A photographer whose portfolio includes genocide and famine assignments in war-torn Africa has spoken about his time in the regional press after looking back over a 40-year career in newspapers.
Andrew Watson – who has stepped down as night picture editor of the Daily Record in Scotland – spoke warmly of his start in the industry as a teenage photographic junior in a newspaper office owned by the forerunner to Johnston Press.
The photographic bug saw him progress from setting up a darkroom under the stairs of his family home to writing short articles for the district news section of the Falkirk Herald – where he eventually got his first break as a 17-year-old trainee.
He recalls starting at F. Johnston and Co. in 1973 on a salary of less than £8 per week – and then being sent for ‘on-the-job’ training at Wednesbury in the West Midlands to study press photography – the only college at the time doing a dedicated course.
Andrew revealed how the then head of the publishing company, Fred Johnston, personally intervened to help him get started in his career.
“At that time, Johnston Press was a real family firm – with Fred Johnston at the helm,” Andrew told website allmediascotland.
“He decided I needed to drive and paid for my lessons, then wrote me a cheque to buy my first car – a £100 VW Beetle – and gave me a £2 per week rise to pay for it over a year.
“My first big break was getting my the job at the Falkirk Herald – and having such supportive people around me.
“And there cannot be many who have worked for father and son editors – Ken Waddell was my first editor at the Falkirk Herald and I also worked with his son, Bruce, during his time at the Record.”
“I loved my time in local newspapers,” he enthuses but after 17 years at the Falkirk Herald and Cumbernauld News he began freelancing for the Daily Record and Sunday Mail.
Then a photographic staff job beckoned on the Scottish daily which was to lead to a 16-year association with the Trinity Mirror title.
“Over my years on the road I was fortunate to photograph events at home and abroad – news, sport and features. Two of the most harrowing were to Somalia and Rwanda covering the aftermath of famine and genocide,” he said.
“In situations like these you need to go into ‘professional mode’ – you are there to do a job – the emotions have to wait until later. But they do come.”
Leaving the post of night picture editor at the Daily Record took two years of deliberation, he said.
“I had a great job. But I simply needed a break,” he added. Now he wants a “short time out to recharge the batteries.”.
He will still retain a link with the paper as deputy chairman of the Mirror Group Pension Schemes’ Trustee Board, helping oversee the pensions of more than 10,000 members.