Freelancing future for Stewart after 42 years’ service with Perthshire Advertiser

HE may have officially retired at the start of the year, but former deputy editor of the Perthshire Advertiser, Les Stewart, has not entirely hung up his notebook and pen: he’s reporting almost every day for the paper from Perth Sheriff Court.

Stewart stepped down from the bi-weekly title after 42 years’ service, but is continuing to freelance for it.

Earlier today, for instance, he was covering Sheriff and Jury trial of a prisoner accused of holding a sharpened plastic knife at the throats of two prison officers while he was an inmate at Perth Prison.

He was deputy editor of the Perthshire Advertiser – which is published on a Tuesday and a Friday – for 28 years, during which time he represented local members of the National Union of Journalists at the union’s annual conference a staggering 30-plus times.

He told “I learned ‘the ropes’ as a journalist with editor, William Coupar, and chief reporter, Eddie Balfour, who I succeeded as chief reporter during the 1970s. When I first started, the PA came out on a Wednesday and a Saturday. I can well remember the thrill of walking down the vennel from the Windsor Bar on a Friday night to check the first copies of the paper.

“It was printed on a massive press at that time and you could hardly hear your voice above the clatter and din. The floor of the machineroom literally shook as thousands of copies of the next day’s news were churned out.

“When I was appointed deputy editor, the editor was Robin Keay. It’s been Alison Lowson since Robin’s retiral.”

As typewriters and hot metal typesetting have given way to computers, and caserooms have been turned into offices, Les is not so convinced by the technological advances of the last few decades.

He said: “Not all of these changes have been for the better. The flexibility of the new technology should have meant later printing schedules but the reverse was to be the case as deadlines were advanced to late afternoon.”

He continued: “It was a bitter-sweet day when I received my retiral presentation but, with more new technology in the pipeline, the time was right to call it a day.”