Obituary: Stewart Boyd, journalist

Former Scotsman Picture Editor Stewart Boyd. Picture: Contributed
Former Scotsman Picture Editor Stewart Boyd. Picture: Contributed
Share this article
Have your say

BORN: 31 May 1940, in Edinburgh. Died: 2 April, 2014, in Edinburgh, aged 73.

Formerly picture editor of The Scotsman for 20 years, and later secretary of the Royal Yachting Association Scotland, Stewart James Boyd died on 2 April after the onset of advanced prostate cancer, fought with resilience. He was 73.

Born in Edinburgh in May 1940, he was the eldest of three sons to James Boyd, a chartered accountant, and Elspeth, who was employed in the George Heriot’s Trust office.

Apart from a brief wartime spell in Clydebank as a baby, when he was unaware of the German air attacks, Stewart spent all of his life in the capital.

Stewart was educated at George Heriot’s School, where he was known for his enthusiasm on the rugby field and even more so in the debating chamber. He joined the Royal Navy section of the school’s Combined Cadet Force, becoming Cadet Chief Petty Officer, and planned a career in the Royal Navy. When he was not selected for Dartmouth Royal Naval College he turned his attention to the world of print.

He joined The Scotsman in April 1958, a ploy which meant he could leave school a term early. He worked his way up from “tube boy”, involved in internal deliveries around the North Bridge building – relying on the interdepartmental tube system, as seen in large department stores like Jenners. Over the years he became a sub-editor and night editor, prior to his appointment as picture editor in 1972. He remained in that post until 1992.

Stewart Boyd wrote widely as a columnist for the Weekly Scotsman and also wrote as a freelance under various pseudonyms including Allan Balfour, Elizabeth Alexander and Scott Cargill. The true owners of these last two (family) names waited in vain for their fair share of fees earned with such elegant bylines. As picture editor he was responsible for the production each year of The Scotsman calendar which retained iconic status and is seen all over the world. He was also regularly asked to judge photographic competitions including the annual Edinburgh Military Tattoo competition – a task he continued until 2012.

In his youth Stewart had been a Sunday school teacher, and this early desire to serve and help people stayed with him throughout his life. For more than 20 years he was a member of the Rent Assessment Panel for Scotland, retiring in 1997. He was also an active member of the National Union of Journalists at chapel (office) level and with the Edinburgh and District branch of the NUJ, first as secretary and then as chairman. He was also a member of the NUJ’s national Appeals Tribunal for several years.

On becoming picture editor he realised there was a need for a body to give a voice to others in similar positions. Together with two friends he helped found the UK Picture Editors Guild and became its first chairman – holding office from 1982 to 1992.

After leaving The Scotsman Stewart undertook a number of jobs in market research and journalism before setting up Contax – a consultancy in media relations, human resources and market research.

But the lure of the open sea was always close to his heart. As a boy he was taught to sail off St Andrews, where he spent school holidays with his grandmother, herself a daughter of a well-known harbour-based family. By the age of 14 he ran a fleet of pulling boats for hire and helped his father’s cousins to bait, set and haul creels. After a family holiday in 1959 Stewart and his younger brother David were honoured by the Royal Humane Society for rescuing a boy in danger of drowning off the beach at St Andrews.

Stewart was a proud honorary member and past Commodore of Forth Corinthian Yacht Club and a staunch supporter of their motto: “Affordable Sailing for All”. He was also a member of Royal Forth Yacht Club and Dunbar Sailing Club.

Between 1975 and 1978 Stewart took various Royal Yachting Association and Department of Trade and Industry courses at Leith Nautical College. He followed this up in 1978 by becoming vice chairman of Leith Nautical College – remaining in office until its closure in 1987.

He regarded the Firth of Forth as his yachting “blue playground”, and kept his boats at Granton. He also sailed widely in UK waters, and ventured across the Atlantic and the Pacific when he joined a good friend’s boat taking part in the RAFYC Round the World Rally.

For years he worked for Forth Yacht Clubs’ Association, helping to organise numerous sailing events, including enviable success with sponsorship deals for East Coast Sailing Weeks.

He was elected to the council of the Royal Yachting Association Scotland to represent the Forth area, and became its secretary in 1993. He served for 17 years with enthusiasm and skill. He decided to step down after reaching age 70 in 2010.

Once in the post, he took on many of the tasks required to assist the smooth running of RYAS. He joined the Access Forum, created by the Scottish Executive to work out how access to the countryside and inland waters should be regulated.

He was involved in the organisation of numerous events for RYAS including the Edinburgh ISAF Conference, the Tall Ships week and the annual Cruising Symposiums at which he used to give a quirky and trenchant report on activities over the previous year. He was also active behind the scenes, using his wide network of contacts to facilitate discussions, and persuading others to volunteer. Once you were in his notebook there was no escape.

Stewart also joined the council of RYA, the main UK body based in Southampton, and was a regular participant in its discussions. A life member, he also served on various sub-committees.

In 2005 he received from HRH Princess Anne the award for Distinguished Services to Yachting in the UK.  

Stewart was also a long serving trustee of Bells Nautical Trust until last year, and proudly remained honorary president of the Edinburgh Trinity Sea Cadets for over a decade, up until his death. He was a keen supporter of the Seagull Trust, where each December he played Santa to the young disabled passengers on the trust’s Christmas sailings on the Union Canal.

In the winter months Stewart turned his attention to rugby – as a player and referee then as an avid spectator. He was a life member of Lismore Rugby Football Club. He was also a keen curler, being a long-time member of Merchiston Curling Club, and he had the distinction of being the club’s president in its bi-centennial year in 2009/10.

An accomplished public speaker, his after-dinner remarks were widely sought after – not least at Burns Suppers, both across Scotland and much further afield – his most notable “away fixture” involving a round trip to Lagos, Nigeria to toast the Immortal Memory.

He listed “travel” as one of his prime interests, logging some of the lesser visited countries of the times, including Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Equador, Iceland, Tahiti, Antigua, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji, in addition to the more usual European and North American destinations, the latter involving a much cherished trip on Concorde.

In 1964 he had married Elizabeth Alexander, known to all as Betty. Throughout their long marriage she supported and worked with Stewart on many of his projects until her death in 2008 after a long illness. Her personal input to RYA Scotland affairs was marked by a special award not long before she passed away.

He enjoyed many years of loyal assistance from John, a willing crewman on “Early Bird”, and constant support in more recent times from his dear friend Lesley.

Stewart is survived by his two brothers David and Douglas, nieces and nephews, a great niece and great nephews.

In addition there is a wider list – both local and now well spread around the world – of children of their good friends; and in some cases their children’s children, who fondly remember “Uncle Stewart and Aunt Betty”, and the good fun, generosity of spirit and encouragement freely given for others.

A service in celebration of Stewart Boyd’s life will be held on at noon tomorrow at the main chapel of Mortonhall Crematorium, Edinburgh.