A highly respected journalist whose “wonderful” weekly newspaper columns had the ability to make his readers both laugh and cry will continue to help people even after his death from prostate cancer.
Described as “a wonderful writer” and “a philosopher” by former editor Magnus Linklater, a collection of 50 of Fordyce Maxwell’s finest Scotsman articles has been published by his family to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.
In When Trees Were Green, Fordyce – who died last year aged 77 – jokingly compares his own cricketing career to that of Don Bradman, recounting the time a “perfect cut” ended up through the kitchen window and into a pan of boiling soup being prepared by his mother; and also when he opened a public speaking engagement for Jack Charlton, pondering whether the majority of the audience were there to see the World Cup winner or to see him – a Kelso Cup winner.
He also writes movingly about all his daughter Jacqueline’s first day at university and, most poignantly, about the Dunblane massacre, suggesting that all bereaved parents can do is “keep on keeping on” was one of the few things he could write about with certainty after his elder daughter, Susie, was murdered in 1982.
Fordyce’s son Tom, who edited the book, said: “One of my dad’s many gifts was his ability to write about any subject, from tragedy to politics to war to simple things like a school trip or a local football match, all with a beautiful, understated prose. He never needed to sensationalise.
“He would leave his many loyal readers laughing one minute and crying the next. But he was every bit as wonderful – if not more so – as a father and a husband, and we still can’t quite believe he’s no longer with us. But with this book, we will still hear his voice, laugh with him and cry with him, and he’d been so proud that, even after he’s gone, his many wise words will still be helping people to get through life.”
Tom said his father’s experience with prostate cancer will sound far all too familiar and that he hoped it would serve as a warning to others.
He said: “My dad was very fit for his age and showed none of the typical signs of early prostate cancer. He would easily put people 20 years younger to shame and even went for an 11-mile hike in the Cheviots just a week before he was admitted to hospital just before Christmas in 2019, unable to walk due to previously undetected spinal tumours.
“He had gone to the doctor several times over the previous 18 months with back and shoulder pain, only to be sent away for physio rather than a scan. But if a pain can’t be explained, it could be something serious.
“We’ll never know for sure, but I think there’s a good chance he could have been with us for a few more years if his cancer had been caught sooner.
“His youngest grandchild, Thomas, had only just turned one when my dad died, so those few years could have been the difference between him knowing and not knowing his granddad, who was one of the kindest, most affable and bravest people you could ever hope to meet.”
After beginning his second stint as the Scotsman’s Farming Editor in 1989 after 12 years on the family farm, Fordyce was given his chance to shine with a weekly column in the news pages by then editor Magnus Linklater.
During his years as a freelance on the farm, he also wrote regularly for, among others, The Herald, The Journal and The Sunday Post. He was awarded an MBE for Services to Journalism in 1995.
Roddy Forsyth, the former BBC Five Live Scottish football correspondent and a big fan of Fordyce’s, said: “To open a Fordyce Maxwell column is like sitting down with an old friend over a coffee or glass of wine. You don’t know where the conversation will lead but it is guaranteed to be lively, droll and thought provoking – and invariably leaves you looking forward to your next encounter.”
Seren Evans, Head of Events and Community Fundraising at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “We’re so grateful for the support of Tom and the Maxwell family in producing this collection of Fordyce’s wonderful work and raising vital funds for Prostate Cancer UK. Money raised will go towards funding ground-breaking research towards a screening programme, so we can catch prostate cancer early and save lives.
“Fordyce’s story shows why it is so important for men to know about their risk of prostate cancer and what they can do about it. So remember, men are at higher risk if they are over 50, Black or have a father or brother who has had prostate cancer. Anyone with concerns can search ‘check my risk’ today and take our 30-second online risk checker.”
When Trees Were Green – The Scotsman Articles of Fordyce Maxwell is priced £15 and is available from www.fordycemaxwell.com