Leigh Morrisey - Former editor, Clitheroe Advertiser and Times

Leigh
Morrisey was a newspaperman in the truest sense of the word, who had to
deal with the greatest of adversities in the latter stages of his life.

Leigh
passed away peacefully on Friday under the care of staff at Pendleside
Hospice after suffering for three years from the ravaging effects of
motor neurone disease. During those testing times, he had retained not
only a magnificent sense of humour and compassion, but ensured the
limited time he had left was not wasted.

For years Leigh, 62, a
former assistant to the editor on the Nelson Leader, Colne Times and
Barnoldswick and Earby Times, who eventually moved on to what he
described as his “dream job” of editing the Clitheroe Advertiser and
Times, allied his love for newspapers and writing to enjoying life to
the full through food, drink, music, films and theatre – it was all
about having fun, he would say.

He was forced to retire through
illhealth after 16 years of award-winning achievements for his
newspaper. When he was eventually diagnosed with this muscle-wasting
disease at the age of 59, his life entered a sad era.

With the
devoted care of his wife, Maureen, and family, Leigh fought a battle he
knew he was never going to win, but with that resignation came a
determination and spirit which filled his family and friends with
admiration.

His spirit was threatened on many occasions, but
never broken, and he remained the perfect host to callers at his home
in Thornton-in-Craven.

Medical staff and carers who had not known
Leigh previously were also filled with admiration for the way he and
Maureen dealt with the disease. These strangers had come late into his
life – not wanted, but now necessary – and were all affected by Leigh’s
disposition as he regaled them with tales from his life as a
journalist. They, too, have been left with a great sense of loss.

Leigh was a proud man and he intended to retain that pride whatever the disease threw at him.

I
was in awe of him for the reason that, in the early Sixties, he had met
and interviewed The Beatles when they played at the old Imperial, in
Nelson.

The fact that he had his picture taken with the Fab Four, notebook in hand, was, to me, the stuff of legends.

To
Leigh, it was another piece for his Young Ones column, which ran in
this paper in the Sixties and I never forgave him for telling me they
were just a bunch of “cocky Scousers”. Unlike the hundreds of others
there that night, Leigh was not impressed by the greatest band of all
time.

He had started work as copy boy on the Manchester Evening
News and joined the Leader-Times series of newspapers around 1960. He
quickly proved his worth as a reporter in many different fields.
Through his Young Ones column he was involved in organising the Miss
Imperial beauty contests.

Leigh became chief reporter and was then appointed assistant to the then editor, Noel Wild.

Many
will also recall Leigh in his role as a photographer in his spare time,
and he recorded hundreds of occasions on film for the paper.

Despite
growing up in the Sixties, Leigh was more classical than pop, and
enjoyed, with a glass of wine in one hand and libretto in the other,
the voices of Domingo and Pavarotti, or appreciated the music of
Vivaldi and Bruch.

If he was feeling more mainstream, then the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber would accompany a nice Burgundy.

During
his editorship in Clitheroe, which began in 1986, Leigh always vowed to
retain and uphold the highest qualities and best traditions of
journalism, as well as introducing new ideas to the paper, including
the award-winning Valley magazine. His motif was always “evolution, not
revolution” and, in following this, he ensured that sales of the
newspaper grew each year.

Leigh was also actively involved in the
Sham Mayor of Worston ceremony, and was a big supporter of Clitheroe
Area WI; he enjoyed attending the Pioneering woman journalist Former
reporter on the Paisley Daily Express annual show and particularly the
tea!

He encouraged relationships between the newspaper and the
Ribble Valley Chamber of Trade, and also actively supported the
reopening of the Ribble Valley rail line.

Leigh was the force
behind the Ribble Valley Explorer, the tourism newspaper which is now
distributed throughout the country and abroad, extolling the virtues of
the Ribble Valley in conjunction with RVBC.

Ribble Valley MP
Nigel Evans paid tribute, saying: “I am so sorry to learn of Leigh’s
death. He was such a tremendous and enthusiastic person. You could
always detect his passion for his job.

“First and foremost he was
a newspaper man. He took our local newspaper to new heights and ensured
that it remained loyal to its readership. We will all miss Leigh’s
humour and dedication – his smile was infectious and his warmth
all-pervading.”

Leigh regarded himself, proudly, as being from
the old school of journalism, and sought to instill these qualities
into new recruits. He was a stickler for punctuation, and, after his
family, the editor’s chair was the place he loved to be.

He has
been sorely missed by colleagues at East Lancashire Newspapers since
his enforced retirement, and they now mourn his passing with great
sadness, but delight at the happy times they shared with him.

Leigh leaves his wife, three children, Paul, Paula and Emma, and four grandchildren, Rebecca, Pascal, Amelia and Eleanor.

A service to celebrate Leigh’s life was held at St Peter’s Church, Stonyhurst College, near Clitheroe.

Roy Prenton

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