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Reporter and columnist dies weeks after 60th birthday

A local reporter and columnist for one of the UK’s biggest regional titles has died following a short stay in hospital, less than a month after her 60th birthday.

Ailsa Cranna, pictured, who worked on the Salford Advertiser and the Manchester Evening News, passed away on Tuesday from what is thought to be a chest infection.

Described by her former colleagues as a “supremely talented” journalist with an unparalleled contacts book, Ailsa started out on the Salford City Reporter – later the Advertiser – working the Eccles patch for many years.

She ended her days as a columnist for the MEN.

Tony Howard, who worked with Ailsa at the Advertiser between 2004 and 2010 , paid tribute to the “wonderful, kind, loving and selfless” woman he said touched hundreds of peoples’ lives throughout her career.

“The effect her passing will have on so many people, far and wide, will tell its own story,” he said.

“As a writer, working for too many years to recall, in and around Salford, she was supremely talented and had a huge influence on me and many other young reporters who cut their teeth alongside her.

“Her contacts book was unparalleled and in an industry that has changed beyond all recognition, she was a fantastic throw back to better times.”

He said she was “always the first with a witty remark”, and dedicated much of her spare time to caring for stray dogs in the area.

In her final column, published at the end of June and entitled My Birthday Avoidance was Doomed to Failure, she mentions her chest infection, saying it was the worst she had ever had.

In it, she bemoans the gaudy celebrations, useless birthday badges and saccharine greetings cards which accompanied the occasion, along with helium balloons and flowers sent by a mischievous colleague who knew her distaste for such items.

Tony added: “She didn’t know it, but despite her best attempts at being grumpy – even her column was called ‘Mithered of Monton’ – she brought sunshine to everyone’s gloom.

“The world has lost a huge swathe of kindness in her passing.”

The MEN has also today published a tribute to the “much-loved” journalist.

Editor-in-chief Rob Irvine said it was a “sad day” for staff.

“It is so very sad to lose a colleague and friend, and our newsroom will be a poorer place without Ailsa,” he added.

“Lots of people have been in touch to send their messages of condolence and to share their memories of a characterful and highly respected reporter who knew her own mind and inspired so many colleagues over the years. Ailsa will be sorely missed.”


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  • July 11, 2013 at 9:17 am

    God bless you ‘Elsie Crampit’. A true ‘one off’.

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  • July 11, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for the link to the Mithered of Monton columns, I’ve enjoyed reading them with Ailsa’s voice in my head. She’d like that we were chortling, even with tears in our eyes.
    A kinder more generous person I have never known, she didn’t have much, but what she had she would give to anyone. She was a huge part of my early career and the most memorable part of any day in the Eccles newsroom. Ailsa’s wit and wisdom were worthy of far greater things but she loved her patch, and weren’t we lucky that she did ! Thanks Ailsa, it was wonderful to know you. Sleep well.

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  • July 11, 2013 at 11:14 am

    So sorry to hear this sad news. It is the real characters such as Ailsa who remind us why we come into this odd business of journalism in the first place.

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  • July 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I will always remember my first meeting with Ailsa. On my first day as deputy editor of the Salford Advertiser she introduced herself as “hello, I’m your worst nightmare.”

    And Ailsa was certainly cut from a different cloth. She didn’t do “corporate” and was usually, shall we say, “dressed down”.

    Her writing however was extremely tidy. She’d worked for the Salford Advertiser and other defunct Eccles papers for about 30 years and we knew of no error, complaint, or Press Complaints Commission saga that arose from one of Ailsa’s stories. She also “churned out” (as she put it) a vast amount of stories, owing to her hundreds of contacts in the area.

    In the office she would regale us with her stories of meeting LS Lowry, the time her dogs chased Christopher Eccleston and her historical anecdotes that usually related to 19th century prime minister Gladstone. Her cliches were also a source of fond amusement. At least once a day somebody was described as “as useful as a chocolate fireguard” and if she didn’t believe something she’d say “….and I’ll be a size eight by Christmas.”

    When I took over as editor of the Advertiser in 2009 I got to really know and like Ailsa. The first task I gave her was to prepare some nostalgic stories for the paper’s anniversary issue. She searched the archives, made some calls, hammered her keyboard with her two typing fingers and after one day presented me with about seven pages of pure gold, clean as a whistle copy, complete with pictures and captions, that would have taken a lesser reporter over a week to write.

    “Let me know if you need anything else, kid,” she sighed as she filed her copy.

    She was also incredibly kind, humble and thoughtful. She cried when I came in on my last day to clear my desk, and I’ll shed a tear for Ailsa now. Our Advertiser reunions will never be the same.

    And by the way Ailsa, you made one mistake. You were an editor’s dream, not a nightmare.

    See you later, kid.

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  • July 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Ailsa worked with me on the Irvine Herald in the early 80s, and there is no doubt she was a ‘one-off.’
    She was crabbit, she was scathing, she was bad tempered, but she would stand her ground against anyone who ventured to take her on.
    We used to tell her: ‘you are not a real reporter until you have had a complaint about you lodged with Press Council.’
    Well it happened, and she won her case against a local councillor who accused her of making up something she attributed to him. As Chief Reporter at the time, I helped to put her defence together, but she had to face the tribunal alone, as I was not allowed to take the day off to travel with her.
    I spoke to her a few times after she returned to England, and she always said she missed the atmosphere at the Irvine Herald, but had no intention of returning to work in Scotland.
    A phrase which springs to mind, when we were knocking them back in the Delta Bar, is: ‘another little whine Ailsa?’
    She would give us that glare of hers and tell us where to go!
    She was a character, and I am glad to have had the pleasure of meeting her and working with her.
    A sad loss to the industry indeed.

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