Very few people in the dog-eat-dog world of journalism can ever have been as popular as Alan Tweedale, the former Rochdale freelance who died on 9 April, aged 82.
But as well as being universally well liked, he was also widely admired for his reporting skills and his ability to meet the tightest deadlines imposed by news editors on daily and evening papers up and down the country.
Above all, he was a gentleman – a rare animal in the cut-throat business that was freelance journalism in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.
He was never a foot-in-the-door merchant. He didn’t have to be; he could charm information out of the most obdurate individual. But his gentle manner hid a steely determination not to let anyone stand in his way in completing whatever story he was covering.
Born and educated in Rochdale, he joined the Rochdale Observer on leaving school, but shortly afterwards was called up by the RAF near the end of the Second World War, and saw service in Burma.
On demob, he rejoined the paper and by then his father, Harry, was the editor. In 1954 he accepted a partnership offer from former Observer colleague Jack Hammill, and for the next 25 years the pair operated a busy news and sports agency in Rochdale. One of their early claims to fame was spotting the budding talent of future Daily Mail theatre critic Jack Tinker and giving him his start in journalism.
Local cricket clubs
In addition to their normal news work, Hammill and Tweedale were kept busy in winter covering the fortunes of Rochdale Hornets RL club and Rochdale Football Club. In summer, they covered Central Lancashire League cricket at a time when Frank Worrell, Charlie Barnett, Cec Pepper, Gary Sobers, Roy Gilchrist, Basil d’Oliveira, Vinoo Mankad and Sonny Ramadhin were professionals with local clubs, and when the sports editors of the two Manchester evening papers and the northern editions of the Sunday papers provided plenty of space to fill.
When there was time, Alan would turn his attention to golf and the constant battle to reduce his handicap. If it wasn’t golf, it was his beloved angling. Then there was his work for the Rugby League Writers’ Association. He was treasurer for many years and when he stepped down from that post he was made a life member.
When the Hammill agency closed in the late Seventies, Alan returned to the Observer and retired in 1991 as news editor.