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Weekly newspaper’s former owner dies at 83

The former owner and editor of a weekly newspaper has died after a long battle with illness.

Muriel Bates, left, found herself at the helm of Morecambe’s The Visitor in 1960 following the death of her brother Arthur in a car accident – after working for the Manchester Evening News in her younger days.

She retired in 1986 and sold The Visitor, which is now owned by Johnston Press, to United Provincial Newspapers.

Muriel has died at the age of 83 after spending the last few years of her life in a care home in Morecambe.

Her daughter Michaela Nichol said: “Mum was a wonderful mother and grandmother who doted on her family.

“The Visitor was a big part of our mum’s life. She had been a journalist but she had stopped to have children. It wasn’t expected that she would take over but the family had not anticipated that Arthur junior would die.

“It was a real family business. Everybody knew everybody else. They were good times.

“When she sold the paper she didn’t do it lightly but it was a sign of the times. It was getting to a point when all newspapers were being bought up by the big publishing companies.”

The family connection with The Visitor began when Muriel’s grandfather, Arthur Caunt, joined the newspaper as a young reporter in 1898.

He became editor in 1906 and died in 1938, with his son James Caunt taking over then.

James hit national and international headlines when a case of seditious libel concerning the Jewish people and the war in Palestine was brought against him and failed.

He died in January 1959, passing responsibility over to his son Arthur, who died 12 months later in a car crash, leaving Muriel in charge.

During her time at the top, she led The Visitor from the traditional ‘hot metal’ era into the computer age, allowing it to print in colour for the first time. The title was thought to be one of the first in the country to take this step.

She leaves daughter Michaela, sons Nigel and Peter, and six grandchildren – one of them, Sara Nichol, who works as a reporter at Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle, The Journal and Sunday Sun newspapers.