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Journalist known for April Fools’ Day stories dies aged 84

Alan StanleyA features writer who known for writing spoof April Fool’s Day stories has died aged 84.

Tributes have been paid to Alan Stanley, who worked for many years on the Chichester Observer and West Sussex Gazette.

Alan, pictured, later went on to serve as the main features writer and photographer for the regional nostalgia magazine Yesterday.

Gary Shipton, director and editor in chief of Sussex World and National World’s Sussex weekly newspapers, described Alan as “a superb journalist and a lovely man” who “also had a great sense of humour”.

Gary said: “For many years he wrote the weekly village feature in the West Sussex Gazette and in the 1990s took great joy on April Fools’ Day by creating an entirely fictitious village Erehton.

“He took photos of real Sussex villages and reversed them and, of course, Erehton was Not Here spelt backwards.  Hundreds of readers phoned in desperate to visit this gorgeous, eccentric Sussex village.

“But Alan was a true gentleman and extraordinarily wise and kind.

“He also had the skill to take a very plain subject and make it absolutely beautiful with his almost poetic use of language.”

Alan began his career on the Rhyl Leader at the age of 16, later moving to the Manchester Guardian.

He then joined the then Portsmouth and Sunderland Newspapers Group before heading to Sussex.

Mike Woolley, who worked with Alan for more than 60 years, told Sussex World from his home in Australia: “We shared our first vehicles, two Austin 7 Rubies, and sought news from most pubs in the Chichester and Midhurst areas.

“For me, it was his great sense of fun and love of the countryside, archaeology and, of course, his family.

“To have a friend for 60 years, to walk together, to holiday together with our families on his narrow boat Osprey, and with never a cross word, was something really special. A dear friend, sadly missed.”

Alan was theatre critic when the Chichester Festival Theatre first opened and also served as motoring correspondent.

In the latter stages of his career he moved to Yesterday, which covered Hampshire, Sussex and the Isle of Wight.

Outside of journalism, his main interests were jazz, archaeology and walking – a passion that was breifly interrupted when he suffered a stroke.

After retiring, he took a course in archaeology at Sussex University and joined the Chichester and Worthing Archaeology Societies.

Alan and his wife Barbara were married for 56 years and had four daughters and eight grandchildren.

His funeral will be at the Harbour View Crematorium, near Poole, at 10.30am on Saturday 19 November.