Brilliant’ Sub-Editor Suddenly Dies

A journalist, described as a “brilliant” sub-editor at the Northern Scot newspaper, has suddenly died.

Ron Lettis was just 54 years old, when he became ill, as he arrived for work after the New Year break. He had been a sub-editor at the Elgin-based paper since 1999. The cause of his death is not yet known.

He began his career at the County Reporter in Dumbarton, before moving on to the Hamilton Advertiser, then the Scottish Football Magazine, then the Greenock Telegraph.

In 1978, he joined the reporting staff of the Evening Express in Aberdeen, where he eventually moved into subbing, becoming chief sports sub. He met his wife, reporter Joyce Summers, who is now editor of the Turriff, Inverurie and Ellon Advertisers group, while working at the Express and the couple married in 1989.

In 1989, during an acrimonious dispute between the National Union of Journalists and Aberdeen Journals, which resulted in a year-long strike, Ron – a committed union member and secretary of the union’s Grampian branch – played a prominent part.

When the strike ended, Ron worked as a freelance, subbing in the feature department of the Daily Record, then, in 1996, he helped launch the Aberdeen Independent.

Said Pauline Taylor, editor of The Northern Scot: “Ron was a fine journalist and a brilliant sub-editor. He had a real flair for creating headings which were succinct and imaginative – not an easy achievement – and his page make-up was often inspired.

“A journalist of the ‘old school’, he knew the value of eye-catching headlines, and accurate, easy-to-digest and well laid-out copy.

“As an individual, he was a real character – the original grumpy old man, but one we regarded with affection. He had strong opinions that he was not afraid to air, but they were always tempered by his droll sense of humour and his innate kindness.

“As an office personality, Ron was unique, and as a colleague and friend, he is irreplaceable.”

In an obituary appearing in the Northern Scot, Iain Campbell, ‘father of the NUJ chapel’ at the Aberdeen Journals between 1989 and 1990, and now at the Scottish Daily Mirror, added: “While Ron spent most of his years in Aberdeen, this pocket battleship from Dumbarton
was a true ‘son of the rock’.

“A huge journalistic talent which was never as fully appreciated as it should have been, apart from those who had the pleasure working alongside him, he will now be impossible to replace after his sad, untimely death.

“When Ron bought into a cause, he went in with heart and soul.

“It may well have been the case that both he and Joyce would have worked side by side at Aberdeen Journals indefinitely until the 1989-90 dispute got in the way. There was no more passionate NUJ picket than Ron alongside his ‘NUJ wifey’ and he believed and fought for what he and all of us believed was a just cause, long after the dust had settled.

“He spent a year commuting back and forward to Glasgow after the dispute where his quality quickly shone through on national titles, but they were too slow to give him the permanent job he deserved and he spent the rest of his life energising publications in the north-east.

“Now they too will have to do without him, as will everyone who has lost a true friend and he will be sadly missed.”