It was a case of poacher turned gamekeeper when Norman John “Norrie” Bryce went from newshound to press officer in the corridors of Whitehall and Old St Andrew’s House, but friends remember him as a “no nonsense, hard news reporter” with a reputation for getting results.
Mr Bryce, who passed away on April 26 in Edinburgh, started at his local paper before moving into the national press and then working for the Government Information Service and in corporate public relations, eventually setting up his own firm.
Born in Armadale on November 11, 1935, he worked first with the Linlithgowshire Gazette, then moved to the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch, the Daily Record from 1958 to 1960, the Scottish Daily Express from 1960 to 1964, and finally the Scottish Daily Mail between 1964 and 1965.
He served with the Royal Air Force from 1952 to 1956, including a stint in Berlin, and regaled colleagues on his return to Edinburgh with many dramatic tales. He was a frequent visitor to the Capital’s RAF Club.
Despite a mistrust between the press and PR worlds, he managed to bridge that gap in his later career, transferring into PR whilst retaining his professional reputation with former colleagues even though they envied his financial rewards, including his blue Rolls-Royce.
As a businessman, Mr Bryce worked in press liaison with builders Cruden from 1969 to 1974, and Len Lothian, storage specialists, eventually setting up his own company. He did not completely abandon journalism, though, editing the Majorca Daily Bulletin from 1982 to 1990, turning it into the island’s biggest English-language publication, before writing his book, My Thoughts, in 2006.
He joined the government’s Information Service where he put his considerable communication skills to good effect, soon becoming a well-known figure throughout the Departments of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Norrie was the official press spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Later, he moved to speak for Scottish Development and a colleague recalls: “He won the confidence of, and built up warm relations with, government ministers and senior civil servants as well as with the press, radio and TV journalists.”
He was promoted to Senior Information Officer, then Principal Information Officer, heading the Scottish Office press operations at Dover House, Whitehall, as the Secretary of State’s media advisor for parliament.
He sometimes golfed at Luffness and took an active interest in the now defunct Edinburgh Press Club, where he was an enthusiastic member of the club’s Angling Section.
Norrie and second wife June enjoyed foreign travel, visiting many cities in Europe. His failing health changed that, however, and he switched to doing crosswords at home and watching TV.