Obituary: John Alan Hamilton, 70

John Alan Hamilton. Picture: contributed
John Alan Hamilton. Picture: contributed
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A ROYAL correspondent from Edinburgh who excelled at capturing the atmosphere of formal occasions involving Britain’s best-known family has died.

John Alan Hamilton, who was brought up in Comely Bank as the son of an Edinburgh surveyor, made his name as a Times royal correspondent. He was a much respected figure on foreign tours with the Royal family, with his witty reporting born from the traditional school of journalism.

Mr Hamilton also rose to acclaim in the Capital by penning the 1978 guidebook Essential Edinburgh which covered the city’s extensive history. The reporter passed away in Sussex at the age of 70 on August 28.

During his career, Mr Hamilton largely forewent modern technology, choosing to cover events by relying on his short-hand notebook and a pen. He never used a laptop and never missed a deadline, even when filing from the most remote parts of the world.

Mr Hamilton attended Daniel Stewart’s College on Queensferry Road from 1948-61, winning prizes for both English and geography.

He later started to read English at Edinburgh University, but decided to leave before graduating to pursue his growing love for journalism.

The talented writer joined various regional newspapers, initially specialising in covering labour problems, before earning a job on the labour desk at the Times on 1969.

Mr Hamilton completed stints on the paper’s diary and home news sections before being appointed as “special writer” – known widely as the Royal correspondent – in 1982.

He would hold the post for more than 25 years, becoming a lively presence within the Royal press pack. Occasionally he would still write on other major stories, notably covering the Bulger murder trial in 1993. He made the news himself in 1986 when the Queen and Prince Philip made their visit to China. It was Mr Hamilton’s first overseas Royal visit and he broke the infamous story about a comment made by Prince Philip to British students – “if you stay here much longer, you’ll all get slitty-eyed”.

Despite the coverage, Mr Hamilton was a notable supporter of the Queen’s husband, arguing that his gaffes were nothing more than lighthearted quips. The reporter wrote with obvious affection for his birth city in the Essential Edinburgh guide. His skills as a wordsmith were obvious from the opening sentence, which read: “Upon her high and windy ridge old Edinburgh has watched the march of Scottish history, and every ebb and flow of that often stormy ride has left its mark on the ancient stones.”

Mr Hamilton remained a proud Scot and never lost his Edinburgh accent. He often returned to visit his family and climb the Scottish hills.

The journalist’s wife, Cathy, passed away in 2005 after a long stint of severe ill health. The couple is survived by their son.