Former chief sub-editor ‘one of the best': an appreciation of Alastair Clark

A FORMER chief sub-editor  at The Scotsman newspaper was a “one of the best”, according to the newspaper diarist who worked alongside him several years ago.

Alastair Clark died last weekend, aged 75. And ahead of his funeral today, Simon Pia, writes his own appreciation:

“When Alastair Clark left The Scotsman four years ago, an era was already over; but the professionalism he brought to his art and craft until the very end encapsulated some of the best qualities of the ‘golden age’ for newspapers.

“These were captured perfectly by Fordyce Maxwell in his obituary in The Scotsman last week, along with the appreciation by Jim Gilchrist, two journalists who also embody the best of that tradition.

“In the digital age, where no-one knows what future awaits newspapers, Alastair was a newspaper man, through and through.

“When he retired, with him went qualities that journalism can ill afford to lose in age of the internet and where the accountant is ‘king’.

“I had the pleasure to work with him on a daily basis when he was in charge of the Op Ed pages and I did The Scotsman diary. The turbulence was already in full flow as the paper tried to adapt to the new millennium. But as steady a character you could not meet on the tilting deck buffeted by the forces of the new age.

“Through it all, Alastair was one of the calmest – coolest even – characters I’ve met in newspapers. ‘Cool’ is a word he would have savoured, as not just a jazz buff but a jazz cat, a trumpet player who could also turn his hand to the sax and piano.

“While readers relished his music column for decades, I enjoyed daily anecdotes and he seemed to know everyone in the music scene, folk and rock as well as jazz.

“He’d often greet me with, ‘Hi man, how’s it going? What’s happened today?’, as he drolly enquired what madness awaited as he came on the late shift.

“As Fordyce said, he was unflappable and I never heard him raise his voice, get flustered, show impatience or snap at anyone junior to him.

“Writers loved writing for him. He appreciated your copy, handled it with care, subtly improving it when necessary, enhancing it with the ideal headline.

“He understood what made good newspapers and who were good newspaper people. He was one of the best.”

A service will be held for Alastair this afternoon at 3.15 at Warriston crematorium in Edinburgh.