FORMER Craven Herald editor Jack Heald died this week at the age of 86.

He spent all his career with the Skipton paper, but also worked as a freelance covering major stories in the area for national newspapers, radio and television.

Jack was born in Denton Street, Barnoldswick, in 1928 and later moved with his parents to Skipton where he attended Brougham Street Primary School before going to the Ermysted's Grammar School, where in later years he became a governor.

His family later returned to Barnoldswick where his mother ran a grocery shop in Bank Street and after leaving school Jack was called up for National Service, serving in the RAF. However, he never got into an aeroplane, but learnt to "fly" a typewriter which served him well in his later career.

He liked to claim that he "ended the war" as the final victory over Japan was announced just a few weeks after he was called up.

Later he worked briefly at Rolls Royce, but hated the job and was delighted when he was offered the opportunity to become a junior reporter on the Craven Herald and was immediately given his own post as West Craven reporter.

In the late 1950s, he was offered a job in the Manchester office of the Daily Sketch national newspaper, but turned down the offer preferring to remain working for his home in Sough, Earby, where he lived with his wife, Jean, and growing family.

For more than 30 years, he covered events in the district, from personal celebrations and family tragedies to major events like the firebug which struck many mills, causing millions of pounds of damage. He even became a suspect in the subsequent investigation, which his wife found hilarious as he struggled to light a fire in the grate at home.

Jack didn't always get his facts right and on one occasion wrote the obituary of a Barnoldswick man only to meet him, very much alive and kicking, the following day. More than 30 years later he was invited to be guest of honour at the man's 100th birthday.

After turning down the opportunity once, Jack was persuaded to accept the post as editor of the Craven Herald in 1981 following the tragic death of former editor Ian Plant.

He revelled in the job and steered the paper through some rocky times. He was saddened to oversee the end of an era when on Thursday, April 21, 1988, the old press behind the Craven Herald office on High Street ran for the last time. He steadfastly refused to understand the computers which were taking the place of hot-metal printing.

He retired in March 1993 after 12 years as editor with the memories of more than 40 years in journalism behind him.

With a fund of stories, he was a popular after dinner speaker, but sadly in recent years many of those memories were stolen from him by increasing dementia which led to him moving to the Andrew Smith nursing home in Nelson.

Jack is survived by his seven children, 17 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. A funeral service will take place at St Peter’s Church, Earby, on Wednesday at noon.