Jim Lawson, one of the Highlands’ best-known journalists, has died. Mr Lawson, who lived in Nairn, was 79.
He was a respected, old school newspaper man with a string of exclusives to his name.
Among his many scoops was breaking the story of Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s intention to marry at Skibo Castle in 2000.
The high-profile wedding put Dornoch and the Highlands in the international spotlight.
In 2014, he also revealed The Queen’s intervention in the Scottish independence debate.
While attending a Royal visit at Crathie Kirk he spoke to a woman in the crowd who disclosed the monarch told her: “Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”
From murders to Royal visits
The remark was seen as a rare comment on political issues and a coded warning about the impending referendum.
Mr Lawson, who was born in Glenurquhart, started his journalistic career with the People’s Journal in 1959, aged 17.
He later worked for the Daily Record, Scottish Daily Express, Sunday People and the News of the World.
After a three-year break when he worked in the offshore oil industry, he set up a freelance news agency from his home in Nairn around 30 years ago.
From there he covered stories across the country, ranging from murders to Royal visits and from Dounreay nuclear shipments to skydiving grannies.
He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 by the Scottish Newspaper Society.
In 1988, he was fined while appearing as a witness in a case when he refused to identify the person who allegedly gave him a love letter that a waitress sent to a married police officer assigned to guard the Queen.
Despite poor health in recent years, living with diabetes and throat cancer, Mr Lawson continued to work and was a regular visitor to Balmoral to cover Royal visits.
He was working on a Royal story – an exclusive of course – this week which he hoped to have published at the weekend.
‘Legend of journalism’
Fellow journalist David Love said: “The word legend is overused but Jimmy was a true legend of journalism.
“He was always smart and respectful, but he was also tenacious and could work on a story for days.
“He had an enviable contacts book and worked to the end, keeping in touch with people and writing stories.”
In 2000, Mr Lawson got a tip that Madonna was to marry at the exclusive Skibo Castle, more than two weeks before the wedding.
He and photographer Peter Jolly saw the pop star and her future husband Guy Ritchie touch down at Inverness Airport.
They later visited Dornoch Cathedral where their son Rocco was to be baptised the day before the ceremony.
The wedding later went ahead in strict secrecy at Skibo Castle.
There was no secret about another wedding on Hogmanay 1997 when Helen Mirren and Holywood director Taylor Hackford married in Ardersier.
The couple had been staying with friends in nearby Castle Stuart. When the actress arrived at the church, she told the 100 onlookers and a small press pack, including Mr Lawson: ”You are all welcome to come inside.”
At the time there was concern about the union collapsing and it was suggested a comment from the monarch would be helpful.
Helen Mirren and the Queen, whose many visits to the Highlands Lawson covered.
Famous comment was ‘no accident’
Mr Lawson, who had covered Royal visits to the north since the 1960s when Prince Charles was at Gordonstoun, was outside Crathie Kirk on Sunday, September 14, 2014 when The Queen visited.
He later spoke to people in the crowd, including one woman who would not give her name, but told him the now famous comment made by the Royal visitor.
At the time, Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the remark.
However, sources said it was no accident and that officials were keen for the statement to be quoted widely.
It was also regarded by the No campaign as extremely helpful to their cause.
Mr Lawson is survived by his wife Betty, a son and daughter and grandchildren.