Stan dies with his monocle on


As Northern news editor of the Daily Express Stanley Blenkinsop, who has died at the age of 78, was a journalist in the old style - cynical and eccentric, he had a determination to do the job properly and have fun at the same time.

He joined the Express in 1957 as a young reporter in Newcastle and moved to Manchester in 1969 to mastermind news coverage of the North of England from the distinctive glass-fronted "Black Lubjanka" in Manchester's Ancoats district.

He left in 1986 to take a degree course in modern history at Manchester University, regularly cycling there from his home in Wilmslow 10 miles away where the Union Flag fluttering from a flagpole in his garden was a local landmark.

He also turned heads by wearing a bowler hat and monocle especially when he was abroad where locals looked upon him as English gentry rather than the son of a car mechanic.

Stan was a keen walker and also committed himself with his usual enthusiasm to supporting Help the Aged and serving as a board member with the Macclesfield District General Hospital Trust.

He lived in a canal-side house in the Cheshire town when he died in the hospital he supported, aged 78, after battling ill health for four years.

Fittingly, he was wearing his monocle as he slipped away with his family at his bedside.

Stan was born in Wylam, Northumberland and was immensely proud to be a Geordie. He took great delight in handing out his visiting card which proclaimed: "Geordie Hinney Unlimited - Stanley Blenkinsop, retired and happy!"

John Knill, former picture editor of the Express in Manchester said: "Stanley was a one-off. His enthusiasm for the job knew no bounds and right up to his death he was an avid newspaper reader, examining every story in detail to hand out criticism and praise.

"He was the classic English eccentric and being in his company was always entertaining. Throughout his life, both professionally and socially, he was determined and correct - and bloody-minded.

"He was from the old school of journalism and sadly there are few like him left in the business. He lived and breathed newspapers to the end."

Former Daily Express photographer Gordon Amory, who knew Stan as a close friend and colleague for more than 50 years said: "He was a legendary figure. There is a small army of successful journalists out there who owe him so much because of his guidance and encouragement when they were youngsters."

Daily Express editor Peter Hill said: "Stanley was a great bloke and an Expressman to the end. He was respected and admired by all who knew him."

Stan leaves a wife Margaret, former director of children's services in Bolton, daughter Jill and three grandchildren.

ROGER WATKINS writes: Stan was the first person I heard describing the Express as the world's greatest newspaper. In fact, when I was in Manchester he used to answer the phone: "Newsdesk, the world's greatest newspaper".

Dick Dismore recalls a classic Blenkinsop story when he was on the Yorkshire Post and Stan was news editor of the Northern Express.

There was a pit accident in one of the Yorkie villages and Dick was sent along to cover it. He filed his copy and then thought he would go for  a tincturette at the pub alongside the pit gates (yes really).

Alas, he was turned away because, as the landlord said,  "we've been taken over by t'Express."

Blenkinsop had moved the newsdesk, complete with secretaries, across the Pennines, and set up in the snug or whatever having hired the whole pub at vast expense for the duration.

What fun!

DICK DISMORE adds: It was the Lofthouse colliery disaster of  1973, when seven men died after water rushed into the mine, near Wakefield. There was a slight, lingering hope that they might be trapped in an air pocket and the rescue attempts went on for several days, maybe longer, but ended tragically. Can't remember name of the pub but I think two of the reporters were Harry Pugh (now deceased) and Peggy Robinson.

  The BBC man there was Keith Graves, formerly of the Daily Express, and Austin Mitchell was there for Yorkshire Television in his pre-MP days. Every lunchtime he could be seen pacing up and down learning his lines before the one o'clock broadcast. The union representative was Arthur Scargill, of blessed memory.