Obituary: Bill Rae, journalist, 86

Bill Rae started as a copy boy at the News in 1945. Picture: Sean Bell
Bill Rae started as a copy boy at the News in 1945. Picture: Sean Bell
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Bill Rae, a long-serving journalist and press officer, has died, aged 86.

Bill was born on June 11, 1928, when his parents lived in Morningside Road. His father was an electrical fitter with Peebles the engineers, but he caught tuberculosis during the war and died in 1946.

His grandfather and mother both worked for the News in non-editorial jobs and it was his granddad, a printer, who suggested he might consider becoming a reporter.

After his education at South Morningside Primary and Boroughmuir Senior Secondary, Bill duly started as a copy boy for the News at the age of 17 in 1945. He returned from National Service in 1948 and became a reporter, regularly covering council and court matters.

He had always been a football fan, supporting Hearts through thick and thin, and loved the cinema, so he had his turn as a match reporter and film critic.

In 1963, Bill married Janet Winkelhaus, an American reporter, always known as Jan who went on to co-found her own communications company, Carter Rae. They had a long and happy marriage, and had two children, Andrew and Emma.

No sooner had he married than there were redundancies at the News, and along with three colleagues – George Millar, Gordon Dean and Gordon Smith – Bill set up the United News Service which still supplies reports from the courts to newspapers and the broadcast media.

In 1975, Bill was approached to become the press officer for the then new Edinburgh District Council’s public relations and tourism department. He spent 18 years with the council, and gained the respect of Lord Provosts, senior councillors and officials. He also wrote the Official Guide to the City, which he revisited after his retirement in 1993 and which was re-published as the New Official Guide in 1994.

At various times, Bill also wrote a guide to Edinburgh’s pubs and was a noted expert on the derivation of the city’s street names.

Bill enjoyed a long and happy retirement, latterly living in Yetholm in the Borders, where Jan ran an art gallery.

Typically he threw himself into local life, founding the local history and archeology society, writing a guide to Yetholm and scripting two plays for the local drama group. At 84, he wrote a “memoir” of pen-portraits – famous and infamous individuals he had encountered during his long newspaper career.

He was among 22 veteran reporters interviewed by Dr Ian MacDougall for a book entitled Voices of Scottish Journalists published with support from the Scottish Working People’s History Trust last year.

Bill is survived by Jan, his children and grandchildren, Sam and Katie.

His funeral will be at 11am on Tuesday at Yetholm Parish Church, Kirk Yetholm, near Kelso.