Jackie Bird: Celebrating 25 Years at Reporting Scotland

By Louise Sayers
BBC Scotland

  • Published
Jackie Bird toasts Hogmanay

Jackie Bird, the face of BBC Scotland news, has signed off after 30 years presenting the flagship Reporting Scotland programme. Five years ago, on her 25th anniversary, Jackie spoke about her memorable moments.

For the woman who has been one of the best known faces on Scottish television, starting work on the flagship BBC news programme was a dream come true.

And one that Jackie Bird had already tried her luck at 10 years before.

"I had gone to the boss when I was 16 and still at school and said, 'I want a job with you'. That's how keen I was. And he said that's fine, but go away and get some experience.

"So between 16 and 26 I kept meeting him at various times and saying, 'Right, I work for DC Thomson now; I'm a news reporter at Radio Clyde; I work in newspapers; I write for the Evening Times; I'm writing for The Sun; I'm working in television. And every time he said that was still not enough experience.

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Jackie considers her job 'an enormous privilege'

"But 10 years later I eventually got the job. I walked in the first day and it was the programme that I'd grown up with so it was surreal that I was really there."

What are her memories of that first day?

"I was terrified," she said. "On my first shift, I was on with John Milne who was a legend in Scottish broadcasting so there was a certain amount of pinching myself.

"But I think you have to carry on no matter how intimidated you feel because professionalism takes over.

"You may feel very very nervous but you've got such a prestigious job and you are able to overcome those nerves. As soon as the intro music kicked in, then everything was fine."

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Jackie Bird announced as the new Reporting Scotland presenter in October 1989
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Already one of the most recognised faces on Scottish television by 1994
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Jackie reported from the scene of the Dunblane shootings in 1996

From the BBC's coverage of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and Dunblane school shootings in 1996, to the devolution referendum in 1997 and more recently the Scottish independence referendum, Jackie has been a constant at the forefront of Scottish news and current affairs.

To quote Andrew Browne, the current editor of Reporting Scotland: "Any kind of landmark event in the last 25 years, Jackie will have done it."

As Jackie recounts: "There are so many standout memories. The only way I can describe it is that I've had a ringside seat in Scottish life with key Scottish players and it's been such a privilege."

Having covered a number of stories of huge international importance, Jackie was once again at the front of the BBC Scotland's referendum coverage, hosting the overnight results programme alongside political heavyweight Glenn Campbell.

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Covering the story of Scottish devolution in 1997
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Jackie has made three visits to Afghanistan

How does she describe working on the referendum?

"Challenging, exciting, demanding. It was a frenetic year really, and I'm so proud to have been part of it all."

While most people will know Jackie as the face of Reporting Scotland, she has a substantial body of other work under her belt at BBC Scotland.

She tells me that presenting the annual Hogmanay programme and fronting documentaries - with topics ranging from the story of 32-year-old Brian MacKinnon who attended school in Bearsden posing as a 17-year-old Canadian orphan, to the recent referendum documentary What Women Want - are a "lovely break" from the cut and thrust of daily news.

But it is the 1993 documentary she filmed with sprinter Cameron Sharp about his fightback following a horrific car crash, which left him physically and mentally disabled, that Jackie counts as her proudest work.

"To be allowed into the family's life at such a difficult time was such a privilege.

"After his daughter Lynsey Sharp won her silver at the Commonwealth Games, she came in to the Reporting Scotland studios. To see her with that combination of her mother's determination and her father's grit - this is a girl who's nappy I had changed - it was almost a full circle."

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Holyrood to Hollywood as Jackie meets Sir Sean Connery at the Scottish parliament and reports from the red carpet at the Oscars
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One of the highlights of this year was covering events surrounding the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

And what is it about her job that has kept Jackie as enthusiastic and passionate about her work today as she was 25 years ago.

"I find myself in remarkable situations.

"I found myself in the Hollywood Hills, I found myself on the red carpet in LA and I found myself at the Oscars.

"I've been in Afghanistan three times - flying over Helmand in a Chinook, strapped into a rather rickety seat with the doors open and a rear gunner thinking, 'Oh my word, this is different to reporting on a party conference!'.

"It has been a varied life and continues to be. And for me that's the drug that makes the job so addictive."