One of most charismatic weekly editors in Yorkshire’s publishing history has died at the age of 86.
Jack Heald, who spent his entire journalistic career on one newspaper, was adamant that his home patch was where “the heart of England beats best.”
His 43 years at the Craven Herald and Pioneer – a dozen as editor – were filled with anecdotal stories, from publishing the obituary to a man who lived to 100 to a claim he “ended” World War Two, as the final victory over Japan was announced just after he was called up for National Service.
From his early days as a junior reporter for West Craven, he covered everything from personal celebrations and family tragedies to major events where he was even wrongly suspected of being a fire-raiser who caused millions of pounds of damage to local mills.
Only once in 40 years did he “keep out” a court story, he admitted in an interview to the Independent national newspaper months before retiring on his 65th birthday in March 1993.
“A police superintendent and a doctor called at my house, independently, and said that if a man who had indecently exposed himself had his case in the paper he would undoubtedly kill himself,” he said.
“So I left it out and I’ve regretted that decision ever since. I sat for a while as a magistrate and my belief is that part of the punishment is the public damnation.”
Jack didn’t always get his facts right and on one occasion wrote the obituary of a Barnoldswick man – only to meet him, very much alive and kicking, the following day. More than 30 years later he was invited to be guest of honour at the man’s 100th birthday.
He slipped up on dress code, too. The guest speaker at a “working man’s” golf club dinner – he arrived just before the meal wearing a very smart dinner jacket and black tie.
Apologising for his ‘faux-pas’, he promptly removed his jacket and bow tie, followed by his trousers and shirt, leaving him in just a boiler suit, before delivering a very amusing speech.
In the late 1950s, Jack was offered a job in the Manchester office of the Daily Sketch national newspaper. He rejected it, preferring to stay in Earby with his wife, Jean, and growing family.
After more than 30 years as a reporter and having turned down the opportunity once, Jack was persuaded to accept the post as editor of the Craven Herald in 1981 following the death of former editor Ian Plant.
For 50 years the paper had been printed on an old press bought from the Yorkshire Post. Editions were limited to 16 broadsheet pages packed with small type.
He oversaw the end of an era when in April 1988, the old press behind the Craven Herald office ran for the last time.
Of his beloved Herald & Pioneer, he said: “A local paper should lead, correct if necessary, but above all represent the people who read it.”
He got immense satisfaction from the job, which included freelance work for the nationals, radio and television. “I love the Dales. I love the people. And I love the young reporters I’ve worked with all these years, all of them,” he said.
And on one occasion pointing to the heavens through the office ceiling he added: “I’ve said many, many times that He dealt me a very good hand, an exceptionally good hand.”
Jack, who is survived by his seven children, 17 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren, died from an age-related condition. His funeral service was at St Peter’s Church, Earby.