Sir Ray Tindle obituary | Newspapers

Sir Ray Tindle, who died aged 95, was the enthusiastic rescuer of more than 200 local newspapers in the UK and an imaginative and charming philanthropist. He put his lifelong energy into a model of ultra-local news, reduced private property and an absolute ban on borrowing money – thus defying the Jérémies of the industry for over 60 years.

He loved the job, from his first encounter with its newness and restlessness as a schoolboy dropout until his death while still company chairman of his own Tindle Group, although the estate at the leadership passed to his son, Owen in 2017. Unusually for a newspaper baron, as one can describe literally but deceptively, he was highly regarded.

Tindle has achieved his main ambition in saving so many news sources, but has never given up on another he described just four years ago to the industry’s own newspaper, the Press Gazette. “If I could do what I wanted, I would have a new newspaper for every street,” he said. “It’s not impossible. If you give each street a page and change the position of the page every week, you could have a first page for each street. I think we’re almost there – we’ve gotten closer.

The model returned to its first publication, launched on a duplicator on a troopship taking the Devonshire Regiment to the Far East in 1944. It learned how many people had stories to tell and how much they wanted reminders of their county. ‘origin. Demobilized in 1947 with the rank of captain, he wrote 200 job applications before landing what he called a ‘dogsbody’ job at the Croydon Times, and spent 13 years there learning the trade from the ground up. .

He kept his demo money the whole time, and in 1960 paid £250 to buy the Tooting and Balham Gazette, which had a venerable past but was on its knees. His formula took sales from 700 to 3,500 in a year, then he swapped it for three stuttering titles in west London, which he also turned.

His favorite from the long line of later successes was the Tenby Observer in South West Wales, whose central role he knew in passing the Local Authorities (Admission of the Press to Meetings) Act 1908 from school. Hearing of his bankruptcy two days before closing, he called the receiver, got an offer accepted, drove to Tenby and asked the staff if they would get another chance on his terms.

“A cat should not have kittens in Tenby unless it is covered by the Observer,” he said. Much to his delight, their front page two days later included the headline “Two clothes brushes stolen from Tenby’s trailer”. Sales have increased accordingly and the newspaper is now in its 170th year.

Such journalism rarely wins awards, but Tindle absolutely believed in its importance to the democracy he fought for. The common motto of his diaries was “We’ll never surrender” from Winston Churchill, which he had heard live, but he might as well have used Oliver Cromwell’s description of his preference for an ordinary soldier “who knows why he fights and loves what he knows”. Detailed and reliable information about the community was part of it.

Tindle was born in Streatham, south London, where his father, John, an engineer, took him to attend the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Race, which he was later to help preserve with 30 years of age of sponsorship.

Vintage cars became a passion and he drove his 1904 Speedwell Dogcart for over half a century. His mother, Maud (née Bilney), saved him when the roof of their house collapsed in a wartime air raid and he was evacuated from London to Paignton in Devon, where he went at Torquay Boys’ High School. More significant for his future career, he was introduced to journalism by his host family’s neighbour, who was advertising director of the Torbay Herald and Express.

After serving in the Far East, he married his childhood sweetheart, Beryl Ellis, in 1949. She became, in his words, his “rock”, and matched his zest for community work in Farnham, Surrey, where they settled. She also worked as a teacher for adults with learning difficulties and, in retirement, ran a second-hand shop which supported a different charity every time she raised £1,000, calling it just a day at the age of 94.

Tindle’s work “family” was almost as close, with two lieutenants by his side, Alan Sugar-like in The Apprentice: Wendy Craig, who joined him as an assistant in 1985, specializing in finance, and Brian Doel, former head of training. to the West Country operation of the Mirror, oversaw the editorial staff. The group’s publishers were largely left alone unless sales or publicity plummeted for too long. Then they were invited to Farnham for coffee.

The group aimed for commensurate profits, rather than gold dust, and Tindle liked to tease critics of its tight control as sole shareholder by asking what was wrong with one man, one vote. But there were problems, especially when his strong loyalty to the services led him to ask editors not to report anti-war events at the start of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. was lifted within weeks and Tindle’s open style and willingness to argue helped.

It had been the same when he went through a typesetters’ strike at the Croydon Times in 1950, telling chief printers Frank Stagg: “We are only here because otherwise the paper will close and we will lose all our jobs.” Stagg replied, “I know that. I assume you are on my linotype machine and wanted to let you know that the lowercase ‘t’ is getting stuck.

Tindle’s formula was almost always applied to weekly newspapers, but he knew the wider media, carefully branched out into radio and online, and also brought the Guardian’s attention to Autotrader magazine, which became an important asset of the Guardian Media Group. For 18 years he served on the board of the Guardian, whose former editor Peter Preston described him as a man of “gentle habits and a dewy presence”.

Tindle, who was knighted in 1994, played an integral role in the media industry and its professional bodies and was quietly proud of the 10 business centers he set up to provide free start-up space for businesses during the recession of the 1980s. He knew perseverance; his voice box was removed to stem throat cancer in the mid-90s, and he learned to speak again without it.

He is survived by his wife and son, as well as a granddaughter, Maisy.

Raymond Stanley Tindle, newspaper publisher, born October 8, 1926; died on April 16, 2022