Scottish newspapers

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In the interwar years there was a marked decrease in the number of newspapers titles published in the UK. Since 1921, morning newspapers had reduced in number from 63 to 41; evening titles from 100 to 84.[1] This was due to a number of factors: increasing costs, more competition, and a modern trend towards larger units in every sphere of life.

By 1947 there were four main newspaper groups: the Daily Mail Group (Northcliffe Newspapers) (10 titles), Kemsley Newspapers (794), Provincial Newspapers (4), and Westminster Press (491). All these groups also owned a number of 'local' weeklies published in association with their morning and evening papers.

The General Strike

It’s not the catchiest headline ever printed but it illustrates one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the Scottish press. May 1926 was a time of extraordinary social upheaval across the UK as a General Strike called by the TUC threatened to grind the country to a halt. Millions of workers - from factory staff to bus drivers - downed tools for nine days in an attempt to force the Government to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for coal miners. Members of the National Union of Journalists joined the action and many of the country’s newspapers were forced to temporarily halt production and leave news stands empty. The editor of the Glasgow Herald, the avowedly anti-socialist Sir Robert Bruce, was determined to defy the strike and the Emergency Press was the result. It was produced on behalf of six newspapers whose staff had walked out - the Glasgow Herald, Daily Record, Bulletin, Glasgow Evening News, Evening Times and Citizen - and took a firm pro-Government stance. Several unions, with the assistance of striking journalists, produced their own newspapers to counter it.[2]

Biggest newspapers in 1939

Newspaper circulations for August 1939, the last month of peace before the Second World War, were:

/Missing the Mirror etc?/

  1. Daily Express: 2,543,274
  2. Daily Herald: 2,000,000+
  3. Daily Mail: 1,525.939
  4. News Chronicle: 1,298,757[3]

Sunday newspapers:

  1. News of the World
  2. People
  3. Sunday Pictorial
  4. Sunday Express
  5. Sunday Dispatch
  6. Sunday Empire News
  7. Sunday Chronicle
  8. Sunday Graphic
  9. Reynolds News


Daily Express, Sunday Express, Evening Standard (London), Evening Citizen (Glasgow)

The Daily Express was founded in 1900 by C. Arthur Pearson. Pearson bought the Morning Herald and originally called his new title the Daily Express and Morning Herald (the latter part of this tide soon disappeared). At the time of its birth it had the distinction of being the only London daily to print news on the front page.

The Daily Express did not achieve anything like the immediate success of the Daily Mail and its existence was a precarious one for many years. Pearson's eyesight went and, in or about 1912, he sold out and retired. In 1913, Pearson's partners sold a substantial interest to Lord Beaverbrook, then Sir Max Aitken MP. At that time its circulation was 277,048 copies a day; it was losing money and its continued existence was uncertain.

With the end of the first Great War Beaverbrook took active control of the paper and, over time, added to his share holding until at one time he owned directly or indirectly nearly 100 per cent.

The coming of the Great War proved the turning point. In the early part of 1917, on account of the shortage of newsprint, Lord Northcliffe reduced the size of the Daily Mail to four pages and increased the price. At the same time the advertising space was restricted to ten columns. The Daily Mail was incomparably the leading advertising medium of the London dailies and the advertisers' demand speedily exceeded the allotted space. Thereafter the surplus flowed to the old Daily News. then to the Daily Chronicle and finally to the Daily Express. It was not very long before the last named had as much advertising as it could accommodate. The Express held back on increasing its cover price until March 1928, and in that period gained quite a number of readers. From then on the Express ceased to lose money and became a paying property. it emerged from the war in 1918 with a circulation of 350,000 to 400,000.

Beaverbrook proceeded to plough back profits to buy new machinery and increase circulation. He invigorated the paper with restless energy and enterprise. Slowly but surely came favourable reactions, and in 1920 the Daily Express was selling 517,465 copies a day. Lord Northcliffe's control of the Daily Mail, meanwhile, had become less certain, and when he died in 1922 the Express had a sale of 793,318 compared with the Mail at 1,784,313.

The Mail reached its high-water mark of those days in 1929 at 1,954,635. Meanwhile the Express had forged ahead so much that the 793,318 of 1922 had become 1,590,336.

The great boom year of 1929 passed, and the decline started. The race went in favour of the Express. In 1933 the Mail averaged 1,772,188, but its rival had done better and was ahead for the first time with an average sale for the year of 1,829,708. In 1936 the Express topped the second million at 2,091,239. For the month of August, in 1939, the last peace month, the Express figures were 2,543,274, and those of the Mail 1,525.939.


The Sunday Express was launched in 1920. In 1947 it ranked as the fourth of the Sunday papers with a sale of 2,574,766 for the month of June.

The Evening Standard came into Lord Beaverbrook's hands after the break up of the Hulton firm in 1923. The Standard was considered the 'quality' evening paper of London, but its sale of 766,806 was 300,000 below that of the Star, and less than half that of the Evening News.

The Beaverbrook chain included the controlling interest in the Glasgow Evening Citizen. In 1947 that firm continued to be a part proprietor, but has nothing to do with the control.

Kemsley Group

National newspapers: Daily Graphic, Sunday Graphic, Sunday Times
Scottish newspapers: Daily Record, Sunday Mail, Evening News (Glasgow)

Kemsey Newspapers was the largest newspaper group in the UK up until the 1950s. It owned three national titles — the Daily Graphic (761,668), Sunday Graphic (1,154,238), and Sunday Times (556,703). In Scotland it had the Daily Record, Sunday Mail (567,728), and Glasgow Evening News. The policy of the papers was strongly Conservative.

The Kemsley Group was formed in 1924 under the name of Allied Newspapers Ltd. It acquired the Daily Record and Sunday Mail (567,728). It then acquired the Press and Journal and Evening Express in Aberdeen, the only morning or evening journals in that city.

Lord Kemsley became chairman of Allied Newspapers and he and his family owned a large proportion of the ordinary shares. In 1943 he changed the name of the company to Kemsley Newspapers, and each of the papers in the group carried under the title block on the front page the words, "A Kemsley Newspaper". This was a practice known in America but never used in Britain before.

Other newspapers in the group, by 1947, included:

  • Cardiff: Western Mail; South Wales Echo;
  • Manchester: Daily Dispatch (511,680); Sporting Chronicle, Evening Chronicle; Sunday Chronicle (1,163,670); Sunday Empire News (2,033,177);
  • Newcastle: Newcastle Journal; Evening Chronicle; Sunday Sun (200,403); North Mail (Newcastle Daily Chronicle);
  • Blackburn: Northern Daily Telegraph;
  • Middlesbrough: Evening Gazette;
  • Sheffield: Sheffield Telegraph Star;
  • Yorkshire: Yorkshire Evening Press.
"1947 print advert for Kemsley Newspapers' Scottish titles"

Between the late 1930s and late 1940s, Kemsleys became the largest newspaper empire in Britain, with morning, evening, and Sunday papers that included in Glasgow the Daily Record, Evening News, and Sunday Mail; in Aberdeen the Press and Journal and the Evening Express; and in England the Sunday times, Sunday Graphic, several other national Sundays, and paper in half a dozen cities other than London.

The Daily Mirror took over the Daily Record and its sister newspapers from the Kemsley Newspapers in 1955.

The Glasgow Evening News closed in January 1957, and Kemsley Newspapers was bought in 1959 by Lord Thomson.[4]

Daily Mail Group

The Daily Mail was born on 4 May 1896. From 5 December 1946, a Scottish edition was produced in Edinburgh.

As the years went on the title became the most profitable newspaper in the country. Northcliffe wanted a greater circulation more than he wanted money and he was always ready to put back the larger share of the profits into efforts to obtain a wider influence and a larger number of readers.

Right up to the first Great War the Daily Mail maintained a lead over its competitors in every direction. The advertiser admitted its great supremacy over all rivals and its sales were always the highest of any of the London papers. At the end of the war and until Northcliffe died in 1922 its pre-eminence was not seriously threatened.

Until 1928 the Daily Mail " chain " consisted only of the Daily Mail, Evening Mews and Sunday Dispatch.

The Sunday Dispatch, originally the Weekly Dispatch, was one of the oldest newspapers in Great Britain and was formerly owned by Sir George Newnes.

Daily Mirror takes over Daily Record

The Daily Mirror took over the Daily Record and its sister newspapers from the Kemsley Newspapers in 1955


  • 1946–??: Alastair Dunnett

Scottish Daily Express

From the early 1930s the Scottish Daily Express, which had begun to publish in Glasgow in 1929, was beginning to develop and penetrate in Scotland. At that stage there was no Scottish Daily Mail.

George Outram & Co.

In Glasgow the firm of George Outram & Co. owned two morning papers — the Glasgow Herald and The Bulletin? — and one evening paper, the Evening Times. It also had a 49% interest in the Evening Citizen. The Company also owned, or had interest in, a number of weekly journals published in various parts of Scotland.


Some years ago there were two morning newspapers and two evening papers. The Aberdeen Journal and the Evening Express (Conservative) and the Aberdeen Free Press and the Evening Gazette (Liberal). As in the case of so many other towns where there had been two groups of this character, one had the successful evening paper and the other the successful morning. In this case the Evening Express was much ahead of its rival. The Journal for many years was well behind the Free Press in circulation; but before the fusion of the two morning papers, it had actually a larger sale than the Liberal paper.

Evening papers in the provinces and in Scotland were, for some time, invariably more prosperous than the mornings and Aberdeen was no exception.

Finally, there was a fusion of the two owning companies and a joint board. The title of Press and Journal was adopted for the combined morning paper and the Evening Gazette just dropped out. Later the Free Press directors retired and their holdings were purchased by the other side. All this happened long before the papers became the property of a national group.

Circulation of the Press and Journal in 1947 was 58,794.


Courier and Advertiser, Evening Telegraph and Post

The morning Courier, established as a weekly in 1816, and the evening Telegraph, established in 1877, were the property of John Leng & Co Ltd. The morning Advertiser, dating back to 1801, and the evening Post, established in 1900, belonged to the Thomson family. An amalgamation happened at some point.

The Thomsons own a Sunday paper, the Sunday Post, published in Glasgow. They were also the publishers of a large number of periodicals.


Although Edinburgh had fewer newspapers than Glasgow, the capital of Scotland had a great reputation for the reading matter it has produced. The monthly Blackwood's Magazine (1817–1980) and the weekly Chamber's Journal (1832–1956) were among the few journals of the Victorian era and class that survived well into the twentieth century.

The story of Edinburgh's political newspapers is much more chequered. There was Hugh Miller's non-Intrusion Witness, a champion of the Disruption, and within the memory of this generation there was the Courant, also the organ of the Free Church of Scotland, which was conducted on strict Sabbatarian lines so strict that compositors and other workers were not allowed to start work on the Monday issue until after midnight on Sunday.

Started in 1817, the Scotsman became a daily in 1855, and become the nearest approximation to a Scottish national newspaper.

Edinburgh had two evening newspapers, the Evening News (1873) and the Evening Dispatch (1886). The Dispatch was the evening companion to the Scotsman and for some years it had a struggle against the strong, well-run Leftish rival, the News, which belonged to the Provincial group. The News had a great advantage in being first in the field and having an overwhelming number of columns of small advertisements. The Dispatch, like the Scotsman, issued no sales certificate; the Evening News had a circulation of 143,051 in 1947. They merged in 1963 to form the Edinburgh Evening News & Dispatch, later shortened to the Edinburgh Evening News.


The Bulletin, Glasgow Herald, Evening Times

These newspapers were owned by George Outram & Co.

The Glasgow Herald was founded in weekly form as far back as 1783. It had a sale of 91,317 in 1947 and was widely read by serious-minded people. The Bulletin, on the other hand, was a penny paper of the smaller size catering for the multitude (sale 166,603). The Evening Times had easily the largest evening circulation in Scotland, selling 322,555, which was the second highest outside London.

The Glasgow Herald' was edited by Sir Robert Bruce from 1917 to 1936. Although politically Conservative by nature, Bruce often took a independent line and acquired a reputation for fairness. He was a personal friend of Prime Minister Lloyd George.

Daily Record, Evening News, Sunday Mail

Owned by Kemsley Newspapers.

Of the Kemsley group the Daily Record is the morning paper, published in tabloid size, with a sale of 374,190 daily. It was established by the Harmsworths in 1895, a year before the Daily Mail made its appearance. The Evening News has the second of the evening paper sales at 176,516.

The Sunday Mail, with 567,728 circulation, is one of the two Sunday papers issued in Glasgow and sells all over Scotland.

On the retiral of James Murray Smith in 1918, the novelist Neil Munro became editor of the Glasgow Evening News and continued in that role until he retired through ill-health in 1927. Munro, who was most famously the author of Para Handy, died 22 December 1930.[5]

Evening Citizen

Published and controlled by London Express Newspapers: Evening Citizen (49% owned by Outrams)

Outrams were formerly the owners of the Evening Citizen. When the Express announced its intention of starting an evening paper in Glasgow, negotiations between the two firms resulted in Outrams selling to the Express a controlling interest in the Citizen. The Evening Citizen has a circulation of 162,456 a day.

The journalist, author, and playwright George Blake was editor of the Glasgow Evening Citizen from 1940 to 1943.

Sunday Post

Established by Messrs. Thomson of Dundee in 1914, the paper circulated throughout Scotland. No certificate of sales was published.


In addition the London paper, the Daily Express, printed an edition in Glasgow from 1928, called the Scottish Daily Express. In 1947 it issued 536,346 copies daily.

In 1947 the Daily Herald acquired a building for the home of its Scottish edition. The News Chronicle had a similar idea.

The Daily Mail located itself, in Edinburgh at first.

Scottish circulation figures, circa 1947

Scottish morning papers:

  1. Daily Record: 374,190
  2. Bulletin: 166,603
  3. Glasgow Herald: 91,317
  4. Press & Journal: 58,794
  • Figures for the Scotsman and the Dundee Courier & Advertiser were not published.

Scottish Evening papers:

  1. Evening Times (Glasgow): 322,555
  2. Evening News (Glasgow): 176,516
  3. Evening Citizen (Glasgow): 162,456
  4. Edinburgh Evening News: 143,051
  5. Evening Express (Aberdeen): 80,540
  6. Greenock Telegraph: 24,127
  • Figures for the Evening Dispatch (Edinburgh) and the Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post were not published.

Scottish Sunday papers

  1. Sunday Mail: 567,728

Sunday Post (Glasgow) not published.



  1. Camrose, 19. This figure excludes all sectarian, financial, and sporting journals.
  3. Camrose, 40.
  4. Viscount Camrose, British Newspapers and Their Controllers (London: Cassell and Company, 1947)
  5. Biography of Neil Munro, The Neil Munro Society.