Ian Rankin, Elsie Inglis and John Gibson: Edinburgh has its fair share of legends – Susan Dalgety
Your favourite newspaper is 150 years old this year. It was first published in 1873 – when Queen Victoria was on the throne. It was a big year. The Scottish Rugby Union and the Scottish Football Association were also set up, and another Edinburgh institution was established. On 15 November 1873, the Greyfriars Bobby statue was unveiled, funded by one of the wealthiest women in Britain at the time, Angela Burdett-Coutts.
To celebrate its landmark anniversary, the Evening News is looking for Edinburgh’s top ten citizens – dead or alive. Names already mentioned include two knights of the realm, Sir Sean Connery and Sir Ian Rankin – both obvious choices. I hope that JK Rowling and Dr Elsie Inglis, two Edinburgh heroes of mine, also make the cut.
But if I were drawing up a top ten of Evening News personalities over the decades, there is one name that would come top. Older readers will remember John Gibson, the paper’s legendary showbiz correspondent and columnist who was still filing copy long after he ‘officially’ retired. I was privileged to work alongside John for a few years. He knew everyone who was anyone in the city, from the Lord Provost of the day to business leaders such as Sir Tom Farmer. And of course, he always had an anecdote or two about his much-loved team, Hibs.
My favourite story of his was the tale of how he became a journalist. He had abandoned a trade apprenticeship after only a few weeks, so his angry mother marched him up to the old Scotsman building, also home of the Evening News (Dispatch), and asked for the editor: “Can you give my laddie a job?” A legend was born.
He started as a copy boy, running errands in the newsroom, but it wasn’t long before his natural curiosity, love of life, and work ethic saw him promoted. He could be a grumpy old man, railing against the modern world, and he kept his prized contacts book under lock and key. “Trust no one,” he used to grin. But for decades he was the heart and soul of the Evening News as he told tales of his beloved city. Happy in his work, as long as no one mentioned Hearts.