Belfast Telegraph

Read all about it... NI man's book on newspaper life a real page-turner

British press baron Robert Maxwell circa 1980
British press baron Robert Maxwell circa 1980
Rupert Murdoch
The book cover
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

A Belfast businessman who worked for three of the biggest 20th century press barons has penned a personal account of his career in the UK newspaper industry.

Colin McClatchie, a former managing director (Scotland and Ireland) of News International Newspapers who started out at the Belfast Telegraph, has published A Musing - Reflections on a Wonderful Life.

The 70-year-old joined Thomson Regional Newspapers as a graduate trainee in 1971, after completing an economics degree at Queen's University, Belfast, working in their offices in Belfast, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

He moved to The Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail in 1984, increasing sales of both titles in eight out of 11 years, until he was fired by fellow Northern Ireland man David Montgomery.

Switching sides, he went to News International Newspapers in 1995 as General Manager, Scotland, before also taking on the brief for Ireland as managing director, and during his decade there he helped establish The Scottish Sun as market leader.

It was his time in the heyday of the newspaper business which provided Mr McClatchie with material for the book, which he has recently self-published.

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The book cover

"I'd worked for three of the biggest media tycoons - Roy Thompson, Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell - in a really buoyant business which has now sadly started to decline," he said.

"But I also wrote the book for my kids because they'd started to ask me to tell them about my early life and I realised - maybe a bit morbidly - that I wanted to tell my story before I died.

"A Musing is my way of sharing some personal recollections - not to mention the odd skeleton and a few funny stories - in what has been, for me, an exciting working life."

The father-of-two added: "It was a three-year project, although I probably wrote it in two."

When asked to choose the high point of his career, Mr McClatchie said he has had a "very happy life", adding "every day I've got up and never thought what's tomorrow going to bring?" - despite, as he admitted, being "fired a couple of times".

But he eventually conceded that establishing The Scottish Sun as market leader to the detriment of the Daily Record was the highlight.

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Rupert Murdoch

"For me getting market leadership of the Scottish Sun was the pinnacle," he revealed. "That was about a 10-year plan to get there and I suppose sweet revenge, in some ways, having crucified the Daily Record in the process because they got rid of me at 45 thinking I was too old, basically."

He added: "I don't want to be remembered for being a revengeful person but it was a fantastic achievement. And it wasn't just me. I was part of a great team that did it. I worked with some great people."

Mr McClatchie, who has met the Queen, political leaders and high-flying businessmen over 35 years in the industry, said Murdoch, whom he described as "the last of the press barons", was the one person who most impressed him "by a long chalk".

"In my view Murdoch's intellectual capacity was greater than anybody's that I have ever met; you could not fail to be impressed," he said.

In his non-executive career, Mr McClatchie was chairman of Scottish Opera and a number of other organisations, and still runs his own mentoring business so he is "not retiring any time soon".

The book is not available in retail outlets or online retailers but can be purchased by visiting www.colinmcclatchie.com

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