FORMER Herald columnist Jack Webster is awarded the British Empire Medal for services to journalism.

Diagnosed with a leaking heart valve and burdened with a stammer, he was told in early childhood he would have to take a desk job and give up any thought of fulfilling a journalistic career.

However, he overcame his health problems, starting as a junior reporter with the Turriff Advertiser to become one of Scotland's best known journalists as well as a successful author and documentary writer.

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Now 81, Mr Webster who has just complete his 18th book, a "wrap-up" of his life story, said of his award: "I was quite surprised and shocked. Journalists don't feature too often. I was delighted, anyway."

Describing himself as a "wee boy from Maud with a real passion for life", he was expected to carry on the family tradition of farming, but discovered a love of journalism that lasted a lifetime and was inherited by his three sons.

After a spell as acting editor on his first newspaper from the age of 16, he had 10 years as a reporter with the Press and Journal from 1950.

It was as a features writer with the Daily Express in Glasgow between 1960 and 1980 that he travelled the world, meeting some of the legends of the 20th century, conducting interviews and writing about many stars, including Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and also Christine Keeler of the Profumo scandal.

From 1986 he spent 14 years as a Herald features writer and columnist, being voted both UK Speaker of the Year and Bank of Scotland Columnist of the Year in 1996.

His books range from autobiographical tales of the north-east to biographies of the rich and famous, to a definitive history of his beloved Aberdeen Football Club. His first involved ghost writing the biography of Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone after the Lisbon Lions triumph in 1967.

He also wrote television documentaries, the first of which, Webster's Roup for the BBC, won a major television award in 1986.