Scotsman’s Aitken tees up retirement

Mike Aitken, the SJA’s regional sportswriter of the year for 2007, has announced his retirement after a 36-year career with The Scotsman.

It is not known whether Aitken is retiring early as part of the on-going cut-backs at the Johnston Press-owned Edinburgh newspaper group, which also includes the Evening News and Scotland on Sunday, where 30 redundancies were first announced a year ago and other jobs have been merged into a seven-day operation since.

Aitken joined the paper in 1973 as a trainee and rose to the role of chief sports correspondent, before more recently working as golf correspondent, “which fulfilled my own dreams”.

Last week, The Scotsman carried a valedictory piece, in which Aitken admitted to a weakness of the Hearts:

The journalist’s job is to report and interpret, not to cheer. While I’ve been pretty faithful to this maxim over the years… it was watching Heart of Midlothian win their first trophy for 35 years which really strained my neutrality.

I’d stood on the terracing with my late father when Hearts won the League Cup at Hampden in 1963. Sitting in the press box at Celtic Park in 1998 alongside Martin Dempster of the Edinburgh Evening News, there was an involuntary dig into Martin’s thigh when Stephane Adam secured Hearts’ second goal in a 2-1 win over Rangers. If my upper body was a mask of calm, my feet were dancing.

That, surely, is a set of emotions familiar to many other SJA members.

But it was as a golf writer that Aitken says he enjoyed some of his finest experiences, including before the 2007 Open at Carnoustie, where he walked a round “shoulder to shoulder” with the previous Championship winner on that course, Paul Lawrie.

“You can’t ask a tennis writer to knock up with Andy Murray but, on a brisk spring morning, the first Scot since Tommy Armour in 1931 to win the Open on home turf partnered the man from The Scotsman to a comfortable win over a pair of correspondents representing English titles. A wee bit of a fiddle? Perhaps.

“As our match drew to an end, Lawrie tossed down a ball on the 18th fairway close to the spot where he struck one of the best 4-irons in Carnoustie’s history, a telling blow over the Barry Burn which ran with such gentle momentum towards the cup. Older and wiser, another shot soared into the grey Angus sky. After the clubhead met the ball, you could still hear the echo of glory.”

Aitken thoroughly enjoyed another echo of glory last month, when he was able to witness one of his all-time heroes, Tom Watson, come so close to regaining the Open title. For Aitken, his final Open was a welcome way to end his career. “You have no thought of leaving,” he writes, “until it’s time to go.”

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