Journalist and former political correspondent of The Glasgow Herald

Born: May 25, 1928;

Died: July 23, 2015

JACK Warden, who has died aged 87, was a former political correspondent of the Glasgow Herald and one of the leading Westminster journalists of his generation.

He started out as a copyboy at The Herald and later served the newspaper with great distinction as a general reporter, a political correspondent and then as the man in charge of the Westminster team.

He was at the newspaper’s political helm from 1964 until 1975, severing his ties only when Alistair Burnett, another former Herald man, offered him a similar position on the Daily Express. Mr Burnett had recently taken over as editor and it was an offer that Mr Warden found impossible to refuse, describing it later as “an opportunity that no red-blooded journalist could possibly ignore.”

It certainly did his career no harm. The soft-spoken Scot went on to rack up an impressive series of exclusives and front-page leads for the Express, then one of the nation’s great newspapers.

He single-handedly broke the story about Princess Margaret’s divorce from Lord Snowdon in 1976 and he was part of the three-man team who scooped the world with the story about Michael Fagan, the man who broke into the Queen’s bedroom in 1982.

However, another surefire exclusive did not quite make the front page. He was all set to break the news about Harold Wilson’s decision to resign as Prime Minister in 1976 - a day before the shock announcement was made. However, the Express’s owner Max Aitken insisted that the story be spiked. He had been dining with Lord Goodman, an advisor to Wilson, earlier the same evening and was concerned that, if Warden’s scoop was published, then people would (wrongly) assume that it was the peer who had told them. Warden’s story lost its exclusivity overnight, appearing a day late and at the same time as everyone else’s.

John Hopkins Warden was born in Glasgow, one of four children to Walter and Jessie Warden. Mr Warden was an engineer’s pattern maker and his wife was a district nurse.

Though he was known throughout his life as Jack, his byline was always “John Warden”. This was at the insistence of his mother who considered “Jack” too vulgar a name to appear in a newspaper.

He was educated at Victoria Drive School before wartime evacuation took him to Carluke in Lanarkshire and the home of Mr Walker, the local minister. In addition to his pastoral calling Mr Walker had a great interest in newspapers and printing. It was the minister’s influence which persuaded young Jack to seek a career in journalism.

Back in Glasgow after the war, he left school at 15 and went off to study shorthand at Skerry’s College in Edinburgh. He then started work as a copyboy on the Glasgow Herald, staying only briefly before securing his first proper journalistic job as a reporter on the Ayrshire Post.

He then moved to Edinburgh in the early 1950s to join the editorial staff of The Scotsman. There he met the editor’s secretary Harriet Mitchell whom he fell in love with and married in 1952. The couple had two children. Harriet died in 1997.

By the end of the decade Mr Warden had crossed from The Scotsman to the Edinburgh bureau of its great rival, The Glasgow Herald. He served as chief reporter in the capital before becoming St Andrews House Correspondent in 1960, covering the politics of the Scottish Office. One of his great claims to fame was that he once achieved the almost impossible - getting an apology from Willie Ross, the notoriously unapologetic Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr Warden later became political correspondent covering many of the top stories of the time, including Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. That same year he moved with his young family to Orpington in Kent, taking over as the newspaper’s de facto political editor at Westminster.

His tenure at the Houses of Parliament was an enormously successful period for the hard-working journalist who was renowned for his dedication. Unflappable and charming, his great secret was that he actually read the order papers. Most political correspondents would never have stooped to such a menial chore but the truth was that the order paper was a source of a great deal of useful information.

He moved to the Express in 1975 and remained there until the mid 1980s. It was an exciting period in British politics. He witnessed first hand the rise of Margaret Thatcher, a politician he greatly admired, and her battle with the trade unions.

He fondly recalled the day in 1983 when his attempts at home decorating were interrupted by a phone call from the Downing Street press office. Within a few hours he was aboard the Prime Minister’s RAF flight to Port Stanley and her first visit to the Falklands since the previous year’s war.

He was also rather proud of a photograph taken around the same period when as chairman of the Parliamentary Press Gallery he was pictured at the top table of its centenary lunch with Mrs Thatcher on one side of him and Neil Kinnock on the other.

After leaving the Express Mr Warden worked as a freelance. He and Harriet returned to live in Scotland in 1990, the same year he received an OBE for services to journalism. In 1993 she suffered a debilitating stroke and Mr Warden devoted his time to nursing her until her death in 1997.

In 2004 he married his second wife, Marion, an old family friend. The couple lived in Edinburgh. Sadly, Marion died in April this year. Jack Warden died in hospital in Edinburgh barely three months later.

He is survived by his daughter Anne, son John and nine grandchildren.