SCOTTISH journalist and former union leader Harry Conroy has died.
Conroy, regarded as one of the finest reporters of his generation, passed away early yesterday morning after a long illness. He was 67.
Said to be equally comfortable rubbing shoulders with mobsters, police officers and captains of industry, Conroy rose from a copy boy on the old Daily Express to become a leading expert in Scottish business and crime.
But perhaps the greatest mark he made on his industry was when he became general secretary of the National Union of Journalists just as newspapers went through historic turmoil.
Within days of becoming leader he had to tackle the bitter dispute at Wapping between newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch and the print unions. As a former union representative at the Daily Record he was more than familiar with the tricks of that paper's former owner, the late Robert Maxwell.
Conroy used the human skills he had developed as a gumshoe newspaperman when he became leader of Britain's newspaper union as the industry underwent radical change in the late 1980s.
Scottish NUJ organiser Paul Holleran said: "He was at home and comfortable with almost anybody, including the likes of Maxwell or Rupert Murdoch.
"He matched them in every way. He always had access to them; he could phone up and ask what them what they were doing.
"When they were involved in their worst excesses, he could find ways to make them more civilised in their industrial relations."
Holleran last night described Conroy as "a man of principle and integrity" and "a fine journalist". He added: "Harry always tried to build bridges, always tried to get on with people, even when he disagreed with them. He would always talk to people, negotiate."
Hugh Farmer, a veteran journalist who knew Conroy for more than 40 years, said: "He was a great character in Scottish journalism and a very generous man who will be terribly missed."
Conroy eventually went back to newspapers after his five-year stint as NUJ general secretary in 1985-1990. He edited the Catholic Observer and was a learned commentator on – and passionate believer in – his faith. Even after officially retiring last year, Conroy continued to do PR work for charities.
It is understood that Glasgow's Archbishop Mario Conti administered Conroy's last rites late on Friday. His funeral is expected to take place next Friday.