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Former regional journalist who fought for waterways dies aged 80

Bob ClarkeA former regional journalist who successfully fought to keep his local canals open has died of cancer aged 80.

Tributes have been paid to Bob Clarke, left, who “never missed a story” according to former colleagues.

Bob worked on the Dudley Herald, the Express & Star, Wolverhampton, the Worcester Evening News and the Birmingham Mail during his career.

He also wrote several books on the history if the Staffordshire village of Kinver, and was known as ‘Mr Kinver’ due to his dedication to the surrounding area.

Kinver-based former press photographer Graham Gough, who worked with Bob at the Dudley Herald, said: “He would never miss a story – and he’d never let anybody else miss one.”

Bob is also credited with helping to prevent the planned closure of much of the country’s canal network back in the 1960s in his role as press officer for the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Society.

The group took on the British Transport Commission to force a government rethink of its policy of allowing the canals to decline and close, defying the authorities and risking arrest to clear a section of the Stourbridge canal.

The clearance allowed a rally of nearly 100 boats in 1962 to call for the halting of plans that would have turned the canals into “a series of disconnected duck ponds” according to Bob.

He always maintained if it hadn’t been for the rally, which became known as the Battle of Stourbridge, “canals would have disappeared from the landscape”.

Chris Dyche, treasurer of the society, said: “He wasn’t frightened to say what he thought and wasn’t frightened to upset management and bureaucrats.

“I’d got a lot of respect for him because he always stuck to his guns. He was a very honest reporter. He had his own principles of what he thought was right.

“Bob wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea but his heart was in the right place – and from a waterways point of view he will be sorely missed. We haven’t got his like today – people are too politically correct.”

Bob’s health declined rapidly after the death of his beloved wife Valerie, who lost her battle with cancer in July 2015, and he moved away from Kinver to be with his daughter in recent months before losing his own fight against the disease last month.

He leaves two children, Rachel and Richard, and four grandchildren.