Born: January 21, 1936; Died: 12 August, 2013.
Ted Kidd, who has died aged 77, had become that rarity of today's Scottish press - a general reporter able to turn his hand to any line of story or enquiry. Courts, council meetings, crime, disasters, mysteries, human entanglements, the quirky and the offbeat were the meat and drink of his daily working life.
His working essentials were a notebook and pen, impeccable shorthand, a listening ear and an observant eye - coupled with an ability to wade through the mundane and everyday to spot the attention-grabbing story.
A tabloid hack more than delighted to be minder to a busty blonde, and who once engaged in what amounted to stock-car racing on the public highway, Ted Kidd displayed the best of his craft in being the only journalist to cover every day of Lord Cullen's marathon 180-day enquiry into the causes of the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster. His completion of an astonishing 55 uninterrupted years as a pressman in 2011 was recognised by Aberdeen Lord Provost Peter Stephen with a civic reception in his honour.
Edward Kidd was born at Arnage near Auchngatt in Aberdeenshire, the son of a farm servant who later graduated to a his own croft. Greatly proud of being a Buchan loon, Ted was educated at the tiny school of Auchiries, near Cruden Bay. Learning greatly mattered to the young Kidd, and throughout his life he soaked up facts, figures, reasons and rationale. Rarely caught out on a point of information, he would garnish news and views with immense background detail.
What was East Aberdeenshire MP Bob Boothby doing at such-and-such a time, and with whom, and where? What was the immediate impact on the fishing community of the 1970 Fraserburgh lifeboat disaster? Kidd would find the data to fill in the blanks, quoting relevant chapters, with verses from contacts.
He opted for newspapers in 1956 after National Service with the RAF in Cyprus, and when an initial weary round looking for a job in the dozen national newspaper offices of post-war Aberdeen yielded nothing, he jumped at the chance to become county reporter with DC Thomson on the long-dead weekly The People's Journal. Armed with a notebook, camera and the keys to a Morris Minor, his robust instructions from chief reporter Charlie Easton were: "Dinna come back till ee hiv five stories wi picters."
It was a harsh grounding, but one where Kidd learned how charm, a smile and a quizzical glance could encourage folk to tell their stories. He filled his contacts book with names, people who in later years would provide insights and introductions everywhere. His reliance on gentle persuasion rather than the bully-boy tactics associated with his trade were not to be taken as softness, for Kidd the correspondent proved a tenacious beast.
These strengths saw him taken on in 1963 as a staffman for the Sunday Mail in Aberdeen, and then the Daily Record, the latter post being his occupation for most of his working life.
He reported on major stories - the 1964 typhoid epidemic when Aberdeen became a closed city; the strange loss of the Aberdeen trawler Blue Crusader off Orkney in 1965; the killer collapse of the eight-storey partially-built Aberdeen University zoology building in 1966; the breakouts of safeblower Johnny Ramensky from supposedly escape-proof Peterhead Prison; the double loss of lifeboats from Longhope in 1969, and Fraserburgh eight months later; and the execution of Henry Burnett 50 years ago this month, when on August 15, 1963, Burnett was the last person to be hanged in Scotland. Kidd was outside Craiginches Prison early that morning, having already gained an inside track on preparations for the execution from one of his numerous contacts.
It was Peterhead Prison which provided the backdrop to one of Kidd's more memorable exploits, when in 1976, Paddy Meehan, the safecracker wrongly convicted of the murder of 72-year-old Rachel Ross in Ayr seven years before, was granted a Royal Pardon. The Record bought up Meehan's story before his release, and from the gate of the grim north-east jail, he was roared off to freedom by Aberdeen lawyer David Burnside.
Kidd's job was to fend off pursuing cars from rival papers - and in an incident worthy of a stock-car stadium he was rammed from behind by a rival. But Kidd's driving dexterity won out, and the chasing pack were held at bay long enough for Meehan to vanish to the secret Record hide-out.
A natural storyteller, Kidd's narratives traditionally employed his native tongue, for he loved Scots speech and had been a long-time member of the Scots Language Society. He'd play down any role involving himself, passing himself off with the description as being "merely a winged messenger of the truth".
There could be a debonair side to him, and he was known to the ladies of the Granite City press corps as ABSAH - acronym for "Ageing But Still Agonisingly Handsome".
He and Norman Adams of the Scottish Daily Express met up one day for a lunchtime dram in a pub on the Moray Coast, where a soor-faced barmaid served them. They were the only ones in the bar and much drink was taken. In the middle of their darts match, Adams let the pub's budgie out of its cage - with the pair of them then throwing darts at it until the enraged barmaid threw them out. Coincidentally, Bill Neish of the Press & Journal and Bob Carter, P&J man in Banff, ordered lunchtime pints in the same place a week later, to be greeted by the same barmaid. "You boys reporters?"
"Yes," they confirmed.
"Scum o' the earth," she retorted. Their puzzlement was only solved years later when Kidd and Adams confessed.
Ted Kidd died peacefully at home after a short illness, and is survived by his partner Chris and his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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