David Lovejoy, Echo co-founder
For over 31 years, Mungo MacCallum has written a column of political commentary for this newspaper, for the most part on this page, opposite this space.
Allowing for the occasional holiday and rare indisposition, that’s still well over 1,500 articles. It’s probably a record that will never be surpassed, and last week, Mungo decided that his precarious health would not permit further extension of this phenomenal journalistic effort.
But of course it’s not just the length of Mungo’s tenure of the op-ed space that’s been amazing: it’s the quality of his writing and political judgement that has informed and entertained readers week after week since 1989.
Our general manager, Simon Haslam, has been at the paper over 25 years and says, ‘In that time, hardly a week has gone by without a reader mentioning Mungo’s column to me. It’s become emblematic of the paper, especially for those people who haven’t read The Echo before, or who aren’t familiar with local issues, it has provided a very engaging point of entry. It was one of the first things I noticed about the paper when I came to the area. Even those who don’t agree with the content generally admire his writing, and of course he’s very funny.
‘Ironically, among the thousands of scathing criticisms of politicians, I think the comment that caused us the most grief was the one that referred to Mother Theresa as a “crazed Albanian” – we received quite a few calls about that’.
Perceptive, witty and iconoclastic, Mungo has always held public figures to their own professed standards, and where they fail, his demolition of them has been exquisite.
Or sometimes just whimsical. To the note that informed us of his retirement from the column, he added:
‘Christmas is coming and Australia is flat
‘Kindly tell us ScoMo, where the bloody hell we’re at?
‘And when we’re certain you know that you haven’t got a clue
‘Then join in our Yuletide chorus as we sing: FUCK YOU!’
However, Mungo has not yet departed our pages for good. The crossword remains, and he has currently built up a reserve of 200 puzzles, which, he says, will give four more years of aggravation for Echo readers!