Born: April 12, 1942;

Died: December 23, 2019.

IAN Jolly, who has died of cancer at the age of 77, was for several decades the best-known press photographer in the northern half of Scotland. His heyday behind the lens coincided with the “golden age” of Scottish journalism, when the circulation of the top-selling daily tabloid newspapers and their Sunday sister publications was numbered in the high hundreds of thousands.

Although his photo-journalistic career began in Aberdeen and included a brief spell in Dundee, most of his working life from the early 1960s onwards was spent in the Highlands and islands. Inverness was the ideal base for his extensive coverage of this huge area, with its key installations, such as Dounreay in Caithness, and the location of several important defence bases.

Jolly originated much of his photo-coverage of the area. He had formed a strong bond with many hoteliers and innkeepers, and there was hardly a publican he didn’t know. He ended up with an unrivalled list of local contacts.

In addition he had numerous assignments from various picture-desk editors, relating to such high-profile stories as the Fraserburgh and Longhope lifeboat disasters, fatalities in the Cairngorm mountains, and criminal cases at the High Court in Inverness.

So well-known did he become that even the late Queen Mother, whom he often photographed when she was on summer outings at Castle of Mey in Caithness and Birkhall on Royal Deeside, addressed him by his first name.

Ian Jolly was born to parents Bill and Muriel in New Deer, in the Buchan area of Aberdeenshire, in April 1942, a time when bombs from Nazi aircraft were being dropped on that part of Scotland’s north-east. His father, a policeman, was frequently called out to the scene of these explosions.

Jolly, who had two sisters, first dabbled in photography as a schoolboy, working during his summer holidays on Aberdeen’s Beach Boulevard. After leaving Aberdeen Grammar School he began a five-year apprenticeship with the late photojournalist Geddes Wood, studying key aspects of the trade.

Jolly married his partner, Maureen, in 1964, just as he moved to Inverness to join the Daily Record’s branch office there. Their daughter, Caroline, was born in 1965. Their son, Peter, followed in 1968;in 1993 he would join his father in Northpix, the freelance photo agency that that Ian established after the Record’s Inverness office was closed in1989.

For the rest of his life, Jolly was often asked about the pictures he took of John Lennon, his wife Yoko Ono and their respective children, Julian and Kyoko, at a croft-house in Durness, Sutherland, in 1969. The world-renowned Beatle had pleasant memories of schoolboy summer holidays at the remote croft-house near Cape Wrath and wanted to show the area to Yoko. As it was, Lennon inadvertently attracted media attention when he crashed his Austin Allegro on a nearby winding single-track road. Arguably the croft-house film-roll contained Jolly’s most frequently reproduced images, nationally and internationally, during the decades that followed.

Also in high demand were the final rolls of film he shot before the digital revolution, including the December 2000 wedding of Madonna and Guy Ritchie in Dornoch Cathedral, Sutherland. Northpix’s income from associated assignments paid for the transformation of Jolly’s business to digital. Other high-profile personalities he photographed included Mel Gibson and Sean Connery.

Defence Ministry establishments during the Cold War were important to Jolly’s working life. He flew sorties on Shackleton and Nimrod ‘spy in the sky’ aircraft from RAF Kinloss, the Moray airbase, while his association with nearby RNAS Lossiemouth gave him memorable experiences on the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal’s exercises off northern Scotland.

He was the first civilian photographer to be given inside access to the Royal Navy’s HMS Vulcan, the UK’s land-based submarine nuclear reactor test-base on Caithness’s north coast, though he had to surrender his rolls of film before leaving. Suitably altered prints were returned to him later, as the Navy was concerned that images of various dials with correct readings could be of intelligence interest to the Soviets.

The vast majority of his output, however, involved ordinary people, often doing extraordinary things, such as Jessie Sinclair, from the little isle of Trondra, in Shetland, whose daily commute to her factory job in the nearby village of Scalloway involved rowing herself across Atlantic waters.

When a bridge was erected over the narrow gap across Clift Sound, Jolly was on hand to photograph Jessie on one of her final commutes. The high steel girders of the near-complete Trondra Bridge were neatly caught in Jolly’s story-telling photo-frame.

Ian Jolly is survived by Maureen, Caroline and Peter, and three grand-children.