John Bailey: Weston and Somerset Mercury editor

John Bailey, former Weston & Somerset Mercury editor and author of the paper’s popular “Round About” feature, has died at the age of 92.

Bailey retired from the Mercury in 1980 after over 50 years with the paper. He was the fifth editor in the newspaper’s 160-year history and held the position for 20 years.

He started his career with the Mercury as a teenager, taking adverts at the front desk and worked his way through the ranks. Bailey had opportunities to move away from the resort but his dedication to the people of his home town kept him with the paper.

He also became the publication’s first photographer after he took pictures for his brother Ronald’s Mendip Lore features and was a founder member of the National Union of Journalists in Weston.

In his private life, Bailey was an enthusiastic playwright and his works were staged at Weston’s old Playhouse theatre. He also made many contributions to BBC radio.

A keen musician, Bailey was a St Saviour’s choirboy, a solo cornet player in the YMCA Scouts’ Brass Band, a tenor chorister at St Paul’s, a member of St John’s Parish Church choir and a member of Weston Choral Society.

When war broke out he became deputy establishments officer for the Number 17 National Fire Force at its Bristol headquarters. It was during this time that he married Weston girl Betty Discombe, who he met after thrusting a gas mask over her face when she too joined the fire service.

The couple, who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary this year, have a daughter, Jill. She said: “Dad was a kind, generous man with a huge sense of humour and enthusiasm for his work and other activities. He was also a wonderful husband and father and will be terribly missed.” Jill believes her father’s account of the 1930 Grand Pier fire was one of his most dramatic reports and shows his enthusiasm for the job.

Bailey wrote: “All eyes were riveted upon what seemed to be a palace wrought in fire. At the top of the structure one saw a fierce ball of flame which one knew to be the dome, and at each corner of the square block of fire ascending to the heavens was a fiercely blazing minaret – these the towers. In life the Pavilion had been a thing of appealing beauty, in this, the moment of its death, it had an appalling grandeur.” On his retirement from the paper, Bailey summed up his years as editor. He said: “I have been trusted to maintain the Mercury as a clean, good standard family paper, severe maybe at times in editorial reaction to public issues, but never stinting, always sincere, and allowing the right of reply.” ©Weston & Somerset Mercury

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