AddThis SmartLayers

1947 freeze was his big break

Former Scunthorpe Telegraph journalist Phil Wrack, who became the deputy editor of the News of the World, has died aged 71 after losing his battle against leukaemia.

Mr Wrack was educated at the Henderson Avenue Primary and the Scunthorpe Modern Schools before joining the Telegraph staff as an office boy.

Due to a shortage of staff during the great freeze-up of 1947 he was ‘promoted’ to the editorial staff and he never looked back.

He moved on from Scunthorpe to the Grimsby Evening Telegraph and then in 1954 joined the Manchester Evening News as a sub-editor.

A year later Mr Wrack joined the London Evening Standard in Fleet Street, where he shot through the ranks to the job of executive assistant editor.

For a brief spell he was the assistant editor at The Sun before joining the News of World as deputy editor in 1970, was made a Freeman of the City of London and also appointed a member of the Press Council in 1986.

Mr Wrack retired as deputy editor in 1989 when he was appointed the first independent Ombudsman for the News of The World.

In his youth he lived with his parents George and Edna Wrack and sister Isabel in Scunthorpe’s Ashdown Avenue.

His father worked as a guard and goods inspector on the Scunthorpe railways and was also the Sunday organist at the nearby St Michael’s Church.

The story goes that in 1947 the Evening Telegraph general manager said to the news editor: “He’s dying for the chance to be a reporter. Will you give him a trial?”

Former Telegraph chief photographer Norman Reeder (70) recalled that as juniors together they were chauffered to the scene of a fatal rail crash in Doncaster.

“Phil went into Doncaster Hospital and got all the names of the victims and phoned them over to our Grimsby office before even the Press Association had got hold of them,” he said.

Norman said his former colleague proved his determination to succeed by volunteering to take over the news desk at every opportunity, despite his tender years.

Mr Wrack, who died in London’s Homerton Hospital on Saturday night, has three children Michael, David and Helen by his first marriage. He was made a widower, after his second wife, the former News of the World ‘agony aunt’, Unity Hall died.

His family have yet to announce details of the funeral.

nick cole©September 2000

Do you have a story for us? Ring the HoldTheFrontPage newsdesk on
01332 291111 x6022, or to e-mail us now – click here