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Journalist completes book to fulfil reporter’s dying wish

A book by a former Press Association reporter has been published posthumously after a fellow journalist fulfilled his dying wish by completing it for him.

Brian Unwin, left, died last December aged 66 after a career in journalism in the North-East which saw him spending 14 years as a regional reporter for PA before going freelance.

He was a keen birdwatcher, writing the Northern Echo’s weekly Birdwatch notes until shortly before his death, and his lifelong dream was to produce a guide for twitchers visiting the region.

But he lost his three-year battle with cancer of the oesophagus last December, before his book could be completed.

However, his friend and fellow journalist Ian Kerr, who worked for the Sunderland Echo until 1997, stepped in to complete the guide, allowing the book to be published by Buckingham Press.

Ian told the Echo: “I had known Brian for many years and been a birdwatcher. I took over his newspaper column when he was in hospital and when he became very ill he asked me to work on finishing his book.

“Brian had always wanted to do this. Even in hospital, he was still making notes for the book and I’m told a few days before he died, he was still working on it.”

Brian’s widow Jennifer said she was very grateful to Ian for finishing the book.

She said: “I’m very happy to see it published. A lot of work went into it and Brian didn’t want to see it wasted. He was very frustrated that he was too ill to complete it.

“It’s nice for our eight grandchildren, because they won’t remember him, to see what their Grandpa loved. I’m very grateful to Ian because without him it would never have been finished.”

Brian started out in journalism at Newcastle daily The Journal, moving to the Northern Echo the following year.

During a later stint on The Journal, he took a sabbatical to join HMS Endurance, the Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship, visiting the Falklands shortly before the conflict with Argentina.

Among the major stories Brian covered as the PA’s regional reporter was the Lockerbie disaster, the Tyneside riots and the IRA bombings on Tyneside.

Brian’s book is called Best Birdwatching Sites: North-East England and is available from Buckingham Press.