Newspapers

One minute I was a schoolboy, the next a newspaper reporter, albeit a very junior one. What amazed me, even in those days, was the power of the press.

No one ever refused my calls including the provost, local MPs, the police chief and John Smith MP who went on to become leader of the Labour Party. Of course I had no personal influence, but they wanted positive headlines in the paper.

I loved being a journalist. I was in seventh heaven whether I was writing the captions for wedding photographs or the front page splash.

Darting here, there and everywhere in the hunt for news, I learned so much under the watchful eye of chief reporter Robert Wilson. Robert was an outstanding coach and mentor and he laid the foundations on which I was to build my entire career. In one area he failed however - spelling. I was always the worst speller in the world and little has changed.

Life was good, but an opportunity for a new job came out of the blue from Ian Peebles, a well-known Scottish sports writer and publisher.

Scottish Football Weekly was one of the jewels in his publishing crown and I got a phone call inviting me to become lead sports writer. The job sounded quite grand but what sounded even better was the promised pay rise - a princely £2.50 a week. That was quite a lot of money then, so I took the job.

Three weeks into my employment Ian announced the magazine was losing money and promptly shut it down. He moved me on to Rangers News, but I found it dull focusing on only one football club, albeit one of the biggest in the UK.

News Agency

I left to set up my own freelance news agency and planned to cover Lanarkshire and the central belt of Scotland, selling stories to newspapers, magazines, radio and TV.

But before I had even written my first story, I received a phone call from the Wishaw Press offering me my old job back. I was chuffed but turned it down, preferring the attraction of launching my own business.

I had always wanted to be my own boss and although I was ill-prepared, my new business did not require a great deal of start-up capital and for equipment all I needed was a phone, a camera and a typewriter.

It was a good decision and soon I was making a comfortable living selling stories and photographs to everyone from the BBC to The Sun newspaper.

My beat spanned everything from court cases to murders - even Scotland's Gaelic festival, the National Mod.  I was the only non-Gaelic speaking journalist covering the event when it came to the new town of East Kilbride.

Scottish Daily News

Nigel Benson, who had been the youngest-ever news editor of the Daily Mirror in Fleet Street, was also covering the Mod for his new paper The Scottish Daily News. It was a workers' co-operative which had risen out of the ashes of the old Scottish Daily Express in Albion Street, Glasgow, and before I knew it, he had lined me up with a staff job.

I was 19 when I joined and learned so much from some of the most experienced journalists of their generation. Sadly the paper folded and soon after, the Glasgow Evening Times approached me offering a staff job as their Lanarkshire reporter.

They allowed me to work from home, an old weaver's cottage in the Lanarkshire village of Stonehouse. It was good fun, but I still hankered after being my own boss, so I returned to freelancing.

I did a deal with editor Charlie Wilson which allowed me to sell my stories to other newspapers and broadcasters after they had first appeared in the Evening Times.

I was soon making £100,000 a year - a pretty good salary for a 26-year-old in 1980. The cash I made was ploughed into property and I soon had a portfolio of flats and shops which I rented out.

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