Posted: August 21st, 2022
CHARLIE BEATON, the Daily Record’s three-time Press Awards-winning crime reporter, died in Inverclyde Royal Hospital, Greenock on August 11 , aged 75. He joined the Daily Record in 1963 as a 16-year-old copyboy and was at the paper for more than 40 years.
The word legend is oft bandied about, but Charles Angus Beaton was the real deal as a great crime reporter covering the dark side of Glasgow’s No Mean City.
Charles, Charlie, Cesare – he answered to them all – used a barely understandable patois which was part-Damon Runyon with a sprinkling of Parliamo Italiano and Glesca Scots, in which words such as “caio” and “baby” played a part. He answered to Cesare with ease after it was spun by a private-school educated fellow journalist.
Charlie’s world was of secretive forays in smoke-filled pubs meeting cops or villains, and it was obvious when he was on a “meet” when a bar order could be heard in the background when he phoned the copytakers with his story. They had remarkable success translating the patois.
Malcolm Speed said: “Charlie was a great reporter and good guy. When I was news editor, I felt our lingua franca communication was a real pain, and he mumbled as well. I put up with it because I knew he could turn the paper on any story big or small.
“My predecessor, Fergie Millar – himself a legendary figure (with a short temper) – often exploded at Charlie. Cesare always just shrugged and stayed calm as the cry went up: “Don’t call me baby, and I want briefed in English”.
Charlie was also the “king of collects”, those pick-up pictures from friends or family which can make an exclusive front page.
At the Bank of Scotland Press Awards in 1999 he and his partner in crime, the late Stuart Griffiths – the Griff – won the Journalist Team of the Year prize for their exclusive exposé of Glasgow gangland figure Tam McGraw, known as The Licensee.
The award marked Charlie’s third success. The previous year he was named as Reporter of the Year, along with then chief reporter Anna Smith and deputy chief reporter Ian Ferguson, and in 1980, Cesare was also Reporter of the Year.
Not bad for someone whose newspaper career began on the copy boys’ desk in the early 1960s. He recognised from the start the expectation of a chance to become a reporter.
Old Record colleagues have been lining up to offer their tributes, and recall moments with Charlie. Tom Brown, life vice-president of the AMP, former Daily Record assistant editor and political editor, and who was on the Daily Express crime team in London said: “Another marker of the end of an era. Charlie embodied the best of the front-rank crime reporter. Up with the story, unrivalled contacts, seemingly laid-back but hardworking and a true friend to colleagues.”
Former Daily Record show business writer John Millar remembers Charlie’s patois: “I felt I was in need of a translator so I could fully appreciate the full flow of Charlie’s incredible patter!”
George McKechnie, former Record reporter, and ex-editor of The Herald, spoke of Charlie’s longevity as a frontline reporter. “He was a unique reporter and always remarkably calm. We sometimes use the word legend – well for his style and successes Charlie deserves it. Another gone. Sad hardly covers it.”
Anna Smith, now a successful author, said: “Everyone who knew Charlie – journalists, police, villains – will have a story about him. He was a top operator who charmed every company he ever graced. I recall being in awe of this big guy who had the ability get on the inside of the crime stories that are now part of Glasgow folklore. RIP Charlie.”
David Tattersall, a former Record assistant editor and an AMP Committee member, said: “I don’t think I understood anything Charlie said for my first five years in Scotland, apart from the word ‘drink’. He was some character.”
Former Record features writer Sandra Ratcliffe recalls being sent out with Charlie to be shown the ropes on how to get a collect picture. She says Charlie mumbled something to a bruiser at a flat, then a photograph was produced, and Charlie was off down the stairs, leaving her fleeing in his wake. She added: “When he got married, he was delighted that his honeymoon hotel had a pool. When we thought of a swimming pool he advised it was a pool table. Only Charlie would want to play pool on honeymoon.”
Norman Macdonald, a former news desk executive said: “We have run out of superlatives to describe Charlie Beaton’s abilities as a crime reporter. He would disappear for hours, and on his eventual return to the newsroom as deadline approached he’d be about to get a sherricking from the news desk. That was until he would delve into his inside jacket pocket and, with a theatrical flourish like a poker ace showing a royal flush, would produce five exclusive collect photographs, and once again be hero of the day. There was no one like Cesare, and there never will be.”
Charlie will be sadly missed but never forgotten. Caio, Charlie baby.
Charlie’s wife Phyllis pre-deceased him some years ago. We send condolences to Charlie’s sons, Kirk and Rory, and to all of his family.