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Daily journalist who was once on ‘terrorist hit list’ dies aged 85

Bill OwensA journalist who wrote for several dailies and was also involved in founding a weekly newspaper has died aged 85.

Tributes have been paid to Bill Owens, left, who wrote for both The Scotsman and Daily Record before setting up his own news agency with a colleague.

While at the Record Bill was responsible for the Pat Roller column, a nightly diary of Glasgow’s dark side made up of news items collected in police stations, hospital casualty departments and mortuaries.

He later went on to found Fitzgerald Owens, a Dumbarton-based agency, with Sunday Mail colleague Gerry Fitzgerald.

An obituary in The Scotsman reads: “Dumbarton Sheriff Court was one of the busiest in Scotland and Owens was one of the best court reporters, who could boast a shorthand note in excess of 160 words a minute.

“He was so fast at Pitman’s that when the official note takers failed to turn up, the Sheriff Clerk would ask Owens if he would fill in for them.”

Fitzgerald Owens was given the contract by Helensburgh Advertiser owner Craig M Jeffery to supply the whole editorial content and photographs for a new Dunbartonshire weekly, the County Reporter

It launched with an exclusive front page splash about the closure of Denny’s shipyard in Dumbarton with the loss of 2,000 jobs.

The agency later branched out into PR, and counted then-Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart among its clients.

Bill later moved to the Middle East to become editor in chief of The Gulf Daily News, where he claimed he was approached by the FBI and informed that his telephone had been tapped as they believed he was on a terrorist hit list.

The Scotsman obituary also described Owens as “tall, dark and handsome was always immaculately dressed in the image of a reporter out of an American B movie. He smoked cigars, drank modestly and wore a bow tie, a fedora and a trench coat.”

He later moved to Sydney, Australia, where he died on 17 September, but travelled to Scotland often to see his ex-wife Chris, with whom he remained friends, and his children Paul and Nicola.

Bill is survived by them and by his ex-partner Louise, their son Uilleam, Louise’s other children Robin and Briony, and their three children.