David Cole: Western Mail editor and Thompson Regional Newspapers executive

Merthyr Tydfil has produced an incredible clutch of outstanding journalists and David Cole, whose death was announced last week, was one of them.

Cole first made his mark as Candac, the sports columnist of the Merthyr Express. The pen name was taken from his full name – Claude Neville David Cole – and his skills were recognised at the offices of the Western Mail and Echo where he became a sub-editor.

He was a charming, good-looking man with a remarkable knowledge of politics, sport and industry, and all those who enjoyed working with him knew he was destined for great things – and pretty quickly too.

He had a spell as a features editor in Fleet Street and later returned to Cardiff as the Welsh editor of the old Empire News, where his reporter’s instinct for a good human interest story and his understanding of the Welsh psyche sent sales soaring.

Soon after, he was appointed editor of the Western Mail.

He once flatly refused permission to the deputy editor to run a particular story and the writer started to argue. “Look,” snapped the deputy, “the old man has given his decision. Just get on with it.” Cole – the “old man” – was just 27 at the time.

From then on, his rise was remarkable: from managing director of the Mail and Echo company, to the London office as managing director of the Thomson Regional Newspaper Group, and to further senior positions with the international Thomson group.

Cole was a man of tremendous loyalty – to his staff, to his news-papers and to his native country. He was not a man of ruthless ambition; his style was more persuasive and encouraging.

He was, too, a journalist’s journalist, with a deep understanding of the value of truth and accuracy.

He would take a newspaperman’s approach to business problems, even if this meant turning a deaf ear to the technocrats’ advice.

He devoted much of his skills to Wales and its institutions, quietly and without fuss, but it is in the field of newspapers that his outstanding abilities will be remembered. He achieved so much in spite of a debilitating illness that kept him bedridden for many years. His sort of courage and fortitude, allied with journalistic skill of a very high order, will ensure him a significant place in the history of newspapers in Wales.

Cole died at his home in Penarth, Glamorgan, the day before his 75th birthday. He leaves a widow, Mary, a son, Robert, and a daughter, Deborah.

Howard Green

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