Ted Kidd – an appreciation by Hamish Mackay

AN estimated 500 people attended the funeral yesterday of North-east journalist, Ted Kidd, who died earlier this month, aged 77.

Writes his friend and fellow Aberdeen journalist, Hamish Mackay: “His coffin was borne from the church to the ebullient message of the Simply The Best song – Ted Kidd, the doyen of Aberdeen and North-east Scotland journalism, was being serenaded triumphantly on his way to his final resting place in Hazlehead Cemetery, Aberdeen.

“Close on 500 mourners, including media folk from all over Scotland, crowded into Mastrick Parish Church yesterday (Tuesday, August 20), for a simple and none-too-solemn religious service to celebrate a long and happy life – lived to the absolute full.

“When Celtic FC won the European Cup in 1967, the soccer manager, Bill Shankly, made a beeline for the dressing room to clasp Celtic manager, Jock Stein, to his breast and declare: ‘John, you’re immortal now!’

“I always thought of Ted as being to some degree immortal – somehow, illogically, assuming he would always be with us: always a source of sensible advice, or a natter over a tincture in some friendly tavern. Thus his death, last week, at 77, from emphysema, was a grievous blow to me and countless others.

“Although in his latter years, completely bald from an earlier affliction, and his debilitating illness taking its toll on his physique, Ted remained immaculately dressed and wonderfully cheerful. In the 45 years we were friends, he had always given the appearance of being ten-to-15 years younger than he actually was.

“Tributes have flowed in via social media from all corners of the earth for a much-admired man, and I quote here five as an illustration of how deeply the global family of hard-bitten journalists cared for this stunningly charming, courteous, self-effacing son of a farm servant – born in the heart of Buchan.

“From Andy Stenton in New Zealand: ‘An absolute gem of a man – kind, considerate, and fun to be with. What a privilege to have known him.’ From Bill Mackintosh, in Glasgow: ‘So sad – he was kindness itself.’ From John Ross, in Inverness: ‘Ted was one of those people who gave journalism a good name.’ From Kay Drummond, in Aberdeen: ‘He was a lovely man – kind and patient,’ and Donald Stewart, in Aberdeen: ‘He was a gentleman of the Press.’

“All Ted’s many qualities, which collectively made him such a warm and vibrant human being, were superbly encapsulated in a beautifully delivered straight-from-the-heart eulogy by former Daily Record staff man, Bob Dow, which was greeted with spontaneous sustained applause from the body of the kirk.

“Ted, who had teenage aspirations to be a novelist, began his career in the DC Thomson stable’s branch office in Aberdeen – cleverly talent-spotted and nurtured by the inestimable Charles Easton. He went on to spend 37 years with the Daily Record, and over a further decade freelancing – bringing his accumulated career in journalism to a staggering 55 years.

“His innate kindness and intrinsic social skills as a people person were ideal for his long stint as the NUJ’s welfare officer in Aberdeen – serving the then Widow and Orphan Fund. As a previous incumbent in that post, and often working in collaboration with him in my complementary role with the Newspaper Press Fund (now Journalists’ Charity), I was more aware than most of the wonderful sensitive approach he brought to a very delicate, difficult and solitary task.

“A staunch trade unionist, he was granted Life Membership of the NUJ in 2008, and two years ago his contribution to journalism and Aberdeen was honored with a civic reception at Aberdeen Town House with the tributes led by the then Lord Provost, Peter Stephen, and Paul Holleran, Scottish Organiser of the NUJ.

“The current Lord Provost George Adam said on Ted‘s death: ‘Ted was a dedicated professional who was well-respected and provided a fantastic service not only to the media and the public, but also to the council through his accurate and interesting reporting.’

“Ted’s abilities could probably have led him to a top post in the Daily Record’s editorial hierarchy. However, he was firmly content to remain in his beloved North-east Scotland.

“He admitted he never much liked discipline and the relative freedom of a branch office suited him just fine although the working hours were long and the going often arduous. His erstwhile news editor at the Daily Record was the legendary Fergie Miller, widely known for instilling a sense of ‘terror mixed with inspiration’ among his reporters.

“During one particularly quiet news time in Aberdeen, the intemperate Millar reputedly came on the telephone to Ted to querulously inquire about the marked absence of copy emanating from the Aberdeen area. Ted is said to have politely replied: ‘I am poised, panther-like, to pounce on any unsuspecting stories.’ Even the garrulous Millar could not respond to that remarkable but refined show of bravado. And Millar knew, very, very well, that Mr Kidd was a man who delivered the goods with monotonous regularity.

“The adjectives depicting the life and times of Ted have been flying across the ether these past few days – kind (especially), considerate, charming, courteous, helpful, loyal, affable, professional, personable, gentle, disarming and a born raconteur. A man who had not a bad word to say about anybody.

“He had a pawky, couthy sense of humour and, indeed, wrote and published a book, ‘Tell it to an Aberdonian’ (the wit and humour of North-east Scotland), in 1989. He was a superb wind-up merchant – often, as the minister conducting his funeral service, pointed out: ‘Adept at throwing a verbal grenade into the conversation and then standing back to enjoy what was to follow.’

“He relished the camaraderie of pubs and their punters and an earnest tipple or two. So it was entirely fitting that his mourners were treated to Dean Martin’s rendition of ‘Little Old Wine Drinker Me’ during the service.

“Married at a young age to Teresa, he was a father of five, to Janette, Elaine, Teresa, and Eddie, and Sandra, who sadly died not long after birth. For the last 42 years, he was the most affectionate and supportive partner to Chris.

“In the notice of Ted’s death in The Press and Journal, his loved ones described him as a ‘winged messenger of the truth’. It was Ted himself who frequently made this claim and oft observed that he was privileged to have ‘a ringside view of life’.

“I will most remember him for that lovely open smile which lit up his whole face and all these facets and foibles which make for a long and enduring friendship. He was blessed with that wonderful gift of making you feel better about yourself after speaking with him.

“And, so importantly, Ted was an eternal giver… and we simply loved him to bits.”