Scotsman Obituaries: Ian Calcott, Scottish journalist, author and salmon fisherman of renown

Ian Calcott, journalist. Born: 15 April 1938 in Edinburgh. Died: 28 February 2024 in Larbert, aged 85
A keen fisherman, Ian Calcott was a pioneer of 'catch and release'A keen fisherman, Ian Calcott was a pioneer of 'catch and release'
A keen fisherman, Ian Calcott was a pioneer of 'catch and release'

In his career culminating as News Bureau Chief of the Daily Record in Edinburgh, Ian Calcott directed coverage from Scotland’s capital city to the Scottish Borders. He was part of what was regarded as the finest journalistic team in Scotland, which helped to propel the newspaper’s circulation into the stratosphere. At the time, the Record sold, on average, 780,000 papers a day.

Ian’s introduction to journalism came about by accident. On leaving Broughton Secondary School, he planned to study biochemistry at Edinburgh University. Instead, on a whim, he applied for, and secured, a job as a junior reporter on the Dalkeith Advertiser. Only a few months later, in January 1956, he joined the Edinburgh Evening News before moving to The Daily Record in 1960, remaining with that newspaper until his retirement in 1994, aged 56.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On arrival at the Edinburgh Evening News, Ian swung himself quickly into the journalistic social scene and despite being only 18, he managed to join the Edinburgh Press Club, then based in Rutland Street. He was later asked to fulfil the post of Social Convenor, and became involved in the tricky negotiations to admit women members, as well as allowing wives and women guests into the previously male-only bar. Much of a reporter’s time in the Seventies and Eighties was spent in bars, exchanging information, news and developments with colleagues, rival reporters, police and sundry contacts. Despite this male-dominated environment, Ianoften said that some of his best young writers were women. He gave them the career opportunities they deserved.

During his tenure with the Daily Record, Ian amassed many anecdotes about news events all over the Capital and the surrounding areas, and of those he had encountered, some famous and some nameless. He covered high-profile murder investigations and trials, political and social upheaval, including the miners’ strikes, and social scandals such as the Duchess of Argyll divorce case. He recounted how a 20-minute interview with Peter Ustinov extended to two hours, as they joked and mimicked Goon Show characters in Edinburgh’s Roxburgh Hotel; a tap-dancing incident on separate tables in unison with Magnus Magnusson at the Press Club; singing a duet in an Usher Hall dressing room with the legendary Sarah Vaughan in 1959; and having a plate of porridge thrown at him by French film star Brigitte Bardot in the early Sixties. On passing a fruit machine in the Press Club, Ian lent a few coins to the soon-to-be Prime Minister Harold Wilson and watched scornfully as the future PM pocketed the paltry winnings without repaying the initial stake.

Running in tandem with his working life, Ian’s great love was salmon fishing. This was his leisure pursuit for around 70 years, and he became a very skilful angler. He was a regular on many of the best rivers – the Tay, Tummel, Spey, North Esk, Dee and the Tweed – and well respected by many ghillies and fellow anglers. Ian was always willing to share his time, knowledge and experience with less experienced fishers.

Around 1960 he began what was to become a lifelong friendship with noted angling writer Bill Currie, and they collaborated on a series of fishing books for Edinburgh publishers Oliver & Boyd. Ian wrote The Art of Salmon Fishing in 1963 and was a columnist for Anglers’ Mail, Angling Times and Rod & Line, and also wrote for Trout and Salmon and The Field. For many years he was Vice Chairman of the Anglers’ Co-operative Association, Scotland.

After retirement, Ian was a prominent member of the Scottish angling scene and served on several Government and voluntary bodies aimed at preserving and improving the Scottish freshwater fisheries situation. He threw considerable effort into voluntary work with angling organisations, especially the Scottish Anglers’ National Association (SANA).

Ian was an early and enthusiastic exponent of the catch-and-release policy for salmon and helped produce an advisory SANA leaflet on the subject. This was long before governments and international organisations issued guidelines on the formerly controversial topic, which has become mandatory in certain areas and widely accepted on a voluntary basis by salmon fishers.

Ian Flockhart Calcott was born in Edinburgh on 15 April 1938, the only son of Sid and Peggy Calcott. Sid was an electrical engineer who was involved in the electrical design required for the Forth Road Bridge, and Peggy was the lingerie buyer for Jenners in Princes Street. Ian remembered, as a toddler, bombs falling over Leith and the River Forth during the Second World War, and hiding in bomb shelters nearby. He began his education at Broughton Primary School, then went on to Broughton Senior Secondary School, rejecting a chance to attend Watson’s College, as he was concerned about the financial impact on his parents. However, he was able to continue to fish that latter school’s salmon beat at Elibank on the Tweed, due to his friendship with pupils and masters who, like him, should not have been skiving on school days just because the fishing conditions were propitious.

By nature, Ian was quick-witted, smart, decisive and opinionated, interested in the world. He was also generous, very kind and loyal to his friends, and great company. He had an easy ability to fit in with those around him, and would strike up a chat with any group of people, whether they were regular attendees at the Burgh Court, or landed gentry on the salmon beats. He had a broad knowledge over a wide range of topics, and made others feel welcome in his presence. He maintained friendships over many decades, and was universally regarded by his pals as a gentleman.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ian married in 1962. In 2008, at the age of 70, Ian was delighted to be reunited with his only child, the result of a relationship prior to his marriage, and enjoyed the last 15 years of his life spending time with his daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


If you would like to submit an obituary (800-1000 words preferred, with jpeg image), contact [email protected]

Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.