Ken Waddell – ‘A real newspaper man’

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There were 20 occupants of the editor’s chair at this newspaper before Ken Waddell and there have been four since, but to all of us who knew him he will always be ‘Mr Falkirk Herald’.

His death at the weekend was a shock to us all. Despite his 85 years and periods of ill health, we all thought he would go on forever.

But sadly his passing, which is of course a huge loss to his immediate family, has also left a void in this newspaper and the wider field of Scottish journalism.

However, it also means that so many of our organisations and community groups have lost a stalwart and supporter.

Until recently he was a regular at Falkirk FC matches, attending his first game at Brockville aged seven when he was lifted over the turnstile.

Together with wife Christine, he was involved in the fundraising through the 200 Club for Strathcarron Hospice, the place where he passed away in the early hours of last Saturday.

It was a fortnight before the couple’s 61st wedding anniversary.

Ken was a member of Falkirk Probus Club, an elder at St Andrew’s West Church, a keen member of Adrian Bowling Club and a founding member of the football club’s Senior Bairns.

He was also a regular in the audience at amateur drama and musical productions across the district.

But he didn’t just attend performances, he would always pen a letter of thanks and with it a critique of what had been presented.

Letter writing was one of his fortes and he would also write about “our beloved Herald” when referring to The Falkirk Herald.

A Falkirk Bairn born and bred, Ken was the youngest child of iron moulder John Waddell and his wife Bruce, a fishmonger.

Together with brother John and sister Margaret, he was brought up in the town’s Wallace Street area, attending Victoria Primary and Falkirk Tech.

His family are still unsure where his keen interest in journalism came from but with his father already dead, when the time came for Ken to leave school his headmaster assured him a job in banking would be a more sensible career choice.

His time at the TSB in Falkirk was interrupted by National Service and a spell in the RAF.

However, he was finally to begin his newspaper career when he secured the role of staff reporter of the Bo’ness Journal in 1957. As the job came with a staff house in Linlithgow Road, his wedding to Christine Duchart took place on November 30 that year.

The couple involved themselves in the community, including running a Boys’ Brigade company, but in 1966 it was time to return to Falkirk when the bosses decided to promote Ken to sports editor and chief reporter of The Falkirk Herald.

Four years later he was appointed editor, a role he held for 21 years before taking early retirement in 1991. He had also been group editor of all the company’s titles in Central Scotland for 17 years.

However, his connections with the newspaper industry were to continue through sons Bruce and 
Gordon and he liked nothing better than to talk of their achievements, as well as those of grandsons, Daniel (22) and Logan (10), and daughters-in-laws, Catherine and Susan.

Tributes have been paid to Ken from all sections of the community but you feel he would be most proud of the ones from his former colleagues – including those who began their journalism career under his wing.

One said he really was ‘Mr Local Paper’, while another said he took his editor-in-chief role seriously offering support to young reporters.

“A wonderful boss and very paternal with his Herald family”, “a gentle soul” and “a true gentleman and a real newspaperman through and through” are just a few of the comments from those who had been in his team.

One person who knew him but didn’t work for him quipped was it true he played Frank Sinatra tunes all day in the office. But others were able to reassure him that despite being a massive fan of Ol’ Blue Eyes, he didn’t play the tunes – just hummed them all day and tried to work the lyrics into headlines.

Others noted that he was “fiercely supportive of his staff and of the town but never failed to ruffle a few feathers when needed”.

However, he was summed up by the words “a magnificent human being”.

Ken’s funeral takes place at Falkirk Crematorium on Wednesday, November 28, at 3.15pm.