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Grandfather remained loyal to his staff

The Cornish Guardian has always prided itself on being a family newspaper.
As part of the paper’s 100th anniversary celebrations, Guardian reporter Alan Barber finds out more about its remarkable founding family in an interview with Michael Lyne, grandson of the founder Alfred Browning Lyne.

Michael Lyne is the last in the line of Lynes stretching back to Alfred Browning – the man who borrowed £500 and set up the Cornish Guardian back in 1901.

Michael was close to his grandfather and remembers five main strands to the great man’s life – journalism, liberalism, the horses, his cows and his cars.

Browning Lyne, as his grandfather was affectionately known around Bodmin, was born in Launceston, the son of a farmer and was educated at Launceston College.

After leaving school Browning Lyne went to London to learn journalism and he spent about eight years in Fleet Street working for Harold Harmsworth who owned the Daily Mail.

Eventually, in his mid-30s, he left London and came back to Cornwall where he launched the Cornish Guardian.

Michael explained: “He only went up there for experience in journalism – to know how the big boys did it. He came back and borrowed £500 from his grandmother to start a newspaper. In those days you could buy a beautiful house for £200. You could buy a farm for less than £500. It was definitely started on a shoestring and he was a self-made man.

“He wanted a paper that would go from Newquay to the borders, to Launceston and the Tamar.”

Michael said his grandfather was a progressive newspaper owner who created a good rapport with his employees.

“He was before his time. He would always push for new developments in the printing industry.

“But he also knew everyone. I can remember when there were over 100 people working in Church Square with all the printing presses and linotypes and he would be walking around and know them all.

“The staff were loyal to him and he was loyal to the staff.”

Michael recalled his grandfather’s tidy office in Church Square.

“I can always remember he had a big Chinaman ornament behind his desk. It was about four feet high and rocked to and fro. When it lent forward the tongue would come out.”

“He had a very tidy office and he was a man that had his thumb right on the button, he knew exactly what was going on from A to Z.

“He was far from an armchair man, he could go down and listen to the printing press going and he would know if something was not going right by the sound it was making.’

“He didn’t just stay in the office. He knew all his employees personally and they knew him personally. That is why I think it worked so well. Loyalty was strong.

“He was hands-on. He wasn’t just a name. He was the boss but he could also sit down at a linotype and could do anything you would need to do on a newspaper.

Michael said his grandfather also did a lot of good in the Bodmin community, away from the newspaper, such as giving large donations to local children’s charities, and, quite unheard for the editor of local newspaper now, he served as Mayor four times in 1911, 1925, 1929 and 1934.

In brief, Browning Lyne started the Cornish Guardian in 1901 and sold it to the Western Morning News Group in 1938. Later it was taken over by the Northcliffe Newspaper Group but Browning Lyne stayed on as editor until 1945 when he handed over the reins to Norman, Michael’s uncle.

Norman was at the helm until he retired in 1974.

Unlike Norman, Michael’s father Cecil steered away from the editorial side of the paper. He left school and joined the Guardian – but as advertising manager. He was also one of the youngest mayors in the country when he held office from 1923-84.

When the Second World War started he left to serve Bodmin Fire Brigade and earned himself an MBE for his work during the Plymouth blitz.

After the war Cecil started his own grocery and bakery business in Callington and Loon and moved away from the newspaper altogether.

Browning Lyne had three sons Norman, Cecil and Arthur who died in a flying accident.

Bodmin resident Eric Spear was one of the last people to speak to Arthur before the accident. He remembers Arthur as slightly different from the rest of the family.

“Norman was well dressed. You would never see Norman without a suit. Arthur was more of a happy-go-lucky type.”

Another strand to Browning Lyne was his politics. He was devoutly Liberal. Michael says his grandfather was a “great Liberal”.

“He was probably the biggest Liberal Cornwall has ever seen. He was a very, very strong Liberal who wrote all the speeches for MP Isaac Foot in the late 20s to mid-30s.

“He was a personal friend of Mr Foot. He was also a great debaterwho would go all around Cornwall speaking.”

As far as vices went Michael said his grandfather did not drink or smoke. But he did like to gamble on the horses and this would often pay off in Michael’s direction.

“He would go on a night train to Paris to see a horse race. In those days you would go on a ship to France. They always said that if he came back and threw a half-crown in the air for Michael then he had won on the horses.

There was always a feeling that I had a silver spoon in my mouth in those days because I was the grandson. That wasn’t true.

“When asked if his grandfather often won, Michael replied: “I had my half-crowns.”

Michael took a completely different path from his family andspent most of his life in the road haulage business running his own vehicles.

He left Bodmin at the end of the war and ran a boat in Newquay harbour from about 1951.

He took celebrities like Clark Gable out on trips when they visited the town for filming.

Apart from this, Michael feels he has led a “fairly uneventful life since the days he shared with his grandfather at the Guardian.

Back then Michael was often given the chance to share in Browning Lyne’s relatively wealthy hobbies – the cows and the cars.

In the 1920s he lived in a big house, the farm Dunheaved, near St Petroc’s Hotel.

He owned all the ground around the Beacon and it was there that he kept his cattle.

He had the first herd of Friesian cows in Cornwall. He went up country to get them especially. The farm was his hobby.

“In the 1920s Browning Lyne became the proud owner of the first car in Cornwall with indicators. Cars were another of his passions.

“It was an American Stutz. The indicators would work with a rod and an arm.

One day he was driving across Goss Moor when a police patrol stopped him and said: “There is something sticking out of your car, sir.”

“Grandfather was most pleased to explain what it was. The policeman said it was the first time he had ever seen one.”

Finally, Michael believes his grandfather would have felt at home with the modern Cornish Guardian in terms of its technological changes and its continuing appeal.

Michael is in his late 60s. He stands in his Rejerrah home literally miles away from the newspaper world he grew up in.

The boy with the supposed silver spoon in his mouth never made any material gain through his family.

But sifting through boxes of Bodmin photographs and memorabilia he says he is humbled to have been passed the baton as the last in the line of Lynes.

“You respected him greatly. He was a kind-hearted sort of bloke. He did a lot of good for people in Bodmin.

“I am very proud to think it’s still going and being run well and grandfather would be very proud to know it’s still getting a good circulation.”

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