George Frew: dedicated journalist whose battle with illness was an inspiration

Just over a week after being named Feature Writer of the Year at the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards, Western Daily Press features editor George Frew lost his long and brave battle against lung cancer. He died at his Bristol riverside home on 12 July.

George wrote two moving articles about facing up to his illness and how he was coping with it. The pieces provoked a huge and emotional response from readers who could identify with his honesty and courage.

At the press awards, the judges said: “This guy wasn’t rubbing his sleeve on the window to look in, he was on the inside of that window looking out at us from his awful childhood to his now imminent death. This is the sort of man other entrants would like to interview and write about to win the award.”

But they also stressed: “For his own sake, he should know that he won the award for his brilliant writing and not because he is dying.”

George was too ill to travel to the ceremony at London’s Hilton Hotel, having been admitted to St Peter’s Hospice in Bristol the day before. But he insisted his partner, Gloria Seath, made the trip and she accepted the trophy on his behalf from Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow.

George’s courage inspired all who worked with him as he fought the disease. In the Western Daily Press, his colleague Roger Tavener wrote: “I tell you what – I never ever, ever heard George make a squeak of complaint about the fix he was in.

“He cared about the people we deal with in this business, which moves rapidly from one disaster to another, often with a taint of cynicism about it, but he always had time for an understanding word and a nod of respect.

“George was well rounded, well read, well respected. He said he’d take the disease on and goodness, didn’t he. And he kept working, but not just working – his output got bigger and better.

“We told him to take a trip to get away from it all. George said simply: ‘What I want to do is keep working. I love it here. I want to do it for as long as I can and I will know when the time comes to go. Why would I want to go away? I’m going on the most amazing trip in Heaven and Earth. That comes last. I’ve got other things to do.’

“And indeed he did. His ability to turn up no matter how bad he must have been feeling, shamed us all. And we all learnt something from George as he coped with his illness. We will all miss him.”

George was born in Paisley, Scotland, on 21 January, 1955, and after completing his education, he enjoyed a varied career, learning his trade in local newspapers before moving to Rotterdam where he took a job as a feature and television writer.

He spent time as a freelance, during which he worked for a variety of publications, including some of the UK’s leading music papers and magazines.

After a spell as features editor at the Chronicle and Echo in Northampton, he returned to Great Yarmouth, where he had previously worked as launch editor of the East Anglian Post, to become group editor of five weekly titles. He went on to work for a magazine publishing company in Oxfordshire before joining the Oxford Mail as a feature writer.

Daily Press editor Terry Manners said: “George lived and breathed newspapers. He may be gone from our newsroom, but he will live on in our hearts forever.”

George leaves loving partner Gloria, his mother Pat and two younger brothers, John and Martin.

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