Peter Watson, the former editor of Aberdeen-based regional daily The Press and Journal died peacefully in his sleep on 6 February at his home in Aberdeen, aged 94.
Buckie-born Watson, the second of four children, joined Aberdeen Journals Ltd as a copy boy, aged 14, in the production department (wire room).
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After national service with the Royal Armoured Corps in Egypt, Palestine and Cyprus, he transferred to the company’s Weekly Journal newspaper in an editorial role.
He moved to The Press and Journal as a sub-editor in 1956 and subsequently served as features editor, assistant editor and deputy editor before succeeding James C. Grant as editor in 1975. He retired at the age of 60, in 1987, after 12 years in the editorial hotseat.
During his time as editor he saw the regional daily’s circulation rise to more than 115,000 copies with an increasing emphasis on local news and expanded features and sports coverage – nightly producing nine separate editions for its circulation area which is comparable in size to Belgium.
His daughter, Pam Snape, said: “As a copy boy my father gained a healthy respect for the craftsmanship that was employed by all members of the newspaper production team. He always felt this knowledge stood him in very good stead as he progressed up the ladder on the editorial side of The Press and Journal.”
Hamish Mackay, a former deputy news editor of The Press and Journal and colleague of Watson from 1968 to 1987, said: “As a North-east of Scotland man who rose through the P&J’s ranks to the top job, Peter brought to the paper, as editor, the priceless asset of really knowing the grass roots of its circulation area.
“This was reflected in how he steadily built upon the already extensive local news output while also substantially expanding the paper’s features and sports coverage.
“One of the highlights of his career was being in the editor’s chair that unforgettable evening in 1983 when Aberdeen FC beat the legendary Real Madrid 2-1 in Gothenburg to lift the European Cup-Winners Cup. Peter made damned sure that the P&J’s readers were treated to page upon page of triumphal stories and pictures from the Swedish city.
“Debonair, urbane, very courteous and well-mannered, and much at ease with the great and the good, Peter excelled in a public relation’s capacity for the P&J and, indeed, Aberdeen Journals – an accomplished public speaker, raconteur and conversationalist, with a fine turn of phrase, and very, very good company in any social setting.
“He was also a pretty good golfer – a decidedly helpful attribute for a journalist in a part of the world with so many splendid golf courses. He was still teeing off until three years ago, aged 91, and much loved hillwalking.
“Peter was also a kindly, empathetic man who will be remembered with much gratitude and affection by all the young journalists in whose training and welfare he took such a keen, invaluable, career-furthering interest, and was delighted to follow the progress of many of them in subsequently very successful careers on both national newspapers and in broadcasting at the BBC and ITV.
“They included accomplished BBC broadcasters James Naughtie and Brian Taylor.”
Watson’s wife, Moira, died from cancer in 2000, and he is survived by his daughters, Pam Snape and Hazel Gaskell, five grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.
In a journal written for his grandchildren on his 45-year career in newspapers, he described what he loved best about the job: “Words… I just love them. I just wish I knew more of them and knew better how to use them.
“Presented properly they tell their own story directly to the reader in the way the writer wished.”