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Editor’s secretary who became free newspaper pioneer dies aged 76

Marie BoullemierA former editor’s secretary who went on to become a pioneer of free newpapers in the 1970s has died aged 76.

Marie Boullemier, left, launched the Northants Post along with her husband Tony and other business partners in 1975, growing it into a Midlands-wide group employing 250 staff.

Marie, who died on Thursday after a short illness, was initially news editor of the Post but went on to take charge of the commercial side of the newspaper.

She also wrote a column called Pandora’s Box which started out in the Post continued in the Northampton Chronicle and Echo until 2017, by which time it had run for 40 years.

Marie’s career in newspapers had begun as secretary to the editor of Newcastle daily The Journal, where she met her husband, before taking on her first reporting job at the Consett Guardian in County Durham.

After a move to London in 1969 when Tony joined the Daily Express subs desk, she worked on the Kilburn Times, Herts Advertiser and Evening Echo at Hemel, as well as doing reporting shifts for The Sun.

She and Tony started the Post along with another Express journalist Richard Meredith and Evening Echo advertising men Ben Clingain and Mike Page.

Tony was editor and Marie news editor but she soon took over classified advertising, building the Post up to 100 pages of property, motors and job adverts each week.

Said Tony: “She soon had that department running like clockwork.

“It was a tremendous struggle building the paper up against heavy opposition but Marie was a total inspiration to all her staff, not to mention her fellow directors.”

Eventually new titles were launched across Northants, Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire and in 1986 Marie was awarded a national ‘Women Mean Business’ award.

By the time she and her partners sold the Post group to Thomson Regional Newspapers – a predecessor company to Reach plc – in 1988, it employed 250 full-time staff.

Marie continued her column in the Post for a while but when its new owners started cutting it back in the 1990s, she transferred it to the Chronicle & Echo, only revealing her true identity to readers in her last column in 2017.

She also took charge of a second business she and her partners had started, Derngate Gym Health & Fitness Centre, serving as its managing director for 25 years until closing it in 2015 in the face of competition from national chains.

Marie was married to Tony for 53 years and leaves two children, both of whom went on to be journalists, and four grandchildren.

Son Richard trained on the Richmond & Twickenham Times, was a producer at talkSPORT Radio and now runs his own filmmaking business, while daughter Kerry trained on the Essex Chronicle, was a press officer for the Department of Health & Social Care, and is now a communications manager for the NHS in Hertfordshire.