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Reporter bows out after 41 years at daily newspaper

A long-standing reporter who has worked under ten editors at the same daily title is putting away his notepad after 41 years.

Craig Fleming, left, who started on the Blackpool Gazette in June 1972, is taking early retirement after more than four decades with the West Coast newspaper.

In a first-person piece published this week, he recalled having to persuade then editor Brian Hargreaves to give him a job after originally being told his application had been misplaced and there were no vacancies.

“I must have done something right, because he took a chance on me, and, a week after becoming a junior reporter, I received an unexpected present on my 19th birthday: a letter from that inland newspaper also offering me a job,” he wrote.

Craig, 60, started as a junior reporter and was promoted to being the Gazette’s travel writer, which brought him some of his career highlights.

“Moments that stand out include travelling to Majorca for the day in the company of Richard Branson, in 1999, when he threw a working lunch to launch his Virgin Sun packages, and he spoke of his next venture – galactic travel, a subject which many readers might have assumed was a joke, but they read it first in The Gazette,” he said.

“Or, on a travel trip to New York in 2000, shaking hands with Hilary Clinton when she was on the campaign trail, and also bumping into somebody I knew at the top of the Twin Towers, less than a year before they were so shamefully, horrifically destroyed.

“But definitely realising how many good friends I had, rather than just colleagues, when cancer treatment forced my lengthy absence from the office a few years ago.”

Craig, pictured right in his younger days, said he had decided to take early retirement on health grounds, having been the longest-serving employee in the office “for some years now.”

He told HTFP:  “When I started on The Gazette I never intended to stay but glad I did because you would be hard pressed to find a newsier area, with a good mix of serious issues and light-hearted tales.

“Blackpool always has been larger than life and in other towns where something would be branded off-beat it is likely to be the norm here.”

He said his strangest interview involved visiting a widow for an obituary report and taking notes next to her husband’s coffin, with the lid off, on trestles, in the front garden, for the neighbours to pay their respects.

Craig has written the Gazette’s nostalgia page Memory Lane for the past decade, leading to two spin-off books as well as a series of “Then  and Now” videos on the Gazette website.

He was named North West Travel Journalist of the Year in 2000 and 2003. He also met his future wife Lyndsey Brown while she worked for The Gazette in 1978.

13 comments

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  • January 30, 2014 at 9:20 am
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    That must be some notepad to have lasted 41 years …

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  • January 30, 2014 at 11:43 am
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    I am sure Craig has filled many, many notepads (maybe notebooks too) with legendary stories. The latest he will be hanging up, as is the time-honoured custom, not putting away. Hope you have a long and restful retirement, Craig.

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  • January 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm
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    Loving the ”70s hairstyle…we all looked like that back then. Now I’m also sporting the…er…less fussy, ‘smoother’ look, favoured by Craig…

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  • January 30, 2014 at 6:29 pm
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    Craig is one of my oldest friends from school days. His knowledge of Blackpool and area is formidable. He was always able to find the unusual or quirky angle to his stories and I am sure he was a favourite to all the Gazette readers. My best wishes to Craig and Lyndsey for a long and happy retirement.

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  • January 30, 2014 at 7:13 pm
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    Well Craig not may folk these days get to serve 40 working years, let alone in the same place. WHAT a pension pot you must have!! Anyway, retire and relax, make the most of your free time – we must get together sometime!! Best wishes (I too lived through the ’70s and NEVER had a “Noel Edmonds” haircut!!! We weren’t all mindless slaves to fashion!!!

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  • January 30, 2014 at 7:41 pm
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    We wish Craig all the best in his retirement – earned and well deserved! An honourable man indeed – and we are pleased to be even a small part of his life…………….CONGRATS Craig on a career well travelled with dignity and caring for all of your readers!…Dorothy (Chuck) and John

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  • January 31, 2014 at 3:26 am
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    I have become an avid fan of Craig’s Memory Lane. His articulate, well-researched and whimsical installments have brought me closer to my beloved Blackpool, where I was born. Since emigrating to Vancouver, Canada, I have missed hearing about my home town; his nostalgic reminiscing have bridged the gap for me and I am sure countless others. I wish Craig a fulfilling retirement, with the wish that he will continue to write.

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  • January 31, 2014 at 4:27 am
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    Craig

    Congratulations on your retirement from all your relatives in Canada. Where did all that hair go? Enjoy the grand kids and the leisurely life.

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  • January 31, 2014 at 1:10 pm
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    Congratulations, Craig, from a ‘Staining Shake-up’ veteran and Steph…

    Time to put your feet up and play all your old Zappa albums again. By the way, catch a Dweezil gig if you can… I bet you could still sing along to each and every number.

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  • January 31, 2014 at 2:56 pm
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    As the PR for Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the exciting days of the launch of The Big One roller coaster (in 1994 ie 20 years ago?!)), Craig was always there to support local investment and business. As Tourism and Travel Correspondent, he was an invaluable asset to the resort, and fair and considered when following up any lead! And as a pal and a journo, he’s an absolute treasure! Time to enjoy yourself and relax with the family. See you soon. Helen xx

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  • February 1, 2014 at 12:37 am
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    Dear Craig
    Congratulations on your well deserved retirement. You probably don’t remember me, but you were instrumental in helping me after 60 yrs to correspond with two of my teachers from Layton Hill Convent. Sr. Margaret Farrell and my violin teacher Anne Eaves. Through Christina Leigh Baker I was able to contact my very dear friend Vanda Gayosky we lost touch when we both immigrated to Canada.

    I will always be grateful to you and to Christina

    All the very best in your future endeavours

    Christina Bedford

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  • February 1, 2014 at 1:50 am
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    Having worked with Craig for most of the last 40 years I’ve got to say this .. one of the reasons I left the same day was because I couldn’t face coming into the newsroom and not seeing him there any more. His whimsical sense of humour and wit has lightened some very dark days. He’s also a damn good journalist.

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  • February 1, 2014 at 12:14 pm
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    Craig Fleming – a legend in his own lunchtime (remember those?)!
    All the best mate – enjoy your retirement
    You’ve earned it!

    Dave Nowell

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