Born: February 26, 1967; Died: November 11, 2012.
Sharon McCord, who has died at the age of 45, was a journalist, editor and blogger, known better perhaps as Sara Villiers, the nom de plume she employed throughout her career at The Herald in the 1990s. As feature writer, columnist, critic and restaurant reviewer, she enlivened the paper with a viewpoint that was outspoken but in the most tolerable way, with a take on the passing scene that harnessed insight to a certain giddy humour.
Whether discussing the dinner parties of her student days ("One communal pot, six chipped plates, a guttering candle and a litre bottle of Soave"); or the North Glasgow Doll's House Club (where "a dozen women and two men are absorbed in the challenge of creating an inch-high, woven-seagrass footstool"); or the horrors of detoxing ("Over the past two hours I've submitted to the mind-altering properties of Stim-U-Lite, a device which looks like a big blindfold") Sharon wrote as she lived: with generosity and vivacity, though always with a weather eye for cant and pretension.
Growing up in Fauldhouse with her parents Jimmy and Patsy, Sharon arrived at Glasgow University in 1984, at a convulsive time in its history. Student politics was recovering some of the fire it had possessed at the end of the 1960s. The iniquities of apartheid would see Winnie Mandela elected rector in 1987, though some struggles were more local, particularly with the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and with the University Union, where pornography was being screened with impunity.
Sharon threw herself into each skirmish by leafletting, marching and by penning scandalised jeremiads in the Glasgow University Guardian, the student newspaper at which she assumed a kind of totemic eminence. This period saw a burgeoning in her feminist sensibility, though the description would have brought forth peals of self-mocking laughter. She did, however, express great enthusiasm for the aims of the Women's Liberation Front and support for the Society for Cutting Up Men, though of a more qualified nature, thankfully.
Her timing in journalism too was propitious. At the dawn of the 1990s, broadsheet newspapers, in Scotland certainly, were behind the curve. The few female writers they had stuck to straight news reporting and human interest stories. But times were changing, catalysed by high-profile columnists like Julie Burchill, by style magazines and youth television.
Before long, every media outlet was clamouring for a young, opinionated female contributor. Sharon had opinions in spades; and, no doubt, opinions about spades. She rolled high for more than a decade, writing on everything from literature to interiors to nutrition; even on one memorable occasion the Bonusprint Handicap Steeplechase at Ayr racecourse: "The empty racetrack, with its powerful aroma of hamburgers and onions," she wrote "has more the benign air of a deserted funfair than a field of squandered dreams."
She left journalism 10 years ago, dismayed that what had once offered glee, travel and mischief was growing more restrained. She was taken under the wing of Neil Baxter and became in 2007 depute secretary at the Royal Institute of Architects in Edinburgh, with particular responsibility for its publications.
In 2009, while on holiday in Turkey, she was hit by a bout of fatigue that eventually was attributed to renal cell carcinoma. She underwent a battery of tests and treatments, often with contradictory results, before being told her cancer was terminal. Typically, her response was clear-sighted and pragmatic: she set out to live as fully as she could, while she could.
One element of this was a move to an apartment overlooking Portobello beach. This summer, with the full support of her devoted husband Robin McKechnie, she ceased to take Sutent, the drug that had been stabilising her. Her three-year fight is detailed in Kidney Cancer Info, a blog of quite remarkable fortitude, of adoring reliance (upon Robin, the pair's families and their network of friends), and also of a stark gallows humour: "There have been a few other things going on, like the assimilation into our apartment of a hydraulic hospital bed (yippee!)"
Sharon and myself did not speak for many years, the result of some university fall-out of which, in the end, neither of us could remember the details. A volley of emails brought us to the Rio Cafe in Partick, and, prior to Sharon's arrival, to much throat-clearing apology rehearsal, certainly on my part.
The door opened and, as cheap fiction suggests, it seemed as though not a moment had passed, as she fell into her usual gabble of rumour, gossip, insult and comic misfortune. It was one of the most remarkable moments of my life. I've every certainty she caused many more, for many others.
She is survived by husband Robin, her sisters Jackey and Louise, brother Jason and by her parents.
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