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Farewell Crawfie, a great chum and a well-read wise old bird
By PAT WELLAND
Former Daily Mirror news sub Crawford McAfee has died aged 80. His career on a variety of national newspapers spanned 41 years. But he always maintained that the Mirror, where for 27 years he was an admired and much loved stalwart of the desk and middle bench, was his “spiritual home”.
Born in Paisley, Crawford set out to become a chartered account, joining a firm in Glasgow. Fortunately for journalism, the appeal of such a career soon waned and he left after six months. His talent for figures never left him and his detailed knowledge of the complexities of tax and pensions became invaluable in later years for financially confused colleagues and for his work with the BAJ and the Association of Mirror Pensioners.
Entranced by the newspaper world, Crawford was so determined to become a journalist he joined the Glasgow-based Daily Record as a copy boy, surely one of the last to follow that route. Here, he swiftly picked up the trade and, his talents being noticed, was soon elevated to the ranks. By 1962, still a teenager, he was subbing on the Scottish edition of Beaverbrook’s Daily Express. Four years later, he joined the Odham’s Sun, in Manchester, before moving to the Daily Mail and then to Cudlipp’s Daily Mirror in 1968. Crawford always remembered with huge affection his career in the close-knit world of the Manchester nationals where he forged so many friendships (some of his reminiscences of the excesses and eccentricities of those hot metal days in the North were eye-watering). That time of his life was ever close to his heart. Then, in spring, 1976, Crawford moved down to London where he worked at Holborn – and, briefly, Canary Wharf – until he took retirement in 1995. He later worked on the People, the Express, Sun and, finally, the Financial Mail on Sunday, leaving in 2003.
Crawford was a widely-read wise old bird, a consummate professional and a stickler for precision and accuracy. Allied to his natural gift for words, was an immense fund of general knowledge, some of it highly obscure, and an inquiring mind which made him such an asset to the newspaper (colleague Mike Slate, a near neighbour outside Reading, recalled that at one local pub quiz Crawford could answer 51 out of 52 questions). Ever popular and gregarious, and with a laconic sense of humour, he revelled in the spirited pub and Press Club camaraderie of fellow journalists, recalling colourful incidents and peppering his conversation with knowing aphorisms such as “Aye, it’s the squeaking wheel that gets the grease” or – one of his favourites – the more Delphic “Och, it’s one of those,” colleagues being left to decrypt the meaning of this as they saw fit.
Former Mirror Deputy Chief Sub Jonathan Cundy said: “Crawford was utterly reliable and conscientious. He always remained calm amid other hurly-burly of the newsroom and I can’t remember him ever falling out with a colleague.” Former splash sub John Patrick said: “He was terrific company and very funny; the Sage of the Glen full of homespun philosophy.” Mirror Editor ’90-91 Roy Greenslade shared a flat with Crawford in Manchester in 1969. He said: “I was delighted to see him on the subs desk during my editorship. Crawford treated copy with understated care. He was calm, meticulous and reliable – qualities that imbued his bosses with confidence.” Ex-Mirror Deputy Editor Phil Swift, who worked with Crawford in Manchester then moved with him to Holborn, said: “He was kind to younger upstarts such as me, knowledgeable and extraordinarily well read. RIP, Crawfie. You were a fine man.” Others remember “one of the good guys”, “a truly lovely fella”, “one of the best” and “a true original”.
Crawford had a consistently strong concern for the welfare of his colleagues and was a committed member of, first, the NUJ, then later the BAJ where his financial advice was so highly valued. He was elected to the latter’s Executive Committee in 2003, becoming chairman the following year, a post he held for more than ten years. Latterly, he was a valued committee member of the AMP. Sunday MIrrorman Bob Bayliss worked with Crawford at Manchester and on the BAJ executive. He recalled: “I’ll always remember Crawford’s beaming smile gracing the corridors of Withy Grove. He was a hugely popular man, known for his wry wit and humour, and also his no-nonsense approach. It was exactly this latter quality that endeared him to me and fellow BAJ NEC members. Crawford was the genuine article. It was a privilege to have him as a friend.”
Crawford died at home after a period of ill health. He leaves devoted wife Pam, son Boyd, daughters Alison and Katherine and six grandchildren. His funeral will be held at Reading Crematorium at 10.45am on Friday, December 8, with a wake afterwards at The Shoulder of Mutton, Playhatch, RG$ 9QU, five minutes drive from the crematorium. Condolences/tributes can be sent to Crawford’s family at email@example.com
27 November 2023