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Donald Wilson: Mission was to fight for the marginalised in our community

By Donald Wilson

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The Highland News has served the area for decades.
The Highland News has served the area for decades.

There’s a certain irony that the publishing group responsible for delivering local news from Cape Wrath to Banff bears the title of Highland News and Media (HNM).

For one of its titles, the Highland News, after which the company has been named, sadly will soon be no more.

But that Highland News will live on in the name – avoiding any confusion between the newspaper and the overall business is fitting because those involved remain committed to delivering news in its ever-evolving formats and platforms across the region.

As I retire this month after 52 years in the industry, I was asked to put together some words on my experiences and some of the stories I have covered for the HN over the years but I found much of my time reflecting more on the good people I’ve worked with in the newsroom and indeed the communities we serve – too many to mention here – so please don’t be offended.

Indeed, its ‘mission’ to fight the corner of those marginalised in our society and to challenge those in authority has been the mantra.

The HN first came to my attention during my early years as a journalist with the Nairnshire Telegraph, where we had a very loyal readership peaking with a circulation approaching 4000. The Highland News – which lived up to its red-top banner and once earned the title ‘The Sun of the North’ – I believe peaked at about 14,000 under Colin Campbell and Darry Mackay.

It’s probably fair to say the HN and Inverness Courier had, not exclusively, different readerships. I had the privilege of working for both.

Donald Wilson.
Donald Wilson.

We must remember of course it wasn’t just about the Highland News. The group also published the North Star and Lochaber News. The latter was previously incorporated into the Oban Times and the curtain is now coming down on the North Star too. The HN Group also published the very popular Saturday sports paper The Football Times to which I contributed local football and sports news from Nairn, prior to its sad demise.

Human interest stories featured large on the HN agenda and one front-page lead which I still reflect on with fondness was a story which had a happy ending. I was called to the home of a young boy in Culloden who had been diagnosed with leukaemia.

Sitting in the comfort of their home as the youngster recovered from the invasive treatment his distraught dad told me how he was aware his son was ill but felt he was being ‘fobbed off’ so he took him to A&E at Raigmore Hospital, refused to leave and demanded to see a doctor. Tests were carried out, followed by the devastating diagnosis.

Happily that nine year-old was successfully treated and years later he became a piper, then a civil engineer working on the HS2 project in London. Following publicity in the HN, he met his heroes Henrik Larsson and Martin O’Neil on a trip to Celtic FC.

I was in New Century House – a previous home of the HN – when the horror of 9/11 shook the world. Our then editor Nick Hunter called us into his office to view events on his computer screen. It was quite surreal watching this from an office overlooking the Kessock Bridge in the peace and tranquillity of the Highlands.

The press for the HN may have stopped rolling but we had some fun too. I’m sure Margaret, Jean, Colin, Claire, Jenny, Helen, Paul B, Willie, Chalky, Donald F, Nick, Olivia, Darry, Jackie and others will join me in saying a collective farewell to a friend. Again, sorry to anyone I missed!

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