There was only one Malcolm Brodie. And everyone who mattered in the world of sport knew him.
The legendary journalist’s lifetime dedication to what was both his passion and his career meant he was as adored and respected as the global stars he reported on, many of whom he regarded as close friends.
Leading figures from the sporting world, politicians and radio and television personalities yesterday paid tribute to the veteran former sports editor who died in hospital on Tuesday night at the age of 86. Among those who expressed their sadness at the passing of Malcolm were Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the family of Northern Ireland hero, the late George Best.
The First Ministers of Northern Ireland and Scotland — Peter Robinson and Alex Salmond — also expressed their condolences.
The man affectionately known as ‘Malky’ was a father of three sons, Kenneth, Iain and Steven, and grandfather-of-one, 15-year-old Claire, who he described as his “princess”.
In a statement last night, his family said they had been moved by the messages of support received.
“We are totally overwhelmed by the response to the death of our father.
“The heartfelt worldwide tributes are proving to be a great comfort to our mother Margaret and the wider family circle during this difficult time. He loved his job, though his family came first, and continued to work prior to his hospitalisation last week.
“He was never happier than when surrounded by colleagues in the cut and thrust world of journalism
“He was proud of the development of the sports department of the Belfast Telegraph and his baby, the Ireland Saturday Night, or ‘the Pink’ as he called it.
“His wit and wisdom will be sorely missed,” they said.
Malcolm, covered a record 14 World Cups in his lifetime.
It would have been 15 had one competition not coincided with his honeymoon.
Brought up in Scotland, he worked at the Belfast Telegraph for more than five decades — during which he established the sports department — and was awarded an MBE for his services to journalism.
Yesterday, Sir Alex described his friend of more than 40 years as a “fantastic man” who was “always good value in terms of his opinion”.
“He never lost the energy to do his job and he obviously enjoyed doing it and had enthusiasm about it.
“It's very hard to retain enthusiasm for your job right up to your 80s.”
The family of Northern Ireland and Manchester United legend Best — who passed away in 2005 — described Malcolm as a friend and mentor.
Best’s sister Barbara and brother-in-law Norman McNarry said: “He acted as a friend and mentor through some very difficult times.
“We are very sorry to hear of his passing and want to pass on our regards to his family. Of course, he followed George’s career and George had so much respect and time for Malcolm.”
First Minister Peter Robinson described Malcolm as a “football encyclopaedia”, while his Scottish counterpart Mr Salmond said his legacy would be passed on to future generations of journalists.
Malcolm joined the Belfast Telegraph in 1943, having previously worked as a cub reporter at the Portadown News.
Along with his years as one of the most highly regarded writers in sport, he also tackled a host of breaking stories during his formative years as a news reporter.
He was one of the first to report on the tragedy of the sinking of the the Princess Victoria, which sank exactly 60 years ago today. Earlier this month he spoke to the Belfast Telegraph about the “horror and the sadness” of “one of the worst days” in Northern Ireland’s history when 133 people lost their lives.
He covered his first World Cup competition in Switzerland in 1954 and was awarded a replica Jules Rimet Trophy by football’s governing body Fifa to mark his subsequent record coverage of the competition.
As well as an MBE, Malcolm was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster.
A minute’s silence is to be held at all Irish League games this weekend as a mark of respect.
The Belfast Telegraph has now opened a book of condolence for those who wish to add their name to the long list of people Malcolm’s warmth touch-ed over the years. It will be available at reception during office hours.