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Journalist who won MBE for regional daily work dies aged 90

A former regional daily journalist awarded the MBE for her work has died aged 90.

Tributes have been paid to Hilda Swinney, left, who worked for the Dorset Echo for more than 30 years despite never having any formal journalistic training.

Hilda served as the Echo’s Portland correspondent between 1978 and 2002, and continued writing her Island Eye column for the newspaper for several more years after failing eyesight meant she had to take a step back.

Among the big stories she covered was the evacuation of the Isle of Portland in 1995 when an unexploded Second World War bomb was discovered beneath a football pitch, and writing of her travels to the isle’s namesake in Texas in 1982.

Echo editor Diarmuid MacDonagh said: “Hilda was not only a great servant to the Dorset Echo and the community of Portland but a great friend. Hilda was our Portland Correspondent, a title she held with pride, distinction and loyalty.

“She considered the Echo family and she offered guidance and support to a generation of young reporters, myself included. Despite not being a trained journalist she had the natural gifts that could not be taught; people liked her, people trusted her and people believed her.

“I will miss her straight-talking, her laughter, her innate goodness. I already do. She would often ring me late at night to take issue with something she disagreed with or which she thought I had missed.

He added: “Hilda was never on the staff but she was more important than that – she was family, and we are all the poorer for her passing but, hopefully, all a little bit wiser and somewhat better people for having had the privilege of being a part of her life.”

Echo photographer Finnbarr Webster added: “When I first met Hilda, I was totally intimidated by her, how highly she was respected at the Echo and how the staff told me she was one of the best journalists I would ever meet. They were right but she was also a kind, thoughtful and poetic person who could recite numerous famous works from memory.

“She was such an intelligent and genuinely interesting person that I never met anybody who didn’t enjoy her company and want to be her friend. I’m so very proud that Hilda and I were the very best of friends and I will miss her with all my heart.”

Hilda was made an MBE in 2004 for services to journalism and charity.

Originally from Scotland, she is survived by three sons, Eric, Kevin and Doug, 10 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Her husband Ernie died in 1990, aged 61.

Doug, 54, said: “Everyone I have spoken to over the last few days has said, in a light-hearted way that she was always right – sometimes mistaken, but never wrong. She was a very proud Portlander and a very proud Scot. I think she will be remembered for so many things.”

A celebration of her life will be held at All Saints Church in Easton, on the Isle of Portland, at 1pm on Tuesday 28 November.

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  • November 23, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Sounds like a lovely lady journalist from the ‘old school’ – the likes of which are now sadly few and far between.

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