TRIBUTES have been paid to Ian Wood, the former golf correspondent and sports editor of The Scotsman, who died yesterday after a long illness. He was 80.
Former colleagues and his fellow-golfers all spoke fondly of a genial man who, while well educated and highly intelligent, always wore his learning lightly. His good humour, known most widely through his Scotsman columns ‘The Last Word’ and ‘A Slice Of Life’, was as appreciated in everyday situations as it was in print.
Journalist Hugh Keevins recalled being interviewed by Ian for a job as this newspaper’s football correspondent back. Perhaps typically of the profession in that era - this was 1980 - the setting was a pub close to the Scotsman offices in North Bridge.
“I had my interview lunch with Ian in the Doric,” he said. “We discussed the films of the Marx Brothers. Football was never mentioned once.
“Ian was the loveliest man who ever lived”
“At the end I asked what I should do, and he said ‘Hand in your notice, my boy’. I joined the Scotsman and stayed for 17 years - the happiest years of my life. Ian was the loveliest man who ever lived.”
Former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher said: “He was a good guy and a first-class journalist who knew his golf. Like [his fellow Scotsman writer] Norman Mair, who also passed away recently, Ian wrote with a bit of humour.
“We were also fellow Hibees, of course, and that’s another of the reasons we always got on so well The team might be struggling a bit at the moment in that we are playing in the Championship, but Ian and I used to talk about the “old days” and that was always nice.”
Golf broadcaster Renton Laidlaw recalled a man who was as talented as a raconteur as he was as a journalist. “He was a quality writer who over the years held various jobs for The Scotsman and did all of them very well.
“Admired by so many people”
“Latterly, of course, he wrote ‘The Last Word’, a weekly column, that was admired by so many people. Indeed, there were a lot of very disappointed people around when Ian decided to stop it. He always managed to find something to write about and did so both elegantly and amusingly.
“I am sure that Ian would have been very pleased with his career. He was an extremely understanding sports editor, one that reporters enjoyed working for.
He was such a nice fellow and was great company, having so many good stories to tell.
Ian was very intelligent but was modest with the whole thing.”
Fellow-journalist Bill Lothian, club captain of Duddingston Golf Club, said: “Ian was in with the bricks at Duddingston - indeed he was there as recently as six to eight weeks ago - and the whole club lived vicariously through his reports from tournaments and, of course, his renowned column.
“Loved listening to his fantastic stories about golf”
“He took Duddingston’s name with him wherever he travelled in the world and it was so pleasing that was recognised when he received honorary membership from the club last year. Even when he stopped playing on a regular basis, he was still intrinsic to Duddingston as he’d come down to the club for a coffee, and so many people, even some who didn’t know him all that well, loved listening to his fantastic stories about golf.
“He had a fund of them and people would listen to every word and come away saying ‘Wow, wasn’t that fantastic to hear’. His brother, Sandy, is also a member of Duddingston, and our thoughts are with him and the rest of the family at this sad time.”
Duddingston club pro Alastair McLean added: “For both Norman Mair and Ian, two outstanding journalists and fellow Duddingston members, to pass away so close together is a real shame. Everyone loved Ian’s Monday column and I think a lot of the stories he told in that were off the cuff as he used to come into the shop on the Sunday morning wondering what he might do for that.”
“I wanted to be able to write like Ian Wood”
Donald Walker, assistant editor of The Scotsman, said: “Ian combined outstanding sportswriting with the art of the classic humorist, which made his work light up the pages of The Scotsman over several decades. His Monday column was often the first article in the entire newspaper that many readers would turn to, while others saved it for last. It was loved dearly by so many.
“His writing formed an important part of the identity of The Scotsman, and when he filed his last column a few years ago, his style was irreplaceable.
“Ian was also an inspiration. As a boy, I wanted to be able to write like Ian Wood. Some hope! Working with him, eventually, was a pleasure. He was a perfect gentleman, and wonderful, entertaining company.
“The thoughts of everyone at The Scotsman are with his family.”
Journalist Elspeth Burnside remembered a colleague who was always supportive and good-humoured. “I regarded Ian Wood as my journalistic Dad,” she said. “When I was teaching in Caithness and trying to get into journalism, Ian was the Scotsman sports editor and he agreed to publish an article on the 1983 European Surfing Championships held in Thurso. It was my first article in the Scotsman - I still have the copy and it remains one of life’s highlights.
“A year later and I got a full-time job in journalism and subsequently turned freelance. Throughout, Ian was always so supportive and we became very good friends. Whenever we met, he often harked back to the surfing in Caithness.
“His witty repartee made him a wonderful colleague”
“I was also lucky enough to work alongside him as a member of the Scotsman team at a few Open Championships. He was the ultimate professional and his witty repartee made him a wonderful colleague.
“I feel privileged to have known Ian for over thirty years. He was great company, a great writer – I’m sure I’m not the only one who still misses The Last Word and a Slice of Life – and, most of all, he was a really lovely person.”
Ian officially retired from his full-time position as the Scotsman’s golf correspondent in 1994, but he continued to contribute his weekly column for some 17 years. When he finally called a halt to the column in the spring of 2011, scores of readers wrote in to express their regret. “How sorry I was to read of the retirement of Ian Wood,” Ian Welch of Hawick wrote then. “His self-deprecating sense of humour, his lovely descriptions of everyday happenings, his loathing of things computerised and his love of golfing holidays with his friends - I and many others feel we have lost a kindred spirit.”
Another reader, Dennis Hart of Edinburgh, wrote: “His unique style has brightened up so many dreich Monday mornings. Quite apart from his ability to address serious issues in a light-hearted way, he was in a class of his own in having me laugh out loud on my own, reading some of his lovely reminiscences.”
George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour said: “Everyone at The European Tour is saddened to hear of the passing of Ian Wood and our thoughts are with his family at this time. His love of golf regularly shone through in his ‘Slice of Life’ column, a Monday morning essay which showed Ian’s wit and good humour as well as his often wry look at the vagaries of life itself. Following on from the recent passing of Norman Mair, these are sad times for not only The Scotsman newspaper and for Scottish journalism, but also for everyone who was fortunate to enjoy Ian’s superb writing and individual insights on this great game.”
Scottish golfing legend Colin Montgomerie said: “I’m sad to hear that The Scotsman has lost another of their much loved sports writers in so short a space of time. Ian will be much missed.”
See some of Ian Wood’s articles here: