Journalist and broadcaster known for his coverage of the Scottish industrial upheaval of the 70s and 80s
Born: August 3, 1940. Died: January 28 2019
Leslie Anderson, who began his journalistic career at the Lennox Herald.
LESLIE Anderson, who has died aged 78, was a widely respected news journalist who covered industry, politics and crime over four decades. When he turned 60 he began an entirely new life, first in the south of England and then Australia.
He entered the newspaper industry as a copy-boy – or messenger – in the newsroom of the original Scottish Daily Mail in Edinburgh. The Scottish industry of the 1960s was highly competitive and an attractive place to work for an ambitious young man with a keen interest in current affairs.
He began his reporting career at the Lennox Herald in Dumbarton and soon the quality of his work was attracting attention. He was hired to the Mail’s Glasgow office by its then news editor, George Sinclair, a man who was to influence a generation of Scottish journalists.
At 21, Leslie met his future wife Sandra Rennie, and they were married three years later just as the young newsman’s career was taking off. After several years, he moved to the Scottish Daily Express, then a major paper and famed for its “winner takes all” approach to covering major news. Leslie became deputy to industrial editor Jack McGill at Albion Street, Glasgow, taking over from his boss later.
Heavy manufacturing in Scotland had entered decline. Nationalised industries such as shipbuilding, steel and mining were at the nub of unrest, against that backdrop. The industrial correspondents of the 1970s were at the vanguard of news journalism, as trade unions and government came into conflict.
When the Express closed its Albion Street works in 1974, Leslie Anderson continued as part of a smaller operation in the city’s Park Circus. He was recruited again by former mentor Sinclair, as industrial correspondent for the BBC’s flagship TV programme, Reporting Scotland.
It was a busy time. The Thatcher election victory of 1979 hastened the decline of many industries. When Mr Anderson turned up at one factory an anxious worker asked him: “Are we closing then?” Such was the frequency of his being the bearer of bad news via the nation’s TV screens that the man had assumed Leslie Anderson’s visit must mean redundancies. He covered the loss of car manufacturing at Linwood, among many closures, before moving south to cover Westminster politics.
Leslie Anderson was an eyewitness reporter at the Brighton hotel bombing in 1984, when the Irish Republican Army sought to destroy the Cabinet during a Conservative conference. His live dispatches, first on radio’s Good Morning Scotland, are still remembered for their quality by production staff of the day.
In broadcasting, he stuck to the principles learned in newspapers. He wasted words rarely, seeing himself much more as a reporter than an analyst. He remained more comfortable sticking to the facts of a story than commenting upon them. His scripts were simple and direct. He had a reputation among film editors as a man who arrived with a clear idea of what would be said, and how it should be illustrated. Deadlines were not to be missed. Live “two-ways” were never spoiled by idle speculation.
He returned to Scotland as home affairs correspondent and built strong contacts within government and police circles, delivering consistent coverage of both policy and everyday crime. He was part of the team that broke the remarkable story of “Brandon Lee”, 32-year-old Brian MacKinnon, who spent a year posing as a teenage pupil of his former school in Bearsden. The team earned rare praise from then director general, John Birt.
Mr Anderson indulged seldom in office politics, advising others wryly: “You should only ever worry about your job when they start stabbing you in the front.” Perhaps because of his own experience moving from print to broadcast, he was a helpful colleague to others who followed that route.
When he retired from the BBC, the Herald Diary remarked: “To paraphrase the Proclaimers, Leslie presided over Linwood no more, shipyards no more, steel industry no more, coal mines no more. We have to conclude that Mr Anderson has been something of a jinx. In his time as home affairs correspondent he was involved, though not personally, in more murders than Taggart.”
Away from the bustle of news, his passion was rugby. He followed Glasgow High-Kelvinside, even serving for a time as a match announcer. He was an avid follower of the Scottish national team, through thick and thin. A regular visitor to Murrayfield, he also led frequent “works trips” following Scotland to Dublin.
Leslie and Sandra “emigrated” from Glasgow to Sevenoaks in Kent, to be closer to their adult daughters. He quipped that, after 59 Scottish winters, they deserved a break. He began a new career as a media trainer for the energy giant BP, working frequently in the Middle East, former Soviet Union and North America.
The couple moved to Australia, again to be nearer family, when Leslie was past 70. He took great joy in witnessing his grandchildren grow up, and took up Australian citizenship. He was teased that this might threaten his devotion to the Scottish rugby cause.
He died at the Robina Hospital, Gold Coast, after a lengthy period of illness. He is survived by Sandra, daughters Emma and Sacha, and grandchildren Cameron, Hannah and Hamish.