Malcolm Brodie - a legend of journalism

Dr Malcolm Brodie (left) and the News Letter's Billy Kennedy
Dr Malcolm Brodie (left) and the News Letter's Billy Kennedy

DR Malcolm Brodie MBE, who sadly died on Tuesday night after a short illness aged 86, was an iconic Ulster institution in both journalism and sport – a man with a very special talent and insatiable round-the-clock zest for the newspaper and media work that was his life for 70 years.

“Malkie”, as we all knew him, was for me a personal mentor, colleague and friend over a period of more than 50 years and his passing has grieved me terribly.

I first encountered Malcolm Brodie when a schoolboy at Newry Grammar School in the late 1950s and, with my passion for football and ambition to become a journalist, I contributed essays to the Ireland’s Saturday Night (“The Ulster”), then edited by Malcolm. If published in the ISN, the essays brought a prize of two guineas (that was the payment made in those days) and, several times, Malcolm judged my contributions to be deserving of such a princely sum.

Through the decades, in my role as a journalist, and in another capacity as a Linfield director, I got to know Malcolm closely as a man of great humility, integrity and generosity. He was a friend and wise adviser to every young journalist who crossed his path and he was always on level terms with the ordinary football supporter (“the punters” as he called them), of whatever club allegiance.

He was indeed a man of the people, who called it as it is; there were no back doors in Malcolm; his frank assessment of a situation, whether in sport or in other aspects of life, was incisive and to the point. And as a hardened and prolific journalist, he knew a chancer a mile off. He was widely read over a range of interests and was an avid music buff, with a love of the Frank Sinatra repertoire.

Malcolm was a proud Scot, brought up in the hungry thirties on Clydeside, but, moving to Northern Ireland as a teenager, he also became a proud Ulsterman, imbued with a deep sense of loyalty, belonging and interest in all that was best in our unique culture.

Before he joined the Belfast Telegraph, Malcolm was a trainee reporter with the Portadown Times in the mid-1940s and he often looked affectionately back on those days. His 40-year career as sports editor of the Belfast Telegraph and Ireland’s Saturday Night was monumental in the annals of Ulster journalism, bringing him deserved recognition on the world soccer stage that very few of his peers could ever hope to emulate.

Malcolm covered 14 World Cup finals and he was recognised by FIFA for his outstanding input into the game that he loved. And he numbered among his friends people like Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Matt Busby, Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, George Best, Pele, Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton.

He was also recognised by the Queen with an MBE.

He was a journalist where the press box was his natural home, filing accurate, well-documented copy to the Belfast Telegraph, the Daily Telegraph (using the pseudonym of Ian Stevenson), the News of the World, Press Association and The Sun. He was also a journalist who could walk into any club boardroom unannounced, unfettered and not intimidated by the company there.

Growing up in Glasgow he was weaned on the “Old Firm” rivalry of Rangers and Celtic and, while a self-confessed “Blue Nose”, this did not prevent him from having a tremendous respect for the green and white football traditions in the east end of the city.

Windsor Park was a favourite stomping ground for Malcolm – he covered every international there from the war and was very excited about the plans for the multi-million pound upgrade at the stadium. Many considered Malcolm to be a “Blueman”, a label that perhaps came out of his huge respect for Linfield Football Club, but he would heartily laugh off the jibe. He was a life member of Linfield Football Club, an honour he cherished. He was always an unashamed advocate for Irish League football.

He wrote the histories of the Irish FA, the Irish League and of Linfield, Glentoran and Derry City and his annual yearbook on the local game was a sell-out.

I had the privilege and honour to join him in co-editing a book in 2005 marking the 125th anniversary of the Irish FA and I also helped him organise testimonials at Windsor Park in the 1980s for the late George Best, Pat Jennings, Billy Bingham and former IFA secretary Billy Drennan. The comradeship and banter I encountered on those projects are truly memorable.

Malcolm was a troubadour to the very end. A week ago, the day he went into hospital, he was faithfully making arrangements with trusted colleagues to have football copy filed to The Sun. Indeed, he was a journalist/reporter to the very end and, for sure, in our newspaper industry in this part of the world, we will never see the like of him again. He was a very special journalist and colleague.

My deepest sympathy is extended to his loving wife Margaret and three sons – Ian, Stephen and Kenneth.

n The funeral service for Dr Brodie will take place in Cregagh Presbyterian Church in east Belfast on Monday, February 4 at noon.