Arnold Kemp 1939 -2002

From The Herald 10.09 2002 : " Arnold Kemp was considered by many to be the most outstanding Scottish journalist of the second half of the 20th century, being instrumental in modernising and revitalising both the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald...In his 14-year editorship of the Herald, his urbane style attracted readership loyalty and reinvigorated what was an ailing newspaper when he arrived in 1981, as it took on the challenge of great technological change... In 1991 (under his leadership), the circulation peaked, record-breakingly at more than 127,000, before the Murdoch-inspired price-cutting wars began."

Mark Douglas Home, a former editor of The Herald, said:” Arnold Kemp was a colossus of Scottish journalism. Under his editorship The Herald became the paper that every aspiring Scottish journalist wanted to work on.”

Harry Reid, a former editor of The Herald, said: “He was a journalist of enormous distinction: curious, courageous, resourceful, independent, and erudite.”

Lord Steel ( David Steel),a former presiding officer of the Scottish parliament and a fellow student at Edinburgh University, said: “He had a deep appreciation of Scottish history and literature which marked him out among our contemporaries. But above all he had an absolutely delicious sense of humour.”

Alex Salmond, First Minister, and SNP Westminster leader at the time of Arnold’s death: “He was a fine journalist and a formidable editor. He has left a substantial footprint on Scottish life.”

From the Observer 19.09.2002: “Arnold Kemp was one of Scotland’s most gifted journalists, editing the Glasgow Herald from 1981 to 1994, after serving as deputy editor of the Scotsman for the previous nine years. In 1996 he relaunched his distinguished career at The Observer, serving as our foreign news editor, Scottish columnist and a leader writer of distinctive wit and erudition.”

In a tribute in that paper, Neal Ascherson wrote: “Journalism in Scotland is a tantalising business. Generous perspectives and ambitions collide with slender means – and with small-minded managements committed to making sure those means stay slender. Arnold Kemp’s life as a journalist and editor in Edinburgh and Glasgow embodied all these splendours and miseries. His ambitions for his newspapers were boundless, and his gift for leading and encouraging others drew talented writers towards him.

He achieved great things, transforming dull pages and papers into theatres of pleasure and surprise; who would have thought in, say, 1970 that a time would soon come when missing a day’s Scotsman or (as it then was) the Glasgow Herald would leave a twinge of deprivation? That was Arnold’s achievement.”

Magnus Linklater, a former editor of the Scotsman, wrote in an obituary: “Arnold was a life-enhancing character and great journalist…One of my cherished memories is bumping into Arnold in 1988 as we were both attempting to find the entrance to the New Club in Edinburgh. We had been bidden to a dinner at which the now-famous Claim of Right for Scotland – a precursor to devolution – was being introduced. As we searched for the front door to the club, Arnold remarked: “How interesting that neither of the editors of Scotland’s two leading papers knows the way into the one place that is most clearly identified with the Scottish Establishment. That, in my view, is a very healthy sign.”

Since his sudden death from a heart attack aged 63, there have been many references to Arnold Kemp. Kenneth Roy of the Scottish Review and the Institute of Contemporary Scotland has run an annual ‘Arnold Kemp Award’ for the Young Scot of the Year. There are memorial benches to him in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardnes and on Richmond Hill. In 2006, he was included in the online edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

In 2004, Herald columnist Brian Meek signed off his last column in the paper, written shortly before his death with the following: “Indulge me while I tell you a tale of the late, great Arnold Kemp, who hired me. He was not a keen gambler, but I persuaded him to go to Kelso races one day. For reasons that now escape me, we wound up in a pub in the little border town of Oxon. Late in the night, Arnold announced he was going to the phone and would order the office to send a car to take us both home. The employee at the receiving end of his call expressed doubts as to whether the man claiming to be Mr Kemp was, in fact, the editor and demanded to know why he and his columnist were still stuck at this ungodly hour in an unknown border hostelry? ”Because,” bellowed Arnold in his best Captain Mainwaring voice, ”we have reached the semi-finals of the dominoes competition.” I still miss him and will miss all of you. Writing this column has given me the most rewarding experiences in my professional life. I need a bit of time and space to re-arrange the decks chairs, but thanks for the memories. “