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Donald MacCormick

Broadcaster and journalist; Born April 16, 1939; Died July 12, 2009. Donald MacCormick, who has died aged 70 from a heart attack, was a familiar face on Scottish and UK television for nearly 30 years. As an accomplished presenter on an array of news and current affairs programmes, his calm, authoritative manner made a lasting impression on both those he interviewed and the viewing public.

Broadcaster and journalist; Born April 16, 1939; Died July 12, 2009.

Donald MacCormick, who has died aged 70 from a heart attack, was a familiar face on Scottish and UK television for nearly 30 years.

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As an accomplished presenter on an array of news and current affairs programmes, his calm, authoritative manner made a lasting impression on both those he interviewed and the viewing public.

His was also one of the first Scottish accents to be heard on prime-time network political broadcasting. Perhaps MacCormick's best-known berth was as one of a triumvirate of anchors - alongside John Tusa and Peter Snow - on the BBC's flagship Newsnight throughout the 1980s. Tusa remembered him as "professional, generous and selfless".

He added: "He was part of a trio, providing an absolutely solid professional call and was just a perfect foil to both Peter and me. He couldn't have been easier to deal with; there were never any arguments. He just did his job in an extremely professional way and was warm, generous and thorough."

Those traits were also apparent in MacCormick's work for The Money Programme, Tonight, Newsweek, BBC World (where he presented the main evening programme for five years) and while deputising for Sir Robin Day on the popular Question Time. He also provided regular commentary on the BBC's live coverage of party conferences.

Although MacCormick's interviewing style was genuinely courteous, it was also insistent and thorough. He possessed a deep knowledge of the Scottish and UK political scene and understood instinctively the subtleties of political life at Westminster. The fact that everyone found his personal political views impossible to discern was another hallmark of his professionalism.

Unflappable in the studio and live on air, off screen MacCormick was much the same: possessing a dry and engaging wit which made him memorable company. As a former colleague, Bernard Ponsonby, recalled MacCormick was "a very pleasant social animal" who "enjoyed good food, good wine, and good chat".

Donald MacCormick was born in Glasgow at the height of the Munich crisis in 1939. Part of an established Glaswegian family that included Sir John MacCormick, the leading Scottish Nationalist, two of his cousins, Iain and Neil (Sir John's sons), later became politicians. In fact, Neil MacCormick had been christened Donald but used his middle name to distinguish himself from the future political broadcaster. Only a few months ago Donald delivered a moving eulogy at a memorial service for his cousin, by then Professor Sir Neil MacCormick.

After attending Glasgow's King's Park School, he graduated in English from Glasgow University, where MacCormick mixed with future political figures such as Donald Dewar, John Smith, Sir Menzies Campbell and his cousin Neil. He began his professional career working as a teacher at the High School of Glasgow from 1962.

Having resolved to swap the classroom for the television studio, he joined Grampian TV as a reporter in 1967.

MacCormick soon found himself working on political programmes for ITV and the BBC. Among his colleagues at the latter was Esther Rantzen, who remembered him as "a gifted TV reporter - very clever, handsome and funny".

So handsome in fact, that after making a programme together about the Edinburgh Festival, Rantzen "went to lots of shows" with MacCormick and "started going out" with him. The romance ended when MacCormick met Liz Elton, who later became his wife.

Having moved to London in 1975, MacCormick became a presenter on BBC's Tonight. Then the corporation's flagship current affairs programme, one of its most memorable editions was live coverage of the downfall of James Callaghan's government in March 1979, which MacCormick anchored. Exactly 30 years later - in March 2009 - he fronted an evening of programmes on BBC Parliament, entitled The Night the Government Fell, which looked back on that dramatic night.

A host of network presenting roles followed, but in the early 1990s MacCormick left the BBC and moved to London Weekend Television to host a lunchtime news analysis programme, and also a major discussion series during the first Gulf war. He also worked in radio, hosting his own Sunday morning topical magazine programme on London News Direct.

In September 1992, MacCormick returned to Scottish broadcasting to co-present the weekly STV political discussion programme Scottish Questions with Bernard Ponsonby. David Scott, the then controller of STV, said the company was attracted by his "authority, energy, interviewing skills and ability to impart information on the most complex issues". MacCormick stayed for three series.

By late 1994, MacCormick was anchoring another STV programme called Scottish Voices, an audience-participation show that travelled around the country engaging members of the public in pertinent political debate. That same year, he provided commentary on the death of Labour leader John Smith, with whom he had been at Glasgow University in the early 1960s. More recently, MacCormick focused his energies on the corporate sector, interviewing executives for company videos, chairing conferences and working in media training.

Donald MacCormick married twice and is survived by three children from his first marriage and two from his second to Liz Elton, who also survives him. By DAVID TORRANCE

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