Obituaries

Graham Punter An accomplished journalist who lived and worked in Harborough and who wrote hundreds of stories for the Harborough and Lutterworth Mail, has died aged 54.

Graham Punter died peacefully at his home in Elm, near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, on 11 March following a short illness.

The father-of-three worked at the Mail from 2003 to 2005 as a sub-editor and reporter, and was most recently at the Fenland Citizen.

Born in Luton, he started as a 17- year-old trainee reporter on the Watford Post before moving to the Luton News where he completed his professional qualifications.

In the 1970s, he joined Carnaby Street-based Music Week for a year, where he interviewed Suzy Quatro and Rod Stewart.

The keen Luton Town football club fan then had stints as a sub-editor at the Luton News and Hemel Hempstead Evening Post-Herald before being appointed group editor of the Herald’s 28 weekly titles.

In 1985 the Herald was named weekly paper of the year.

Punter was a freelance in the 1990s, when he worked for the Leicester Mercury, Coventry Evening Telegraph, Derby Evening Telegraph, Northampton Chronicle and Echo and Motorcycle News.

He also edited Northamptonshire magazine Looking Good.

In 1995 he became editor for the next five years of an in-house style magazine for textiles company Courtaulds.

He then worked for the Northants Evening Telegraph in Kettering before joining the Mail.

He was a qualified Football Association coach and taught children’s teams, built a kit car, enjoyed oil painting, learnt to sail, competed in horse show jumping and hunter trials, learnt to ski and played guitar.

Son Rob said: “It has come as a great shock. My dad was a hard worker and a loving father.”

Daughter Louise said: “He had a passion for learning and continually set himself new challenges.”

Geoff Cox, editor of the Luton News & Dunstable Gazette, said: “This is very sad news. Graham and I were junior reporters together on the Luton News, along with David Renwick, who wrote the sitcom One Foot In The Grave.”

He leaves sons Jeremy (26) and Robert (21), daughter Louise (23), his parents Madge and Sidney, and ex-wife Ann.

The funeral is today (Thursday 22) at Peterborough crematorium.

Alan Gilbert

Former Liverpool Echo editor Alan Gilbert has died aged 98 at a retirement home in Devon. The following piece, by Roy Corlett, was written 10 years ago.

The first thing you notice is the electric typewriter, plugged in and ready to go. The fingers may be a little stiff but the brain is alert and at 88, Alan Gilbert is never happier than pounding the keyboard and putting his thoughts into words.

He has written successful novels, and was for 20 years the editor of a leading evening newspaper.

Now, in retirement at Kingsbridge, he writes for the fun of it and doesn’t worry about seeing it in print.

His quiet, ordered lifestyle is a big contrast to the hustle and bustle of his time at the helm of the Liverpool Echo, meeting deadlines for constantly changing editions of a 36-page newspaper selling half a million copies a day.

It was the 60s, a time of change for a great city that had been brought almost to its knees by strikes but was slowly recovering.

A time when the Merseyside sound was beginning to rise to the top in the entertainment world.

One day his showbiz reporter burst into Alan’s office and said he had been listening to four boys performing in a shabby club called the Cavern. They were unknown and had put all their savings into buying instruments, but he was certain they would make the big time.

“They call themselves a group, whatever that may be,” he said.

“And they make the most exciting sound. I can assure you the youngsters will go crazy about it.”

Alan trusted his reporter and his full-page story, with photographs, was the first publicity achieved by the group who called themselves the Beatles.

By coincidence the reporter’s name was also George Harrison and in later years he toured with the Fab Four that included his namesake, sending back reports to the Echo from wherever they went.

Letters poured in from fans all over the world. One from a 15- year-old girl desperate to meet the group read: “Dear Editor. Will you please make me your special correspondent in Memphis, Tennessee?”

“I laughed and threw it in the waste bin,” he recalls. “Looking back it would have been a wonderful gimmick. I missed a trick there.”

Alan had the ear of many politicians and became friendly with Harold Wilson, MP for Huyton and, he says, a man underrated by history.

“A wonderful constituency MP, he says. “He would go into a working men’s club, remember every one by name and ask after the children.

When he got on the train at Euston he would be talking like a prime minister, but with every mile his accent would become broader and broader so that when he arrived in Lime Street it was unrecognisable.”

Alan began his newspaper career on a weekly paper in Lincoln, where he quickly made his mark by climbing with steeplejacks up a 200-foot spire and taking photographs.

After wartime RAF service he wrote swashbuckling romantic novels, including one called The Swordsman, before deciding that news rather than history was his forte.

He retired early, “squeezed dry like a lemon” but believes presentday editors have an even harder job than he had.

“All we had to do was decide what was a good story,” he says.

“Now, with instant TV coverage, news is dead before you have the time to write it and you have to rely much more on features.”

He still gets a Liverpool paper every day but is left cold by the exploits of its famous football teams.

Golf was his game, but in the soccer-mad Echo newsroom he had a job to convince his sports editor that winning the Ryder Cup was something to get excited about.

Alan is proud that many of his young reporters have done so well.

One was Robin Oakley, now the BBC’s political editor.

Another, Roy Corlett, became manager of BBC Radio Devon and, after early retirement, is reporting again, based in Dawlish.

“A rather pushing young man,”

is his former editor’s verdict. “But very loyal and a first class journalist.”

I say “Hear, Hear to that”.

Roy Corlett

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