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Tributes pour in after city’s ‘best known journalist’ dies aged 85

Colleagues past and present have paid tribute to a long-serving showbiz writer hailed as the “best known journalist” in his city.

John Gibson, who has died aged 85, joined the then Edinburgh Evening Dispatch as a copyboy at the age of 16 before making his way onto the sports desk and then the features department.

He eventually found his niche as a showbiz writer, interviewing actors, pop stars and celebrities including The Beatles, Max Bygraves, Joan Collins and Dustin Hoffman.

John, who officially retired in 1998 but continued writing for the paper – now the Edinburgh Evening News – until March last year, died at peacefully at the city’s Western General Hospital on Thursday morning.

John in his younger years, let, and more recently.

John in his younger years, let, and more recently.

A host of current and former Evening News journalists have paid tribute to John who was described by one former editor as “the core of the paper’s identity.”

Former deputy editor Hamish Coghill said: “He was a great journalist, he knew what made a good story and he was not afraid to speak his mind.”

Journalist and fellow Hibs supporter Simon Pia, who worked with John for many years, said: “He was a bit of a legend and Edinburgh’s best-known journalist.

“I first met John in the press box at Easter Road. He had a pretty gruff exterior, but as you got to know the real guy underneath what might surprise people was you found a kind, sentimental and considerate man.”

Former Evening News editor John McLellan said: “He was utterly irascible, never boring and he was absolutely the core of the paper’s identity for decades.

“We did market research and when people were asked to name someone who writes for the Evening News everyone said John Gibson. In his heyday Gibson and the Evening News were interchangeable.

“He was the identity of the Evening News through the 1970s and 1980s.

“And despite his unswerving loyalty to Hibs, Hearts people loved him too. He never hid his allegiances, but he was none the worse for that.”

Born in Leith and educated at Leith Academy, John worked briefly as a gas poker maker at Brown Brothers before joining the Dispatch.

He met his partner, Linda Murray, at the paper in the 1980s when she was working there as a copytaker.

After his retirement, a room in the Evening News’ base at Orchard Brae House was named the Gibson Room in John’s honour.

Current editor-in-Chief Frank O’Donnell said: “If you met John once he was unforgettable. He was a journalist until the end, always chipping in with story ideas. He will be sadly missed.”

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  • December 3, 2018 at 10:09 am
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    John Gibson was an institution on the Edinburgh Evening News. As a former Chief Sub I remember how he was the last reporter to succumb to new technology. – hanging onto his beloved typewriter and even phoning his stories in to the copytakers – rather than use the new-fangled computers! Sadly missed.

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  • December 3, 2018 at 11:34 pm
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    When I arrived at the EEN as editor in 1989, I received a letter signed by three old ladies who lived in sheltered housing. They asked me politely to fire the ‘disgraceful’ John Gibson or they would cease reading the paper. A few years later, when my own departure was announced, I got another letter from the same three ladies who chided me for failing to act. They said they had only kept reading the paper ‘to check whether I would get rid of him’. And they hoped my successor would achieve what I had failed to do.
    John was the ideal columnist: controversial, politically incorrect and utterly fearless. By now, he’ll be upstairs arguing with God (and I know who’ll win!).

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