excellent and enthusiastic summary of the Scottish Press Awards brought back memories. While the current event dates back to 1980, I had the pleasure of helping to create and run its predecessor, the Fraser Press Awards.
Sir Hugh Fraser in the 1970s was chairman of Scottish and Universal Investments which included the Glasgow Herald
, the Glasgow Evening Times
and a host of Scottish weekly newspapers in its stable. David Campbell, who had been in senior management at the group, convinced him to fund a Press Awards scheme and, being a skilled manager, got someone else to make it happen. I was the someone.
First, we had to find a chairman. Hopefully, I approached George Macdonald Fraser, who had been on The Herald
before becoming a superstar for his Flashman books and screenwriting. George, who was a tax exile, replied politely that he would be unable to devote the 'time necessary for such an important task'. Fortunately, Alastair Dunnett (who had been elevated from editorship of The Scotsman
to a grander role in Lord Thomson's Scottish empire) was willing, ready, and extremely able.
He established a judging panel of Scottish newspaper editors, decided on the categories of award, and set the rules of engagement. For example, there were eight judges so each entrant had to send in eight copies of their work. Which is when matters became complicated as some newspapers approached the competition as a company effort. George McKechnie at the Glasgow Evening Times
, for example, sent in beautifully presented entries from his journalists. Carefully trimmed boards with immaculately affixed cuttings. Easy to handle and easy to read. Lesser mortals burst into my Glasgow office with a handful of ragged newspapers and asked my long-suffering colleague Valerie to 'bung them together'. To her credit, Valerie did.
The judging sessions were unusually amicable. Alastair kept the egos under control and decisions were mostly unanimous. One year, however, was memorable. After the final decision was made, Ian McColl, editor of the Daily Express
, pointed out that his newspaper was missing from the roll of honour. While The Scotsman's
Eric Mackay growled about horse trading, a special extra award was smoothly created for the sports desk of the Express
for their coverage of some football game involving Celtic and Albania. Later in the day, as Valerie and I laboured over the announcements, we received a threatening phone call from the editor of one paper. If the Express
award went ahead, his sports desk would boycott the coming awards luncheon.
Once again, Alastair Dunnett worked his soothing magic and all was well come presentation time. In comparison with the recent 42nd event, they were gentler affairs. Run by the Scottish Press and enjoyed by the Press, there was little room for outsiders.
Because the funds had come from a Fraser family trust, one year two of his female relatives sat at the end of the top table but latterly even Sir Hugh took a back seat. We tried to get Prince Charles to come (his office apologised for overlooking the letter and he was otherwise engaged) but we did harness George Younger (who I think was Secretary of State for Scotland at the time) as guest of honour to dole out the cheques. (I have a photo of him looking quizzical as Chris Bauer explains the relevance of being Journalist of the Year.)
One final happy memory. The late Anne Simpson, who graced the pages of The Herald
for decades, won a major award one year and found it embarrassing. A bunch of us ended up at a Glasgow art exhibition after the awards luncheon. Anne gleefully blew her whole cheque on a painting and said it was a relief. She was lucky. Valerie and I had another year to come.
How has it come to this? In a country awash with food banks, and daily predictions from the shouty people that life is now to be gauged by yet more shortages, tens of thousands of pigs are threatened with slaughter, on the farms where they have been raised, and possibly by the Army. Why so?
The farmer cannot sell them at the right time, so they remain on the farm, and because he is continuing to feed them they are growing too big, thereby losing their value. This is puzzling. Why are these animals now living in the wrong time? The wrong time is nurtured (no pun intended) by existing shortages – of slaughterhouses, of slaughterhouse workers, of butchers.
My conclusion... Now that the pigs are too big, their pork chops are too big to fit in a supermarket tray. No supply: no chain.
Step forward anyone who has a good word to say about this. But not before yours truly beats a hasty retreat into the wee swamp, thankful for a reassuring supply of gruel.
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