Tributes flood in for a “hard act to follow”

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SINCE the tragic news of Steve Mitchell’s death first broke on Sunday morning, people from all walks of life have been quick off the mark in paying tribute to “Mr Brechin”.

Council leaders, footballers, young and old alike took the opportunity to pay their own respects for a larger than life character who lived and breathed all things Brechin.

Joining those on Monday was Angus Provost, Councillor Ruth Leslie Melville, who made a personal visit to the Brechiner office.

In a statement issued later in the day she said: “This is one of the saddest tasks that I have undertaken in a long time, writing condolences for a man – husband, father and son – who has been taken from us far too young.

“I am writing as a local councillor, as Provost of Angus but most of all as a chum of Steve Mitchell. Never in a thousand years could I have imagined that I would be writing in memory of Steve. It just feels wrong.

“I have known Steve for many years and we enjoyed a robust relationship which was good and healthy for us both.

“Steve had suffered from diabetes for many years and he used to say that his support for Stracathro Hospital grew out of his deep gratitude for the way he was cared for as a youngster coming to terms with that difficult condition.

“When the hospital came under threat about 15 years ago, he was a staunch supporter of the struggle to keep it open and his delight when Stracathro was saved was immense. Since that time he has published the story of Stracathro for everyone to read and appreciate.

“When he married Kymm last year it brought a deeper happiness into his life and he often spoke with pride and pleasure about her and their joint family. I offer them my personal condolences, those of our local community and also those of the people of the County of Angus.

“Perhaps Steve will be best remembered as a fanatical supporter of Brechin City. I will not say that he was biased towards the City but it was a black day when things were not going Brechin’s way.

“There was euphoria in the Brechiner office when the City was on a high. Nobody could doubt his loyalty and love for Brechin which was clearly visible in all he wrote about our wee City.

“People speak about someone being a ‘hard act to follow’ - on this occasion that is completely true. We will miss you Steve. You lived a productive, worthwhile and interesting life and you are a great loss to your community.”

Also joining in the tributes were fellow Brechin councillors Bob Myles, leader of the Administration, and Mairi Evans.

Councillor Myles said: “I was obviously very saddened to hear of the untimely demise of Steve.

“He was a great character who had Brechin truly at heart.

“We maybe differed occasionally politically but had very healthy discussions.

“I treated him as a great friend and am sad to lose him.

“I had quite a lot of dealings with him. We didn’t often agree but had very hearty and forthright discussions; it was great we could see each other’s point of view and I welcomed his discussions.”

Councillor Evans also spoke of her shock at Steve’s sudden death.

She said: “I still can’t believe that Steve isn’t here and I was deeply shocked to hear of his passing.

“I was in regular contact with Steve and always found him to be fair, honest and equal in his reporting of news.

“Steve was also one of the most passionate Brechiners you could meet. His passion and care for the town were obvious both in the way he reported stories and in the way he actively tried to make things better.

“Steve was an absolute pleasure to work with and he will be sorely missed. This a very sad loss to Brechin and my thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family.”

Speaking on behalf of the Angus Council SNP Group, secretary Paul Valentine said: “It was with regret that we were informed of the untimely passing of Mr Steve Mitchell.

“As a Reporter with the Brechin Advertiser, any member of our group who had reason to deal with Steve found him to be very professional, honest, fair and a thoroughly nice person to know.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends, for whom we send our most heartfelt condolences.”

Steve’s commitment to nurturing the talents of aspiring journalists was acknowledged by Steve Dempsey, Head Teacher at Brechin High School.

Reflecting on Steve’s role at the Brechiner he said: “The school has built up strong links with the Brechin Advertiser over the last four years since Steve returned as Chief Reporter.

“He was always keen to support the school and report on the range of activities involving pupils. He recognised the value of education and often talked about teachers who had inspired him as a pupil, including Dick Rawlinson, who was his English teacher.

“He always ensured articles involving pupils and associated photographs were given a high profile position in the Brechiner. We worked closely together on issues which we both felt should be shared with the local community.

“Over the last few years Steve helped to provide quality work experience for our senior pupils to get first hand experience of being a reporter. Two of these pupils have since gone on to study journalism at university, which is a tribute to the impact that Steve had during their work experience.

“The school had recently nominated The Brechin Advertiser for a Partnership Excellence Award. Steve was delighted that the collaborative work between the school and the paper was being recognised.

“We both shared a love of football and cricket and over the years shared some stories. He will be sorely missed in his role with the Brechiner and will leave a huge pair of shoes to be filled.”

Former Brechin councillor Joy Mowatt, who knew Steve both personally and in his professional capacity, said she was honoured to consider him a friend.

“His ambition to see that Brechin got the best deal possible shone through his work for the Brechiner and his membership of Brechin City Football Club board,” she said.

“Steve was a great family man with a mischievous sense of humour.

“He was a campaigning journalist and could be tough but always fair.

“Some people accused him of political bias but I can assure you that it didn’t feel like that when he challenged you about a decision he thought was wrong.

“I always gave him the respect of returning his phone calls even although I might be expecting a challenging discussion.

“Steve was respected by politicians across the political divide, but I dare say there were a few who didn’t like him because they couldn’t stand up to the questioning.

“For some years he was a member of Brechin and District Patients’ Association and a fierce supporter of the campaign to save Stracathro.

“Steve had his own health problems so he was well placed to understand health issues that were brought to him at the Brechiner.

“To sum him up I would say he was a Brechiner heart and soul.

“Brechin has lost a true son and the Brechin Advertiser a good colleague, who has left a difficult pair of shoes to fill.

“He will be sorely missed by many. My condolences to his family and colleagues. Rest in peace, Steve.”