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Carry on writing is Howard’s way

A veteran regional journalist who’s enjoyed careers on opposite sides of the world is finally putting down his pen after more than half a century in newspapers.

But Aberystwyth-born Howard Jones has no intention of abandoning his passion for the written word, even after retiring this month from an Australian daily publication.

Howard, who started as a teenage trainee reporter on the Cambrian News in 1963 before moving to the South Wales Echo ahead of emigrating to Australia with his wife Hazel and sons Philip and Robin, is planning a fairly “active” retirement.

He intends writing historical works and possibly a novel following his 32 years at the Border Mail which straddles the states of New South Wales and Victoria.

He began his ‘All Our Yesterdays’ interest with a Will O’Whispers column during a seven-year stay at the Welsh weekly before writing a book on Aberystwyth Borough Council in 1974 – the first of more than 30 tomes over the next four decades on local history about Wales and Australia.

The 69-year-old, who admits to having written books between news editing stories in his early days in UK regionals, said: “I’ve found that to know about history you are learning about where you lived and getting an understanding of why things are like they are.

“It’s not just a case of looking back or harking back with nostalgia, it’s how you explain why something is like it is now.”

Since leaving his native Wales in 1984 and travelling 11,000 miles to Australia, he’s built an enviable reputation Down Under at a newspaper with the apt legend: A new world every day.

His time at the Border Mail – a 20,000 circulation Monday through Saturday paper covering the twin Australian cities of Albury and Wodonga which are separated geographically by the Murray River and politically by a state border – has seen him interview the likes of top politicians (former PM Gough Whitlam) as well as the Queen during a royal visit to Albury in 1988.

He ‘lost’ a taped interview of Pauline Hanson, former leader of the Australian right-wing One Nation party, which was drowned out by a cow mooing in the background and uncovered an amusing story about rebel nun Mary MacKillop – forced to spend the night in a pub – long before she was made a saint.

But of all the thousands of by-lined stories he has written, there are two that will forever haunt him – two obituaries he thought he’d never have to write. The first for his editor, Cameron Thompson, in 2008 and the second for his son, Brendan, only last year.

In a leader column, the Border Mail paid tribute to its retiring reporter and the links he’s forged with the divided communities over three decades.

“It has won him status as one of this newspaper’s icons and a reputation in Albury-Wodonga, both as a journalist and as a curator of its history.”

The paper’s comment piece added: “He has been a wise counsel to eight editors, a generous colleague to his peers and a wonderful mentor to generations of cadets.”

“A gentleman and a champion journalist,” was the accolade of former Border Mail editor Heath Harrison who first worked under the Welshman as a fresh-faced junior. “The breadth and depth of his knowledge of Albury-Wodonga, its people, its issues and its history was, and is, peerless and priceless,” added Harrison.

Meanwhile Simon Dulhunty, another trainee who rose through the ranks to the top job, describes Howard as one of the most trusted reporters in paper’s 111-year history.

“His departure after more than 30 years leaves a gaping hole of sensibility and knowledge that no person or internet can replace,” added Dulhunty in the ultimate testimony – “not bad for a Welshman who arrived in a foreign land with no local knowledge and became the fountain of knowledge for all things local.”

Final word from Howard on those planned books. “There will be a few more and I might even have a crack at a novel. I have no idea of the subject matter but it won’t be about newspapers.”

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  • July 29, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Wodonga….sounds a great place to be a newspaperman. Wonder if there are any good bars there…

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