Calling it a day after 37 years in journalism

ALAN Ducat, editor of the Forfar Dispatch and Kirriemuir Herald for the past two decades, is bowing out after 37 years in journalism.

Alan will key in his final articles this Friday, bringing an end to a career that began in June 1975 when he successfully applied for the post of junior reporter with the “Dispatch.”

“Over almost four decades I have been part of an industry that’s moved from the typewriter to the computer, from black and white editions to full colour,” explains Alan.

Born in Forfar and brought up in Lunanhead as one of a family of eight, Alan attended Forfar East School and Forfar Academy, before taking up employment in the office of John Boath Junior and Company Limited at the age of 17.

Three years later came the opening that was to lead to a career in journalism, a road that was to take him from junior reporter to editor of the Forfar Dispatch, Kirriemuir Herald and Brechin Advertiser.

Adds Alan: “I can still recall those early days working in the back office of the Oliver McPherson premises in St. James Road, Forfar, when my tasks included keying in The Chronicles of Mary Ann and popping along to the house of then Councillor Andrew Smyth to pick up his weekly snippets for the paper.

“The Dispatch and Herald have come a long way since then. June 1975 saw the first photographs appear in the papers, then owned by Fife-based Strachan and Livingston.

The next big switch came in 1982 when local reporter Iain Wallace purchased the newspapers, then operating from an office in East High Street.

“We would put the papers together from Thursday to Tuesday, and spend Wednesdays watching them come off the printer in nearby Montrose, bundling them and despatching them via a hired van to newsagents in Forfar, Kirriemuir and such hinterlands as Friockheim, Letham, Westmuir and Glamis.

“As Angus County Press Limited flourished under Iain Wallace, new titles came on board and we moved, first to Castle Street (above what was the former Granite Bar) and then to the former joinery premises of E. & D. Nicoll in Craig O’ Loch Road.

“The titles in the stable steadily grew to include the Deeside Piper, Mearns Leader, Kincardine Observer, Montrose Review and Brechin Advertiser and Inverurie Herald, by the time Angus County Press Limited was bought over by Scottish Radio Holdings in 1999.

“Now part of the Johnston Press group - and operating out of the former post office building in Castle Street - the Dispatch and Herald continues to play a leading role in the community, embracing new technology to bring you the news as and when it happens.

“Reflecting over 37 roller-coaster years in a career that threw up something different practically every day, I will leave with countless happy memories, and a sense of achievement in a number of areas.

“I recall working with the late Councillor Rod McFarlane - a champion for the disabled - and then Councillor Bill Middleton, who went on to serve as Provost, in a bid to get the railway authorities to dismantle the bridge to nowhere in Carseview Road, a perseverance that met with success.

“I also recall the night when Kirriemuir Community Councillors were seeking a way of creating a permanent memorial to sons of the town who had made a name for themselves in one way or another.

“I threw in the suggestion of a Holywood style paving slab memorial in the Kirrie square - an idea that was to lead to the memorials that now grace Cumberland Close.

“Other memories include a number of opportunities to travel - reporting on local soldiers serving with The Black Watch in Hong Kong and Kosovo, covering one of the soccer exchange trips to Farmington, Connecticut, USA, also visiting Chabanais in France with the twinning association and, in 1988, travelling with the local Air Training Corps team that competed in the famous Nijmegen four-day marches in Holland. I have also travelled to every senior football ground in Scotland at one time or another, following Forfar Athletic Football Club through good times and bad.

“I can’t recall just how many managers I have interviewed in 37 years but it is deep into double figures - everyone from Archie Knox, Alex Rae, Henry Hall and Paul Hegarty to Tommy Campbell, Ian McPhee, Raymond Farningham, Neil Cooper and Dick Campbell.

“Throughout my time I have had an awful lot of help from an awful lot of people, working with an awful lot of groups and organisations and I would like to thank them all for their much-appreciated support.

“I must also thank the then local scribe Laurie Rogers for being my unofficial mentor in my embryonic years as a reporter.

“Albeit working with another company, his hand-holding proved invaluable and it’s great to see him still going strong some 19 years into retirement.

“I am also indebted to Iain Wallace for granting me the opportunity to continue my role when he took over the reins back in 1982. Throughout the years I have had the pleasure and re-assurance of working with some excellent staff members, in editorial, administration and advertising.

“Some have gone on to pastures new, many prospering in the process, while others, like my first lieutenant Janet Thomson, have stayed and played a leading role in keeping the wheels of local reporting turning.

“While I am preparing to clear the desk and ride off into the sunrise on Friday, there are others ready to take up the challenge of taking local reporting into a new era - one in which the web and social networking sites such as FACEBOOK and Twitter will play a leading role.

“Give Janet or Sarah McLean, a trainee reporter with a bright future, a call and make sure your news gets into the Dispatch and Herald.

“Throughout the years, many people have contributed to our columns with regular articles and photographs on interests close to their hearts. Even more so now, making use of e-mail to forward copy and using digi-cameras to submit pictures.

“Make sure your group or organisation doesn’t miss out. E-mail and get the interests that matter to you most noticed.

“I may no longer be at the helm, but the Dispatch and Herald will, I am sure, continue to be an integral part of community life for many years to come.

“As for my immediate future, I really haven’t given it a great deal of thought.

“First up will be a long holiday - and I’ll take things from there, given the fact that I still have a fair few years to go to retirement!”