TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Barrhead News journalist who has passed away at the age of 73.

Jim Coffey was described by former reporter colleagues as a "gentleman" after a career that stretched 36 years.

Born in Bellshill on March 6, 1947 to James and Sarah, Jim initially studied to be a priest before being introduced to a college magazine. Once he got hooked into its production, he began his journalism career.

He served as a reporter on The Weekly News and did some work for the Sunday Post from 1970 to 1973, then worked as Scottish editor of The Universe until 1977. Jim then became managing editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer until 1990 when he moved to The Gazette and Barrhead News newspapers.

Jim retired in 2006 but then became an active bingo caller and president of the Tannochside And Bredisholm Miners Club in Uddingston for a number of years until his death.

Barrhead News: Jim with his wife, MaryJim with his wife, Mary

His widow Mary said he had developed a cough in early April and was later taken by ambulance to Monklands Hospital, where he passed away from pneumonia.

Mary met Jim in 1970 when he returned to Scotland from his time at Mirfield College, in West Yorkshire, and Sunningdale College, in Berkshire, in the 1960s. Mary's mum and Jim's aunt had been friends and were organising a fundraising function for a church hall, leading them to meet. They were married on August 31, 1974.

"I thought he was a nice guy," Mary said. "Very polite. I think it was in his nature. He was just easy going and gave everyone the benefit of the doubt.

"He stayed in journalism because he was interested in what people had to say and whatever stories they were telling him that readers got to know about."

A number of tributes from former colleagues noted Jim's particular support for those starting out in their career.

Tom McConigley, group editor of The Gazette and Barrhead News, said: “Jim was a highly skilled journalist and it was a pleasure to have worked with him. 

"He had a lot of time and patience with reporters, who were often In their first job and learning their trade. Everyone who met the man has only fond memories of Jim.”

Mark McGee said: "He was a gentleman and a great help for anyone starting out."

Andrew Forrester added: "Jim was a gentleman and supported me as a work experience kid and rookie reporter. Fond memories of him."

And Anthony Haggerty said: "Jim Coffey was my first sports editor at The Gazette. He was a real gentleman. A great journalist but a great guy too."

Mary, 67, said she thought it was Jim's training at the two colleges that influenced him to encourage young people. He wanted to pay back the training he got, she said.

"He was so interested in what was happening in the areas," she said of his time at The Gazette and Barrhead News. "He wanted to make sure things were getting reported and anything happening he wanted local people to know about.

"A local paper is for local people, he would say. He would listen to people and discuss things and get their point of view. He was just an open guy you could talk to and have discussions with."

Mary admitted Jim was so easy going that he was usually late for everything, a habit he may have picked up from his parents.

She added: "He was never, ever judgmental towards anyone. He was a kind soul and he would listen to people."

Jim was predeceased by his sister Elizabeth and, as well as Mary, is survived by nephew Kevin and his children Karl, Leah and Jake, as well as a number of cousins.

The family hope to have a celebration of Jim's life when circumstances allow.