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Journalist dubbed regional daily’s ‘Mr Sport’ dies aged 77

Alan JohnsonA journalist known as ‘Mr Sport’ who spent more than four decades at a regional daily has died aged 77.

Tributes have been paid to Alan Johnson, pictured left, described by former colleagues as a “true legend” of the Swindon Advertiser.

Alan, known as Al or AJ, worked at the Advertiser for a total of 43 years across a variety of roles including chief sub-editor and news editor.

But he was known mostly in his role as sports editor, and for his “encyclopaedic” knowledge of Swindon’s sporting scene.

Current Advertiser sports editor Owen Houlihan said: “As a young journalist, sitting alongside him was like having a walking, talking encyclopaedia of Swindon and the surrounding area on hand.

“Alan always knew – and if he didn’t, which was rare, he knew somebody who would – that missing titbit of information from the distant past of the Swindon sport scene you were seeking.

“Alan’s decades of experience meant that when he spoke, you listened – and you always learned something.

“His knowledge, wisdom and experience, as well as the support he gave me at an early point in my career were invaluable and something I’ll always cherish.”

Born in Wantage, then in Berkshire, Alan joined the Swindon Evening Advertiser in 1957 as a reporter and sub-editor, before moving to Scotland five years later for family reasons.

He returned as a sub in 1970, before becoming deputy chief sub in 1972, chief sub in 1974 and news editor in 1977.

Former Adveritser reporter Jim Hatley said: “He was a gent – a news editor who used carrot rather than stick with the very odd bunch of reporters in the Adver newsroom in the early 1980s.

“We adored him and he tolerated us and got results because he knew our strengths and multiple weaknesses.”

Alan was appointed sports editor in 1990, where he remained until his retirement in 1999. However, he was soon asked back to work as a sub, page designer and sportswriter on a part-time basis before finally stepping down in 2008.

John O’Hara, who worked with Alan for 17 years including 10 as his deputy on the sports desk, said: “During that time [Swindon] Town spent their only season (so far) in the Premiership. It was a mad time made bearable by the camaraderie of the desk led by Alan.

“A wonderful man and a good friend. When you went to work in the morning and Alan was on shift you knew that whatever disasters occurred, the day was going to be fun.”

Alan died on 3 July at his home after a recent battle with cancer and is survived by wife Agnes, four sons, Steve, 54, Neil, 51, Alan, 47 and David, 43, ten grandchildren and a great grandchild.

His funeral will take place at Kingsdown Crematorium, Swindon, at 1.30pm on Friday 22 July.


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  • July 15, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    A true legend… One of the good guys. Working for AJ, and then having AJ work for me was an honour. We worked hard, but we laughed harder… RIP AJ.

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  • July 15, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Alan was my first news editor and an absolute inspiration. Almost 30 years on, I still recall his jokes and his wonderful cuttings file of misprints and inappropriate but funny headlines. An absolute gent. RIP x

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  • July 15, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    John is spot-on. Life with Alan was always fun, no matter how hard the day or how serious the news. It’s only now – more than 20 years on from when I last worked with him – that I appreciate just how much he taught me. And, as Louise says, he was a total gent.

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