End of an era as long-serving West Highland Free Press editor retires

Ian McCormack retires this week after overseeing the production of 2,290 editions of the Free Press across a 44-year period.

An end of an era is being marked at the West Highland Free Press this week as long-serving editor Ian McCormack retires after almost 44 years in the post.

Having first cut his teeth in journalism at the Kilmarnock Standard and Glasgow Herald, Ian joined the Free Press as a reporter in October 1975, before being quickly promoted a few months later to replace the departing Calum Neish.

Ian’s appointment was heralded with a short, simple message on the front page of WHFP issue number 203, but that eight-page paper, published on Friday 19th March 1976, would begin a remarkable run which now totals 2,290 editions at the helm. 

At a rough estimate, Ian will have edited over 60,000 pages and looked over 75 million words during a four-decade period in which the Free Press came to establish itself as part of the fabric of weekly life in Skye, Lochalsh, Wester Ross and the Western Isles.

As editor, he has overseen coverage of dozens of celebrated stories, as well as countless numbers of community and school campaigns, local events and simple human-interest tales.

The rise and fall of Kishorn; a Toll Bridge to Skye; the collapse of BCCI; land reform and local ownership and the fight for better recognition for Gaelic have all been captured, documented and debated in the newspaper under Ian’s ever-watchful eye.

After moving north in the 70s Ian also became a quick convert to shinty, and reporting from venues up and down the country became a real labour of love.

Ian looks over the first edition of the Free Press produced during his tenure as editor.

Among the highlights brought to life on the back pages, thanks to Ian’s coverage were Skye’s historic Camanachd Cup triumph of 1990 – as featured in the WHFP’s first colour supplement – Lochcarron’s rise through the leagues and Kinlochshiel’s transformation from yo-yo club to premiership champions.

There are also very many journalists whose careers owe a great debt to the training, advice and patient counsel offered to them by Ian through the years.

Free Press managing director Paul Wood paid tribute, saying: “Anyone who knows Ian well will know how understated he is and that he’ll hate any fuss to be made over his retirement. That won’t stop me from not only paying tribute to Ian’s unswerving loyalty and commitment to the Free Press over a 45-year career, 44 of those as editor, but also praising Ian’s central, often overlooked, part in the paper’s longevity, reputation and success.

“He has served this paper and our community with distinction. His contribution to Highland and Island life is immeasurable. An appointment of a new editor will be announced in the coming weeks.”