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Pioneering journalist who threw beer over Dylan Thomas dies at 100

Barbara BuchananA former regional journalist who once threw a glass of beer over the poet Dylan Thomas has died shortly after celebrating her 100th birthday.

Tributes have been paid to Barbara Buchanan, who won Britain’s Woman Journalist of the Year in 1967 for her crusading features in the Bristol Evening Post.

Barbara, who celebrated her 100th birthday on New Year’s Day, began her career in 1933 after she persuaded an editor to employ her as the first female trainee news reporter at the now defunct Bristol Evening World newspaper.

Born in the city, she spent most of her life living and working in the Bristol and North Somerset area save for a spell freelancing in London in her early twenties.

In 1939 she returned to Bristol and the Evening World, where she later became women’s editor until the paper closed in 1962 at the climax of the city’s newspaper war.

Barbara then joined Bristol’s victorious remaining evening paper, the Post, as a feature writer, where in addition to her forthright campaigns she also wrote a lighter personal column called Saturday Chatterday.

She was also credited with saving lives through her campaign for cervical cancer smear tests.

Former Post colleague Quita Morgan said: “Barbara was a great role model for me and dozens more female journalists who have followed in her West Country wake.

“She was a small woman with a big booming voice and strong opinions – she terrified me when I was a young reporter and she would appear in the Post newsroom and bark at me about what I should or shouldn’t be doing. But I grew to answer back and love her dearly.

“She was feisty ahead of her time, and rightly proud of her journalistic credentials.

“It was her cheerful boast that she took her noisy old typewriter into hospital so that not even childbirth could interrupt her writing for long.

“Another claim to fame was that while she and her first husband, also a journalist, were freelancing in London in the 1930s she once flung a glassful of beer over a drunken and obnoxious Dylan Thomas in a Soho bar.”

Barbara’s first husband John Danvers-Williams died aged 32 in 1944, leaving her with two young sons, six-year-old Charles and baby Quentin.

She later married Jan Breyer, a Dutchman born in Shanghai, who was a test engineer in Bristol’s aircraft industry.

Said Charles: “We were all immensely proud of her – for years afterwards she used to get letters from women who said she had saved their lives because of the smear test.

“The surgeons were also so delighted that they invited her to write articles for medical journals.”

Barbara passed away on Wednesday and is survived by her two sons, daughter-in-law Sandra, ex-daughter-in-law Liz, three grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Funeral details will be announced later.


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  • March 11, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Great pioneer who loved working for Bristol when she could have gone much further. Fondly rememberd as a colleague (World copy boy 1955-9, and later Post Sub late 1970s). Raising a glass to you BB!

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