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Review of 2016: Those we have lost

Each year sees us bid farewell to some great stalwarts of the regional press industry, and 2016 was no different.

Our Review of the Year series concludes with a selection of obituaries which have featured on HTFP over the past 12 months, along with some of the tributes that have been paid to them by friends and colleagues.

Bill Allen Bill Allen

Former editor of the Farnworth and Worsley Journal and the Bury Times, who died aged 69.



“He edited both papers and proved himself time and time again to be a great journalist with a keen news sense who always had time to help and guide young reporters.” – Friend and colleague John Ellaby

 Les BakerLes Baker

Journalist who returned from Fleet Street to fulfill his ambition to edit his hometown weekly the Royston Crow, who died aged 68.



“He had an absolute passion for the localness of local newspapers and did everything he could to make the Crow a cornerstone of the Royston community.” – Former colleague Chris Lennon

 Adam BarrahAdam Barrah

Cambrian News sub-editor who lost a short cancer battle aged 36.



“Adam was one of the funniest people you could ever meet and no matter how close to deadline, how tense the situation, he could be relied upon to be unflappable under pressure.” – Western Telegraph news editor Lee Day

Steve BeckerSteve Becker

Local radio journalist who died after falling ill at the wheel of his car on the M6.



“Steve was a truly dedicated, dogged and hugely knowledgeable journalist and a extremely talented broadcaster. He was a wonderful advocate for Blackpool and the Fylde coast and above everything he was a terrific guy, a real gentleman.” – Jon Rhodes, former editor of Blackpool daily The Gazette

 Rex BoothRex Booth

Feature writer whose Hull Daily Mail career spanned six decades, who died aged 79



“He was an excellent writer and sub-editor. He was also a great help to legions of young journalists who knew they could turn to Rex for advice.” – Former Mail journalist Roy Woodcock

John CooperJohn Cooper

Former Lynn News editor who died aged 94.



“John had confidence in his staff to do the detailed work and gave them his full support, while he looked after the big picture and made sure the targets were being met.” – Paul Watson, John’s deputy editor for six years

David CulbertDavid Culbert

Former Sunday Life deputy editor who died aged 63.



“He had a granite quality; solid, but not sharp or flinty, with an open and generous nature and a wonderful sense of humour.” – Former colleague Joe Mitchell

Mervyn DaneMervyn Dane

Former editor of the Enniskillen-based Impartial Reporter, whose 47 years of service with the newspaper saw him win the MBE, died aged 87.


“In everything he wrote, he was fair, kind and decent to people without compromising accuracy and the whole story.” – Willy Clingan, Irish Times managing editor

Brian DoelBrian Doel

Owner of the West Country-based Sunday Independent who died aged 70 just hours after helping produce an edition of the newspaper.


“Newspapers, especially local newspapers with their communities at heart, were what drove him on. We are all determined to maintain his work ethos, his principles and his objectives to make the Indy even better still.” – John Collings, the Independent’s sports editor and editor-in-chief

pdurrantPaul Durrant

Ex-Eastern Daily Press assistant editor and member of the NCTJ exam board whose career lasted more than 40 years, who died aged 63 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.


“Paul was an amazing journalist, examiner and trainer who inspired so many trainees to achieve their very best. He encouraged young journalists to challenge, champion, campaign, probe and ask the awkward questions.” – NCTJ chef executive Joanne Butcher

Neil, right, with Eileen on their wedding dayNeil Farnworth

Sports reporter and sub-editor who spent more than four decades with the Lancashire Evening Post and Chorley Guardian, who died of terminal cancer aged 75


“He was a gregarious person who loved being a part of the buzz of the newsroom. He will be sadly missed.” – LEP editor Gillian Parkinson

Ray FitzwalterRay Fitzwalter

Journalist whose investigation while deputy news editor of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus led to the resignation of then-Home Secretary Reginald Maudling.


“He was a startlingly good journalist, in the classic style. Dogged and determined and fearless and completely committed to uncovering evil deeds.” – Rod Caird, who worked with Ray at ITV Granada

Hugh FraserHugh Fraser

DC Thomson editorial manager whose journalism career spanned almost half a century, who died aged 92.


“As a journalist on a busy news desk, Mr Fraser’s judgment was valued by colleagues. He was also noted for his calm and unflappable manner, qualities he later brought to bear in his editorial management role.” – Dundee Courier obituary

Bert HackettBert Hackett

Former Birmingham Post cartoonist who had more than 10,000 works published lost his four-year cancer battle aged 83.


“Bert Hackett was a brilliant cartoonist, able to stand comparison with any in the land. But he was far more than that: deeply involved in so many aspects of the Birmingham Post, he contributed news and feature graphics, helped to select typefaces and acted as an ever-present confidante and sounding board to a succession of grateful editors.” – Former Post editor Peter Saunders

austin-hunterAustin Hunter

Editor of Belfast’s News Letter between 2004 and 2006 killed in a car crash in Bahrain aged 64.



“As an editor, he was comfortable on the biggest stages, a calm and insightful presence on television as an election pundit or mixing with politicians and leading business figures. But equally in the newsroom he was a warm and reassuring presence.” – Current News Letter editor Alistair Bushe

Alan JohnsonAlan Johnson

Former Swindon Advertiser news editor dubbed the newspaper’s ‘Mr Sport’, who died aged 77.



“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.” – Advertiser sports editor Owen Houlihan

Terry KellyTerry Kelly

Shields Gazette journalist who died aged 57 after battling a viral illness for 14 months.



“Terry was one of the smartest, wittiest, kindest colleagues you could ever wish to meet. It has been a huge honour and privilege to work with him.” – Joy Yates, Gazette editorial director

Former Chester Chronicle editor Eric Langton, who died aged 67Eric Langton

Former Chester Chronicle editor who lost a seven-year cancer battle aged 67.



“Over the many years I knew him, Eric never wavered in his passion and belief in local newspapers. He was an excellent editor, who cared deeply about nurturing new talent. There are numerous journalists up and down the country whose careers were given a flying start thanks to Eric’s guidance.” – Neil Benson, editorial director for Trinity Mirror’s regional titles

george-macintyreGeorge Macintyre

Ex-NUJ president and Newcastle-based ncjmedia journalist who successfully campaigned to get pardons for executed First World War soldiers, who died aged 62.


“George’s commitment to that campaign brought pardons for those 306 in 2006 – a victory that George had strived for years to achieve. An incredible legacy.” – Former NUJ president John Barsby

Zena O’Rourke

Award-winning Cornish Guardian and Somerset County Gazette editor who lost her year-long cancer battle aged 53.



“Zena was an outstanding journalist but that was only the tip of the iceberg. She was a wonderfully warm human being – bubbling with infectious enthusiasm and razor-sharp wit. A journo’s journo if ever there was one.” – Former Bridgwater Mercury editor Ken Bird

Linda PiperLinda Piper

News Shopper “legend” who died the month before her first grandchild was due aged 66.



“She was such a huge character and a matriarch figure in the newsroom, looking out for young journalists. She was greatly admired by all for her tenacity and fastidious attention to detail.” – Former colleague Julia Firth

IMG_0644Frank Rawlins

Former Oxfordshire Courier series editor who died aged 70.



“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.” – Tony Johnston, former head of Press Association Training

Richard SpencerRichard Spencer

Former Yorkshire Evening Post news editor who lost his cancer battle aged 55.



“Richard was a big-hearted rogue with a limitless sense of fun – a journalist and man without equal.” – Former YEP features editor Anne Pickles

Donald StewartDonald Stewart

Former Aberdeen Journals photographer, well-known for covering Aberdeen Football Club, who died after contracting motor neurone disease aged 62.


“Donald was everything you would want from a photographer. He was a real gentleman and an excellent photographer, highly respected by everyone he came into contact with.” – Former colleague Ian Mollison

Alastair StuartAlastair Stuart

Founding editor of Scotland on Sunday who died aged 89.



“I trusted his judgment greatly. He was a wise old bird. He knew journalism extremely well and knew Scotland even better.” – Former Scotsman editor Magnus Linklater

Tom SwainTom Swain

Ex-Coventry Evening Telegraph journalist who ran its Leamington Spa district office for more than three decades passed away aged 81.


“He was the ultimate district reporter. He had dozens of contacts and the magical ability to produce stories from nowhere within a few minutes of deadlines. He was a great professional and a gentleman.” – former colleague Peter Rhodes

Rose Taylor

Indian-born editor of short-lived weekly Cambridge First who also worked at several regional dailies, who lost her cancer battle aged 62.



“Rose was not just an immensely respected colleague, she was a great personal friend. She was absolutely passionate about the paper, local journalism and, in particular, supporting campaigns and good causes.”Peterborough Telegraph editor Mark Edwards

Colin TheakstonColin Theakston

Photographer who spent 44 years with the Northern Echo who turned down an offer from legendary editor Sir Harold Evans to work for the Sunday Times in London, who died aged 84.


“As soon as I got to the Sunday Times I offered him a staff position, alas he turned it down for family reasons. He was a lovely man and had a touch of genius about him.” – Sir Harold, currently editor-at-large for Reuters in New York

ian-thompsonIan Thompson

Barnsley Chronicle assistant editor who died aged 59 after spending nearly 40 years with the newspaper.



“Ian was a tireless worker and a skilled wordsmith with a tabloid news sense. He was also a natural comedian who enlivened dull afternoons in the office with his original one-liners and quips.” – John Threkeld, former Chronicle deputy editor

Jeff TodhunterJeff Todhunter

Former Northern Echo sports editor who spent entire 54-year career with the newspaper, who died aged 79.



“It is very unusual that someone spends their whole career devoted to one job and Jeff was a stalwart of the North-East sports journalism scene. He was a gentleman of the old school traditional journalism who stood the test of time.” – Former Echo editor Peter Barron


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  • December 30, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Really great tribute piece HTFP, hats off.

    Eric Langton was and always will be a legend of local journalism, he was absolutely passionate about it and was one of the true great newspaper men.

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  • December 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    I’d echo Jeff’s comments.
    Eric’s loss is still very raw.

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  • January 3, 2017 at 10:30 am

    I am sad to say that you have missed off the untimely departure of former Birmingham Post business correspondent John Cranage who died in November at the age of 68, having spent more than 40 years in regional journalism

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