RAYMOND Bower a respected “old school” newspaper editor, gentleman journalist, enigma and poet has died of pneumonia at the age of 87.
Retired editor of the North Wales Chronicle and a devout Yorkshireman, “Mr Bower” as he preferred to be called by his staff, was the Welsh weekly newspaper’s longest serving editor, clocking up 23 years at its helm.
Mr Bower came to Wales in 1966 after sub-editing the Rotherham Advertiser, though his first news job was as a young cub reporter on the Rotherham Express.
Writing in his memoir: “A Write Old Time, “reporting facts and abiding by the truth” was instilled in him from day one in the office of the small Rotherham weekly.
The Rotherham Express did not have the largest circulation, but the experience gave him the opportunity to write for the national press and BBC.
At first, he considered himself “a complete failure” - his first news job was to obtain a funeral report. After knocking on a woman's door he was sent packing, empty handed, because she thought he was a reporter from his newspaper’s rival, the Rotherham Advertiser.
Early experiences laid the ground for his future. When he started, reporter’s hours were long, unspecified and pay minimal.
As a sports reporter he worked weekends and bank holidays and in news spent long evenings covering meetings in council chambers. This led him to campaign for better rights for journalists and he would become chairman of the local branch of the National Union of Journalists working to improve basic salaries and hours for of junior editorial staff.
He would eventually work at the Yorkshire Post in Doncaster before becoming a sub-editor at the Rotherham Advertiser.
On leaving, he was asked by colleagues what present he would like, and he chose a giant umbrella so he could pursue one of his favourite hobbies fishing when he moved to North Wales.
In Bangor, Mr Bower took over editorship of the North Wales Chronicle - a broadsheet then based in the Caxton Building on High Street.
Initially, the family, his first wife Janet (nee Stratford who he’d married in 1948) and their children Maurice (who would also go into journalism) Carole, David and Robert, lived at College Road, Bangor, until 1976. They then moved to Lon Ganol, Menai Bridge until Mr Bower retired in 1989.
After 39 years he divorced Janet and in 1990 married Chronicle advertisement manger Betty Jones, who is now 84. The pair moved to an idyllic Welsh cottage, Tan Y Marian, in the Snowdonia village of Dinorwig, Llanberis.
In retirement, Mr Bower enjoyed writing magazine articles, radio comedies and short stories.
He also had an anthology of poems published about his love of Anglesey. He enjoyed his family and was a popular grandad to nine grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Mr Bower had a longstanding appreciation of sport, particularly cricket, football and boxing. He was a lifelong supporter of Rotherham United and avid follower of the Yorkshire cricket team. He was a friend of Yorkshire cricketer Freddie Trueman.
He said, in his memoirs: “Being my father’s son - he once toured India and the Middle East with an army cricket team and played with local teams, I too, have always had an incurable fascination for the game.
So, I did not mind being assigned to cover matches, whether of comparatively great importance, or just local junior games. Cricket is cricket.”
He was born on February 23,1929, on Daniel Lane, Netherhaugh, a small, poor, mining village near Rotherham.
The eldest of four, Mr Bower had three sisters Joyce (85), Margaret (82) and Stella (75) who all survive him.His father was a stoker on the coke ovens at Parkgate Iron and Steel works in Rotherham.
From an early age, the bookish pupil at Greasborough C of E Primary School had a flair for reading and writing and, after school and National Service, he was determined to pursue journalism.
“When I started in the business I was told we were Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate - that we were, in order of precedence, after the Crown, the Lords and the Commons. No slagging us off in those days. But we young reporters were also trained not to slag off other people - that reporters reported the facts.”
He was a stickler for grammar and punctuation and he never lost his skill with words.
To his family, Mr Bower was remembered as “good humoured” and “always smiling.” He loved classical music, though his tastes could be quite eclectic.
Carole said: “He was a bit of an enigma, he loved his classical music but he was also a big fan of 70s pop band Sparks!”
Other enigmas exist. The family never knew how or where he learned to use sign language, but he was fluent in it.
Mystery also surrounds his National Service days. He was sent to the Nuremberg Trials, in London, to type reports for the War Office and had to share a room with a prominent Nazi called Otto John.
According to son David, “Dad’s memoirs are interesting especially to a journalist, but he doesn’t mention Otto John in them which is a little curious.”
“Otto John was a high profile Nazi who cut a deal at Nuremberg and there are connections with espionage and Kim Philby. He told me about rooming with Otto.”
To his staff, Mr Bower was also enigmatic, quietly spoken, and kept a professional distance.
Kerry Roberts, current photographer at the Chronicle, who worked with him for five years, was told, as a young photographer, he must always refer to him as “Mr Bower.”
“I remember him well, he was a proper “old school” style news editor, and a gentleman. He was always a professional, always wore a suit and the old style trouser braces,” he said.
Former Evening Leader editor Reg Herbert remembered: “We used to meet up at editors’ meetings . He was a gentleman, a nice man and a very good editor. It is sad to hear of his passing.”
During his time as Chronicle editor Mr Bower’s achievements included helping to raise thousands for the Bangor Hospital Ysybty Gwynedd’s scanner appeal and he was instrumental in leading a campaign to restore Bangor’s historic pier.
He also attended the investiture of Prince Charles at Caernarfon Castle, with his son Maurice as a reporter. One of the biggest stories he covered was the fire which destroyed the Britannia Bridge.
The family believe it was his idea to build the road on the bridge. He was a prominent Rotarian, president of Bangor Rotary from 1983 to 84. The Rotary formally opened the new bridge in 1977.
He and Betty were also key founders of the pensioners' club, Clwb Orwig, Dinorwig. In Dinorwig, they campaigned to get a memorial installed marking the lives of Welsh quarry workers.
Carole summed him up. “He was just an amazing man, he lived a very full life and he did so much. We are all going to miss him.”
The funeral service was at Bangor Crematorium on Wednesday, January 25.