Crossing paths with Colin McSeveny
Friday 31 July 2020
Just a post script to the sad news of Colin McSeveny's passing, which I only became aware of the other day through the Baron pages.
I shared professional experiences with Colin twice, in two periods separated by a long time. In 1983, when he was correspondent in Havana and I was the incumbent in Caracas, we covered the Grenada invasion from the different vantage points. Colin followed the strong Cuban presence on the Caribbean island which, added to the Marxist government in place at the time, led Ronald Reagan to send in troops, just 10 years after exiting Vietnam. The US goal was to evict the Cubans, restore order and prevent the spread of communism in the Caribbean. My role was covering the story from the US side, with the American military giving the customary strong spin on their activities. The "hundreds of Cuban soldiers" duly turned out to be construction workers. However, we were shown large weapons stashes found by US troops on the island and there was some fighting. I was lucky enough to get a 22-minute beat on the first news of the US invasion and Colin was 18 minutes ahead on Cuban resistance ending.
Twenty-four years later, both of us by then having left Reuters, our paths crossed again. Colin was communications director at ScottishPower, after a stint at the Glasgow Herald (after leaving the paper he handed over to Robert Powell, another Reuters stalwart who was also my colleague in the Caracas bureau in the early 1980s). By then (2007), I was in charge of international media relations at Spanish power company Iberdrola, which was in the process of buying ScottishPower. The cultural challenges of a Spanish company taking over a Scottish one were, to say the least, challenging, but it was enormously refreshing to work with Colin's no-nonsense Glaswegian approach to communication. It was also a great help that Colin was fluent in Spanish. He was great fun to be with on the job, and off it, and our shared experience as Reuters men helped us to cut through some of the froth you face in corporate situations. After ScottishPower Colin worked with the Smiths group but continued to stay in touch. He leaves us tragically early. Memories of Colin are memories of a bygone age in Reuters, the "family" news agency. ■