William Bryce “Bill” Jamieson (L 59-63) 1945-2020

The OS Club is sad to announce the passing of Bill Jamieson (L 59-63), who passed away on 14th November 2020 at the age of 75. Please see an obituary below from The Times, which was published on 16th November 2020:

Award-winning executive editor who began his career with hot metal before adapting to digital

Bill Jamieson extolled Brexit before the term had been invented
Bill Jamieson extolled Brexit before the term had been invented

Bill Jamieson’s 12 years as executive editor of The Scotsman encompassed far more than publishing a newspaper; he was part of far wider political debate in Scotland and beyond. And while he was an “old-school” journalist, at home with ink, hot metal and newsprint, he also saw the future lay online, responding in 2012 by starting Scot-Buzz, a website dedicated to supporting Scottish business that he ran for several years.

Although Jamieson’s views could be idiosyncratic, his wisdom was rarely in doubt. He was far more interested in producing papers than their content. He enjoyed debate for the sake of it and could turn on a sixpence if it provided the chance to explore an unfashionable opinion.

Despite being a natural libertarian, he was not especially a “capital C” conservative. In 1997 he stood for Ukip at Putney, where he was pleased his 233 votes played a role in unseating David Mellor, the Tory incumbent. But his interest was solely economic and antifederalist, and he grew disillusioned with party politics.

Long before that he had been articulating a future for Britain outside the EU, such as in Britain Beyond Europe (1994), one of a handful of books extolling Brexit before that term was invented. Back then he was something of a lone voice, with a Times reviewer accusing him of mixing “sub-Powellite rhetoric with hard analysis”.

William Bryce Jamieson was born in 1945 in the Irvine Valley in Ayrshire. “Once it was a string of thriving, happy-go-lucky little towns made famous by lace manufacture,” he wrote. He was the son of John Jamieson, a lawyer, and his wife Anne (née Leckie), who died when Bill was young; he had two siblings, Iain, a lawyer for the Scottish Office who was responsible for the wording of the 1998 Scotland Act with its opening article “There shall be a Scottish Parliament”, and Susan, who both survive.

They were raised in Newmilns, next to the local newspaper’s presses, “which inspired me to journalism”, he said. However, his return visits in adulthood were short. “It is like listening to Gaelic music, evocatively pleasing for five minutes and terminally depressing after ten,” he said. Emerging from Sedbergh School with atrocious handwriting he taught himself copperplate.

He read economics at the University of Manchester, but his academic performance was suboptimal because he enjoyed a full social life and was busy attending CND marches and taking part in anti-war demonstrations. While at Manchester he met Elaine Muller, a Cornish librarian, and they were married in 1971. She survives him with their son, Alastair, deputy news editor at The Independent.

Jamieson joined The Merthyr Express in south Wales as a sub-editor, worked as a business sub on The Western Mail in Cardiff and in the early 1970s moved to London as a City reporter with Thomson Regional Newspapers. He was at The Daily Express for several years before in 1986 being part of Eddie Shah’s union-busting revolution on the launch of Today, Britain’s first all-colour newspaper. In 1995 he became economics editor of The Sunday Telegraph, where he broke the story of the collapse of Barings Bank.

His final job, in 2000, was at The Scotsman, where his role encompassed everything from public outreach and columns about business to seeing off the business pages each night. “When he first came back, his right-wing perspective on Scottish politics and the economy did not always go down well in the generally left-leaning media,” said Magnus Linklater, the Times columnist. “But he took the criticism in good heart and made friends right across the spectrum, while never compromising in his view that Scotland needed a reality check when it came to attitudes towards business and the wealth-creating part of the economy.”

At a time when many might enjoy “executive privilege”, Jamieson worked harder than ever. He became a familiar figure on the rear balcony of the paper’s Holyrood Road offices, usually with a cigarette, working out how to explain complex financial news. He was equally entertaining when writing about his house in Lochearnhead, his cats Miss Lulubelle and Poosie Nancie, and most especially the prize-winning roses among the 60 varieties in his garden. He enjoyed opera, especially Wagner, and once admitted to singing along to Dolly Parton.

In keeping with his move into the digital world, Jamieson kept his Kindle close to hand. “Every so often I have to thin out my bookshelves but there are authors or specific books I always keep to the fore: all books by Emile Zola — I revere him so much I visited his tomb in Paris — a far better writer and critic of his era in my view than Dickens,” he told the Scottish Review.

Jamieson, who was convivial to a fault and wore bright red socks when in the City, received various journalism honours, including a lifetime achievement award at the Scottish Press Awards in 2012. His Scotsman columns continued and in August he wrote about those who are “missing in action” from the job figures during the crisis, expressing concern for the one million people with no paid employment yet who are not registered as unemployed.

Bill Jamieson, journalist, was born on June 9, 1945. He died from spinal cancer on November 14, 2020, aged 75. Click here to see the original article from The Times (requires subscription).