Former Oldham Evening Chronicle editor Jim Williams has died aged 75.
Known for his cutting comments in a 45-year career covering news and sport, Williams had retired in 2010 after ten years in the editor’s chair.
It was 1965 when he first walked into the Union Street offices to become the local daily’s sports reporter, later covering local football team Oldham Athletic FC for the paper.
It was a role that he relished, building a strong following among readers for his forthright verdicts and insightful reporting that saw him refuse to toe the club line and which often put him at odds with the board as he followed the “Latics” all over the country with photographer Martin Smith.
Williams took that search for the truth with him when he moved on to become the Chronicle’s news editor, deputy editor and then editor.
He also went on to prove his versatility when he freelanced as the anchorman to the Saturday afternoon sports show on Piccadilly Radio in the early 1980s, doing his homework to add colour and detail to the goal flashes.
He took that same keen eye for detail into Oldham’s council chamber to write hard-hitting Chronicle sketches of council debate.
Veteran councillor John Battye remembers them well: “From Latics reporter to setting the scene at Oldham Council meetings, his reports were always sprinkled with great wit and insight.
“Councillors couldn’t wait to see the next night’s Chronicle to see if Jim had given them a mention – even if it was a dressing down.
“Jim was a true professional who left an unparalleled legacy of reports and editorial comment on local life and events in and around Oldham.”
Philip Hirst, former chairman of ex-Chronicle publisher Hirst, Kidd and Rennie, added: “In Jim we had a fine writer and reporter, one of the best. No one who is a journalist can receive a higher accolade than that.”
One of Williams’ finest achievements was in establishing the Pride in Oldham Awards in the wake of the Oldham Riots in 2001.
These gave recognition to hundreds of Oldhamers who went the extra mile for the borough and its people and ran for 15 years before the newspaper went into administration in 2017, relaunching as a website last year.
In retirement, Williams kept up with current affairs and was also an avid reader of historical fiction books.
He would be seen daily setting out from his home in Uppermill onto the hills of Saddleworth, walking boots on, rucksack over his shoulder containing his packed lunch and flask.
He also did voluntary work with the Canal and River Trust and the RSPB and his retirement gift when he left the Chronicle was gardening equipment which he put to good use on an allotment.
Williams was out walking only days before contracting pneumonia. He died on Friday, 1 February 2019, in the Royal Oldham Hospital with his wife Karen and daughter Jane at his bedside.
He leaves a son-in-law Phil and granddaughter, 17-year-old Eleanor.
Williams also had a son, Adam, who died of a brain tumour aged 34 in 1993.
Last word to the man himself. He came in for a great deal of personal abuse when, as Chronicle editor, he took on the British National Party when it looked to use racial tensions to drive a wedge into the town.
“I was described on their website as ‘lying beast Williams’. I regarded that as something I should wear as a badge of honour.”