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Football journalist who covered boyhood club dies aged 78

Brian SwainA football journalist who reported on his favourite team for 25 years and also covered the Grain Train Robbery has died aged 78.

Tributes have been paid to Brian Swain, left, who worked for the Luton News following the fortunes of Luton Town FC during the club’s most successful period.

He had also spent time as a general reporter at the News, covering the Great Train Robbery in 1963 and the A6 murder which led to the conviction and hanging of James Hanratty.

But it was for football writing Brian was best known, describing the sports editor role as his “dream job and the best Christmas present I ever had”.

Former colleague Den O’Donoghue said: “His love affair with Luton Town began during the Second World War when, aged five, he drifted into Kenilworth Road for a now long-forgotten reserve match and was hooked. Later, he even joined the St John Ambulance so that he could sit by the touchline at matches.

“He wanted to be a journalist right from the outset. There were no vacancies at the Luton News at that time, so he joined Whitbread Brewery in the town for a few months until one arose. At that point he became a copy boy in the readers’ department. His long-time sports desk colleague Eric Norris was already working in the department.

“He became a reporter and, after his indentures, moved to a Manchester evening newspaper based in Bolton. He did his National Service in the Intelligence Corps while based in Cyprus. The Bolton paper closed and Brian returned to Luton as deputy chief reporter before becoming industrial correspondent. In 1972 sports editor Eric Pugh, bylined as Chiltern, died and at Christmas of the same year Brian was appointed in his place.”

For 25 years, Brian reported on Luton home and away, and after leaving the Luton News in 1997, he spent a further seven years as a freelance, working for national papers and at the same time becoming Luton Town’s programme editor.

His last home game before retirement was Luton’s 3-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday and the following week, he brought down the curtain on 1,629 domestic matches at Chesterfield, where the hosts acknowledged his service and presented him with a bottle of champagne.

In 2004, Brian fulfilled a lifelong dream by retiring to Falmouth in Cornwall, a town he fell in love with as a child, when he was taken there for his annual holidays.

His widow Rosemary said: “He loved sport and journalism, and always said he was lucky to have lived through a great newspaper era.”

She added: “We had a good life in Cornwall and Brian used to love walking round Falmouth waterfront, taking in the sea air.”

Brian also served as secretary of Falmouth Town FC from 2008 to 2012.

He died at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro on 30 April. His funeral will be held at Penmount Crematorium, Truro, at 1pm on Friday.

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  • May 8, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    The ‘Grain’ train robbery, eh? Don’t recall that one…

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