TONY LANGMACK, a prodigiously hard-working and well-liked Berwick journalist and editor throughout an astonishing eight decades, once explained why he turned down the only job offer he ever received.
The offer, a big deal, was from the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle. “The day I got the letter confirming the appointment, I went for a walk along the new road [along the River Tweed] on a beautiful summer’s evening.
“The sun was setting just over the Tweed and I turned to my wife and said ‘Why the hell should I move from here?’”
Until his death last Friday (Feb 8th) at the age of 89, Tony was probably Britain’s longest-serving working journalist. He started out on the Berwick Advertiser in the 1940s, and was still filing copy to the paper 75 years later.
His cuttings book included the floods of 1948, Berwickshire’s Jim Clark winning the world driver’s championship in 1963 and the Susan Maxwell murder of 1982.
When Tony began his career in August 1945, many of the paper’s staff were yet to return from war service.
He recalls: “When I started there was a staff of only 16, with 15 more coming back from the forces within a year. At its peak there was a staff of more than 100 at Berwick and 25 more at Selkirk.”
Getting around from story to story was also very different. “The transport consisted of one bicycle and the business car available with driver for out-of-town jobs,” he once told the website <holdthefrontpage.co.uk>.
Local bus services and the Berwick to Spittal ferry were frequently used,” he said.
During a stint as sports editor during Berwick Rangers’ famous 1966/67 season during which they beat their Glasgow namesakes one-nil in the Scottish Cup at Shielfield, Tony took on one of his toughest assignments.
The team, coached and managed by Jock Wallace, was in Tony Langmack’s words, “the fittest Berwick side I ever saw”, thanks to their coach’s hard training regime running up and down Spittal’s loose sand dunes, described by players as ‘absolutely knackering’.
The dunes were a test of both physical and mental strength; Wallace even refused players the option of stopping to vomit, telling them they could be sick but only whilst they ran.
The press were barred from training days, so when Tony and the paper’s chief photographer were discovered taking snaps of the players being put through their paces Jock gave them a friendly ticking-off then raged: “I don’t know what the hell you two are laughing at, because YOU’RE doing it now!”before running them up and down the dunes “until we were sick”.
Despite the experience – or maybe because of it – Tony went on to write the book Berwick Rangers: A Sporting Miracle, a history of the club from 1881-1981.
Becoming chief reporter in 1951 followed by the stint as sports editor and then editor from 1978-1995, Tony saw the biggest changes to the industry come with the introduction of digital technology in the 1990s.
“The firm switched to computer setting. From that date, I believe that as well as being journalists, the editorial staff became technicians,” he said.
Tony’s dedication to the paper saw him receive an MBE for services to journalism and the local community in 1993, before he officially retired’ from the paper two years later.
However, he continued to file copy weekly – everything from reports of Rotary and Probus Club (which he chaired) to the occasional front page lead.
The Advertiser editor who succeeded him acknowledged that “Tony not only remains a valuable member of our small team, but his local knowledge makes him a superb contact for the rest of us.
“There is very little going on in the town that Tony does not know about.”
A former colleague, Derek Forrest, said today: “I feel very sad. Tony was a mentor of mine, an elder statesman of Borders and Northumberland journalism.”
Funeral and other details will almost certainly appear in this week’s Berwick Advertiser and across the Tweeddale Press.