SIR Harold Evans, described as one of the all-time great newspaper editors, has died aged 92 at his home in New York.
Yet it was at the Ashton Reporter Group of Newspapers where Sir Harold began his journalistic career aged 16 in 1944.
And Derek Rigby, 92, who was also a trainee reporter at the same time, recalled how he knew Sir Harold was destined for great things.
Derek, who went on to become deputy editor of the Ashton Reporter Group, worked alongside Sir Harold at the newspaper’s Gorton office.
He said: “Harold was very enthusiastic and a bundle of energy. He never walked but ran and was in a hurry and bustling with enthusiasm. However small the story, it was very important to him.
“It didn’t surprise me he went on to have a brilliant career.
Derek, from Mossley Road, Ashton, recalled how competitive Sir Harold was when they played tennis on a Friday afternoon at Nuthurst Lane, New Moston.
“He would hate losing a point, never mind the match,” he recalled.
Derek was reunited with Sir Harold who was revisiting former haunts for his memoir ‘My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times.
He employed a taxi driver for the day and Derek said “Harold was carrying out research for his book and took me and my late wife Dacia to The Hartshead Inn for lunch. And he remembered the Pike and was photographed with it.
“Harold was so friendly. You would never have thought we hadn’t seen one another for many years.”
Sir Harold forged his reputation as editor of the Northern Echo in the 1960s, where his campaigns resulted in a national screening programme for cervical cancer and a posthumous pardon for Timothy Evans, wrongly hanged for murder in 1950.
During his 14-year tenure as editor of the Sunday Times, his notable campaigns included fighting the Distillers Company for greater compensation for the victims of the drug Thalidomide.
Thalidomide, which first appeared in the UK in 1958, was prescribed to expectant mothers to control the symptoms of morning sickness.
However, hundreds in Britain, and many thousands across the world, gave birth to children with missing limbs, deformed hearts, blindness and other problems.
Sir Harold’s 76-year career also saw him edit The Times for a short spell before falling out with Rupert Murdoch over editorial independence.
Knighted in 2003 for his services to journalism, Sir Harold wrote many books including ‘Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writer’, a Bible in the industry.
Journalists have paid tribute to his campaigning work on the Thalidomide scandal and other injustices. Alan Rusbridger, former editor of the Guardian, said he was a “master craftsman of journalism” who “was the editor we all wanted to be”.
Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan said: “One of the all-time great newspaper editors. His stunning Thalidomide investigation when he ran the Sunday Times epitomised his crusading, campaigning, fearless style.“A wonderful journalist and a witty, charming, fiercely intelligent man.”
Author Robert Harris told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Sir Harold was an outsider coming into the Sunday Times, the “son of a railway man who wanted to take on the establishment”.
“He believed in ordinary people and that newspapers could stand up for them. He saw newspapers as instruments of social justice on their behalf,” Robert said.
“He really was the great British post-war journalist, no question.”
The BBC’s John Simpson called Sir Harold a “magnificent editor, a wise counsellor and a good and inspiring friend”.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “He was a giant of investigative journalism – uncovering great injustices and informing the public without fear or favour.”
After leaving the Times, Sir Harold and his second wife Tina Brown moved to New York.
There she edited Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, while he became founding editor of Conde Nast magazine and later president of Random House.
In 2011, at the age of 82, Sir Harold was appointed editor-at-large at Reuters, the organisation’s editor-in-chief describing him as “one of the greatest minds in journalism”.