Brian Beacom

IT’S almost as if Martin Luther King had anticipated the career of Radio Clyde’s Jimmy Gordon when he declared; “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus - but a moulder of consensus.”

Jimmy Gordon – James Gordon, Lord Gordon of Strathblane – passed away this week aged 84 years, stricken by Covid-19, but his legacy means he’s unlikely to be forgotten.

Gordon, the son of a shipyard clerk, launched Radio Clyde onto the airwaves at the very end of 1973 and achieved astonishing success.

But what was equally astonishing was that he managed not only to be a dynamic business leader - yet win over the hearts and minds of those who worked for him.

Former Managing Director of Radio Clyde Paul Cooney was hired by Jimmy Gordon in 1975. “Jimmy was the quiet man of radio in Scotland,” he recalls. “What I mean by that was he soft-spoken, understanding and non-judgemental. He was the sort of man everyone looked up to, yet he didn’t have to take on airs of a boss. Such was his charisma, his gravitas and knowledge, Jimmy gained immediate respect.”

Jimmy Gordon, in many ways, defied convention. Growing up in Wilton Street in Glasgow’s Maryhill (the same street as Stanley Baxter) he was privately educated at St Aloysius' College, Glasgow and graduated with a Master of Arts in Classics from the University of Glasgow in 1958.

An award-winning debater, his skills saw him interviewed on STV where he was offered work on programmes such as Here and Now, eventually becoming political editor.

After nine years, he joined the consortium bidding for the new independent radio license for Glasgow.

As well as journalistic skills and commercial expertise Gordon brought with him a sense of community. “Jimmy Gordon loved Glasgow,” said Paul Cooney. “He had lots of approaches to go south but he told me ‘Why would I? I love my house in Strathblane. I’m right on the edge of Glasgow.’ And he wanted the spirit of Glasgow to be reflected in the radio station he was developing.”

Jimmy Gordon also brought an egalitarian sensibility to his business model. He once described himself as being an advocate of 'distributism' while at university — an economic ideology based upon the principles of Catholic social teaching.

Gordon believed that people should have shares in their workplace, a principle he later put into practice at Radio Clyde.

He told the Herald in 1984: "I see management's role as providing a service to its workforce, not to dictate to them but to create the working conditions in which they can do their jobs properly.”

Paul Cooney believes Jimmy Gordon was tuned into the true spirit of Glasgow, which he then transferred onto the airwaves. “Jimmy knew implicitly that the West of Scotland was about far more than the drunk character in Z Cars suggested. And he wanted his radio station to reflect this.

“The early years were about pop music but it was mixed in with traditional teuchter music. It was about politics, with presenters such as Donald Dewar, and cookery features with Sheila Duffy.

“Clyde even had its own drama department. And he was visionary in allowing myself and Richard Park to launch the football show Superscoreboard at the unprecedented time of 2pm.”

Journalist Fiona Ross worked at Radio Clyde from 1974 recalls Jimmy Gordon’s great strengths. “He ran Clyde with charm, kindness, good humour, and sharp insight, an approachable figure, who knew everyone by name and always had time for a chat and a joke with anyone and everyone. He may have been the ‘big boss’ but to the staff, he was simply, Jimmy.”

The unpresupposing Jimmy Gordon, was awarded a CBE in 1997 and became Lord Gordon of Strathblane. He was asked what it was like to be a Lord. “Ach, it means you get a half share of a coat peg.”

Yet, Gordon, who married wife Margaret in 1971 (they had a daughter two sons) was never a soft touch. Paul Cooney recalls his boss was always fiscally aware. “He taught me that ratings means revenue. And I remember passing a note to him with a footballer’s telephone number he’d asked for, and I wrote it on a page from my notebook. Jimmy pointed out, politely, that a little torn piece of paper would have sufficed.

“And if we were ever looking for a bigger, better company car we knew the first thing to do was look out to the car park to see what Jimmy was driving. It was always something modest.

“But what was great about Jimmy’s leadership was he didn’t lecture you. He would float around the departments, looking and listening, every now and then offering a little piece of wisdom.”

Jimmy Gordon, who also became a chair of the Scottish Tourist Board and member of the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee, was also tremendous example to young people says Tracey McNellan, the first female to join the board at Radio Clyde.

“Jimmy was a gentleman. Always interesting and interested.And a great supporter of women in radio.

Paul Cooney believes Jimmy Gordon was a certainly a moulder of consensus. “He was a true visionary, a great man, and a great human being.”

Comedian Andy Cameron agrees wholeheartedly. “Another good guy gone.”