IT’S been a tough week at Mail Towers following the tragic death of our much-loved colleague Paul Watson.
Paul, our Head of News, wrote this column on a weekly basis and his passing has left me with some big shoes to fill.
I first got to know Paul when he was appointed as the Mail’s news editor, and I was his number two.
It was an unlikely partnership, as he was a Mackem with a passion for Celtic, I’m a Geordie who – when it comes to Scottish football – prefers the team from the blue half of Glasgow.
But despite our cultural differences, he used to joke that as he was in the more senior position it was my role to do as I was told, and he quickly mastered the art of delegation when it came to handing me things to do.
He used to backheel more than Ryan Giggs, so it seems fitting in a way that I’ve been given the task of doing this column on a weekly basis.
On a serious note, the volume of messages that have flooded into the Mail since Paul’s death last weekend have been a great comfort to all of us.
People have contacted us from all over the place, not just those who knew Paul in Hartlepool but former contacts and colleagues from across the world.
Regardless of who sent the message, there was no doubting how highly he was thought of both personally and professionally.
Paul’s partner Pauline has also been in touch to pass on her sincere thanks for the messages of goodwill sent to her in the last week.
I had the privilege of writing a tribute piece for Paul for last Tuesday’s Mail, and while I’ve written countless articles about tragedy and death over the years, it’s a tough task when the subject of your piece is the bloke who you’ve sat next to for the last six years.
I could have easily filled three or four pages with tributes from people who wanted to pay their respects, and I’m sure Paul’s popularity will be reflected tomorrow when we gather to say our final farewells at St Mary’s RC Church in Sunderland at 12.05pm.
We’ll then raise a glass or three in his honour afterwards at the Hastings Hill pub, located just off the Chester-le-Street sliproad off the A19, and make sure we give him a send-off to remember.