John McDonald: The yawning Gulf

hodgson mcdonald crop

                              TERRIBLE TWINS: John McDonald, right, with Ted Hodgson

ian Bain

Former Daily Express news sub IAN BAIN
recalls an odd encounter with John McDonald 

When I noticed John McDonald heading resolutely in my direction I instinctively ducked behind a pillar. I re-emerged a second later feeling foolish because this was not the editorial floor of the Black Lubyanka but the glittering ballroom of a brand new Dubai hotel.

 “Hello John,” I said, looking over his shoulder in case Ted Hodgson was getting stuck into the elaborate opening-night buffet. “What are you doing here?”

“Hello Ian,” he replied with unusual conviviality but without introducing me to the attractive lady on his arm. “I’m the editor of the Gulf News.”

I don’t recall the exact year but it was some time in the early 1980s. I was running a PR company and the hotel chain was one of my clients. John must have been very new in the job or I’d have known of the appointment.


In those days, the Gulf News was a dreadful rag. Owned at the time by the Sharjah chief of police, it was poverty-stricken, badly written and atrociously subbed. I made some comment about looking forward to seeing a whole new paper and he replied that he had a good bunch of journalists. I felt it best to leave the conversation at that.  

John and his lady wandered off and I never saw him again.  Professionally, I should have invited him to lunch or dinner but the thought of sitting together for the time it took to eat a whole meal filled me with anxiety. 

A few months later I heard he had left Dubai but I never did learn what brought him there in the first place.  I doubt if it was the money. 

*McDonald, who held various senior editorial positions on the Daily Express in London and Manchester, made few friends in the business. He has since passed on to the Great Watering Hole in the Sky – Ed

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