GEOFF CRAMBIE: Farewell to a larger-than-life newsman

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Can it really be 15 years since our area lost one of the finest journalists and, indeed, a legendary character whose editorship of this very newspaper has today become Leader-Times office folklore? Yes indeed, in May, 1996, at the age of 74, Noel Wild, the most talented wordsmith of his generation, left us for the great newsdesk in the sky.

Noel’s early years were spent happily growing up during the 1920s and 1930s in Skipton and, on leaving school at 14, began his long and successful journalistic career as a cub reporter for the Craven Herald newspaper in his home town.

Here in this week’s picture, we can see the staff of the Craven Herald caught on camera in 1936. Looking out, we see journalists of great stature: Stanley Senior, Roland Eames, Rob Scott, Raynor Garbutt and many more Yorkshire giants of the past.

Noel, as a young teenager, is on the front row, second left, and inset far left is Noel (still smiling) as he looked 51 years later on his retirement in 1987.

Noel’s great flair for reporting saw him climb the ladder at the Craven Herald, although the Second World War saw Noel serving with distinction with the 8th Army Armoured Division. On Noel’s return from the war, he began his career for the Leader-Times series of newspapers, then being run by the affable Harold Coulton.

The editor at that time was the notable, Joe Sunter, who taught Noel the skills of the trade and indeed, following Joe as editor in the year 1961, was none other than Noel himself. From that year until his retirement in 1987, Noel was to stamp his own remarkable character on the whole Leader-Times Newspapers.

The present editor, my good friend Roy Prenton, has now served at the helm for over 23 years and acknowledges Noel’s influence on him in no small way. As Roy himself says: “Noel certainly enjoyed getting out and about meeting his readers, usually in one or several pubs or clubs around the Pendle area. He loved socialising and maintained that that was how a journalist got the best stories, through talking to ordinary people, snippets of news, but also gauging the feeling of his readers to the issues of the day”.

For myself, I am proud to have been a personal friend of Noel; he was a unique, larger-than-life person. We shall not see his like again.