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Sunday newspaper’s founding editor dies aged 89

Alastair StuartThe founding editor a Sunday newspaper who also served as a regional publisher’s editorial director has died aged 89.

Tributes have been paid to Alastair Stuart, who was responsible for overseeing the launch of Scotland on Sunday in 1988.

During his career, Alastair also served as editor-in-chief and editorial director of Thomson Regional Newspapers, which owned the newspaper when it launched.

He had also previously served as The Scotsman and TRN’s London editor, as well as working on newspapers in Kenya and Nigeria, prior to the several months he spent in charge of SoS.

On its launch day, he told staff: “We have all been in on the start of a great new enterprise. Now all we have to do is do it again, and again, and again, because a great future lies ahead.”

Born in Edinburgh in 1927 to a father who also worked in newspapers, his first full-time job was as a sub-editor on the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch after completing both National Service and a degree at Edinburgh University.

Magnus Linklater, editor of The Scotsman when SoS was launched, said: “I trusted his judgment greatly. He was a wise old bird. He knew journalism extremely well and knew Scotland even better.”

Brian Groom, who was Mr Stuart’s deputy at SoS before later becoming editor, said: “He was courteous and kind, but never tolerated woolly thinking or sloppy writing.

“It was a privilege to work with Alastair in creating SoS. At an age when most people would be thinking of winding down – and not in the best of health – he undertook this adventurous task with dedication, humour and a determination not to be hidebound by conventional thinking.

“He once said ‘I’d like to banish the stereotype of the whingeing Scot’. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for creating a paper that, over nearly three decades, has produced some of Scotland’s finest journalism.”

Alastair’s influential role also saw him invited to be one of those who decided how newspapers should handle national secrets as a member of the D-notice committee, now the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee.

John Marquis, who served as TRN’s London sports editor when Alastair worked in the capital, said: “Alastair was a very able journalist and senior manager – certainly among the best I worked with in my half century in journalism. He was not only very astute, he was calm and cool with it, and an excellent judge of character.

“He was chief London editor of Thomson Regional Newspapers when I was the group’s London sports editor. I enjoyed several years working with him, and he taught me a lot about management.

“He was a man of charisma and intellect who combined exceptional ability with great charm. I am very sorry to hear of his passing.”

Alastair was married to Anne, who he met at university, for 64 years. He leaves three children, Catriona, Lewis and Hamish, and four grandchildren, Calum, Shona, Cara and Aidan.


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  • March 7, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Scotland on Sunday was a truly great paper in its early years.

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  • March 8, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    We all need people like Alastair was. They were better times.

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  • March 9, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Back in my day, Alastair Stuart led the London editorial operation serving the country’s biggest newspaper chain – that was four morning papers, twelve evenings and God know how many weeklies.
    It was a heavyweight organisation by any standard, with a joint circulation several times greater than at least two of the national ‘quality’ broadsheets of the time.
    The bigger TRN papers boasted circulations of well over 100,000 and in some cases 200,000. Most of the group’s papers were by far the biggest and most influential media forces in their circulation areas.
    TRN’s London staff travelled the world covering everything from major political conferences to the Olympic Games. A diplomatic correspondent covered stories like the Cod War, a defence correspondent filed on everything from the Turkish invasion of Cyprus to the Falklands War, sports staff followed big sports stars like Muhammad Ali round the globe, and a sizeable parliamentary staff covered the House of Horrors.
    Papers like the Western Mail cleared their front pages to produce breakfast-time ‘big fight specials’ filed from the ringside in places like New York, Las Vegas and Kuala Lumpur.
    Add to that a City staff whose highly respected copy graced the financial pages every morning, and you have an operation of considerable power and influence.
    Alastair, as Chief London Editor, oversaw it all with sound judgment and measured calm.
    To answer Bob Smith’s question, back in Alastair’s day, newspapers were newspapers, and he was in the thick of it.
    Enough said.

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  • March 13, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Very sad. A lovely man to work with.

    Correction: The first Scottish Quality Sunday was The Standard; launched by George Outram (The Herald), in 1981.

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