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Regional evening’s ‘trusted friend of trainees’ dies aged 86

A copy boy who finished his newspaper career as one of Scotland’s most respected and popular regional journalists has died aged 86.

Ex-Edinburgh Evening News senior reporter Bill Rae enjoyed the variety of being a wise counsel to office trainees, news agency co-founder, city press officer, history book editor and playwright while two years ago penning a memoir of famous and infamous individuals he’d encountered.

Last year his place in the country’s annals of regional print was secured when he was among 22 veteran reporters interviewed by Dr Ian MacDougall for Voices of Scottish Journalists with support from the Scottish Working People’s History Trust – placing on public record his observations of a lifelong association with the industry.

He joined the News as a messenger in 1945 with World War Two ending and the following year he went off to do his national service in the army.

Former colleague Brian McGuire, who joined as an 18-year-old trainee at the Scottish daily, said Bill in his role as a senior reporter was “the first to help younger colleagues, perhaps remembering the early days when he freely admitted he’d been ‘frightened he could not do the work’.”

He added: “Bill’s reputation for accuracy was legendary and he would take down a story in immaculate Pitman’s shorthand. Every aspect would be covered, the quotes totally reliable and accompanying photos carefully captioned.

“In those days, journalists were trusted by the public and Bill – ‘Willie’ to many of us – maintained the highest standards. He’d get the words into shape in his head before putting them on paper, thinking up a concise headline then hammering the piece out on his typewriter while drawing deeply on a cigarette – he was a 20-a-day man.”

He had a lifelong interest in cinema and wrote a weekly column, The Passing Show, for the News – reviewing  film premieres and opening theatre nights. With three colleagues, Bill set up the United News agency in 1964 to service the nationals, TV and radio.

In 1975, he joined the city’s PR and Tourism department as press officer where his expertise, integrity and non-political stance was recognised, said Brian.

Bill introduced a unique, weekly “Digest” summarising council committee business, when such details were no longer reported in the press, wrote the city’s Official Guide and was invited to write a revised version after his retirement in 1993.

In 1963 in Michigan, Bill married Janet Winkelhaus – an American journalist whom he’d first met in the Evening News newsroom on the “the luckiest day of my life”.

She ran an art gallery at their second home in Yetholm and Bill founded the Yetholm Historical & Archaeological Society, wrote a guide to Yetholm and was editor of two history books published by the society. He also wrote two comedy plays performed by the local theatre group.

Bill is survived by Jan, their children Andrew and Emma and two grandchildren Sam and Katie. His funeral is at 11am on Tuesday, 26 August at Yetholm Parish Church, Kirk Yetholm, near Kelso.

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  • August 21, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Wish I had met this guy. Modern journalism will not produce people like him. Just IT technicians. RIP.

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