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Donkin's World: Alec Ramsden

Richard Donkin pays tribute to an old friend.

My old friend Alec Ramsden has died. Before he retired he was the Yorkshire Post’s man in Huddersfield.

Many years ago when my early reporting career at the Huddersfield Examiner was in danger of stalling through boredom, Denis Kilcommons, the then deputy news editor, suggested that if I really wanted to get on to the Yorkshire Post – the next rung of the ladder for anyone in Yorkshire provincial journalism at the time - Alec was the man to know.

The problem was that it was difficult to be “in” with Alec. He was feisty, stubborn as a mule and cantankerous. Underneath he had a heart of gold but you had to dig for it. He had a close circle of trusties and didn't let anyone in. “Buy him a pint,” said Denis.

I bought him a half of mild in the Albert, the pub next door to the Examiner. It was the best 40p I ever spent. Alec put in a word for me with the news editor of the Yorkshire Post. That was how newspaper recruitment happened in those days. Maybe it still does.

I was asked to apply for a job, which I didn’t get, but another one came up around the same time and I got that one. It wasn’t enough to be right for the job. You had to come recommended and Alec did that for me.

It was a slow process, but we became friends, mainly through Denis. Alec liked Denis. Everybody liked Denis. Denis often called Alec "Wullie". I didn't dare. But we were friends all the same. We started walking together as a threesome, usually in the Dales, and somehow, together, we hit it off. Alec is on the right in the grainy picture above, taken in the days before Lycra and Gortex. Denis is in the centre.

Those walks were some of the happiest days. There was always a pub with a few beers at lunchtime and we would usually get lost because I would be map reading. We never got lost, well hardly ever, but it amused the other two to believe that we did. It was about as close as you could get to Last of The Summer Wine except the banter was better.

Denis said Alec was 80. I couldn’t believe it. The other good bit about Alec – I know there were many good bits, but this stands out for me – was the sausage rolls his wife made for our walks. My mum made great sausage rolls and these were easily as good if not better. Sorry mum!

Alec’s wife predeceased him. He’d been in poor health for some time but anyone who remembers him in his prime will tell you that the Yorkshire Post was in safe hands in Huddersfield. He didn’t miss much and what he did miss, wasn’t worth reporting. I’m sorry he’s gone. If there is a place “up there” for old reporters I just hope whoever is looking after the newsroom has a welcoming pint for Alec, a half of mild at the very least.

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