Stuart House nursing home with his loved ones by his bedside. A private funeral will be held today (3 March) at the West Herts Crematorium, Garston.
On 14 June (noon) at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, Canon David Meara will conduct a memorial service.