Veteran Scotsman columnist Albert Morris, who penned a daily dispatch for more than 35 years and has been described as a “Scotsman institution” by former colleagues, has died aged 91.
Morris, who was known for his “light touch” feature pieces as well as his well-read opinion columns, died in hospital on Tuesday night.
He began working at the newspaper in 1954 and launched his daily column 16 years later.
In his final column in April 2005 - 13 years after his official retirement from the paper - he described how, in 1970, editor Alastair Dunnett had summoned him into his office to offer him the chance to write a five-day-a-week column, which he reportedly said should be “grave but gay, pungent but subtle, learned but light”.
He wrote: “He said: ‘Albert, I’m offering you a column with thirty bob (£1.50) a week expenses and all the tripe you can write.’ It was an offer I couldn’t refuse and although my expenses increased, I have stuck rigidly to the spirit and practice of the offer’s last part.”
Even after retiring from a staff job at the newspaper in 1992, Morris’s column continued for another 13 years.
Former colleagues remember Morris as a quiet man who wore a fawn raincoat and flat cap, and rarely joined in boozy social events.
Former Scotsman editor Magnus Linklater said: “Bert was an institution in The Scotsman. He, himself, was a small but sparkling character and very witty. He was the complete Edinburgh man.”
Sports writer Bill Lothian recalls being instructed to read Morris’s columns when he was a journalism student at Edinburgh College of Commerce in the 1970s.
“His column was required reading,” he said. “We were told to read his prose every day because he was such a brilliant writer.”
When Lothian joined the staff of the paper a couple of years later, he finally met Morris.
“I found he was such an unassuming man,” he said. “He was never at the pub, but everyone always wanted to be in his circle and find out who he was. He had a fantastic following, people used to buy the paper just for his writing.”
Born in 1927, Morris left school at 14 and studied shorthand and typing at Skerry’s college in Edinburgh. After a year working in the city’s courts, he was given a position as copy and phone room boy at the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch - a forerunner of today’s Edinburgh Evening News. After three years in the Army from 1945 to 1948, he returned to the paper, then became a reporter at The Scotsman in 1954.
He also described in a column how, professionally, the “light touch’ appellation” had “hung heavily” on him,
The Scotsman’s picture archives throw up a number of pictures of Morris at work: driving a Roadtrain HGV lorry, investigating screw top wine bottles and interviewing a cardboard cut-out of an Aer Lingus air hostess.
In addition to his journalism, Morris was also the author of a number of books, including ‘Scotland’s Paper: The Scotsman 1817-1992’, in which he described The Scotsman’s former offices on North Bridge as as “a curious mixture of Cretan labyrinth and the engineering innards of a large liner”.
In 1985, Scotsman Publications released a book of his work, entitled ‘The Morris File’.
He leaves his wife Teresa.