Craig Orr: Journalist who helped oversee the switch to computer technology
Wednesday 03 December 2008
Not every British journalist is described by colleagues as "one of the nicest men you could meet" but that was a common theme at the funeral of Craig Orr, the Fleet Street stalwart who has died at the age of 71. He managed to help produce national newspapers, in a variety of roles over decades, while preserving his reputation as a modest and agreeable man. "He was so laid back he was practically horizontal," said an editor who knew him well. "But at the same time he got things done, in the nicest possible way. That's not always the way in journalism."
Orr held a variety of posts in a variety of papers in England, both in London and the north. He spent his working life in England but, as a Scot born in Dumfries, his stipulation was that he drank only the whisky of his ancestors, from Speyside.
He was only 16 when he went to Aberdeen University, becoming one of Britain's youngest graduates, in French and Economics, before doing his National Service. He was demobbed in Cyprus and hitch-hiked home across Europe, gaining a mahogany tan which he looked forward to showing off in Scotland. He was slightly crestfallen to discover, however, that Scotland had had one of its hottest summers ever, leaving most just as tanned as he was.
His first job in journalism was with the Evening Telegraph in Blackburn, helping cover Accrington Stanley's football matches. Then he became a sports reporter in Manchester with the News Chronicle. In one incident there Orr over-ambitiously invited a newly arrived cricketer to bowl him a few balls in the nets: the first delivery he never saw, the second hit him on the head and the other thumped him on the arm. It turned out that the cricketer was Roy Gilchrist, a particularly aggressive West Indian Test fast bowler who took no prisoners on or off the pitch.
Orr moved further south, to Fleet Street, working for a year at The Guardian before joining the Evening News in 1965, where in 10 years he worked as assistant editor and sports editor. Spells followed at the Daily Express, where he was night editor, and as the Express's northern editor based in Manchester.
Next he worked with You magazine, part of the Mail on Sunday, then moved with its editor John Leese to the London Evening Standard. There, as managing editor, he helped oversee the switch from hot metal to computerised new technology.
He was also closely involved in the paper's move to Kensington. He was proud of managing this complex task without missing a single edition ofthe paper – especially since the Standard's first day at Kensington coincided with the 1988 Clapham Junction rail disaster. That night he congratulated staff and circulated to them a list of the best pubs close to their new premises.
He retired in 1997. During his lastillness he received an affectionateletter of sympathy from a former colleague who retained fond feelings for him despite the fact that, years earlier, Orr had sacked him. He was married four times, latterly to the Independent journalist Victoria Summerley.
Craig Orr, journalist: born Dumfries 4 September 1937; married four times (two children); died London 19 November 2008.
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