Published: 02/02/2017 14:30 - Updated: 02/02/2017 14:32

Tributes to motoring journalist David Morgan

Written byAlan Hendry

TRIBUTES have been paid from across the newspaper industry and the motor trade following the death of award-winning north journalist David Morgan at the age of 66.

David was passionate about his cars.
David was passionate about his cars.

David, a motoring correspondent for over 40 years and a former UK Regional Motoring Writer of the Year, edited motorsnorth for Scottish Provincial Press (SPP) from its launch 10 years ago.

He died suddenly at his home in Forres on Friday, January 27.

David was a gifted communicator with an all-consuming passion for motoring, an engaging writing style and unerring judgement. He had the rare ability to convey technical information in a highly readable way, always imbued with the warmth of his own personality.

These qualities made him an outstanding journalist and he was liked and respected by all who knew him. Senior figures in the motor industry valued his opinion while recognising that he was very much an independent voice, scrupulously fair and balanced.

David was also a dedicated family man. He is survived by his wife Rhona, their daughter Helen and son Andrew.

David was born in Lossiemouth in April 1950 while his father was stationed at the town’s Royal Naval Air Station. The family spent some time in Northern Ireland before moving back to Moray and David started school at Bishopmill, Elgin.

While his father continued his naval career, David and his mother moved to Banff. He attended Banff Primary and then Banff Academy.

On leaving school David went into the Navy, encouraged by his father and his uncle Jack, a naval captain. He hoped to become a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, but government defence cuts meant his course was axed and his hopes dashed. David never forgave Harold Wilson, the prime minister at that time.

An opportunity arose to fly with Bristow Helicopters but those plans were thwarted when David crashed his car and broke his back.

He joined the Royal Bank of Scotland in Aberdeen, but left after being accepted for a journalism course at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University.

His first job in newspapers was as a junior reporter at the Northern Scot. From there he joined the Press and Journal as a Banff-based district reporter under the guidance of Bob Carter, who was to be a lasting influence and mentor. David later moved to Aberdeen as a P&J sub editor.

A second serious car crash, in 1973, proved to be life-changing in an altogether happier way than his first mishap. It was while he was being treated in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary that he met Rhona, then a student nurse. It took him until the following year to ask her out, and the couple were married in 1976.

In 1981 David joined the Moray and Nairn newspaper group (now part of SPP) as editor of the Forres Gazette and served in that role for 20 years. He campaigned on many local issues, his greatest accomplishment being the part he played in securing a Forres bypass.

David established his own business, DRM Media, and his reputation as a first-rate motoring correspondent made him the obvious choice as editor when SPP launched its weekly group-wide motoring supplement, motorsnorth, in October 2007.

When people in the motor industry spoke to David, they knew they were dealing with a man who was a master of his trade – someone they could trust, and whose views carried a lot of weight. Motorsnorth headlines were even said to have been cut out and put on display in car company boardrooms.

A long-standing member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, David deservedly gained national recognition when he was named as UK Regional Motoring Writer of the Year for 2012.

Away from work and family, his main interests were aviation and sailing. Armed with his private pilot’s licence, David was a founding member of Banff Flying Club and became vice-chairman of the RAF Banff Strike Wing Memorial Trust. He was heavily involved in a memorial and unveiling ceremony at Boyndie in September 1989 to commemorate British, Norwegian and Commonwealth aircrews.

David had a love of sailing from an early age – starting with a dinghy and working his way up. He sailed out of Banff but for the last 20 years kept his boat at Loch Creran, north of Oban, where the family spent many summer holidays.

He was a very competent sailor and navigator, taking part in the Banff to Stavanger yacht race on several occasions. He was northern correspondent for Yachting Life magazine for 20 years.

Visiting the island of Canna on several occasions, David became involved in a local campaign to restore St Edward’s Chapel and was among those invited when the Princess Royal performed the opening ceremony.

As a trustee of the aviation charity the Fresson Trust, David made a significant contribution to aviation heritage across the north of Scotland. He wrote and designed memorial plaques that were installed from Forres to Orkney, the most recent being at Stornoway Airport.

Health issues meant David had to take a back seat from his working life over the past two-and-a-half years, but he remained in regular contact with the team at SPP.

With his unfailingly kind nature, he was always happy to share his knowledge and make personal recommendations to friends and colleagues who were seeking expert advice on buying their next car. Steve Harvey, who as production editor on motorsnorth worked closely with David, said: "The two words I would associate most with David are dedication and professionalism.

"He had an incredibly deep knowledge of and love for his subject. I will be very surprised if we ever see his like again."

Journalist and broadcaster Alan Douglas met up with David on many motoring press trips at home and abroad.

"I first met David in the early ’80s and, from memory, the first time we drove together was on a Lada launch in Portugal," he said. "He was the ultimate professional motoring journalist, unfazed even when the dashboard fell out in his lap as he was driving.

"He might have been slight of build, but I could tell right away he was a force to be reckoned with.

"Over the years as my regular driving partner we covered thousands of miles test-driving new cars on launches around Europe. While we disagreed and argued about most things, we remained the very best of friends and colleagues.

"He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of cars and, coupled with his perceptive writing style, his readers were treated to a distinctive and authoritative assessment of whatever the latest piece of machinery was under his control.

"He was always great company, whether behind the wheel or later in the bar with his heavily watered-down dram. I enjoyed his humour, his wit and his insight, and I’ll miss him."

Motoring journalist and broadcaster Sue Baker, a former Top Gear presenter, said: "I am deeply saddened by the untimely passing of a talented journalist and a very fine man.

"David was a gentleman in every way, soft-spoken, attentive and unstintingly polite. He was always very good company and his ever-ready warm smile and zestful attitude were infectious.

"His depth of knowledge and his enthusiasm about his twin passions for flying and cars were very engaging. It was always a pleasure to see him, and it was fascinating listening to him and my husband – ex-Fleet Air Arm – exchanging aircraft reminiscences and cross-services banter when we were all together at some events.

"He is a huge loss to Rhona and the family, and will be much missed by everyone who knew him."

The current Forres Gazette editor, Tanya McLaren, said: "I first met David in 1993. Our paths crossed a couple of times between then and 2001 when I first applied for the job as reporter at the Gazette.

"He encouraged me and set me on my way, although he would disappear occasionally to go and test-drive a car for a motoring report. But he kept his finger on the pulse and would pop up all over the place, phoning me to see what was happening.

"He was up to speed with everything in the town and further afield. He liked to be first with the breaking news, whatever it was.

"Of course we didn’t always agree on everything, but I always appreciated his honesty. Although he could get stressed at deadlines he had a good sense of humour and there were always laughs.

"He is going to be missed by a lot of people. He was one of a kind."

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