Richard Wilson obituary

·2 min read

My friend Richard Wilson, who has died of cancer aged 78, was a journalist who worked at various times as an opinion editor at the Daily Telegraph, a subeditor at the Express and an assistant editor of the Glasgow Herald. He also spent time in Amsterdam as deputy editor of KLM’s airline magazine, and wrote 11 books.

Born in Forfar, Scotland, Rick was the son of Harry Wilson, a police sergeant, and Jean (nee McDiarmid), a book-keeper. After attending Montrose academy, at the age of 16 he got a job at the Montrose Standard. A first assignment was interviewing the pop star Wee Willie Harris. Other celebrity interviews led to a job with DC Thomson as a showbiz columnist on a teen magazine: he was bylined Paul Destiny and the column was A Date With Destiny. He became a subeditor on the Scottish Daily Express in 1963, moving to the Fleet Street title in 1966.

When in 1970 he was invited to be deputy editor of the Holland Herald, KLM’s in-flight magazine, in Amsterdam, it seemed a bold move, but he fell in love with the city, living in a canalside flat with high windows, and was given the chance to interview John Lennon and Rod Steiger. He returned to London in 1974 to become managing editor of Time and Tide magazine, but took the chance to return to Amsterdam as deputy editor from 1978 to 1980 of the English-language magazine Holland Life.

I met him when I worked for a couple of years at the Holland Herald. An enduring memory of mine is of Rick performing a highland fling along an Amsterdam canal with Ken Wilkie, the editor. It was a joyous, anarchic time; we filled the magazine with offbeat and quirky stories and tips on the best coffee shops, and drank large amounts of genever (gin).

In 1980 Rick became founding editor of the Scotsman’s colour magazine. He left the Scotsman in 1990 to become deputy op-ed editor at the Daily Telegraph. In 1992 he went to the Glasgow Herald as assistant editor until 1998.

Later he freelanced as a writer and subeditor, and he never officially retired. His 11 books included biographies of the castaway Alexander Selkirk and of Robert Fergusson, the young poet who inspired Robert Burns, and four novels.

Richard is survived by his second wife, Alison (nee Graham), whom he married in 1984, and their children, Charli and Harry, and seven grandchildren, and by his son Christiaan, from his first marriage, to Johanna Blankestijn, which ended in divorce.