Born: July 8, 1931;

Died: March 16, 2020.

Jack Webster, who has died aged 88, was a journalist and columnist best known for his encounters with some of the great celebrity figures of the 20th century and admired for the warm and loving way he wrote about his roots in Aberdeenshire. His charm was that he was always star-struck and never cynical. He was the Buchan loon who ended up bantering with Muhammad Ali and reminiscing with Charlie Chaplin.

In many ways, Webster’s success as a writer with The Daily Express and later a columnist with The Herald was against the odds. As a lad, he suffered from a weak heart and was told he should go for a safe desk job rather than a job in newspapers. He also had a stammer. But, at the age of 14, he heard that one of his local papers, The Turriff Advertiser, was looking for a boy to work in the office. By 16, he was the editor.

The trajectory of his career then took him through one of the golden ages of journalism and right to the heart of the loud, frenetic (and in those days smoky and boozy) business of gathering news. For ten years, he worked as a reporter and sub-editor with The Press and Journal and Evening Express in Aberdeen before moving to The Daily Express in Glasgow in the 60s when the Express was the best-selling paper in Scotland. The money was good too: £25 a week, £9 more than he’d been getting in Aberdeen.

Webster then started writing features for The Express, which suited his charming but persistent style. In the case of Charlie Chaplin, Webster had been told Mr Chaplin did not do interviews, but the young reporter was not put off. He found out Chaplin was visiting Scotland and checked into the same hotel and after engaging him in conversation, Chaplin agreed to visit the old Tivoli theatre in Aberdeen with Webster. “I came here when I was only about 14 or 15,” Chaplin told Webster. “I did so want to see it again.”

Webster’s other great celebrity coup while he was a writer for The Express was accompanying Muhammad Ali on a visit to Glasgow in 1965. He saw, up close, the great boxer’s power and wit and the minor pandemonium he created wherever he went. Webster also ghost-wrote a column for Ali for The Express and took him to the paper’s editorial conference at their offices in Albion Street.

There were many other encounters with some of the biggest names of the 1960s and 1970s, among them Bing Crosby, Shirley Bassey, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Ginger Rodgers, Pele and Christine Keeler, whom Webster met for dinner in London. Keeler had three large whiskies and followed him to his hotel bedroom raging about a book deal. “Here I was, alone in a bedroom with the notorious Christine Keeler,” said Webster. “I got the feeling she rather liked me.” He persuaded her to return to the bar.

By the 1980s, Webster was a feature writer and columnist for The Herald, where he remained until his retirement in 2000. He also wrote and appeared in an award-winning BBC documentary, Webster’s Roup, which followed his return to the family farm in Aberdeenshire after the death of his father. There was never any prospect of Webster becoming a farmer himself, but even so selling off the farm and all its effects was difficult and emotional for him.

One of the reasons it was so difficult for Webster was that he had always felt the pull and power of his roots in the north-east. He had been born in the little village of Maud; his father was an auctioneer at the local cattle mart but he was also a man, in Webster’s words, who believed God’s work began to go wrong somewhere south of Aberdeen; Buchan was a place, too, where anyone who got carried away with success would be told “ah kent yer faither”.

Webster never did get carried away and always felt respect and warmth for where he’d come from.

After the success of the BBC documentary, Webster came to further prominence and wrote many books about his journalism and other subjects. There was a history of Aberdeen FC and his alma mater, Robert Gordon’s College. He also wrote three volumes of memoir in his familiar style: colourful, warm and unpretentious. The books were a reminder that he’d always be a “wee boy from Maud”.

The second volume of his Herald columns, Webster’s World, contained one contribution, from 1987, that began: “My turbulent love affair with Glasgow has been running now for the best part of half a century”.In 2000, Webster received an honorary degree from Aberdeen University and in 2009 an honorary doctorate from Robert Gordon University. He also received a British Empire Medal for services to journalism in 2012.

He was pre-deceased by his wife Eden and is survived by his three sons, Geoff, Keith, and Martin, all of whom followed him into journalism.