A journalist and man of distinction and integrity, national and agency newspaperman Bill Barton has died peacefully in his sleep at home in Raisbeck, Orton, Cumbria, aged 83.
Bill learned his craft on newspapers in Burnley, Lancashire, where he was born in 1924. He then worked for the Daily Dispatch, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Daily Telegraph in Manchester at Withy Grove.
Towards the end of World War II he joined the RAF and completed his training as a bomb aimer, flying Lancasters. He was very self-effacing, often telling stories of those days. A memorable one was about accidentally dropping a dummy bomb onto a desert encampment. Much of his war effort involved moving troops around Europe during the demobilisation after the war.
Bill moved from Cheshire to Cumbria in 1975.
As one of his former colleagues said: “I think Bill discovered the good life before it was fashionable”. He wore out two Minis commuting 100 miles each way for 12 years to Manchester in all weathers.
On one occasion he found himself in the only vehicle on a snowbound motorway, which he did not know had been closed. He once came home with the car laden with flagstones he had salvaged from Manchester Cathedral to use in his garden.
As a reporter he covered many national stories, including John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in 1963, the moors murders, Donald Campbell’s water speed records, George Best’s amorous adventures, the Northern Ireland conflict and many more.
He retired in 1987 and started North Lakes News Service based in Penrith, writing freelance articles for newspapers and magazines, specialising in features from Cumbria.
Both in appearance and demeanour he was more a countryman than a townie – his interest in wildlife earned him the nickname Badger Bill.
His great passions were his family, books and gardens.
He built two beautiful gardens during his 32 years in Cumbria at Morland and Raisbeck.
He was still working at his planting, walling and paving the day before he died.
He liked nothing more than a good stone – and had the natural gift of knowing how to place it.
He was blessed with a long, interesting and healthy life and will be remembered as long as his gardens grow.
He leaves wife Margaret, son Will and daughter Sue. A private family service was held at Morland parish church on 12 June.