Journalist and former associate editor of The Herald;
Born: January 27, 1927; Died: October 12, 2013.
John Weyers, who has died aged 86, was a fine all-round journalist and a most congenial and characterful colleague who worked on the Glasgow Herald, as this paper then was, for almost 30 years until he retired in the late 1980s.
A Londoner, he became enormously fond of Scotland - in particular the city of Glasgow, and the countryside of Angus, where he lived happily in retirement, helping his wife Elspeth to tend their huge garden in the hills a few miles north west of Dundee.
He was educated at Holloway Grammar School and then, aged just 16, trained as a naval diver during the Second World War. He volunteered on a mission to clear scuppered vessels in the seas of the Middle East and then served in the Far East, helping to return Prisoners of War to the UK. The condition of many of these men, and the way they had been treated, affected him for the rest of his life.
The Royal Navy then sponsored him to study philosophy, politics and economics at Glasgow University, and it was here that he met Elspeth. They were married in 1952 and celebrated their diamond anniversary last year.
After university, he worked on the West Essex Gazette, eventually becoming editor. Then he moved back to Glasgow to join the sub-editing team on this newspaper. He was heavily involved in radical changes to the front page, which had been somewhat staid and consisted mainly of classified advertising. He possessed considerable flair as a page designer but his real interest lay in words. He was an excellent writer, and it is perhaps a pity that he did not write even more than he did.
His interests were eclectic; he could write with considerable authority on matters ranging from pottery to naval history. Latterly, he served as associate editor and excelled in writing humorous leaders, which were of course anonymous. But aficionados soon came to spot, and to cherish, his style, which was rather crusty and dry, but shot through with a humane and life-enhancing sympathy for outcasts and underdogs. He was a very perceptive and devastatingly funny critic of the times, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.
However, his greatest single service to the paper involved organisational as well as purely journalistic skills.
When Arnold Kemp became editor in 1981, he realised that the paper's imminent bicentenary year in 1983 was an opportunity to promote the current paper as well as to celebrate its long and distinguished past.
He wanted someone on the editorial staff to organise a series of events and supplements which would do several things at once: remind the readers, and advertisers, as well as the wider public, of how venerable a paper it was; bring a certain irreverence and mischievous edge to the celebrations, so that they were not too pompous or self-delighted; and most importantly from the new editor's point of view, help to revive the morale of the staff, which was at a pretty low ebb when he took over.
Arnold Kemp, rather unexpectedly, gave John Weyers the task and he undertook this difficult assignment with enthusiasm and flair. The highlights of the anniversary year were probably the visits to the Albion Street offices of both the monarch and the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher (the paper's then owner, Tiny Rowland, did not bother to turn up) but there were many other events, and a series of supplements which reflected John Weyers' s broad range of interests as well as his strong love of the paper, and his understanding of its place and role in Scotland, and Glasgow in particular.
He told me, rather wistfully, at the end of the year that everything else would probably be something of an anti-climax.
My personal memory of John will always be of an outwardly gruff but inwardly warm, kind and very clever man who had seen a lot of the world. He had a vast general knowledge. Politically he was on the right, at a time when the paper was moving to the left, but he had a wonderfully mischievous sense of humour which prevented him from becoming angry with his more radical colleagues. He was, however, exceptionally good at teasing them.
In his superb third leaders, he provided a delightful and mordant take on the modern world, its foibles and excesses. His writing was superlatively sharp and it reminded me of the work of Michael Wharton, who for many years wrote the brilliant Peter Simple columns in the Daily Telegraph.
John Weyers was not always pleased with everything I said to him, but when I told him that he was the equal of Wharton, and sometimes even better, he was enormously pleased. He created a glorious concoction of satire, surrealist fantasy and relentless mischief.
He was always something of a supporter of lost causes, but then he always had a twinkle in his eye. He was a stylish scourge of the modish and the meretricious, and quite brilliant at debunking the absurdities of the modern world and the pretensions of some of his colleagues. He served The Herald with distinction and enormous zest. He leaves a son, Jonathan, a daughter, Jan, and five grandchildren.
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