Tributes paid to former Observer reporter Alan Stanley

Alan StanleyAlan Stanley
Alan Stanley
Well-known in Chichester as a former reporter and feature writer for the Observer and West Sussex Gazette, Alan Stanley has died at the age of 84.

He began his journalistic life on the Rhyl Leader in north Wales at the age of 16, later moving to the Manchester Guardian for a while before joining the then Portsmouth and Sunderland Newspapers Group. He worked for many years in Chichester, Midhurst and Petersfield, as well as on the West Sussex Gazette.

Gary Shipton, Director and Editor in Chief of SussexWorld and its weekly newspapers described Alan as a superb journalist and a lovely man.

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"He also had a great sense of humour. For many years he wrote the weekly village feature in the West Sussex Gazette and in the 1990s took great joy on April Fools' Day by creating an entirely fictitious village Erehton.

"He took photos of real Sussex villages and reversed them and, of course, Erehton was Not Here spelt backwards. Hundreds of readers phoned in desperate to visit this gorgeous, eccentric Sussex village.

"But Alan was a true gentleman and extraordinarily wise and kind. He also had the skill to take a very plain subject and make it absolutely beautiful with his almost poetic use of language."

A friend and colleague for more than 60 years, Mike Woolley, now living in Australia, recalled: “We shared our first vehicles, two Austin 7 Rubies, and sought news from most pubs in the Chichester and Midhurst areas. For me, it was his great sense of fun and love of the countryside, archaeology and, of course, his family.

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“To have a friend for 60 years, to walk together, to holiday together with our families on his narrow boat Osprey, and with never a cross word, was something really special. A dear friend, sadly missed.”

Alan was theatre critic when the Chichester Festival Theatre first opened and was fortunate enough to see such celebrities as Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Laurence Olivier in Othello. He was also motoring correspondent and enjoyed trips to the Isle of Skye, Barcelona and the casino at Baden Baden in Germany.

Later in his career, he was the main features writer and a talented photographer for the regional nostalgia magazine, Yesterday, which covered Hampshire, Sussex and the Isle of Wight.

With a great sense of humour, Alan contributed one of the West Sussex Gazette’s most memorable April 1 spoofs, a full-page feature on the “lost” village of Erehton, complete with idyllic photos. Ramblers and visitors were determined to locate this rural jewel until they worked out that Erehton was simply “Not here” backwards, and all the pictures were from other Sussex villages, printed in reverse.

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Outside of journalism, his main interests were jazz, walking and archaeology. On retirement, he took a course in archaeology at Sussex University and joined the Chichester and Worthing Archaeology Societies, going on lots of digs. He went on to do courses on flint knapping and building old woodturning lathes at Singleton, and on moving to Bridport, joined the Dorset Diggers.

He suffered a major stroke a few years ago but recovered sufficiently to indulge his love of walking.

Alan and his wife Barbara were married for 56 years and had four daughters and eight grandchildren.

His funeral will be at the Harbour View Crematorium, near Poole, on Saturday, November 19 at 10.30 am. The service – fittingly for an archaeologist - will be in their Long Barrow building.