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Former long-standing night editor dies at 71

A former night editor who worked at a Scottish daily for 25 years has died at the age of 71.

John Duncan worked at The Herald for most of his career, from 1970 to 1995, and helped the title to win two design awards in the 1980s.

After graduating from Glasgow University, he worked for The Herald briefly in the mid-1960s before moving to work for the Guardian in London, then returned to work for The Herald again as a journalist and night editor.

His wife Lesley Duncan, also a Herald journalist, has paid tribute to John in an obituary for the paper following his death earlier this month.

She wrote: “As a news journalist, John Duncan had of course a deep interest in politics and current affairs, and was a voracious reader of political memoirs.

“He worked quietly, though could erupt when faced with incompetence. One former colleague describes his editing skills as ‘peerless'; another as ‘brilliant’.

“On the human front yet another colleague, now a leading London journalist, recalls how ‘John was always kind and unfailingly patient’ with him as a starter reporter. He was at his best on high-stress General Election and Budget nights, and had an uncanny instinct for predicting the outcome of the former.

“On the night of the Lockerbie disaster, he and his team, abandoning the office Christmas party, worked tirelessly through the small hours to interpret the tragic events for readers, as the scale of the horror was gradually revealed.”

In 1981, John played a crucial role in The Herald gaining a Newspaper Design Award, when it was described as “a newspaper of real quality, very professionally laid out, and well disciplined in its typography” and he featured on the front page a year later when the paper won another design award.

He also was part of a team from the paper who toured the United States evaluating new computer technology for the title in the late 1980s.

John enjoyed sports including golf and cricket in his spare time.

Added Lesley: “A tall, slim man, who inherited his physique from his Dublin mother’s side of the family, John had a typically Scottish dry wit and reserve, and was not given to talking readily about feelings or inner thoughts. He was perhaps most at ease with friends in club or pub when not at work.

“His reticence hid a kindness and generosity of spirit which showed itself in quiet ways, whether financial or helping a dyslexic schoolboy with his homework.”

John leaves his wife Lesley, son David and sisters Patricia and Margaret.