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Former group editor turned author dies aged 70


Frank’s appointment as editor is announced in the Sheffield Chronicle

A former regional newspaper group editor turned successful author has died aged 70.

Frank Rawlins was group editor of the Courier series in Oxford and South Oxfordshire from 1985 until the early 1990s before he left to start his own production company.

He then turned his hand to landscape gardening and writing both fiction and non-fiction books, including A Simple Matter of Style, a textbook for reporters and writers.

Frank, who lived in Merton near Oxford, died earlier this month from complications following heart surgery.

Starting out as a junior reporter on the Stamford & Rutland Mercury in 196, Frank moved to the Peterborough Advertiser and then on to the Evening Post-Echo in Hemel Hempstead.

He then took over as editor of the now-defunct Sheffield Chronicle before joining Tony Rosser’s fledgling free newspaper empire, moving to Oxford to help launch the group’s Sunday Journal, Britain’s first free Sunday newspaper in the early 1980s.

When the rival Courier Newspaper group was launched in Abingdon in 1984, Frank joined as its first group editor.

Former colleagues remembered Frank as a skilled headline writer with a love of fun stories, who would get particular pleasure from teasing reporters by messing with their bylines.

Andy Lines, now chief reporter of the Daily Mirror, said: “Frank was a brilliant journalist. I still remember today one of his headlines about Forfar fans heading from Oxford to watch a match.

“He wrote, ‘Big one to three four-far fans’. Brilliant. I was off to a job in Scotland so he bylined me on the splash Andy McLines.”

Lawrence Webb, who first worked with Frank in the 1990s and is now a features sub-editor at the Daily Mail, said: “He had a bit of a thing about jokey bylines. Going through some old cuts I find many with additional details, for example: By our 14-stone Blobendale in training Lawrence Webb.

“I still recall a story I did for the Courier about Phil Collins talking at the Oxford Union. I remember Frank captioning a picture of Phil holding his hands about two feet apart, with the words ‘Phil tries to explain his appeal’…”

Tony Johnston, head of Press Association Training, who worked with Frank at the Courier series, said: “Frank was a brilliant tabloid sub, great fun to work with and also a fine writer.

“He turned his love of words into a terrific text book for writers that I still recommend to our trainees today.”

Andrew Griffin, now a golf media consultant who was Frank’s deputy at the Courier in the late 1980s said: “Working with him was like going to finishing school.

“Frank showed me so many ways to design a page – whether the most important element was the words, the heading or, of course, the pictures.”

Frank keft journalism in 2007 to forge a new career both as a landscape gardener and a successful author.

He wrote a book a year from 2007, each very different from the previous. After four novels he turned to non-fiction, and wrote a travelogue Holiday Of A Lifetime … Never Again!

It was released in the summer of 2011, marking the 100th anniversary of the ‘rediscovery’ of the Inca citadel Machu Picchu. It sold particularly well as an e-book, regularly appearing among the top-sellers in Kindle’s Travel & Holiday section.

Frank is survived by wife Joy, whom he married in 1967, and their two children, Sam and Chris. His funeral will take place on Tuesday April 26, at 2.30pm at Oxford Crematorium.


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  • April 19, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Sad to hear this. Frank was a great guy and a consummate newspaperman from whom I learned much on the old Sheffield Chronicle and later the Sunday Journal. He applied the same diligence to a nib as he did a splash. I remember a nib i wrote about a hang glider pilot left dazed after his craft hit a pub wall upon take-off. Frank’s headline : ROSE-AND CROWNED. My thoughts are with his family.

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  • April 19, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I was shocked and saddened to hear of Frank’s death. We became friends on our block release course at Harlow College in the 60s. In fact my wife-to-be and I went to stay with Frank and Joy in Stamford and we also spent time together when he was at H Hempstead. Inevitably, I suppose, the links broke as we both moved around the country with our careers. I was surprised and delighted when Frank made contact again a few years back when he sent me a copy of his style book which he hoped I would recommend to my NCTJ trainees. It was, of course, excellent.

    It’s sadly ironic that Frank will not be around to see if his beloved Leicester City can do the impossible and win the Premier League.

    Once, while at Harlow, we drove midweek to Leicester to seek a Cup replay, arrived late and were locked out.

    Happy days, though we didn’t think so that night!

    My wife, who was also on that Harlow course, and I send our sincere condolences to Joy and the family.

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  • April 27, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Unbelievably sad news. Reading through Frank’s obit, the memories come flooding back. I remember Frank as the guy you could always rely on when we worked together on the Courier. It is no surprise to read how highly his colleagues rated him. I know Frank was passionate about his pottering and he offered to redesign my garden when he left the Courier. Really sorry I didn’t take you up on this, Frank. My thoughts are with Joy and family at this sad time.

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  • May 12, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    This is such sad news. I knew Frank from Sheffield Chronicle and Sunday Journal days too. He was always a fab, supportive editor and a great pal. He wore his consummate professionalism very lightly. We kept in touch though in latter years, contact was, inevitably, down to Christmas cards. What terrible news for Joy and family, my sincere condolences to them.

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