TRIBUTES have flooded in to long-serving Evening News columnist, Leither and Hibs fanatic John Gibson, who has died aged 85.
He passed away peacefully at the Western General Hospital on Thursday morning.
John joined what was then the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch when he was 16 and officially retired in 1998 but continued writing for the paper until March last year.
Former deputy editor Hamish Coghill said: “He was a great journalist, he knew what made a good story and he was not afraid to speak his mind.”
John was born in Leith and went to Leith Academy, working briefly as a gas poker maker at Brown Brothers before becoming a copyboy at the Dispatch and making his way onto the sports desk and then the features department.
He found his niche as a showbiz writer, interviewing film actors, pop stars and TV celebrities. The walls of his flat were crammed with photographs showing him with people such as Terry Wogan, Max Bygraves, Alan Whicker, Richard Attenborough, Peter Sellers, Dick van Dyke, David Frost and Dustin Hoffman.
He was utterly irascible, never boring and he was absolutely the core of the paper’s identity for decadesFormer Evening News editor John McLellan
He covered the Beatles when they came to Edinburgh.
And Stanley Baxter attended his retirement party.
His partner, Linda Murray, who first met John in the 1980s, when she worked at the Evening News as a copytaker, said: “There was ever a dull moment with John.
“The first time I met him, I had never laughed so much in all my life. He always had some quip or comment to make. I’ve never met anyone like him and I don’t suppose I ever will. He was a one-off.”
She recalled how John met the Queen when she came to open the Scotsman/Evening News office in Holyrood Road in 1999. “He said to her ‘Now we’re near neighbours I might be popping round to borrow a cup of sugar’ and she burst out laughing.”
John was famous for his love of Hibs and Pat Stanton, legendary player and manager at the club, was among those paying tribute.
“John was a real character,” he said. “I used to see him at the games, going away back to when I started out at Easter Road. He was a smashing guy to talk to.
“And he had a good knowledge of the game. He used to hide that a wee bit. And he was well-liked by the players.
“One thing about John, you knew what team he supported. He was an out and out Hibs fan. He nailed his colours to the mast.
“But it was funny, if you spoke to him about the game he never really criticised players. He could be disappointed with a result, but he didn’t get too personal about people.
“He wasn’t frightened to give his opinions about things but he didn’t have a go at the players. He will be missed.”
Former Evening News editor John McLellan said he was very sad to learn of John’s death.
“He was utterly irascible, never boring and he was absolutely the core of the paper’s identity for decades.
“We did market research and when people were asked to name someone who writes for the Evening News everyone said John Gibson. In his heyday Gibson and the Evening News were interchangeable.
“He was the identity of the Evening News through the 1970s and 1980s.
“And despite his unswerving loyalty to Hibs, Hearts people loved him too. He never hid his allegiances, but he was none the worse for that.
“John’s retirement do was held in the front office of our old building at North Bridge - it was the only time the front office was ever used for a function.”
He said even in recent years when John had been ill and had to use a wheelchair, his character still shone through. “He still had a completely mischievous look in his eye and that wicked grin which said maybe I am ill and in a wheelchair, but my spirit is absolutely intact.
“He lived an extremely full life.”
Following his official retirement at the age of 65, John continued to work for the paper, going into the office at 6am, every day, checking newspapers and writing part of his column before going off to meet contacts for coffee, lunch or a drink.
He was on good terms with most of the big names in Edinburgh from former Kwik-Fit entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer and hairdresser Charlie Miller to hoteliers, business people and politicians.
Despite failing health he continued to write his column for the paper until last year.
Journalist and fellow Hibs supporters Simon Pia, who worked with John for many years, paid tribute to his friend.
“He was a bit of a legend and Edinburgh’s best-known journalist,” he said.
“I first met John in the press box at Easter Road. He had a pretty gruff exterior, but as you got to know the real guy underneath what might surprise people was you found a kind, sentimental and considerate man.
“I had so many laughs working with him, but he was a great professional, a great journalist - he could tell a tale in so few words - and he knew everybody.
“They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but there was with John.
“Every morning we used to meet and have a gossip about the world and our love of Hibs regularly featured.
“He was great fun to work with.”
A room in the Evening News’ base at Orchard Brae House has been named the Gibson Room in John’s honour.
And he even features in Irvine Welsh’s novel Porno, where Sick Boy imagines himself being interviewed by John for the paper.
Editor-in-Chief Frank O’Donnell said: “If you met John once he was unforgettable. He was a journalist until the end, always chipping in with story ideas. He will be sadly missed.”
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