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Malcolm McDougall

Motoring correspondent;

Born: July 22, 1939; Died: January 21, 2013.

MALCOLM McDougall, who has died aged 73, was a leading authority in the British automotive scene for more than five decades. He followed the traditional route into journalism, starting out as a copy boy, and went on to establish himself as one of the most respected figures in motoring writing.

His forthright views and opinions were regularly sought by the powers-at-be within the various motor manufacturers as they trusted and valued his thoughts implicitly. The advice was always given privately, and indeed, free of charge, as it was accepted, disregarded or in many instances prompted a total rethink of their plans.

He had a remarkable insight, thirst and knowledge that few others possessed. He was inquisitive, never took no for an answer easily without a reasonable or satisfying response to what he wanted to know.

He was born in Balshagray Avenue, Glasgow, and grew up in Clydebank, although the family was forced to move when his house was bombed during the Second World War. They temporarily moved to Vale of Leven, and Malcolm never quite forgave the Germans.

When he began his career in journalism, his early promise at the Daily Express saw him move to its rivals, the Daily Mail. After a quick pit-stop there he joined the Daily Record, again in a news hound capacity.

He elected to specialise in motoring, a position he held for more than 30 years, taking on the role of aviation correspondent just to keep himself fully occupied. Throughout his time, he established one of the biggest networks of contacts imaginable; from figures on high to the shop floor, nothing escaped his notice especially when it involved keeping the wheels turning – and being first with the stories.

Totally trustworthy and always accurate, his fine attention to detail and concise copy allowed "his many readers" to fully know the score. On leaving the Record, he informed his colleagues the circulation stood at more than one million readers – "try and keep it that way!"

His ever-expanding circle of contacts as well as friends included the good and the great, namely Sir Jackie Stewart, whom he would happily spend hours in conversation with – although rarely discussing cars.

On hearing of his friend's untimely passing, the three-times world motor racing champion spoke warmly of their friendship, his admiration for his fellow Scot's writing ability and desire to be first with the news.

Sir Jackie recalled how he was away competing in a race when his wife Helen was due to give birth to their first son Paul. "But it wasn't the hospital medical staff who broke the news to me that I was a dad," he revealed. "It was Malcolm – he beat everybody with that exclusive – even my wife. Malcolm was a dear friend to both of us."

Passing on valuable advice was always in his nature; sometimes it wasn't immediately accepted, especially by another F1 hero from north of the Border.

On being told how to approach corners properly on race circuits, former world champion David Coulthard turned and asked who it was telling him how to drive. "Oh, that's the great Malcolm McDougall," came the reply. The driver returned and listened.

Gruff, lovable, but, above everything, a true friend to many fortunate enough to call him that, he never sought acceptance, reward or recognition – it came automatically.

He is survived by his wife Heather, also a journalist, and their son, Malcolm.

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