Born: July 8, 1949;

Died: June 26, 2021.

FIDELMA Cook, who has died aged 71, was a journalist and broadcaster who wrote a much-loved column in The Herald magazine about her life in rural France. The column attracted great loyalty and affection from its regular readers, but it also meant a lot to Fidelma herself.

For her, it was a place to write about the joys and pain of her life but it was also a place to confess, and get angry, and have a laugh. For her readers, it was a place where, every Saturday for 15 years, they could find writing of great warmth, honesty, humour, and flair.

Fidelma had come to the column in 2006 after a long and colourful career in newspapers and television. For many years, she had been a roving Scottish reporter and features writer for The Mail on Sunday, but she also worked at the heart of tough-edged tabloid journalism in the 1980s, on the newsdesk at the Daily Record. And for several years, she was a reporter on BBC Scotland, easily spotted on screen because of her taste for stylish designer clothes.

After taking redundancy from the Mail on Sunday, the column in The Herald magazine was a way for her to explore one of the biggest decisions she ever made: to give up her life in a flat in the West End of Glasgow and emigrate to France, a place she had loved and dreamed about since she was a little girl.

Her first column described her sitting in her newly-stripped flat, preparing for the big move. As the column progressed, she wasn’t afraid to talk about the downs as well as the ups of life in the middle of the French countryside.

Part of her love for France came from her love for languages. Born in Blackpool and raised in England and Ireland, she eschewed university and instead did an intensive language course before joining the Blackpool Gazette as a junior reporter. She had first expressed a desire to be a journalist when she was only eight years old, inspired partly by an uncle who worked for the Daily Mail, and all her education from that moment on was focused on the same target: to write.

Her main schooling was at a convent boarding school in England, where she spent much of her childhood after a difficult early few years. Her parents, Eileen, who was Irish, and William, an English sailor with the Royal Navy, met in London and settled in Cleveleys, Lancashire, but William became ill with cancer after the War, and when he died, Eileen and two-year-old Fidelma returned to the family home in Kilkenny for a time before settling again in Cleveleys.

Fidelma’s first job at the local paper was the immediate fulfilment of her childhood ambition and led to an offer from the Daily Express – at the time the biggest-selling paper in Scotland – before she joined BBC Scotland in the 1970s.

It was a glamorous job there – one of her interviewees was David Bowie at the height of his pomp – but it ended in a confrontation between Fidelma and a news executive. Fidelma said she would quit unless a certain story was broadcast; the boss refused, and so Fidelma carried out her promise: she quit.

Returning to newspapers, she worked for a time as a features writer at the Daily Record before joining the newsdesk, and then the Sunday Mail, where she worked on special investigations.

She then left to freelance in the 1990s and had an exclusive, and lucrative, contract with the Mail on Sunday, where she was known for big interviews and features. One of her scoops was the news that the UK Government had vetoed a knighthood for Sean Connery.

For a time in the 1980s and 1990s, Fidelma lived in the Trossachs with her partner, the architect George Anderson, and her son Pierce, but by the early 2000s, she was living alone in Glasgow and was disillusioned with the direction of journalism. She took a redundancy deal in 2006, which meant she could afford to make the French dream happen.

From the beginning, though, she was honest and realistic in the column about what was happening: the house she found, Las Molieres, was not, she acknowledged, the house of her dreams but the house of her price bracket. She also told her readers that there were several times in the first six months when she would have come back to Glasgow with her tail between her legs. Sometimes, in the land of fine wine and food, all she craved was chips with lots of vinegar.

However, there was great happiness in France, too: she had her beloved Afghan hounds with her, who became co-stars in her column; she often hosted parties, lunches and dinners for her friends at the house; and she established strong bonds with many of her neighbours, including the local farmers, who would leave fruit and vegetables on her doorstep.

In more recent years, she wrote, very movingly, about her health difficulties. She was always honest about her love of wine and fags, and even when she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, found it hard to give the cigarettes up. “I’m in the foothills of old age,” she wrote, “and have depleted the reserves one needs to climb up and up and up. Bugger.”

It is a measure of her love of writing too that she sometimes found it easier to write about her health in the column rather than talk about it to her friends or family. “She could write about her situation but she wasn’t keen to talk about it,” says her friend Peter Samson. “But that was Fidelma. She could express so much via a keyboard. The column became a confessional.”

Another great comfort to her in recent years was the regular readers of her column, many of whom felt very protective towards her and offered to crowd-fund for her healthcare. Mainly, she communicated with them through Twitter, even though she had been sceptical about social media at first. Encouraged by Pierce though, she joined Twitter and became a highly enthusiastic user.

Fidelma had two grand-daughters, Clementine-Olivia and Jemima Lily, and enjoyed talking to them via Zoom when they were kept apart due to the travel restrictions. They survive her, as does her son, Pierce Cook-Anderson.