Born: March 28, 1943;

Died: January 16, 2021

CHARLIE Duncan, who has died aged 77, was a journalist and newspaper executive who worked at the heart of Scottish tabloid journalism when it was at the height of its dominance and success in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s: on some days, the Daily Record, where he was night editor, could be selling close to a million copies.

The job of night editor was one of the most important on a big-selling tabloid. Working back-shifts, Charlie was in charge of getting the paper to press and would often have to tear up most of the pages when a big story broke and had to redesign the whole thing. This he could do quickly, efficiently and with flair; he could also inspire his team of sub-editors: deadlines were sacrosanct and when things got tight, he’d call for “ramming speed”.

His colleagues at the Daily Record, the Sunday Mail, and latterly The Scotsman remember his skill for design and headlines, but they also remember his physical presence: he was a big man with a big voice and a laconic sense of humour.

Away from newspapers, one of his great passions was salmon fishing; he was also a leading figure in the preservation and protection of Kelvin Court, the Art Deco apartment block on Great Western Road in Glasgow where he and his wife Olive had a flat.

Charles Duncan was born in Aberdeen,where his father was a railwayman and his mother worked in a fish and chip shop. He grew up in the Kincorth area of the city and began his newspaper career at the Press and Journal. One of his great chums on the paper was Stuart McGugan, who went on to become an actor and star of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Tutti Frutti; they remained friends for the rest of Charlie’s life.

In 1964, Charlie moved to the Record in Glasgow at a time when the paper was engaged in a titanic circulation battle with the Daily Express, then the biggest-selling newspaper in Scotland.

There was a big team of reporters on the Record and many editions and the team of sub-editors, which Charlie joined, was responsible for getting the paper out on time. He relished the job and rose through the ranks.

His position as night-editor at the Record was the first of many senior positions at the Mirror group of newspapers. He served as editor of the Scottish Daily Mirror, launched The Glaswegian, and worked on plans for a new Glasgow evening paper which never came to fruition.

Anna Smith, a former chief reporter of the Record, remembers his presence on the editorial floor – her abiding memory, she said, was of a big, larger-than-life figure striding the floor, changing pages, issuing orders and totally in control when a big story was breaking.

After leaving the Mirror Group, Charlie joined The Scotsman in 2001 as deputy night editor and later night editor. It was a time of dramatic change for The Scotsman, and the industry as a whole, and his experience, array of skills and coolness under pressure were a huge asset. He helped plan the paper and would design 20-odd pages before seeing off the first edition. He also wrote opinion pieces, features and leaders.

Having left The Scotsman in 2006, Charlie enjoyed focusing on his hobby of salmon fishing, often with friend Angus Meldrum, the former managing director of Tennent’s, or journalistic colleagues such as Arnot McWhinnie, the Record’s former crime correspondent, who also wrote the paper’s fishing column under the name Silver Wilkie.

Charlie’s colleague Douglas Jackson says his fondest memory of Charlie was him standing on the banks of the Tay with a big grin on his face, a dram in his hand and telling tales of salmon won and lost.

Another great passion for Charlie was Kelvin Court, the famous Glasgow building where he had lived with Olive since the 1990s. He enjoyed entertaining friends and family there, sometimes with a song (his go-to choice was The Portree Kid, by The Corries) and as a leading figure in the residents’ committee, he was an expert at persuasion and getting all the necessary jobs done.

Speaking to The Herald in 2018, he revealed why he felt it was important to preserve and protect buildings such as Kelvin Court. “One of the interesting things about here, and I think a lot of people feel it,” he said, “is they feel they have a role in preserving it. Glasgow doesn’t have a great reputation – we have neglected Greek Thomson, for instance – and I feel committed to keeping the building in good shape. We’ve torn down large parts of the city and we shouldn’t have.”

After a series of health problems later in life, including the amputation of a leg, Charlie also discovered the building’s therapeutic quality. “I spent a lot of time in hospital and I wasn’t well until I came through that door and suddenly I was fine again,” he said.

He also launched a blog, charlesduncanscotland.com, in which he introduced himself with these words: “Politically, he is nominally to the left of centre, and sees no reason to let the Governments in Westminster and especially in Holyrood off with any ploy he thinks may not benefit Scotland”.

Charlie and his wife Olive, whom he met in Aberdeen in 1963, had two sons: Charles, who is head of HR for an Edinburgh-based asset manager, and Brodie, who followed his father into the newspaper industry and became picture editor of The Herald. Olive and his sons survive him along with his grandchildren, Emma and Charlie.