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Reporter bows out after 44 years at regional publisher

A journalist who has spent 44 years with a regional daily and its sister titles has finally put down her notebook.

Sue Austin has spent more than four decades reporting on life across Shropshire and Mid-Wales for the Shropshire Star and sister publications.

Her “rollercoaster” career has included covering William and Kate’s wedding in London to being on the footplate of the Flying Scotsman and taking to the skies in RAF helicopters.

Sue also specialised in telling the often heartbreaking stories of people battling against the odds, sometimes prompting charity efforts on their behalf.

Sue, left, as a young reporter, and right, pictured in 2014.

Sue, left, as a young reporter, and right, pictured in 2014.

They included reporting on the wedding of Sue Wood, a disabled bride who defied the odds to walk down the aisle on her big day, and who went on to become a leading disabled athlete and campaigner for disability rights before her death last year.

Then in 1987 she covered the story of five-year-old Down’s syndrome sufferer Joanne Harris from Shrewsbury, who shot to fame 13 years later when Craig Phillips, the first winner of Big Brother, donated his £70,000 prize money to her appeal for a heart lung transplant.

Sue also covered Des James’ fight for justice following the death of his daughter Cheryl and other soldiers at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey.

And she told the story of Oli Harrison, who was given a life-saving heart transplant after being given six months to live aged five and has now made a name for himself as a talented cricketer.

Sue told the Star: “I’ve been completely humbled as families facing the most unimaginable heartache and tragedy talked to me about loved ones lost and maybe their campaigns to ensure future changes or fundraising in memory of those close to them.

“Their faces and their words have stayed with me across the decades.”

Sue began her career, as Sue Moir, as a trainee reporter on the Shrewsbury Chronicle in 1980.

She recalls: “It truly was the life of a junior, typing up – yes, on a typewriter – weddings and funerals, and being the office tea girl three times a day.”

Her career has seen her work at offices across Shropshire and Mid Wales, including Wem, Newtown, Welshpool, Market Drayton and her home town of Oswestry.

She also worked at the former Shropshire Star headquarters in Telford where she had stints as acting women’s editor and news editor.

She recalls the early days of her career when a van would arrive twice a day to collect the reporters’ stories and take them to head office in Telford where they would be set by the printers.

Later when mobile phones arrived, the Star’s first handset was shared by photographers and attached to a battery the size of a small suitcase.

Now 62, Sue insists she has no plans to spend her retirement growing old gracefully.

She said a friend had given her a sign that hangs in her loo saying: “When I get old I don’t want people thinking ‘what a sweet old lady’ but thinking, ‘Oh, ****, what is she up to now?'”