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Dr Malcolm Brodie

Published on 4 February 2013

Journalist;

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Born: September 27, 1926; Died: January 29, 2013.

Dr Malcolm Brodie, who has died aged 86, was a distinguished journalist who although Scots-born spent his entire working life in Northern Ireland. It was a truly remarkable career that spanned seven decades and 14 World Cups.

Born in Glasgow, the teenage Malcolm and his brother were evacuated on the outbreak of war to Portadown, County Armagh, to live with their grandparents. It was a move that would define Malcolm's entire life.

Educated at Park Parade Public Elementary School in his adopted city, he started working life as a junior news reporter with the Portadown Times before joining the Belfast Telegraph in 1943, under the editorship of RM Sayers, after answering an advert for a copy taker. One year later he became a news reporter. War-time rationing restricted the newspaper to just four pages but the young Scot found space for an interview with Glenn Miller in 1944 while the legendary American musician was entertaining the troops at Lough Neagh.

Promotion to the political staff saw him cover stories at Belfast City Hall and Stormont before his enthusiasm for sport encouraged Malkie, as he was better known, in 1950 to persuade his editor to allow him to set up the Telegraph's first-ever sports department with himself as sports editor, a post he would hold for the next 41 years.

Football and boxing were his main sporting interests – but he was also a cricket enthusiast.

Away from the world of sport he was a music lover – a fan of big band music in the Tommy Dorsey era – and one of his proudest possessions was a letter of appreciation from Frank Sinatra following a review of a concert in London's Royal Festival Hall.

The 1954 World Cup in Switzerland would be the first of 14 consecutive FIFA tournaments covered by him – a record unsurpassed by sportswriters across the globe, taking in such memorable games as the infamous Battle of Berne between Hungary and Brazil and the Magyars' semi-final with Uruguay in Lausanne, one of the all-time classic World Cup games won in extra-time by Hungary against a South American side who had earlier humiliated Scotland 7-0.

These were spartan days for press coverage of football matches, in later years he recalled covering the final in Berne soaked to the skin, sitting in an uncovered seat in torrential rain.

He would regard Sweden 1958 as the pinnacle of his sportswriting career, when all four home countries participated and a Northern Ireland side that included legendary figures of the ilk of Danny Blanchflower, Harry Gregg, Bertie Peacock and Peter Doherty (his own personal favourite footballer) reached the quarter-finals.

His work-rate was phenomenal, covering sports events ranging from Irish League fixtures to World Cups for both the Telegraph and Ireland's Saturday Night, the evening sports paper of which he was also sports editor.

A man of great humility and integrity, Mr Northern Ireland, as he was known around the globe, was a journalist to his roots and someone who never tired of offering advice and encouragement to young fledgling writers, being responsible for the education of perhaps three generations of sports journalists in Northern Ireland.

Having been brought up on the Clydeside of the 1930s, he retained his native accent but 70 years in Belfast saw him rightly regarded as an Ulster institution who numbered Sir Matt Busby, Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, George Best, Pat Jennings, Billy Bingham, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore amongst his friends.

Although the Belfast Telegraph was his bread-and-butter he also wrote for the Daily Telegraph, the News of the World, the Sun and the Press Association. He retired as sports editor of the Belfast Telegraph in 1991 but continued to serve the paper with a column Down Memory Lane.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Ulster in 2000, his induction into the Belfast Sports Hall of Fame was met with universal acclamation and he received the inaugural Doug Gardiner Memorial Award in 1990 from the British Sports Journalists' Association for services to the profession. Lifetime achievement awards were received from the All-Ireland Journalists' Association and the Institute of Public Relations in 2008.

He was also recognised by FIFA who bestowed the Jules Rimet award on him during their centenary year of 2004 and was awarded the MBE for services to journalism in 1979. President of the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Association and a life member of both the English and Scottish FWAs, he was an honorary life employee of the Belfast Telegraph and an honorary life member of Linfield Football Club, the Irish Football Association and the Irish Football League.

The author of 10 books, including a history of the newspaper, the official 125-year history of the Irish FA and official histories of Linfield, Glentoran, Cliftonville and the Irish League, he also produced a popular annual yearbook.

His contacts book was unrivalled in journalism – as is testified by the tributes that poured in following the sad news of his passing, numbering among them FIFA president Sepp Blatter, Sir Alex Ferguson and the writer Norman Giller. He was working to the very end – being admitted to hospital a week before his passing. The press boxes of Windsor Park and the Oval will never be the same again.

Dr Malcolm Brodie is survived by his wife Margaret, sons Iain, Kenneth and Steven and grand-daughter Claire.

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