Radio Merseyside pioneer Rex Bawden dies aged 90

The journalist who led the creation of BBC Radio Merseyside’s news team has died aged 90.

A newsman for more than 60 years, Rex Bawden died in hospital on Wirral. He is credited with nurturing the talents of current BBC presenters Billy Butler and Roger Phillips.

The Tranmere-born reporter was appointed the station’s first news editor in 1968 and went on to become manager in 1970, a post he held until his retirement in 1981.

Bawden was educated at the former Birkenhead Institute where he was captain and Victor Ludorum – Latin for Winner of the Games – at athletics.

He began his career at the Birkenhead Advertiser and where he was paid “eight bob a week – six shillings and 10 and a half pence after deductions!”.

During World War II Bawden served in the army for five-and-a-half years as a radar pioneer in the ack-ack, the name given to the unit, from the alphabet used of British signalman.

He then transferred to combined operations before returning to newspapers in the north-west and a stint at the Sunday Times.

As a journalist and editor, Bawden worked at the Liverpool Evening Express and the Manchester Evening Chronicle.

He was deputy editor of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle before moving north to Aberdeen Evening Press and the back south to take the Chief Sub role at Manchester Evening News.

His role in Manchester lasted a few years but Bawden longed to return to Merseyside and he won the chief sub-editor role at the Liverpool Echo.

But in 1968 opportunity knocked again for the talented newsman with many contacts and a wealth of experience.

The BBC wanted to launch a news team on Merseyside and the most listened to local radio station outside of London was born.

He joined the BBC as local radio was developing from its experimental phase and nurtured many talents at Radio Merseyside.

No fewer than six of his staff went on to become BBC local radio managers.

An extended interview with the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson led to the revelation he had fallen in love with his wife Mary at a tennis club and made national newspaper headlines.

His final task at Radio Merseyside was to oversee the move from the station’s original studios in Sir Thomas Street to purpose built headquarters in Paradise Street in 1982.

After his retirement he became chief music critic for the Liverpool Daily Post and was a well known face at the Liverpool Philharmonic where his wife Sylvia is soprano in the choir.

Bawden had lived in Oxton for well over 40 years and had recently moved to Greasby. He is survived by his wife Sylvia and his daughter Sheena, who is also a former journalist.

Arrangements for a funeral service have provisionally been made for 12 June at 2pm at Landican Cemetery in Birkenhead.

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