Alex Massie

Alan Ruddock, 1960-2010

Text settings

I suppose that relatively few people in England knew Alan Ruddock, who died from a heart attack on Sunday aged just 49, but in Scottish and Irish journalistic circles he was a considerable figure.

As Kevin Myers reminds us, he defied the IRA as editor of the Sunday Times's Irish edition. Later, as Stewart Kirkpatrick remembers, he was a very fine editor of the Scotsman, presiding over the paper and its coverage of the first elections to the new Scottish parliament in 1999.

Later still, and foolishly, the Irish Times declined to give Alan the chance to edit the old lady of d'Olier St. Their loss. Instead he wrote a weekly column for the Sunday Independent in which, with more foresight than most commentators, he repeatedly warned that Ireland faced just the kind of fiscal crisis that has indeed overwhelmed it. His final column, published on Sunday, is a model (and persuasive) example of Alan's cogent, sceptical style.

There are many not-so-young-anymore journalists in Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere who owe Alan a great deal. He was prepared to take chances on young talent and generous enough to forgive the whippersnappers their failures too.

He was a proper liberal - in terms of both social and economic policy - and, above all, a proper gentleman too. That was apparent in his generosity, whether at the bar or to visitors at the Ruddocks' home in County Carlow.

Style was indeed one of Alan's attributes. One could easily imagine him, in other circumstances, as a cavalry officer of the old school. His humour was often dry but always mischievous. He had little time for humbug, cutting through it with laconic wit. But there was plenty of passion there as well, even if it was cloaked by a sly measure of under-statement. And there was always charm too. Plenty of that.

At the Sunday Independent Alan played as an all-rounder, writing the splash for last week's paper, a column and two sports stories. Leinster rugby and cricket were twin passions outranked only by his wife, Jackie, and their three fine sons, Matthew, Danny and Cameron.

If there's a good way to die, then dying doing something you love may be the least bad way to go. Alan collapsed while batting for Halverstown CC on Sunday. The last time I saw Alan, at the wedding of one of his proteges in Sligo last month, he was in rare form and eagerly looking forward to the new cricket season.

As Peter Oborne - whose own cricket team has been visiting Alan and Halverstown annually for 20 years - puts it: "He lived his life as he played his cricket - with elegance, with honesty, with deep understanding and with an understated passion." Quite so.

A good man and a fine friend who will be missed by many and rightly so since there was so much to Alan and so much more for him yet to do and give.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.