Born: June 14, 1946;

Died: October 20, 2021.

RUSSELL (Rusty) Steele, who has died aged 75, was a character perfectly suited to the drama that was Scottish newspapers in the late 20th century and early 21st century.

He had substantial, peerless journalistic gifts and a boundless, bountiful personality. He instantly recognised a story but could wrap it beautifully on a double-page spread or in a pull-out. He had an intuitive ability, too, to know how a tale must be told.

These traits accompanied him on a journey that encompassed The Herald, the Scottish Daily Express, the Scottish Daily News, Daily Record, the Sunday Mail, and the Evening Times, among other titles. He worked, too, across news, business, features and sport. He brought talent, passion and wisdom to every newspaper, every area in which he toiled.

His greatest gift, though, was his generosity of spirit that extended powerfully into his private life. Rusty was one of the good guys. In the parlance of newspapers, he was also ‘a good operator’: the equivalent of being designated a professor emeritus at a university or being asked to join a royal society as a surgeon.

Indeed, it may be tougher. Journalists are traditionally sparing with their praise. They were not with Rusty. He was held in particular affection and respect by younger journalists. He was a mentor before that role was recognised. He was a relentless supporter of those who worked under him. This is said with the unalloyed certainty and profound gratitude of personal experience.

The guarantee of working under his unassuming tutelage was that one became a better journalist. The blessing was that one was exposed to the possibility – however shocking to the journalist – of becoming a better person.

His kindness never shouted. His help was never advertised. He merely took it upon himself to nurture the talent under him and promote it to the wider world. His shouting was restricted to those moments in newspapers when the drama seemed to be unmanageable and a deadline seemed unmakeable. He always coped brilliantly, of course. But it was a genuine delight to watch a Rusty explosion, one of those natural wonders that can only be appreciated with a sense of awe and should have been recorded by David Attenborough with suitably hushed tones.

The storm over, he would praise everyone – no matter how small their contribution – and invite all to toast the miracle of another edition in the nearest hostelry.

He was magnificent company. His love for newspapers was complemented by a love for newspaper stories and newspaper characters. He had a fund of riotous tales about the mayhem, madness and mirth of Tom’s Bar (as it was known to the newspaper trade) but became more widely known as the Press Bar.

He considered himself blessed. First, he knew he had found his vocation in newspapers. A Dennistoun boy, he attended Whitehill Senior Secondary but found it disagreeable. He did have one week at Fettes Academy where his rugby skills took him for a short, intensive training course. He was also a keen and able swimmer. But he could find no spark for schoolwork.

His life changed when at 18 he secured a traineeship with the then Glasgow Herald. He found his purpose, his vocation in a newspaper office. His rise was relentless but largely unplanned.

He was curiously devoid of ambition in the traditional sense. His desire was to make the best newspaper he could, improve the work and lives of his colleagues, and go home satisfied to his beloved family.

He loved newspapers. This, though, shrank into the most inconsequential of infatuations when placed alongside the devotion to his family, particularly to Cath, his wife with whom he would have celebrated 54 years of marriage next month. She was his rock, his best friend, his counsel and his partner in every sense. She was, simply and conspicuously, the love of his life.

This love was enhanced by the couple’s delight in a growing family spanning four generations. He was rightly and obviously proud of his two daughters, Adele and Debra. He rejoiced in his grandchildren – Blair, Alyth, Erin, Harrison and Madeleine – and great grandchild, Islay.

He was a man of simple pleasures. He loved a game of golf (he was a member at Bothwell Castle), he enjoyed the company of mates and he adored a holiday with Cath, scampering down to the beach before anything was unpacked in the manner of an excited wean.

He was a distinguished, articulate and highly intelligent man but it was other qualities, pure in their almost childlike simplicity, that made him so beloved. He was unconditional in his love for family and friends. He could be quick to anger but quicker still to resolve acrimony. He was brilliant in his profession but used that light to guide others. He was toothless when it came to back-biting. He rose above the mire that can sully even the innocent in a brutal business.

A vast array of journalists will remember him with a smile and a nod of respect, even heartfelt thanks. His friends – and there are many – have only the consolation that we were lucky to know him, luckier still to have him as a humble promoter and educator.

The loss to his family is profound and incalculable. The wound is now open and sore. Perhaps it may be just slightly soothed by knowing their love of Russell Steele was certainly the deepest but was shared in kind by all who were fortunate to encounter him.