I had received a text message from a source last Thursday that Turnbull Hutton was seriously ill and had been admitted to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.
My immediate response was that I would send a message of good wishes to him.
The reply was not what I wanted to hear:
“Get the impression he may not be well enough to even receive or understand a message. A shame.”
I got the picture.
So when the same source contacted me this morning that he had passed away it was not a surprise.
I had spoken to Turnbull Hutton some weeks ago and he did not sound well.
There were times over the last three years when I would call him and he would be in flying form and up for a chat.
We had first been in contact during the crazy summer of 2012.
For the avoidance of doubt I am not in this business for praise, but I found that a compliment from Turnbull Hutton was a rare and motivating thing.
I recall one of our earliest conversations when he said:
“You’re doing a great job son, keep at them!”
He had gruff warmth that I found immediately disarming.
Moreover his interaction with Planet Fitba was imbued with a straight talking honesty that discomfited many in positions of power within the national game.
In the summer of 2012 he spoke for basic decency in Scottish football.
He had a very low opinion of those who wanted to parachute the new Ibrox club into the second tier of Scottish football after they had failed with their SPL wheeze.
Moreover, he also had little faith in the mainstream media in Scotland to fairly report on anything apropos Rangers or Sevco.
When the issue of the Fitba Fourth Estate came up in conversations the approved collective term from Turnbull for the hacks was “…fannies…”, actually there were other more industrial terms he deployed to describe the stenographers.
At the back of Downfall there is an Appendix, it is a minute of a meeting at Hampden on July 3rd 2012 taken by Turnbull on his iPad.
He was chuffed that he had, in me, an outlet for news that the mainstream would not touch.
Turnbull Hutton was a valuable source who became a valued friend.
We met after this in Edinburgh and I was regaled with tales of the machinations of the SFA and the up and downs of his beloved Raith Rovers.
In the bar of the George Hotel in the New Town he dismissed the health issues that, he said, would probably kill him in the end.
“Fuck it”, was his Fifer prognosis as he ordered another drink.
His take on things was that he did not see the point in wasting precious time currying favour with people who detested him simply because he spoke the truth.
When you know that then you really value the friendship of such a man.
We should have met here in Donegal in 2012, but he thought better of it.
Unknown to most on Planet Fitba Turnbull Hutton’s clan had married into this fine county.
He was invited to a milestone wedding anniversary on the Inishowen peninsula.
In the age of the camera phone he reckoned the last thing he, or Raith Rovers, needed was to be photographed at a family gathering in Ireland with me!
However the word soon spread around the townlands of Ballyliffin and Clonmany that Turnbull Hutton was in town.
What was a private family gathering produced a traffic jam outside (no mean feat in Inishowen) of abandoned vehicles as fellas dandered in to get their photograph taken with the man himself.
We both chuckled at how the klan conspiracy theorists would bend this new information into the ‘web of corruption’ chart if it became public knowledge.
The very fact that he had Donegal in-laws would make him suspect in their dignified eyes.
The Turnbull Hutton I knew was a forgiving man, but what he couldn’t abide was someone who could not say sorry.
He was very clear that there were people of the dignified persuasion who should have apologised for, as he saw it, kicking off a lynch mob in 2012.
The SFA judicial panel who ruled on Rangers and Craig Whyte included Rovers man Eric Drysdale.
When an Ibrox icon demanded to know the identities of these men then The People responded in klan approved fashion.
He told me of being at Hampden after those terrible weeks in 2012; it was a meeting about league restructuring.
This occasion, he thought, was an excellent opportunity for a certain person to approach Eric and Turnbull to offer his abject apologies.
The man from Stark’s Park said that this could have been a private matter and the line would be drawn under it.
That no apology was offered did not impress the man who stated in 2012 on the steps of Hampden that the national game was “corrupt”.
Subsequently, there was something essentially karmic that the men from Kirkcaldy would triumph in the Ramsden’s Challenge Cup against Sevco at Easter Road on 6 April 2014.
Good men are scarce and Turnbull Hutton was a good man.
The streets of Raith will be sad today and so is this little corner of Donegal.
Requiescat in pace.