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Editor who ran rival titles and trained famous names dies aged 86

Don ChambersAn editor who went on to train hundreds of journalists including some of the best-known names in the media industry has died aged 86.

Tributes have been paid to Don Chambers, who edited rival newspapers the Abergavenny Chronicle and Abergavenny Gazette during his career.

Don also worked for the Western Mail and the Pontypool Free Press, as well as teaching at South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education, now Cardiff Metropolitan University, and Pontypool College.

He counted the likes of Jill Dando, John Inverdale, Anne Diamond and Adrian Chiles among his students.

Don died on New Year’s Eve having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago. In retirement, he had returned to the Chronicle to write a nostalgia column.

Editor Liz Davies said: “Don loved everything about being in a newsroom and I was delighted when he not only offered to write a column for the Chronicle, but agreed to come in to the office for a few days every week.

“He had taught most of the team at the Chronicle and remained a great mentor and friend, so it was wonderful to have him in the newsroom to continue to share his knowledge and experience, which he did in the most generous way.

“As a new editor it was also very reassuring to have him in the office next door to hand out advice whenever I needed it.”

Don was born in Cwmgwrach, a small mining village in the Neath Valley, and was brought up in the town of Cowbridge, near Cardiff.

He joined the Chronicle as a junior reporter after completing National Service in Germany and Holland, eventually being promoted to sports editor and, later, editor.

In 1970, Don was hired by Thomson Newspapers to launch the Abergavenny Gazette in direct opposition to the Chronicle with chief reporter Meyrick Phillips and photographer Barrie Masterton.

In 1973, he joined the Western Mail and began his training career two years later.

Andy Sherwill, former editor of Gloucestershire weekly The Forester, was among those taught by Don.

He told HTFP: “Don Chambers was a font of all knowledge. As a tutor, he was always able to emphasise the point he was making about journalism by likening it to an experience he had in the newsroom or out and about within the community.

“He also had zero tolerance to bad punctuation, and was extremely enthusiastic about having apostrophes put in the correct place.

“He even went around Abergavenny, his home town, and where he had been editor of two newspapers, and pointed out to all the shopkeepers falling foul of the apostrophe rule where they had gone wrong in the signage or notifications in their windows.”

Don’s wife Julie told the Chronicle: “He loved teaching the students until he was 68 when the course closed. Luckily he got a job with the Pontypool Free Press as he was not ready to retire.

“On one of his walks around the town he approached staff at Pontypool College to start a new course for journalists which was agreed and he taught there for another two years until he retired.”

Don was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago but his illness became worse during the last two years.

He was hospitalised in September and was a resident at Glanbury House, Plas Geller, Brynmawr, when he died.  He is survived by Julie, their two daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.