End of an era as Carluke Gazette’s ex-editor dies

Morris Bell
Morris Bell

Morris Bell, former proprietor and for years editor of the Carluke and Lanark Gazette, the paper his family owned for three generations, has died suddenly after a brief illness.

The funeral service took place last Tuesday.

Morris was born in Hamilton Street, Carluke and, apart from his school years at Dollar Academy, lived most of his life based within a six-mile radius of Carluke, Lanark, and Braidwood, where he and his wife Elspeth made their home and brought up their son Alistair.

Leaving school, he joined the British Linen Bank to gain business experience, then after two years National Service he joined his father William Bell as a partner in the business at 3 High Street in Carluke.

Morris was an old-fashioned newspaperman, able to turn his hand to anything. He had Fleet Street training as a linotype operator, and could strip and repair the machines, and as a traditional typist - using only his two index fingers - was more than capable of writing his own stories.

He took over as editor on his father’s death in 1970, then was joined in the business by his younger brother Iain. In August 1972 the paper was taken over by what is now Johnston Press. Morris remained as editor and later managing editor. In that role he was a keen member of the Guild of Editors, attending all their conferences.

Morris was a long-standing member of Lanark Rugby Club, playing right up until his mid-40s, and for over 50 years was a member of Lanark Golf Club - a sport he continued to enjoy until his last few months. He also took a great interest in the farming activities centred round Lanark Market.

His greatest gifts were his outgoing sociable personality, and the fact that everyone knew him. He was at his happiest outwith the office, always returning with a wealth of leads for the growing staff of reporters to follow up.

He represented the paper on many events such as the trip to ‘twin’ Lanark with Yvetot in France, and an information visit to Brussels when Britain joined the Common Market. His interest in sport memorably took him to New Orleans for a Cassius Clay fight.

While known for his easygoing laid back attitude to life, he was quick to spring to the defence of the paper, or of any reporter unfairly criticised.

Aileen McCulloch, editor when Morris was managing editor and after his retiral, said that Morris had always been very proud of his family legacy.

“He was an old style newspaperman, well-known throughout the Gazette’s circulation area, and justifiably proud of his family’s role in producing a successful and well-read local newspaper,” she said.

“He always stood by the paper.”

His retiral in June 1995 did not seem to bring him any concerns or regrets.

“It has been a good season,” was how he summed up his working life in the newspaper world.

In retirement he was a creature of habit, still golfing, still spending each Monday at the Market - “He never missed the Market. When I wanted to see him, I went to the Market,” said Iain.

Morris turned 80 at the end of the year, a birthday marked by a close family luncheon in La Vigna in Lanark. Although frail, his death on Monday April 4 was unexpected, and a shock to all who knew him. “It is the end of an era,” said Iain.

Morris left two children, Morris and Kirsteen, by an earlier marriage.