Tony Blandford

Tony Blandford, former editor of the Basildon Recorder, and later the Wiltshire Star, died last month, aged 67.

He had been stricken for many years with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s: unable to talk, unable to comprehend and wheelchair-bound.

Yet dozens of talented journalists around the country will remember Tony as the best editor they ever worked for.

Actually, he was the perfect editor.

When Westminster Press launched the Basildon/Southend Evening Echo in the late ’60s, WP weekly editors in that area were encouraged to keep their own papers strong. But not too strong, chaps, as the daily had to get established… That wasn’t the Blandford way.

Often – gloriously often – Tony’s Basildon Recorder produced exclusives, which had Echo executives breathing fire.

To speak plainly, we, the 11-strong Recorder team (I was Tony’s deputy editor), were unfair to the Echo, which gave us a daily supply of its hard news.

We were meant to reciprocate, but our joy-of-an-editor often withheld juicy and/or important bits, so they could be Recorder exclusives. Well, we only got one publication day a week.

We felt it was an honour to work for the Recorder – a proper, gutsy, weekly – and fun too, as Tony was personable and enjoyed a laugh. And best of all, Recorder sales stood up admirably to the Echo onslaught. What an editor!

Years passed. WP merged the Recorder with the Southend Standard to become the free Standard Recorder, and Tony moved to Swindon with his wife, Sonia, and daughter and son, to rejuvenate the free Wiltshire Star, hugely overshadowed by its Evening Advertiser ally.

He achieved this promptly, but Sonia’s health became a serious worry.

The family was devastated when, after several years of illness, Sonia died.

Eventually Tony remarried, to Swindon girl Elizabeth, and they had two boys. He had a few years of enjoyment with his extended family before the onset of Parkinson’s (later followed by Alzheimer’s, which forced him to retire in his mid-50s. He was cared for at home, with Liz and her two sons, until his death.

by Barry Brennan

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