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OBITUARY

Former BT editor Roy Mackie dies

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From left, Mr Mackie with other BT editors over the years, Alvin Tay, Patrick Daniel and Mano Sabnani at the paper's 30th anniversary dinner in 2006.

Singapore

MY friendship with former Business Times editor Roy Mackie kicked off with our common love for booze when we met at a party shortly after he joined The Business Times. But over the decades, our bond grew much deeper - just as it did for all those who have worked with or for him. He was boss, mentor, and a friend.

Roy, who was BT editor from 1977 to 1986 (including a brief stint at The Straits Times), passed away peacefully on March 1 at his home in Scotland, aged 85. He had been battling cancer for some years.

Many will mourn his passing, but even more will celebrate his life and all that he had taught them.

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His intelligence, wit, courage and above all, friendship shone through the thick Scottish accent that was his trademark.

A new chapter began for The Business Times when Roy joined the financial daily in early 1977 and took the reins later that year from Tan Sai Siong, who had left for Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp.

With years of experience at several newspapers in England, the pragmatic, confident and easy-going Fleet Streeter quickly won over the newsroom.

But he was also tough, especially if he had to defend his flock.

Said Straits Times senior correspondent Christopher Tan: "He will not entertain frivolous complaints from news makers - public or private... Most ended in the waste paper basket!" But he was not one to be blinded by bias too. Often he would quietly investigate the complaints and took a reporter to task if the complaint was valid.

Professionally, he was remembered as teacher and mentor. When he changed your copy it was always for the better.

"He always had our back and very few editors were as courageous and self assured as he was. I learned the finer details from his larger-than-life persona," said former BT reporter Boey Kit Yin.

Added another former colleague, Monica Gwee: "I'll check the night sky in the Norwegian High Arctic here, for a visible trail of remarkable lessons... Impactful, life-long lessons both professional and personal to each individual under (his) charge... Always an undercurrent of deep rebellion against professional and personal oppression."

As a writer, few can hold a candle to Roy. "My most vivid memory is that he could bang out an editorial in minutes... Truly a mentor, a friend, and a boss to be respected," said retired journalist Tye Kim Khiat.

Roy played a significant role in the integration of Singapore Press Holdings following the merger of the Singapore Monitor and the Chinese papers with The Straits Times Press. After leaving SPH in 1986, he settled down with his wife Frances and several of his children, including those with his previous wife, near Edinburgh.

The values that Roy holds dear come through in his actions. Generosity was one of them. When I was asked to cover the general agreement on tariffs and trade in Geneva, Switzerland, together with then fellow BT reporter Hsung Bee Hwa, Roy headed the team. Both Bee Hwa and I struggled to pay for breakfast on our S$20-a-day allowance, let alone the other meals. With little fuss, Roy paid for our meals out of his own pocket, which totally debunk the myth of the skinflint Scot!

He was also honest and unpretentious. Roy loved his scotch - not for him the expensive single malts but one of the cheapest blends of the all, Bells. His reasoning. "Why would they want to blend if the single malts were good enough?". Roy also loved horses and he and then SPH chief operating officer Denis Tay could often be found on weekends at the Turf Club.

Beyond the office, "Roy's most enduring and endearing legacy is that he will live on in our hearts. And there's nary (this is a word which often crossed Roy's lips) a person who will not say that here's a man who was larger than life," said Mr Tye, who now lives in Australia.

  • Conrad Raj is a former BT senior correspondent