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Longest-serving editor pens poignant final words

The longest-serving editor in British journalism bows out of his role today after 40 years in the hot seat.

Drew Cochrane, left,  is taking his final bow on the 40th anniversary of his appointment as editor of the Largs & Millport Weekly News.

Only the fifth editor in the paper’s 137-year history, Drew has overseen 2,080 editions of the paper during his long tenure.

Now the 62-year-old has penned a poignant final weekly column looking back over his editorship, headlined ‘I will always love you, my paper’ (and I mean it)`

Describing the paper variously as his “baby,” his “child” and even his “mistress,” he recalled some of the biggest stories he has covered including the £161m lottery win by Colin and Christine Weir.

Here is Drew’s piece in full.

Today – as I exit stage left – I doff my cap to Robert, David, Archie and John, my eminent predecessors as editors of this blessed blatt.

It’s truly remarkable, possibly unique, that only five of us have had the honour of being appointed editor of a newspaper like the Largs & Millport Weekly News over 137 years.

My 40 years’ tenure has seen me oversee 2,080 editions following John J McCreadie who was at the helm for more than 1,000 issues.

It was away back in September, 1974, that I was told that I was going to Largs “for a few years, then we’ll see…”

Well, I must be the editor that time forgot because until today I’m still here four decades later. In my personal Tardis I have been transported from the hot metal and Linotype days to digitalisation and the dreaded Twitter.

Several times I have been told by people close to me as I stayed away from home that the newspaper was my mistress! So, how can I now leave my mistress in the lurch?

Mistress? Actually, if I can be paternal I would say it’s been my baby. Hopefully, I have nurtured it lovingly. I can tell you that we have spent many long hours, and, yes, sleepless nights together.

I have cried tears in the sad and bad times. The tragedy of the two little sisters who died from AIDS in a Largs family, into whose home I was invited to feel their grief.

There was the overwhelming community sadness of the premature loss of teenage schoolgirl Katherine Fish who perished when the Largs Academy coach crashed in France in 2002.

I shared the relief of the townspeople when the early morning Glasgow train stopped suddenly in Largs – slap bang in the town centre after careering through the station, away back in 1995. No-one died on that occasion. It was a miracle.

Speaking of miracles, I shared the joy of many when two ordinary citizens bought their weekly Euro Lottery ticket – and it was the incredibly lucky unique one which netted £160 million to catapult Chris and Colin Weir overnight to the stratospheric heights of two of Britain’s richest people in 2011. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer couple.

In many ways, it has been the gift that keeps on giving – as they have done – and must, surely, rank as the greatest story ever told in the long annals of the “Wee Paper” in my time.

Like any child you’ve ever loved or cared for my paper has made me laugh through the good and unpredictable times. Like the phone call I took one morning, and the voice said: “I’m the woman whose house burned down yesterday, and I want to tell you, I’m still fuming!”

And, yes, there have been fires, murders (thankfully, not many), explosions, drownings, tragic accidents and, oh, the politics.

I’m old enough to have covered Largs Town Council in the former Moorburn House chambers, Largs Police Court, at the rear of the police station, both in the ‘70s,Cunninghame District and Strathclyde Regional Council, forerunners of the present North Ayrshire Council and, of course, the good old community councils where unpaid parishioners represent us, digging up all the nitty gritty news, God bless’em.

I’ve edited through the Conservative times (war hero Sir Fitzroy McLean was MP in the 70s) while the area was solidly Tory; the Militant Labour era when, incredibly, Hunterston was declared a nuclear free zone by socialist councillors; and I’ve seen the rise of the Scottish Nationalists right through to the Referendum.

Is it only me who thinks that Alex Salmond came to Largs last week, heard that I was retiring early and decided to follow suit?!

Through it all, I have laughed off the allegations that I was a) Conservative b) Labour c) Nationalist d) Liberal Democrat. The ‘allegators’ were all correct. I am all of these things, and needed to be to remain an impartial editor.

In my parallel sphere of theatre I’ve been fortunate to have played a hundred lead roles. But, none as epic or exciting as being your editor.

Forgive my maudlin, melodramatic emotion as I take my final bow and exit the stage. What next?

To quote Winston Churchhill…”This is not the end. It may not even be the beginning of the end but, perhaps, it is the end of the beginning…”

* Now that Drew has retired, the search is on for his successor as Britain’s longest-serving editor.  Suggestions please to [email protected] or @journalism_news #whosthenewdrew.


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  • September 26, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Drew is Mr Largs. His paper has always been perfectly attuned to the people of Largs and Millport, and a real local bible.
    As someone who had the privilege of editing the paper on several occasions when he was on holiday, I know just how demanding a job it is. In Scottish editing he is an institution.
    A Burns lover. And a Thespian.
    Have a long, happy retirement, Drew.

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  • September 26, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Local journalism at its best – perfectly encapsulated in Drew Cochrane’s farewell piece.
    A credit to our profession.

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  • September 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Congratulations Drew on an unbeatable record in a period when editors enjoyed about the same security of tenure as football managers. I hope your retirement is as fulfilled as mine has been in the last two years, but there are some things you miss. Good luck.

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  • September 26, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Editor at 22 then if he had 40 years in the hot seat? Must have been given the job straight from training I guess. An amazing record and good luck to him. It is also good to read this paper has a proper editor not like these silly content editor titles that are springing up. Happy retirement .

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  • September 28, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    I know retirement won’t stop you time to write your memoirs..

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