A former news editor of the Daily Record newspaper – who held the post for an astonishing 27 years – has died, aged 83.
Fergie Millar is described as “one of Scottish journalism’s most colourful characters”, a “maverick character who instilled a sense of 'terror mixed with inspiration' among reporters on his staff”.
At the Record for 40 years, he passed away on Monday after struggling with ill health in recent years.
Writes Record reporter, Mark McGivern: “He started as a copy boy at the age of 14, running errands for journalists, working his way through the ranks to become news editor. In his day he also served two years as a Royal Marine.”
McGivern quotes former Record chief reporter, Anna Smith, saying: “Fergie was something of a legend in the Scottish press and I’m sure he will be missed by many people.
“He was a one-off and a frightening man if you were a cub reporter. He ruled over a lot of talented people in his day and was given major respect, despite the terror he could instill.
“If you got something wrong once you would be in for a bawling out. If you did it again you certainly wouldn’t do it a third time.
“For all that, he had a very soft heart and a very sensitive side. Once you got through the gruff exterior he would be a man of good counsel and he had the interests of his staff at heart too.
“In Fergie’s day there was no such thing as political correctness, which is just as well. In that respect he was no different to any other news editor in the land.
“But he was a great believer in the importance of the press and to serve so many years in such a stressful and demanding job pays great testament to his character.“
In recent years, Millar stayed in Plymouth with daughter, Lynne French, also a journalist.
Adds McGivern: “Millar was forced to put the brakes on his career in 1985 when he suffered a serious stroke.
“He bounced back from several life-threatening health problems over the years and still regularly took in the sunset at Plymouth Sound in recent times.”
It is understood his funeral takes place in Plymouth next week and that his family hope to have a Scottish memorial service at Loch Lomond later in the year.
Fergie was indeed a legend.
I am glad to say I only suffered the rough edge of his tongue once, but remember it well. I was chief reporter on a local paper and we had a nice little earner on the side from a linage pool. Out on a job one day, one of my more junior reporters phoned over copy which contained a fairly minor mistake – but one that was picked up by Fergie. Returning to the office I took a call from him and it was not a pleasant experience.
After a severe tongue-lashing, we thought the Record would never look at our stories again, but even worse, none of us now had any hope of moving on from our bi-weekly backwater to the heights of the Record.
A severe gloom descended on the office until about half an hour later when the late Harry Conroy called to assure us that Fergie’s bark was much worse than his bite and he had calmed down, all was forgotten, and to resume the flow.
A few years later, despite his own health problems and the long distance, he drove from Plymouth to visit Margaret Cameron, who retained a great affection for him (like many others in the Record of that time) and was only a few months from her own untimely death. We had a memorable lunch, filled with stories and experiences which were a joy to listen to. Despite his physical health problems, his mind was razor-sharp and I saw him in a completely different light.
All newspapers were different places then and there were characters galore – but Fergie was definitely at the top of the tree.