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Former editor dies suddenly on holiday aged 86

A former editor who created an alter-ego to help fill his newspaper has died suddenly while on holiday at the age of 83.

Tributes have been paid to George Willey, who became known as ‘Mr Swanage’ and edited the Swanage Times, which later became the Swanage and Wareham Advertiser after a takeover by Southern Newspapers.

Originally from Newport, South Wales, George had intended his time in Swanage to serve as a “staging-post” to Fleet Street and a career as a political journalist, but he ended up staying.

In 1955 he created his alter-ego, Tilly Whim, to help fill the old broadsheet Times, and the column continued to run for more than 50 years.

George, with a bust of himself at the Quarr Gallery, Swanage in 2007

George, with a bust of himself at the Quarr Gallery, Swanage in 2007

George’s son Wolf-Christian Willey said: “He did his National Service as a clerk in the Royal Army Service Corps and, on demob, took up a post as a cub reporter on the South Wales Argus.

“He then moved north and spent three years working as a chief reporter with the Durham County Press, and in 1953, he moved to Swanage. There he worked for the Western Gazette, while also writing and editing the Swanage Times.”

He added: “George was known as a wit and raconteur and will be remembered for his infectious enthusiasm and tremendous positivity for all things Swanage.”

George met many celebrities through his work including the historian Arthur Bryant, actress Googie Withers, and the author Enid Blyton. He was also an active member of a large number of clubs, societies and organisations in Dorset.

Wolf-Christian said: “The few organisations of which he was not a member still benefitted from his support, both in his columns and when he was a commentator. It was in this latter capacity that he was known to thousands of holidaymakers who visited the town.”

George died suddenly while on holiday in Germany on 22 September, and is also survived by Beate, his wife of 55 years, and six grandchildren. He outlived his daughter Katrine.

George’s funeral will be held at St Mary’s Church, Swanage, on 13 October at 11am.