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Daily’s former London editor dies aged 99

Maurice WoodsA regional daily’s former London editor who knew two Prime Ministers on first name terms has died aged 99.

Tributes have been paid to Maurice Woods, pictured left, who served as the Eastern Daily Press’s London editor for 15 years.

Born in the Suffolk village of Corton, Maurice began working on the Lowestoft Journal in 1935.

The Second World War interrupted his journalism career and he served in Africa with the Royal Army Medical Corps.

After returning to civilian life Maurice was appointed editor of the Dereham and Fakenham Times, before moving north to work on the Manchester Guardian five years later.

However, in 1955 he was appointed the EDP’s labour and industrial correspondent in London.

A decade later he became the paper’s London editor and led its political coverage.

In that position Maurice came to be on first name-terms with Harold Wilson, Ted Heath and the other leading politicians of the era.

He was a widely-known figure at Westminster, not least because of his exceptional skills as an after-lunch speaker, which he was able to use to best advantage in 1972 when he was the chairman of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

Chris Fisher, his successor as the EDP’s London editor, said: “When Maurice moved to Westminster in 1965 as the EDP’s London editor, he was able to direct his sharp critical talent at politicians.

“But it was generally done in a subtle manner, and he kept on good terms with virtually all of them.

“He liked both Harold Wilson and Ted Heath, and was even able to engage the latter in small-talk, which was not easily achieved.

“Towards the end of his career he also proved capable of getting Margaret Thatcher to laugh at herself, and that wasn’t easily achieved either.

“I had worked for the EDP for three years when I first met Maurice. By then I knew very well that he was a revered figure on the paper. And soon after joining his team in London as the paper’s labour and industrial correspondent, I came to realize that his reputation for sagacity was thoroughly deserved.

“Pearls of wisdom were frequently passed on by ‘the master;. They included the advice that journalistically the future is always more important than the past.

“In other words, in writing about what had happened, one should always seek to pitch the story forward to what would happen next.”

Maurice retired in 1980 and returned to his home county with wife Kathie to live in Ilketshall St Andrew.

After a fall in 2013, he moved into a nursing home in Beccles.

He is survived by a son, Mark.

Chris added: “When I last saw Maurice, in the nursing home in Beccles where he spent his last months, the flesh was very weak but his mind and spirit were still good.

“He was keen to give me the benefit of his views on political matters from the 1960s onwards.

“Maurice was my journalistic mentor, and a sort of hero for me. He was very much a one-off, and it was a great privilege to know him.”