Tuesday, January 14, 2014

From Ambridge to Lymington - where obituaries are alive and well

AS WE all know, Jack Woolley – aka Mr Peggy Archer that was – has died.
Talk of Ambridge on Thursday was his obit on page 36 of the Borchester Echo (60p from all good newsagents). It was presented complete with a nice picture of Peggy – and presumably Jack – although the write up did make him “sound like Simon Cowell” according to Emma Grundy (@EmeraldMTuesday)
Good to hear the Echo still tackling obits with gusto, but page 36 did sound a bit far back in the book. Far better follow the lead of my local paper, the Lymington Times, which this week fills an oversized broadsheet page with obits - on page 6.
It’s no design award winner, but all the recently deceased have a lengthy write-up, picture and headline including their name and description of their life. ‘Bob Gardam (81) was leading television sports broadcaster’ reads the top story about a man who was well known to generations of TV sports journalists.
I feel lucky to have written obits from Halstead (Essex) to Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago) and contributed to a lasting memory of someone’s life. When one tearful widow came into the Halstead Advertiser (RIP itself) office to point out that we (I) had got some of the facts wrong it taught me more about ‘check, check and check again’ than anything before or since.
I’m pretty sure obit writing is not actively taught anywhere and many local papers no longer bother at all. But what a superb skill to learn and what a service to readers.
When my turn comes, if I can’t be in Borsetshire (too expensive, I fear) I hope I’ll still be here in the New Forest and can be squeezed on the corner of page 6 of the Lymington Times. A fitting send-off indeed.

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