Tributes have been paid to a regional editor from the golden age of Scottish newspapers who has died after a short illness, aged 82.
Bernard Vickers arrived as deputy editor of the Daily Record in the 1970s via London, Manchester and the Daily Herald – moving to managing editor before leading the paper in a period when it enjoyed record circulation and profits.
Before he left in 1988, the daily sale reached more than 750,000 with its domination in Scotland giving it the highest market penetration of any publication in the world, outside of Japan.
Despite being born in the north of England, Bernard reflected the readers’ left-wing Scottish views, with one review at the time claiming the “eccentric but brilliant editor” was keeping the flame of devolution burning.
Feature writer Sandra Ratcliffe said of her one-time newsroom chief: “He gave his all for all of us in what those who worked there remember as an historic and tumultuous period in the life and history of newspapers in Scotland.”
Former Record deputy editor and Sunday Mail editor Jim Cassidy added: “I respected Bernard as the most talented and charismatic editor I ever worked with” while former colleague Tom Mackay said Bernard was quite simply “the best editor”.
Britain’s best-selling female crime writer, Val McDermid, said working for the “great Bernard Vickers” as a reporter was “fun”.
Bernard was not afraid of confrontation during his career. Two months into the 1984 UK-wide miners’ strike he stood firm against the print unions – and it cost his paper a day off the streets.
As the dispute intensified, Sogat 82 demanded to have a statement – which called for a mobilisation of support for the trade union movement against the Margaret Thatcher-led government – placed on the front page.
Bernard refused permission and offered page two, alongside other industrial news of the day’s events. The union pulled the plug on the paper and it didn’t appear on May 10.
Over at the Daily Express its editor Sir Larry Lamb resigned on the same day in a row over similar demands by Sogat ’82’s – the union warning its then owner, Lord Matthews, it would stop the paper publishing.
Bernard was equally forthright in his view of the management of the day, describing his relationship with managing director Vic Horwood in these terms: “Vic and I walk hand in hand, with him a respectful half step behind me.”
He had to protect his staff in the most of turbulent times, all during the Robert Maxwell era. The 1986 Daily Record and Sunday Mail strike is said to have been the beginning of the end of his time there.
Bernard, when failing out with the news room staff, often told them they were ‘fired’. If he became angry they were ‘fookin’ fired’.
The editor was one of the first to recognise the value of television reporting while at the same time offering readers a serious side to the paper, too.
He is survived by his wife Mary and daughters Suzanne and Tina.