Former Wakefield Express editor and stalwart of Sandal community dies aged 81

A former editor of the Wakefield Express and a stalwart of the Sandal community has died aged 81, after a short illness.

Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 12:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 12:06 pm
Richard Taylor, known to friends and colleagues as Dick, was a newspaperman through and through.

Richard Taylor, known to friends and colleagues as Dick, was a newspaperman through and through although his life very nearly took a different path.

He was born in King’s Lynn, an only child, and after leaving school was apprenticed to his uncle’s motor engineering company. It wasn’t a good fit so next he tried his hand in the insurance business before following the career practised by his mother’s side of the family, many of whom were editors.

Richard was taken on as a trainee reporter at the local newspaper in King’s Lynn before moving to Sudbury in Suffolk as the assistant editor of the Suffolk Free Press, aged just 22.

Sign up to our daily Wakefield Express Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

After a few years, he moved on to the East Anglian Daily Times as news editor before being head-hunted by the news distribution service Central Press in London, working out of an office on Fleet Street and travelling the country in search of stories.

But he missed his life in newspapers and accepted a job as editor of the West Sussex County Times in Horsham.

By 1977 he was ready for a new challenge. He moved his family to Yorkshire and took the job as editor of the Wakefield Express. Just one year later he was promoted to editor-in-chief and then editorial director of the Express’ parent company, the Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group, a position he held until his retirement in 2004.

Ed Asquith who was editor of the Express from 1998 and succeeded Richard as the editorial director said: “He was a strong and experienced editorial leader who handled a lot of big issues - the transition to the ownership by Johnston Press, the local impacts of the miners’ strike and the expansion of editorial computerisation.

“He arched the era from typewriter to digital and led a very varied portfolio of titles which had a great mix of individuals, many of whom enjoyed high-flying careers.

“Behind what might have appeared to some as a headmasterly manner, he was a witty and gentlemanly figure - and a constant in times of great social and media changes.”

Richard was very active in many areas of life, including Rotary, Probus, Sandal Community Association (SCA) and the Friends of Sandal Castle. He was a keen historian with a particular interest in collecting and researching naval medals

Close friend Dr Keith Souter said: “Richard appointed me to write the Express Doctor column 37 years ago. Over that time he became a good friend and a trusted mentor.

“For several years we worked closely as committee members of both Sandal Community Association and the Friends of Sandal Castle, both endeavours being very close to his heart.

“He was a gentleman, a great communicator and always someone you could depend on to give wise advice.

“Always armed with a camera he expertly brought out the best in his subjects. He posted these on the SCA Facebook page, which he ran like a mini-newspaper. A stalwart of the community, I miss him already.”

Richard was passionate about nurturing future generations of journalists and worked closely with the national training body the NCTJ.

Joanne Butcher, chief executive said: “Those of us at the NCTJ who worked with Dick are heartbroken to hear of his death.

“He was a much-loved and well-respected senior examiner of National NCTJ qualifications and was closely involved in so many aspects of the charity’s work over many years until his retirement from our examinations board in 2012.

“He was a wonderful character and embodied the high journalistic standards the NCTJ has always promoted.

“Dick wasn’t afraid to challenge decisions and we admired him for that because his knowledge and experience were always sound and he was usually proved right.

“He also presented his opinions with a twinkle in his eye – everyone who knew Dick well will remember that look!”

Richard, who lived in Sandal, leaves behind Lavinia, his wife of 57 years, daughter Alison, two granddaughters Elizabeth and Sophie and a nine-month-old great-grandson Alfie George.