Falkirk Herald’s ‘First Lady’ dies

Former Falkirk Herald columnist Betty Simpson celebrating her 83rd birthday
Former Falkirk Herald columnist Betty Simpson celebrating her 83rd birthday

The first Falkirk Herald journalist to write a column specifically for its women readers has died.

Betty Simpson was 93, but known and loved by thousands as Jean Graham who penned her ‘Between Ourselves’ articles for Scotland’s top selling weekly between 1957 and 1973.

Born in Clydebank in May 1922, but raised by her grandmother and aunts and uncles in Kilmarnock following the tragic death of her mum, Bessie, in childbirth, Betty was educated in Ayrshire before leaving school at 14 and taking a job in an accountants office.

At 17 she joined the WRAF and had been based in Stranraer and Yorkshire before being posted to Coastal Command at RAF Lossiemouth in 1946.

It was there she met her future husband, Graham, who served with the RAF as a photo processing engraver.

The couple were married in Kilmarnock that September and moved to live in the outskirts of Glasgow after Graham was hired by the Glasgow Herald as a photo processing engraver.

While Graham worked, Betty was kept busy raising their three children, Lesley (67), Fergus (64) and Joan (62).

In 1953 Graham joined The Falkirk Herald as head of its photographic processing department in Falkirk and the family moved to Arnothill Gardens.

Betty joined the company four years later and her column which observed the trials and tribulations of family life and featured handy hints and recipes was an instant hit!

She later became a full time staff reporter covering general news, the council and sheriff court and was also the newspapers’ arts correspondent who famously covered a performance by boy soprano Alex Salmond in Callendar Park College - a review the MP and former First Minister noted years later in a book!

In 1973 when Graham was promoted by the company to managing director of its sister group of weeklies in Ayrshire, Betty gave up her role to move to the coast, but the couple returned to Falkirk in 1981 after Graham was appointed a senior executive of The Falkirk Herald Group before retiring the following year.

Betty, who died on July 7 and lost Graham in 2002, is survived by their three children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.