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.”
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.