'Brilliant' former regional editor turned author Frank Rawlins dies aged 70

A former regional newspaper group editor turned successful author has died.

Frank Rawlins, 70, was group editor of the Courier series in Oxford and South Oxfordshire from 1985 until the early 1990s before he left to start his own production company.

He then turned his hand to writing both fiction and non-fiction books, including A Simple Matter of Style, a textbook for reporters and writers.

Frank started in newspapers as a junior reporter on the Stamford & Rutland Mercury in 1965 before moving to the Peterborough Advertiser and then on to the Evening Post-Echo in Hemel Hempstead.

He moved to the Sheffield Chronicle as editor and then joined Tony Rosser’s fledgling free newspaper empire, moving to Oxford to help launch the group’s Sunday Journal, Britain’s first free Sunday newspaper in the early 1980s.

When the rival Courier Newspaper group was launched in Abingdon in 1984, Frank joined as its first group editor.

A brilliant tabloid headline writer with a love of fun stories, Frank would get particular pleasure from teasing reporters by messing with their bylines.

Andy Lines, now chief reporter of the Daily Mirror, said: “Frank was a brilliant journalist. I still remember today one of his headlines about Forfar fans heading from Oxford to watch a match.

“He wrote, ‘Big one to three four-far fans’. Brilliant. I was off to a job in Scotland so he bylined me on the splash Andy McLines.”

Lawrence Webb, who first worked with Frank in the 1990s and is now a features sub-editor at the Daily Mail, said: “ He was a joy to work with – apart from when he suggested that my first name was too long and wanted to byline me Lawrie Webb.

“He had a bit of a thing about jokey bylines. Going through some old cuts I find many with additional details, for example: By our 14-stone Blobendale in training Lawrence Webb.

“I still recall a story I did for the Courier about Phil Collins talking at the Oxford Union. I remember Frank captioning a picture of Phil holding his hands about two feet apart, with the words 'Phil tries to explain his appeal'…"

When Webb returned to the Courier as editor in 2000, one of his tasks was to get Frank back on board as de facto deputy editor.

Then in 2007, Frank forged a new career both as a landscape gardener and a successful author.

He wrote a book a year from 2007, each very different from the previous. After four novels he turned to non-fiction, and wrote a travelogue Holiday Of A Lifetime … Never Again! It was released in the summer of 2011, marking the 100th anniversary of the 'rediscovery' of the Inca citadel Machu Picchu. It sold particularly well as an e-book, regularly appearing among the top-sellers in Kindle's Travel & Holiday section.

Tony Johnston, head of Press Association Training, who worked with Frank at the Courier series, said: “Frank was a brilliant tabloid sub, great fun to work with and also a fine writer. He turned his love of words into a terrific text book for writers that I still recommend to our trainees today.”

Andrew Griffin, now a golf media consultant who was Frank’s deputy at the Courier in the late 1980s said: “Working with him was like going to finishing school. Frank showed me so many ways to design a page – whether the most important element was the words, the heading or, of course, the pictures.”

Frank is survived by Joy, whom he married in 1967, and their two children, Sam and Chris. He lived in Merton near Oxford until his death on Friday 8 April from complications following heart surgery. His funeral will take place on Tuesday 26 April, at 2.30pm at Oxford Crematorium.

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