Obituary: John Hopkins Warden, Journalist, 87

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A former Scotsman reporter who was one of the UK’s most respected political journalists has died at the age of 87.

John Hopkins Warden, born in Glasgow, first became interested in a newspaper career when he was evacuated to Carluke to live with the local minister’s family. He became a copy boy with the Glasgow Herald, then started as a young reporter with the Ayrshire Post.

In the 1950s, he moved to Edinburgh, enrolled for shorthand lessons at the famous Skerry’s College and joined The Scotsman, meeting, falling in love with and then marrying the editor’s secretary, Harriet Mitchell, in 1952. They had two children.

Jack transferred to the Edinburgh office of the Herald, becoming chief reporter, then being tasked by editor James Holborn to cover St Andrew’s House and the Scottish office’s ministerial departments.

There, he was so trusted that senior civil servants always welcomed “Warden of the Herald”.

Jack put in incredibly long hours, scanning obscure publicity issued by, for example, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the international organisation attempting to unify European countries after the Second World War.

Normally working from “upstairs” in the Herald office, he’d look in on the reporters before leaving in the evening with rim-red eyes, having spent the day teasing out news from those closely-typed documents. It seemed that only he could make sense – and stories – out of such turgid press handouts.

After the editor’s phone call informing him of his appointment to London office, Jack became political correspondent and, in the mid-1960s, moved with his family to Orpington, Kent, as political editor in Westminster.

Covering parliament was a severely demanding job, even for a dedicated journalist known for tenacity, but the long hours in and out of the House meant his family missed seeing as much of him as they would have liked.

When he moved to the Daily Express (from 1975 to the mid-1980s) he witnessed the rise of Margaret Thatcher, whom he admired.

After the Falklands crisis he was one of two lobby correspondents selected for a dramatic RAF flight to the islands, to report the secret visit by Thatcher ahead of publication of the Lord Franks inquiry.

After the Express he freelanced, and three years after Harriet died he returned to Scotland in 2000. He was awarded an OBE for services to journalism.

Occasionally, a group of retired colleagues would meet in Edinburgh, where Jack would relate stories from the great days of newspaper reporting.

After returning to Scotland he renewed an old friendship with Marion Barnes, nee Wood. They were married in 2004 and he acquired three step-children.

Marion died in April. Jack is survived by his daughter Anne and son John, his step-daughters Yvette and Emma and step-son Scott, and by his brothers Colin and Kenneth and sister Isobel.