Born: November 15, 1919;

Died: September 10, 2019

CHRISTOPHER Small, who has died peacefully at home, a few months short of his 100th birthday, was the chief drama critic and literary editor at the Glasgow Herald, from 1955 until retirement in 1980.

He was born in London in November 1919 to Esme Woodbine Hubbard, an actress, and Charles Percival (C.P.) Small, an artist. After their Thames-side house flooded, the family moved to Sussex, where Christopher, although afflicted by severe asthma, developed his love of nature and the outdoors.

After secondary schooling at Dartington Hall, Devon, he attended Oxford for a year, leaving in 1939, expecting to be called up. Rejected as medically unfit, he did not return to studying but instead found employment collecting statistical data. He spent three years with a group of other youthful workers, travelling round Britain, interviewing people on their housing, income and saving habits. Brought up in comfortable circumstances, he was shocked by the harsh living conditions he encountered in parts of Bristol, Leeds, Blackburn and Glasgow. His boss was a friend of the Herald editor, Bill Robieson, and when interview work dried up in 1942, Christopher was offered a job as a trainee on the paper, starting with fat-stock prices.

In 1946, he moved to work in the London office of the Herald, now accompanied by his wife, Margaret, our mother. For the next nine years, he wrote a daily London column, including cinema and theatre reviews, and notable public events.

While working in London he had his first and only scoop. When the stone of Scone was stolen from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950, Christopher was able to phone his copy to the Glasgow office, taking advantage of the working arrangements of Scottish newspapers, gaining a day on the English press, which did not publish on Boxing Day. In the event, his piece was regarded as too frivolous in tone for such an outrage, and was heavily amended.

On another less felicitous occasion he reviewed a production of Verdi’s “Macbeth” at Glyndebourne. He was appalled by Verdi’s musical treatment of the play, and what he thought of as its ridiculous jollity. His review did not hide his opinion of the opera and caused great offence at Glyndebourne. This had to be smoothed over with the intervention of the editor, Robieson.

In July 1953 he covered, in typically elegant and observant prose, the Queen’s state visit to Edinburgh. He did not, however, enjoy such occasions, as he had little time for any sort of pomp and ceremony.

In 1955 he returned to Glasgow to become drama critic and literary editor, with my mother, my two older sisters and myself. He reviewed books, and theatre in Glasgow and at the Edinburgh International Festival. Occasionally, one of his daughters was able to join him on first nights, and it was a while before we unlearnt the habit of sneaking out, doubled up, as soon as the final curtain descended and the applause started, my father hurrying to file his copy for the next morning’s edition.

A retirement tribute in this newspaper described him as “one of the most highly respected writers in Scotland – not only for the quality of work, but for his integrity and insistence on trying to keep up standards”. He always tried to be impartial, but refused to accept popular opinion simply because it was popular. He was regarded in the theatre with respect, and in a revue at the Glasgow Citizens the actor Peter Kelly leaned forward and whispered the line “Hush, hush, woe on the Citz; Christopher Small’s writing one of his crits”.

His published works include a literary critique on Orwell and one on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Nuclear disarmament was a cause close to his heart and he acted as press secretary for Scottish CND. He was for some years an elder of the Wellington Church, an office he very nearly refused, lacking the requisite morning suit for communion, but this practice was changed to accommodate his limited formal wardrobe.

He and my mother moved to Edinburgh in 1986 after her retirement and he served as an elder at Stockbridge Church, but they started to spend more time at their country cottage on Lismore island, eventually living there nearly full time. The garden, always rustic in appearance, was extremely productive, a result of years of patient manuring. They were active participants in island life but returned permanently to Edinburgh in 2015 when the rigours of housekeeping in a cottage with an occasionally unreliable water supply and a rough access road became too much, even given their independence and determination.

Although English by birth and upbringing, he became part of Scottish life and supported Scottish independence, believing it would deliver more equity and social justice. He was the kindest of fathers, and a great example of tolerance, principle and integrity to his three daughters. He is survived by his wife of nearly 75 years, his daughters, Anna, Jane and Maria, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.