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'What I miss now is not knowing what is happening until I read it in the paper'

by HoldTheFrontPage staff

When Lloyd Jefferies started work as an apprentice reporter with the Wellington Weekly News way back in 1938, little did he realise that he would end up as the paper’s editor. In this article, reproduced from the WWN, he looks back over his career.

Apart from five-and-a-half years in the RAF during World War II, Lloyd Jefferies spent the whole of his working life with the WWN, including a record 34 years as editor, before retiring in 1987.

He recalls: “I started on eight shillings a week. But I have never regretted a minute of my time with the paper.”

Mr Jefferies was born in 1923 in Wellington, where his parents kept a grocery shop in Springfield. He joined the RAF in 1941 and spent most of his service in India.

He recalls: “That was quite an experience. I met people from all over the world from all types of background – it was like going to university. But while I was in India I met at least a dozen people from Wellington – amazing when you think of the number of servicemen out there.”

The war over, it was soon back to civvy street and the WWN. Until Mr Jefferies became editor in 1953, the paper was actually printed in Wellington, but it was then moved to Exeter to the head office of the Western Times.

Other big changes during his time were the introduction of front page news in 1967, the switch from Linotype to photosetting, and from broadsheet to tabloid size in 1979.

During his time with the WWN, Mr Jefferies dealt with thousands of stories big and small. The ones he remembers best, however, are those where the paper supported campaigns like those against the closure of Wellington Cottage Hospital and for the restoration of The Basins.

“Local papers can affect things – and we always supported causes which were in the best interests of the town,” he says.

Big stories included a huge blaze at the Relyon factory which had long-term effects on the firemen who fought it, and the search for a little girl who went missing and was later found murdered.

As well as covering everything that happened in the Wellington area, the WWN was also a training ground for scores of young journalists, some of whom have become known far beyond the confines of the small Somerset town.

Adam Helliker went on to become diary editor of the Daily Telegraph, Clinton Rogers is now a familiar face on our TV screens and Richard Cottrell was for a time MEP for Bristol. Ken Bird is editor-in-chief of the Somerset County Gazette and Tony Brown, who stayed on at the WWN for more than 40 years, is still town clerk at Wellington. They all owe a lot to Lloyd Jefferies for giving them the benefit of his experience and the example of his integrity.

“The job of a local paper is to mirror what goes on in the community and keep people informed about what is happening and what is going to happen,” says Mr Jefferies.

“Readers also like to read articles about people – the so-called human interest stories.”

There have been many changes in Wellington during Mr Jefferies’ long career: “When I was young, most people were dependent on Fox Brothers, but now the town has other industries and there is more choice of employment.”

He is sad that the town no longer has its own district council but is pleased that the Wellington Weekly News is still in existence.

He says: “Wellington is lucky to have its own newspaper – it’s something to be proud of. I hope the new Wellington Weekly News will go from strength to strength and continue to serve the people of the area. I wish it well.”

Sadly Mr Jefferies’ wife Mary died in 1987, but he still lives in the town in Elworthy Drive and enjoys visits from his two daughters and five grandchildren.

Although happily retired, he has one regret: “What I miss now is not knowing what is happening until I read it in the paper. I was used to knowing the news first.”

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