Writer known for his interviews with the stars of Scottish showbusiness

Born: December 4, 1918;

Died: May 31, 2018

GORDON Irving, who has died aged 99, was a journalist in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London known for his interviews with hundreds of stars of stage, radio and screen from Laurel and Hardy, Cary Grant and Judy Garland to personalities of Scottish showbusiness such as Sir Harry Lauder.

He wrote extensively about popular theatre up to and including the multimedia age, chronicling that era and its kilted Scots comics in The Good Auld Days, the story of Scotland's theatre land from vaudeville to video, published in 1978.

Born into a farming family on the shore of the Solway Firth at Annan, Dumfriesshire, he penned his first newspaper column secretly as a teenager, signing it as 'Itus' (the Roman name for the Solway Firth), and revelled in the comments of maiden aunts and others who were unaware of the identity of this budding new writer in the columns of the Annandale Observer.

A classics dux at Dumfries Academy after younger days at Stranraer High School, he went on to graduate in classics at Edinburgh University and then, surprisingly, turned his back on an academic career by joining the Glasgow Evening News and later the Daily Record as a news and features journalist.

A bout of rheumatic fever at 17 kept him from active war service; instead he moved from Glasgow to work on the news desk at Reuters in Fleet Street. He often recalled when he and another sub-editor had to handle, at breakneck speed, the newsflash which told the world that British troops had landed on the Normandy beaches.

Another memory from his Fleet Street days came when, marking time after being briefed for the landing at Arnhem, he was offered an entirely unofficial "lift" in the belly of a Dakota aircraft, dropping food and instructions to Belgian resistance units in the Ardennes mountains. He remembered well the headlamps of a lorry marking where the food and weapons were to be dropped.

Back in post-war Scotland, he rejoined the Daily Record and, reporting on live theatre in Scotland, chronicled the rise to celebrity status of comedians like Harry Gordon, Dave Willis, Tommy Morgan, Jimmy Logan, Les McLean and Stanley Baxter.

He saw the glory days and the demise of the Empire and Alhambra theatres at Glasgow, the start of television at the BBC and STV, and, as features columnist of the TV Guide magazine, became the first journalist ever to have a glass enclosed theatre box as his office, looking down from his typewriter onto the stage of Glasgow's Theatre Royal when it was converted in 1957 into Scotland's first commercial TV station.

The big showbusiness names of Hollywood and New York came each week to star in variety at the former Empire Theatre on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow and Irving reviewed their performances (and how well or poorly they were received) each Monday first-house. The names were magic to Glaswegians who had seen most of them only in the cinema - from Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, to Dorothy Lamour, Betty

Hutton, Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald.

Reviewing for the legendary American showbusiness weekly Variety as well as the Daily Record and writing his New York-aimed reviews in a staccato-style 'Variety-ese,' he took the comedy star Danny Kaye to task for eulogising his London Palladium reception and ignoring the thousands who cheered him at Glasgow. Danny Kaye cabled an immediate apology to Irving. It was the year when a handful of Scots went on a raiding mission to Westminster Abbey. Sarcastically, Kaye's cable ended: "Now you can return The Stone!"

In his student years, Irving was entranced by the story of a fellow doonhamer: Kirkpatrick Macmillan, the blacksmith who invented and built the world's first bicycle and rode on it to Glasgow where, in 1842, he was fined and thrown in prison for speeding at eight miles an hour. Irving’s researches resulted in the biography The Devil on Wheels.

Other books by Irving include Great Scot, a biography of Sir Harry Lauder, The Wit of the Scot, The Wit of Robert Burns, and The Solway Smugglers to name but a few.

In more recent years, semi-retired from staff journalism, he became an intrepid devotee of the internet and described his computer as the "greatest thing since the radio, flying machines and … yes, sliced bread".

His entry in Who's Who in Scotland listed his pet hates as bumptious bureaucrats and mealy mouthed snobs. When asked the secret of his long life, he replied "be interested in the world, have worldwide friends and always

have the next project lined up".