AS the editor of The Scottish Sun – Gordon Smart – was describing, as an eye witness, the tragic events at The Clutha Vaults on Friday night, in Glasgow (beginning, with a tweet, “Jesus. Think I just saw a helicopter crash in Glasgow.”), the daughter of a former Scottish Sun sub-editor was emerging from within the bar itself, thankfully uninjured.
Grace Maclean, 22, had been watching a friend’s band in the busy city centre pub when a Police Scotland helicopter crashed into the roof. She managed to stumble clear amid darkness and confusion as part of the roof collapsed, killing – at the time of writing -nine people, including the two police officers and pilot who were on board the helicopter.
Minutes later, she was picked up in the city centre by her dad, John Maclean, who worked as a casual sub-editor at The Scottish Sun until two years ago and is now proprietor and editor of a small group of free newspapers in Glasgow – the Govan Press, SouthSide Press and East Renfrewshire Press.
Later that night, Grace spoke to BBC News, Sky News and CNN, telling them how she heard a “whoosh” then, seconds later, the pub was enveloped in a dark cloud of dust.
She added: “You couldn’t breathe for inhaling a mouthful of dust. You couldn’t see anything. You were clawing at the walls to see where the exit is.”
Her words were picked up by the newswires and sent around the world. And a fuller version of her story then featured in several of yesterday’s papers after being sent round by her father.
Yet, initially, her dad had been keen for his daughter to stay out of the media spotlight.
John told allmediascotland.com: “I collected Grace in my car about 20 minutes after the crash. She was, understandably, very shaken.
“She told me what had happened and I knew that, at that point, a lot of media outlets would have loved to speak to her. But my first duty was as a dad. I didn’t even mention contacting the newspapers or TV.
“However, Grace later put out a few words on Twitter explaining what had happened to her at The Clutha, and was then contacted by BBC News. She phoned them and spoke live on air.
“And then Sky News and CNN somehow got in contact. Then BBC Radio.
“Next morning, we were woken up by the BBC on the phone, then an old colleague arrived at the door to look for quotes for a Sunday paper. He got a fright when I answered.
“By now, my daughter was feeling the strain of saying the same thing over and over. With her permission, I put together a first-person piece and sent it around the Sundays.
“We agreed that any payment received would go to charity. Then I took Grace to a friend’s house so that she would not have to deal with any more phone calls or visitors at the door.”
John says he found it a “culture shock” to be on the ‘other side’ of a media frenzy.
“My first priority had to be my daughter’s well-being It was a very traumatic incident and it has affected her greatly.
“She didn’t understand the extent to which anything posted on social media is now pounced on by reporters. And she got angry when she heard that a friend, who had been in the band playing in The Clutha, had reporters waiting outside her door.
“But, on the whole, I had no real complaints about how the various branches of the mass media approached what still is a massive story.
“Some were very persistent but most of them understood our position. Only one or two were rude and ungracious but I appreciate that everyone was working to strict deadlines and under a lot of pressure.
“It was certainly a surreal and unwelcome experience for our whole family. One I hope we never have to repeat.”