Born: April 27, 1933;

Died: June 16, 2020.

EARLY in his media career Robin Stevenson, who has died aged 87, was sent to work in Blackpool. He was met at the train station by the area manager of his employer, the Daily Express.

“What’s yer name, lad?” asked the local bigwig. Stevenson told him. The questioner was taken aback at the prospect of working with a chap with such an elegant name. We can’t be having that here,” he said. “We’ll call you Bert.”

Stevenson’s new moniker didn’t stick, though in a way the ‘Bert’ persona stayed with him all his life. Although he was charismatic and charming, with a glamorous professional and personal life, he was also kind and down-to-earth, someone who enjoyed the company of people from all walks of life and always stood firm in his beliefs.

Robin Stevenson was a prominent figure in newspaper management – he was the General Manager of the Daily Express in London and, later, the Group General Manager in Glasgow – with a keen sense of fairness during a turbulent period in the industry.

He was born in 1933, and grew up in Giffnock; his mother, Evelyn, was a housewife while his father, John, was a wholesale newsagent, distributing newspapers to retail outlets. This early connection to the world of journalism was not a formative one; his boyhood preferences were for sports, including golf, rugby and cricket, at all of which he excelled.

During the Second World War he was evacuated from Giffnock to Moniaive in Dumfriesshire, where he attended Crawfordton House, a school where discipline was often harsh. When a boy flunked a tackle playing rugby, a master would whack him with the corner flag. But the experience didn’t dampen his natural exuberance and he looked back on his time at the school with fondness.

Later he won a scholarship to Glenalmond College, where his passion for sport continued. He became Captain of Coll – head boy. Thriving academically, he won a further scholarship – or exhibition, as it was called - to Christ’s College, Cambridge.

He initially read modern languages but switched to law in his second year. Again sport proved to be a dominant part of his life. As part of the rugby team he won the Cuppers competition for rugby, a tournament involving all the Cambridge colleges. It was the first time in decades that Christ’s College had beaten their rivals.

After graduating he did National Service at the Mons Officer Cadet School, passing out top of his year and joining the Royal Horse Artillery, with whom he was stationed in Belson, Germany. While there he again played rugby, excelling as a hooker, and winning cups for motorcycle trialling.

Although he was called to the Bar, he chose not to follow a career in law and instead was interviewed by Lord Beaverbrook for a job with the Express. He worked in distribution but rose rapidly, spending time in Blackpool, Manchester and eventually London, where he began working in the publicity department and ended up as General Manager.

A high flyer in more ways than one, he also received his pilot’s license during this time. As a prominent figure with the Express, he attended such high-profile events as motor racing at Silverstone, the Boat Show and even sheep trialling in Hyde Park.

He became friends with racing driver Jackie Stewart and regularly played golf with Sean Connery. He continued to play rugby for West of Scotland and London Scottish. Sailing was another passion. Eventually he returned to Scotland, becoming Group Manager of the Scottish Daily Express. Stewart himself commended this decision, writing to say how pleased he was that Stevenson was returning to “the good country”.

Unfortunately it proved to be a rough period in the world of Scottish newspapers, with friction between management and the printers resulting in numerous redundancies. Stevenson could have returned to work in newspapers in London, though the loss of so many jobs angered him. On a point of principle he left the industry, shifting careers and becoming General Manager of the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk.

In the mid-1970s Felixtowe was taken over by the European Ferries Group. Stevenson did not agree with the takeover, fought it, and eventually lost his job because of his stand. His time in Suffolk did result in marriage, however. In a local village pub he met Anne McHardy, a school teacher who served in the bar at weekends. They were married in 1980.

Latterly he returned to Scotland, working for the Scottish Special Housing Association, joining as Company Secretary eventually becoming Head of Administration and Legal Services. He retired in 1987.

Although Stevenson never had children, his exuberance and sense of mischief made him a popular uncle to his older brother John’s children, for whom he always bought the loudest toys at Christmas. He and John competed to see who could buy the rudest present for the other.

In 2018 he was diagnosed with an autoimmune skin condition. The medication took its toll; he eventually lost his mobility, though still managed to spend time on the golf course with friends. Stevenson was a man of principle with a passion for sport, who delighted in friends, family and fun of many kinds. He is survived by Anne and John.