Frank Curran: Daily Star investigative reporter

Those unconnected with the world of popular journalism would never be aware that Frank Curran was not only one of the best but also one of the most courteous hacks in an often less than edifying business.

Always immaculate in dark lounge suit, crisp shirt with matching tie and shiny shoes, often on his day off, Frank, who died the day before his 52nd birthday, could be mistaken for a most civil, civil servant.

But the image masked that of a tenacious yet sensitive Daily Star reporter and none to my knowledge can lay claim to both attributes.

Never more at home when given an investigative role, he charmed everyone he met, including several villains who discovered the truth too late and found themselves commanding headline exposure.

Allowed to let his talent flourish in 1979 when he moved to Manchester to join the fledgling, irreverent Star, launched the previous year, he immediately commanded the respect of colleagues and rivals alike.

He was equally at home with lads from a building site as he was sharing a bottle of wine with legal legend George Carman QC, and never once would you hear him boast, swear or raise his voice.

His dry humour was legendary, although sometimes we doubted if he had really thought through his comments. When he joined the Sunday Mail in Glasgow in 1976 he did so despite a gaffe that would have ruined the chances of someone less talented.

Editor Clive Sandground had tragically lost a leg in a motoring accident as a child and limped around with an artificial limb.

Going on the charm offensive at the end of his interview, Frank politely commented: “I hope your leg gets better soon.” It was possibly the only time Frank had failed to do his research but such was the impression he made the young Curran was still hired.

Born in Edinburgh and educated at the city’s James Clark’s Secondary School, he started as a copy boy on the Edinburgh Evening News before becoming a trainee reporter with Scottish County Press, working on the Leith Gazette, Musselburgh News and Dalkeith Advertiser.

From there he went to the Nottingham Evening News where he covered the hunt for the Black Panther before heading back to Scotland and the Sunday Mail for three years. Then he headed south again to the Daily Star where he was a major contributor to its early success when sales rocketed to 1.7 million.

During his time with the Daily Star, which he left when its misguided management decided to slash its Manchester operation and with it the Midlands role then operated by Frank from his home near Derby, he covered a catalogue of big stories.

The diverse list includes the arrest and background of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, the Flockton Grey “ringer” racehorse scandal, tracking down shamed Coronation Street star Peter Adamson in Bali and going on the road with young US dance sensation Fame.

Away from the job he loved so much, Frank was an avid racegoer with a reputation for picking Grand National winners. Such was his success rate that friends and colleagues would call from all over the world on the eve of the Aintree classic to discover which nag he was backing.

Freelance investigative journalist and former editor of the Matlock Mercury, Don Hale, said: “I only knew Frank during my time at the Matlock Mercury and particularly during the Stephen Downing campaign. He was the first national newspaper man to break the story about Downing in the Daily Star and he maintained his interest throughout.

“I met Frank quite regularly and knew he was a keen golfer. He was quite a character and always had a good sense of humour and a keen nose for a good story. He was also very good company at all times.”

John Mahoney, Frank’s last news editor at the Daily Star, said: “On investigations he was like a dog with a bone, refusing to back off until he’d nailed his prey and seen the subs stick his story in the paper. He was a close friend to so many and he has left me proudly holding some of the fondest memories of my life.”

Neil Wallis, News of the World deputy editor and former Daily Star hack, said: “Frank was that invaluable mix – not just a terrific journalist but great fun as a journalist too. And if you worked with him on a job you worked bloody hard.

“He was completely self-effacing, gentle, very, very funny and a real friend.

“He was also, for a Scotsman, an immensely generous bloke who seemed to believe it was his duty to disprove all those jokes about his countrymen.”

Frank is survived by his widow, Jackie.

Tony Brooks, freelance and former Daily Star reporter

Tony Brooks, freelance and former Daily Star reporter

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