Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Malcolm’s chronicle of this paper is a fitting memorial

Malcolm Brodie
Malcolm Brodie

The tidal wave of tributes to Malcolm Brodie this week and last reflect, of course, the high esteem in which the great man was held.

The tidal wave of tributes to Malcolm Brodie this week and last reflect, of course, the high esteem in which the great man was held.

From FIFA to the fans on the terrace, he was universally recognised and respected.

No words from me will add any further eloquence to the testament of so many people.

However, there is one small aspect of Malcolm’s life that sometimes escapes high public notice, and that is his role of chronicler of the Belfast Telegraph.

His book, The Tele: A History of the Belfast Telegraph (Blackstaff, 1995), may have been a labour of love, but it was nevertheless an excellent achievement — well written, with access to all the right sources and drawing, of course, on his own amazing memory down through the decades.

Reader Oscar Ross writes in to rightly remind me that the book was “superb” and that it “was and remains a remarkable publishing achievement”.

It is so not because of the anecdotes and stories of the lives of the workers and executives, including of course the founding Baird Brothers, but because of its access to boardroom battles, power plays, industrial disputes and other high-level dramas that shape a newspaper.

The Tele was founded in 1870 and has borne witness to world and European wars — as Malcolm would often point out, the shrapnel marks from Hitler’s bombers are still on the front of the building — the Troubles, and everything in between and more.

It is also an important book for its understanding of the Tele’s relevance for generations of ordinary folk; the men and women it represented, and the (often tortured) society it reported upon.

The paper was trusted, respected and universally admired: just like the book, and of course, the author himself.

I know this part of his legacy is dwarfed by his towering achievements in sport, but nevertheless, it is one that will be cherished by the Belfast Telegraph staff and its readers for many decades to come.

l The Francis inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust makes depressing reading and obviously a range of reforms is needed.

But the most important one is also the cheapest — opening up the system and making it transparent and fair to patients and staff. Because if it wasn’t for the culture of secrecy within the NHS generally, the suppression of internal whistle-blowers, the gagging of medical staff and the refusal to take appropriate notice of patients and their relatives, then Mid Staffs wouldn’t have happened.

It’s not rocket science, and no one is calling for radical transparency. But sunlight is the best disinfectant and it’s time to let some in.

BTreaderseditor@gmail.com

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