Respected TV and newspaper journalist Bert Ovenstone has died aged 70.
The former head of news and current affairs at Grampian Television was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease last year.
In his final months Bert’s sons looked after him at home.
But sadly, the ex-Press and Journal night news editor succumbed to the effects of the degenerative illness passing away on Wednesday, November 10 at Wyvis House, Dingwall.
Robert Burns Ovenstone – known as Bert – was born on April 14, 1951 in Craigtoun Hospital just outside St Andrews.
He was the son of shop worker Anne and Josiah, who worked for a bus company.
The eldest of three boys, he and brothers Bill and David, were raised in Cupar.
However, Bert’s father died when he was still a teenager.
Dealing with grief but taking his responsibilities very seriously, he stepped into the role of ‘man of the house’.
After primary school Bert attended Bell Baxter High School not too far from where the family lived on the Bonnygate.
A love of golf began in his youth and it continued throughout his life with an eventual single figure handicap.
He also enjoyed football – both watching and playing – and later became a referee at junior level.
As he got older he took up badminton and ran marathons.
As well as making an annual pilgrimage to wherever the golf Open was being staged in the UK that year.
With family friends in the financial sector, it was almost expected that Bert would make use of those connections and begin a career in banking.
However, his real passion was for the news.
He secured a job with the Fife Herald as a trainee reporter straight from school.
Loved his job
In the early 1970s Bert moved to Aberdeen for a job at The Press and Journal as senior reporter.
He loved his time at the newspaper and was an instinctive and natural journalist.
He was fortunate to work with a group of colleagues that he described as some of the smartest and most quick-witted people in the business.
Bert enjoyed the culture and comradery of the time, where reporters socialised outside of the newsroom and made friends for life.
Murders and a meticulous eye
During his time reporting in Aberdeen Bert was involved in covering multiple serious events.
He reported on the murders of Dr Brenda Page, toddler Julie King, taxi driver George Murdoch and Buchan postmistress Dorothy Park.
He also interviewed spree killer Robert Mone from Dundee, at HM Aberdeen Prison, then called Craiginches.
And during the 1970s covering the annual Gaelic Mod.
Bert was known for his eye for detail and technical information.
This skill aided him when he and Mitch Reid were designated reporters covering the fatal accident enquiry into the 1986 chinook crash which claimed 45 lives.
The inquiry lasted for weeks, and he was exhausted because of the amount of very detailed information being discussed.
But it was important to Bert that the findings into such a tragic accident were reported accurately.
Bert was also proud to be an official within the National Union of Journalists Chapel at Aberdeen Journals Ltd.
Bert met his wife, Susan, within the newsroom at the Press and Journal and the couple went on to have three sons before later divorcing.
Paul who is now 40 and married to Inga, Nicol who sadly died in infancy, and Ross, 35, who is married to Catriona.
Bert was looking forward to the arrival of his first grandchild – Ross and Catriona’s baby – due in February.
Ross said: “ We were very lucky children.
“Dad provided us with a safe home, good schooling, lots of fun and opportunities to try many new things, activities, visits to interesting places and foreign holidays.”
In January 1988 Bert left his newspaper role to join Grampian television’s news desk.
Working behind the scenes, organising and allocating stories he later became head of news and current affairs.
He also spent a brief time in PR for Grampian TV, and with STV, before returning to the Press and Journal as night news editor.
He retired five years ago at 65.
When he wasn’t enjoying his eclectic music collection he loved to walk and to watch sport, either on TV or at live events.
Tynecastle to Pittodrie
Going to football matches with his sons was a firm favourite pass time.
Although he didn’t support Aberdeen until just 20 years ago.
Bert started life as a Hearts fan because his mum was born in Gorgie where Tynecastle Park is.
But a decision to get rid of John Robertson saw him trade a maroon scarf for Aberdeen’s red and white instead.
He was also a member of Bon Accord Golf Club.
Motor Neurone Disease
Still a newspaper man who bought and read a paper every day, he moved from Aberdeen to North Kessock in 2019 to be near family.
But just one year ago he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
Paul and Ross cared for their dad in his home for as long as they could until he went into the care home where he died.
The condition has become more widely known about following high profile campaigns by sportsmen Doddie Weir and Rob Burrow, the ‘ice bucket challenge’ and awareness campaigns in recent years.
Legacy lives on
A celebration of Bert’s life took place on Tuesday, November 23.
The boys have also set up a fundraising page for MND Scotland in recognition of the support the charity provides for those who have the illness and their carers, including Bert and his family.
However, his journalistic legacy remains.
During Bert’s career he was instrumental in helping take his newsrooms through changes in practice and technology.
And he was also a great supporter of young journalists at the start of their careers.
Rebecca Buchan, who heads up the City and Aberdeenshire news team at The Press and Journal said: “Bert was a wonderfully talented and patient news editor who spent many an evening helping me improve my copy.
“The wisdom and kindness he showed me, and all other trainees who were keen to learn, was invaluable.
“I can honestly say I would not be the journalist I am today without his teachings.”
It’s a sentiment shared by former Press and Journal staff.
Mitchell Reid and wife, Kate Sutherland who began working with Bert said Bert was a great friend and colleague.
“He was highly respected and liked by everyone he worked with, at the P&J, Grampian TV, STV and back at the paper.
“Bert always went the extra mile to share his journalistic skills with trainees who all admired and liked him.”
Paul added: “We have received many messages from journalists recalling support and guidance Dad gave them.
“His job was very important to him and he firmly believed it was an honour to accurately inform people about current news and affairs.”