Frank Baillie, former director of Scottish and Universal Newspapers

Born: November 20, 1947;

Died: November 19, 2023

One of the biggest and most wonderful characters you could ever hope to meet, Frank Baillie lit up every room he entered with his interest and genuine empathy for others, combined with his kindness, wit and charm. Informed by his forever searching, enquiring mind to learn more about the world that he used to help everyone he encountered on his path.

Frank passed in his sleep at home on Sunday, November 19, one day before what would have been his 76th birthday.

A fuller life might not be possible. Frank travelled the world to more than 100 countries but he was rightly proud of where he was from and where he reached in life. His dad Frank Senior was a heavy goods vehicle driver and his mum Mary a waitress.

Frank James Gentles Baillie was the second child with three brothers John, Colin and Brian and three sisters Carol, Jennifer and Helen.

The family lived in Govan, in Glasgow. Frank often talked about growing up in an old tenement building in Govan where he shared a bed sleeping head-to-toe with his three brothers and three sisters.

Frank loved flying and joined the air training corps in 1960 until 1965. In that period, winning a scholarship to become a pilot, he then served in the RAF (Royal Air Force) as a pilot officer. Later Frank was a commercial pilot, Captain Baillie was known and loved by everyone in Glasgow Airport, the waitresses, the cleaners, the crew and other pilots. When Frank retired as a pilot after working with Business Air, Logan Air of British Airways, it had been 50 years since he first walked into Glasgow Airport as a young cadet to the time he retired as a commercial pilot.

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From 1970 to 74, Frank worked for Scottish & Universal Newspapers (SUITS) where he became the Personnel and Training Manager of The Herald. From 1974-80 he was a director of Scottish & Universal Newspapers which included one daily paper, 26 weekly papers and a number of sports magazines. Frank oversaw 200 staff. He gave many famous journalists their first job in the media including Andrew Neil who would go on to be editor of the Sunday Times, Lorraine Kelly who hosts the UK’s most watched morning television show, and sportswriter and sports editor Jim Traynor.

From 1982-87 Frank was Managing Editor of publishers the Holmes McDougall Group, which he would later buy in a management buyout (MBO), from parent company LONHRO PLC.

Frank would combine two of his greatest loves, running and publishing when he became the publisher of the world-famous Distance Running Magazine. The running bible of AIMS, The Association of International Marathons & Distance Races, covering more than 400 of the world’s major city races, spanning over 150 countries and territories, that have included the likes of London, Berlin, New York, Boston, Chicago and the original, The Athens Marathon. Frank transformed the magazine from a small black and white print magazine to full colour and onto be the world’s most widely distributed sports magazine.

Frank loved to travel, skiing, and had an unquenchable thirst for history and learning. He was proud of studying for an MBA at Harvard University. Frank served as a non-executive director on many of Scotland’s hospital boards and was commended for his work in organising the celebration of the 50th year of the National Health Service in Scotland.

Frank Snr was a wonderful character too with Frank Jnr very proud of his dad. He would recall how in Govan when a ship came in and needed to unload its cargo, 200 to 300 men would gather on the dock looking for work. The captain would stand at the bow of the ship and throw pieces of numbered cork in the air and the men would fight to ensure they could get work to feed their families.

One of the first things Frank did when he achieved the ‘MBO’ was to pay for a hospitality table at Ibrox, home of Rangers FC, the club his dad had grown up supporting and that the family home had been literally in the shadow of the stadium. Frank Snr would take his old pals from the docks to dine in style at each home match and was so proud of what his son had achieved.

Frank was a man of wonderful stories, but his favourite was when he was very proud to be invited to meet the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

Frank was talking to Prince Phillip and told him the story that a local Glasgow newspaper had decided to give the first-born boy and girl on the day of the Royal wedding between Phillip and Elizabeth, 20th November 1947, £5 each as a gift to mark the special occasion. The first-born girl that day, the mother and father decided to call their daughter Elizabeth to mark the occasion.

The newspaper was delighted. The first-born boy was to Frank Snr and Mary Baillie. The newspaper asked the proud dad: "How would you like to make the story perfect and name your son Phillip?" To which Frank Snr enquired: "Is this necessary to obtain the £5?" The journalist said no it was not. Frank Snr said: "Good. His name is Frank and thanks for the £5!" Phillip laughed so much. Phillip asked Queen Elizabeth to come over and asked Frank to re-tell the story. The Queen cried with laughter as she loved the story greatly.

This sums up Frank whether it was a man in rags in the street or a Queen, Frank had time for them, treated them the same, made them laugh and smile and everyone always felt it a great pleasure to be in his company.

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There is a saying: "People will forget what you have done, forget what you have said. But they will never forget the way you made them feel." This is why Frank will live on in all the hearts of those who met him.

Rest in peace, our dear friend.

Frank is survived by his dear family, wife Patricia (nee McMenemy) and daughters Angela, Patricia, Gillian and Margaret and grandchildren Angela, Francesca, Louisa, Martha, Sebastian, Gabriel, Matilda and Theodora. The family would like to extend their gratitude to all at Edinburgh Royal and Forth Valley.

Peter McLean