At the age of 70, former Daily Express news sub Ian Bain is going back to school. The Scot, who left school at the age of 15 without as much as an O level, said: “I felt it was about time I completed my education.”
He has enrolled at Edinburgh College to study counseling. “With two divorces behind me and now in a very happy 20-year third marriage, I always thought I’d be good at relationship counseling,” he joked. “But the truth is I have American qualifications that don’t count for much in this country. I need to get a UK certification.”
Bain attended 13 schools between the ages of five and 15, mostly in Scotland but the last one was in Gravesend, Kent. “We were mainly trying to stay a step ahead of the bailiffs or chasing after my father whose disappearing acts were better than Houdini’s. We became experts at the moonlight flit. I remember we once flitted on the day I was to star in the school play.
“The Gordon Secondary Modern School for Boys was the worst in the North Kent area and didn’t do anything like O levels because it didn’t think its pupils were good enough to pass them. I’d been smart enough to take shorthand and typing at night school, and at 16 I was court-reporting for the Kent Messenger most days of the week and licking the labels on subscription copies of the newspaper on Fridays. I can still taste the glue.”
After three years in weekly journalism, Bain spent another three traveling the world in cargo ships before he joined the subs’ desk on the Western Morning News in Plymouth. From there he went to Argentina as night editor of the English-language Buenos Aires Herald where he also became a stringer for the Express.
“In 1967 Sir Francis Chichester (pictured right), who’d been sown up by The Times, was rounding Cape Horn. The Express had sent the entire New York office, led by David English, down to Punta Arenas on the Chilean side. Unfortunately, there was a communications failure that went on for days and they couldn’t get a word out.”
“In the meantime, I was getting good stuff from the Argentine Coastguard which earned me the splash in the Express. Two years later I was being interviewed in London for a sub’s job by managing editor Eric Raybould who found the story so amusing he sent for English, then foreign editor, to join us. English did not find it at all funny but I think it clinched the job.”
Bain’s five years on the Express ended when he joined the rush for voluntary redundancy in 1974 and he went on to spend two miserable years on the Telegraph. “I knew it was time to leave the Telegraph when I started thinking of ways to kill Peter Eastwood, the obnoxious managing editor.”
From Fleet Street, Bain headed for the Middle East to set up a new English-language newspaper. “That’s a story that really is worthy of a book but no-one would believe it.” He saw the opportunity for a good PR firm and left the newspaper a year later to establish Bain Communications in Dubai.
“For two decades or more, it was the most successful PR company in the region, covering 10 countries and with clients like Airbus, General Motors, the Government of Dubai, Philip Morris, Sheraton Hotels, Emirates Airline, BAE Systems, Intel, Samsung and many other blue chip names. I ran it like a newsroom, filling it with English and Arab journos who had the rare ability to work well with clients and I also had senior PR pros who knew how to put long-term client strategies into place.
“I sold the business in 2002 for a considerable amount and was very embarrassed when many of the top clients left not long after me. The new management was not able to overcome that and the firm collapsed a couple of years later. It was very sad. We were the first and the best in the region. Now there are more than 140.”
Nonetheless, Bain was glad to get out. His attention had turned to something very different - exploring the Self. “I wanted to know what made me – and others – tick. So I signed up for an American college that focused, among other things, on psycho-dynamics, but my lack of schooling nearly stopped me in my tracks. The college demanded ‘proof of education’ which I couldn’t provide. So in my mid-fifties I had to sit with a bunch of teenage drop-outs for a GED, the equivalent of a high school diploma.”
Bain spent 12 years studying and ultimately teaching various aspects of the Self and the healing of erroneous belief systems that come from childhood. Nowadays, back in Scotland, he runs workshops and lectures on psycho-dynamics and self-awareness and recently returned from Dubai where his one-day workshop on Meeting the Needs of the Inner Child was so over-subscribed he had to run it again the following day.
He also works through Barnardo’s as a volunteer mentor to a disadvantaged young boy and is currently involved in explaining children’s rights to classrooms of 10-year-olds in the Edinburgh area. “It’s great fun … keeps me young.”
A fanatical salmon fly fisherman, his annual pilgrimages to the great salmon rivers of Iceland will be improved by very recent hip replacement surgery. “I’m coming along in leaps and bounds and will be ready for the riverbank in no time,” he said.