Angus John (Jock) MacVicar

Born: April 23, 1937.

Died: April 3, 2021.

JOCK MacVicar, who has died at the age of 83, was a redoubtable, enduring figure in the world of golf journalism.

Known fondly by friends and colleagues as ‘The Doyen’, his remarkable longevity was a thing of wonder and his writings for the Scottish Daily Express became comforting, dependable and authoritative perennials. He often quipped that he had been writing dispatches about the sport “since the days of Caxton.” He worked until the very end. Golf was his life;

It was a life that began in Southend, on his beloved Kintyre peninsula. The son of the celebrated and prolific author, Angus, and his wife, Jean, Angus John ‘Jock’ MacVicar was born on April 23, 1937. His father’s unbridled passion for the written word would be passed on to Jock.

So, too, would a love of golf. It was not love at first sight, however. “My first reaction to the sight of a golf course – so I am told – was to run away from it,” wrote Jock as a contributor to his father’s delightful book of musings and reminiscences, Golf in My Gallowses. “I was toddling along Machribeg shore, which runs parallel and to the right of the third fairway at Dunaverty, when suddenly, without warning, I ran headlong into the Atlantic.”

A few years later, MacVicar, by this point a single-figure handicapper whose game had been honed by the Machrihanish professional Hector Thomson, had another notable encounter with Dunaverty’s third hole.

In a mixed foursomes partnership with Belle Robertson, who would go on to become one of Scotland’s greatest amateur golfers, the duo racked up an astonishing 36. “It is without doubt the highest figure Belle has ever had to write into a score card for one hole,” reported MacVicar of this golfing calamity on the shore.

Educated at Campbeltown Grammar School, he spent the late 1950s doing his National Service with The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Bury St Edmunds and in Cyprus. He spent 1958 on the Mediterranean island with ‘C’ Company when the EOKA troubles were at their height. “I had a cushy number,” he said of his role as a company clerk.

Upon returning to Scotland, and being demobbed at Stirling Castle, he was taken on as a trainee reporter with the Scottish Daily Express, the newspaper he would serve loyally and enthusiastically until his death.

“Those first few weeks were worse than National Service,” he wrote of an eye-opening introduction to the bustling Albion Street offices in Glasgow, during which he struggled to get a seat, let alone a typewriter.

Jock’s first duty would not be golf, but a badminton competition at the Kelvin Hall, which was disrupted when the lights cut out. The modest drama stirred his senses, though. When Jock Wemyss, the Express golf correspondent retired in the early 1960s, MacVicar took up the reins.

He remained in harness for almost 60 years, covering everything from the domestic amateur scene to the showpiece occasions on the global stage. He covered his first Open in 1962

Golf may have been his passion but he was also a keen follower of another roon’ ba’ game and he became a highly respected football reporter.

Upon hearing of his passing, Sir Alex Ferguson wrote: “He was a skilled and astute football writer and I always respected his knowledge and his views in that field. He was a man you could trust, too. It is instructive and fitting that all tributes have acknowledged his innate decency. He was a fine journalist and a good man.”

MacVicar’s football forays would lead to one incident which brought his travelling to an abrupt halt. Covering a Scotland ‘B’ international in Pescara, which was eventually abandoned due to rain, a particularly nerve-shredding experience on a turbulent flight had a lasting impact: he did not get on a plane again for years.

When he finally conquered his aviation anxiety, he swiftly racked up the air-miles with ventures here, there and everywhere on the golfing beat. He possessed a tireless commitment to his craft.

For all his globetrotting, Jock’s occasionally chaotic sense of direction always generated much mirth among his colleagues.

On my first trip to the European Tour’s qualifying school final at San Roque some 20 years ago, he and I shared a hire car from Malaga airport. “We need to get on the toll road,” declared Jock of the proposed route as I guddled through clumsy gear-changes like a crofter stirring a pan of thick porridge with a spurtle.

As we trundled along, a sign with the word ‘Coin’ emblazoned on it appeared above us. “That’s it,” bellowed Jock decisively while pointing the way with the assured, navigational authority of Vasco da Gama gazing out from his ship’s crow’s nest.

Of course, it wasn’t the way to the toll road at all. It was to a village called Coin. We got to our proper destination in the end. A drink, inevitably, was taken.

A lover of Count Basie, red wine, malt whisky, good food and jovial company, MacVicar enjoyed his routine, comforting pleasures and habits.

Golf was good to him and he was good for golf. Jock never married but his devotion to the game he loved sustained him. In an ever-changing media industry, which Jock embraced with stout, stoic defiance, we will never see his like again.

Our Doyen will be greatly missed.