One of the longest serving editors in the local newspaper industry is retiring today after a lifetime in the trade.
George Tuckfield has the past spent 29 years as a weekly newspaper editor, 18 of them at the Henley Standard.
The 65-year-old is retiring today after 46 years in the profession, having joined his local paper in Somerset at the age of 19.
George said he knew he wanted to be a journalist from the age of 14 but his original ambition to become a sports reporter was put on hold after he emerged from a two-year journalism course at Taunton College because the local paper did not have a vacancy.
He recalled: “I went into a builder’s office for a while and then to the weights and measures department at Somerset County Council but my heart was really set on working for a newspaper.”
His chance came when the news editor of the West Somerset Free Press, based in Williton, offered 19-year-old George a position as junior reporter.
For George, who was born and raised in the tiny west Somerset village of Stogumber, it was a dream come true.
He said: “The West Somerset Free Press was the bible. It was a greatly respected paper and I had a very happy three-year apprenticeship there. I had been brought up on the paper and there I was at 19 working for it.
“I loved the way we did our reporting for the paper, although of course it seems rather old fashioned now. But you really got to know everyone while cycling around the parishes.”
The prospect of limited promotion prompted George, who was by then married and had two children, Sean and Tracey, to move to Maidenhead in 1970, where he joined the Berkshire Mercury as a district reporter.
He took an instant liking to Maidenhead and the Thames Valley and “quickly settled down”. He still lives in the town with his wife Sue.
In 1976, he launched the Reading Chronicle’s Woodley edition and two years later moved to Reading as news editor. “The job was fantastic,” said George. “I really enjoyed the work, especially dealing with the junior reporters.”
In 1979, he was appointed editor of the Bracknell News where he spent seven “happy” years. He returned to the Reading office and became group editor in 1988 before taking up the position as editor of the Henley Standard in September 1990.
He arrived at a time when reporters took and developed their own photographs and is amazed at the pace at which local newspapers have changed.
Said George: “Who would have thought 50 years ago that we would have come so far in local papers with the advent of the internet and video reporting. It doesn’t seem so long ago the Standard was only 12 pages. Now we can produce papers of 80 to 90.”
George’s other great love — cricket — has endured since at the age of 11 he was playing in his school’s first XI alongside 16-year-olds.
He has been a member of North Maidenhead Cricket Club for 32 years, was 1st team captain for 12 years and chairman for 18 years. He is now club president and still plays “nine or ten matches a season.”
He plans to devote some time to watching his favourite county team Somerset during his retirement. Jack, one of his five grandchildren, is showing interest in the game and George had the “absolute delight” of taking him to a recent game at Lords.
Jack is one of 11-year-old triplets who live in Maidenhead. George’s other two grandchildren live in Hong Kong, where his son, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers has been living for 14 years.
George said of his time as editor of the Standard: “I have always been thankful that in this day of multi-nationals owning newspapers, the Henley Standard has remained family owned.
“I am also very appreciative of the paper’s owners and management, who have allowed me to run their paper my way.
“I have had a terrific career and am retiring with mixed feelings. I will certainly miss the general buzz of the newspaper office and all my colleagues.
“Henley has been a lovely town to work in and though it has had its problems in recent years with traffic and trade and such like, I am sure the good days will return soon.”
Old Friend (26/09/2008 12:19:05)
A gentleman and a fantastic editor – you’ll be much missed by everyone.
Will (26/09/2008 13:47:40)
I’m 22 and have just started my first reporting job.
I think George’s story is great and I hope my life has been as full as his when I’m 65.