Journalist Bill Jamieson read about the terminal illness of his contemporary and friend, Scottish Review editor Kenneth Roy, when he was 'in the bleakest of motorway service stations' en route with his wife Elaine from their home in Lochearnhead to Cornwall in October 2018. He was generous in his response to this sad news: 'While newspapers are in the grimmest decline, there will never be the death of words. It is words that inspire, words that enlighten us, words that forge our passions, words that lift us out of despair and drive us on. Kenneth's words did that. And Kenneth's words always will'.
Jamieson's words will do that too. For he was another giant of Scottish journalism and his death, at the age of 75, will similarly be mourned by those who respect integrity, honesty and wisdom, and who also relished his warmth and huge sense of fun.
William Bryce Jamieson was born on 9 June 1945 and brought up in the Irvine Valley town of Newmilns. In an article for SR, he wrote of his hometown: 'Back in the 1950s, it still had lace, coal mining, shops – and a great school'. But, he added: 'It was struck by three devastating blows. A flood in 1954 carried the entire contents of the town coup in an eight-foot wall of mud through the lace factories and down the main street. The bobbins from the lace mills kept turning up for months afterwards. Then the fine school burned down.
'The third catastrophe was less an event than a process: the remorseless decline of industries and jobs – coal mining, lace and, on the outskirts of Kilmarnock, light engineering. As the jobs went, so did the shops and the young people and the pride. Out of what was once a popular Co-op store and dance hall above, wild buddleia grew out of the windows.'
Jamieson left Newmilns to study economics at Manchester University, where he met his wife, marrying in 1971. Their son, Alastair, is a former Scotsman
journalist now working for the Independent
. Jamieson began his career in journalism as a sub-editor on the Merthyr Express
in south Wales, moving to Cardiff to become business sub-editor on the Western Mail
before setting off for London as a business reporter with Thomson Regional Newspapers. He was at the Daily Express
for a number of years before being part of Eddie Shah's 1986 launch of Today
, Britain's first all-colour newspaper.
In 1995, he took up the post of economics editor of The Sunday Telegraph
and from there, in 2000, moved to The Scotsman
, where he was executive editor for 12 years, writing about finance, economics, politics and current affairs. He was also the economics columnist for sister title Scotland on Sunday
, a regular contributor to the Spectator Business
magazine and City AM
and spoke on economic affairs on radio and television.
In 2009, he won both Business Journalist of the Year and Journalist of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards, and collected Campaign Award of the Year for The Scotsman
for a series of articles on the Lloyds-HBOS merger. His books on politics and economics include An Illustrated Guide to the British Economy
and Scotland's Ten Tomorrows
In 2012, after stepping down from full-time duties at The Scotsman
, although continuing to write his column until August this year, he launched Scot-Buzz, an online website for business, championing start-ups and SMEs. In the same year, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award in the Scottish Press Awards.
Jamieson also enjoyed much outside journalism. In another SR piece, he confessed he was 'a gushy romantic', whose favourite music, 'higher than any clouds and way up in stratospheric reverence', was Wagner's Ring Cycle.
'I have six different recordings of the whole cycle,' he said. 'I have travelled to Berlin, Oslo, Amsterdam, as well as London and Cardiff, to see different Ring
productions. It never fails to move and inspire me. And in its 12 or so hours, here's the thing: there's not one single superfluous note. Not one.'
He wrote about his adored cats, Miss Lulubelle and Poosie Nancie, and his prize-winning roses – he grew more than 60 in his garden in Lochearnhead, a place he described as 'centred in an amphitheatre of stunning Trossachs beauty and gateway to the heaven that is the Vale of Strathearn'.
He revered the author Emile Zola, his hero was the Austrian political economist Joseph Schumpeter, and top of his list of books to be treasured was Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France
: 'its brilliant, furious writing stirs me on every reading, When I need inspiration, it is to this I turn'.
Jamieson died in hospital on 14 November from spinal cancer. His words from another of his SR contributions serve as a fitting tribute: 'I'll slink away with Edmund Burke, Schumpeter and a quick burst of the Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla
, full blast. It's been a pleasure'.
Barbara Millar is a funeral celebrant and chief adjudicator of the Young Programme