John Gibson: Remembering the Whicker man

Television journalist and travel documentary maker Alan Whicker in Edinburgh with John Gibson. Picture: TSPL
Television journalist and travel documentary maker Alan Whicker in Edinburgh with John Gibson. Picture: TSPL
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DO tell us, John. What’s been your favourite interview? Who’s been the class act? You won’t be surprised. Yes, let’s start with the man himself, the Whicker man. His passing last week marked a milestone in my newspaper life.

We met in Edinburgh a long time back. Suave and debonair, he opened the door of his George Hotel suite in his pyjamas around 10am. Human like the rest of us, he lost a wee bit of his cool over the imperfect serving in his room of his bacon-and- eggs

Flaunting his latest book, Whicker’s New World, says the Gibpress File, he recalled: “Edinburgh’s full of memories for me. I came up here in the infantry in 1944. We were stationed in Alloa. When I heard that’s where I would be going I thought it was some place in the South Seas.

“When I came up here again I was a reporter with Extel, one of two correspondents assigned to the destroyer Nepal on a tour of northern capitals with a whole lot of top brass on board. We stayed the night at the North British Hotel on Princes Street.

“We sailed for Oslo from Port Edgar and my colleague Richard Sharpe of the BBC died threequarters of the way across the North Sea. I was astonished that we didn’t have a doctor on board.

“We sold 240 copies in Newcastle the other day and I was over the moon. Eric Morecambe once told me that two people turned up for one of his signing sessions in Bristol and I remember thinking who the hell’s going to turn up for me?

“I never wake up in some far flung hotel room asking myself why the hell am I doing this? I’m terribly lucky. Whether I’m in Haiti talking to Papa Doc or in freezing cold Alaska, it’s all endlessly stimulating. I never have a boring day.”

I still treasure this quote from the master craftsman, asked which six objects he’d take with him to a desert island: “Two blondes, two brunettes and two redheads.”