A Letter from Nantwich

August 2005

(Update 1   Update 2)

Making the news

Alan at his computer in the Nantwich office

The Nantwich office at 3a Mill Street

This is now a coffee shop


JOURNALISTS are supposed to report the news not make it, but Alan Jervis, the Chronicle's man in Nantwich, has been hitting the headlines lately. After nearly half a century in the business, he has produced his weekly contributions to the paper for the last time. The last Friday in July saw him retiring after years of keeping Nantwich people informed about local events.

    He logged out of the office computer and went to a presentation ceremony where colleagues gave him an electric golf trolley. They also gave him a mock-up of a front page of the Chronicle with the headline: "Top Dabber Alan Bids Farewell!" These mock-ups are traditional in journalism for anyone who has put in long service. (I had one from the Sentinel).  

    At the presentation, Crewe Editor Dave Fox said (among other tributes): "Alan has been a true craftsman who embodies all the qualities which young journalists should aspire to. He gathers the facts, cherishes them carefully and writes every story accurately, fairly, skilfully, exactly on its merits and is every editor's dream because he has always done it bang on deadline."

   This latter point is quite an achievement because when he was at work in the Nantwich office he was the only staff member on duty. The office door was always open and members of the public could walk in at any time to interrupt him - hopefully with another news item, but probably not always so.     

   The cutting above, left is from the August 3 edition of the Chronicle and shows Alan with his mock front page and his wife, Margaret, with a bouquet of flowers she received.

   I wrote "nearly half a century", but that is journalese for 48 years in Alan's case. As Dave Fox said, a feat that will probably not be achieved by another journalist at the Chronicle. 

   His final work for the Chronicle was coverage of the Nantwich and South Cheshire Show - the big agricultural event which includes the International Cheese Show. This appeared in the August 3 issue, along with a by-lined piece about Himalayan Balasm, a plant introduced to our gardens in the 19th century but which has now taken over our river banks.

   Alan started in journalism on August 17, 1957, the year before I joined the rival newspaper, The Nantwich Guardian, at 4 Mill Street, but for a few years our careers overlapped. In 1963, I was invited to move down the street to No 14 to join The Nantwich Chronicle's team of Alan and Percy Walker, a journalist who was well respected in the town as the chief of the Nantwich office.

   Unfortunately, Percy was to suffer a fatal heart attack while on a family holiday and the town and the newspaper lost a good journalist. This was some years after I had moved to head office, The Chester Chronicle, in 1968. I later moved to The Sentinel, from where I took early retirement, but Alan stayed with the Chronicle throughout his career until last month when, at the age of 65, he "packed it in", as he would say.

   While he covered sport in the Nantwich area, he did not do so exclusively. He could be found reporting on news stories, too. His career took him to a number of offices in the Chronicle empire, including Sandbach, Winsford, Middlewich and Crewe.

   But sport remained his main hobby. He made his mark in cricket (which included playing for the school team at Nantwich and Acton Grammar School - now known as Malbank) and badminton. He played for Cheshire in the latter sport and has played for the Cheshire veterans for the last 25 years. This is on top of winning the Crewe and District Badminton League singles event for 11 years out of 12 and the doubles title on 10 occasions with Frank Holland.

   On the cricket side, he was an opening batsman for Nantwich Cricket Club for several years up to 1973.     

   While Alan was working in the various Chronicle offices, Nantwich was covered from an office in Churchyardside, over what was then the smaller Stretch and Harlock shop. Eventually, the newspaper was produced from the current office in Mill Street - No 3a, which is half of what was a butcher's shop - to where Alan moved about 10 years ago. By then he was South Cheshire Deputy News Editor.   

   Like all of us in the news industry, he has adapted over the years from producing his copy (that's what journalists call their reports in its original form) on a typewriter to using a computer. But he told me a few months back that he would not be using a computer in his retirement!

   Golf, fishing, DIY (mainly on his 300-year-old house in Nantwich) and travelling will now occupy his time.

   One of Alan's two sons, Tim, has been working with his father (and other Chronicle journalists,  of course) for a number of years as one of the photographic team. His other son, Andy, is in car sales. Alan has been married to Margaret for 41 years.

   As I said, journalists are more used to recording the news, but when he attended his last meeting of Nantwich Town Council to report the debates he was surprised with a presentation of Stapeley Water Gardens vouchers by the Chairman, Cllr Jean Pearson. His son, Tim, had not said a word about the fact that one of his jobs that evening was a photo of the presentation ceremony. Deputy Chairman, Steve Hope, thanked Alan for the way he had "reported the council's business . . . with Nantwich rather than politics in mind," adding: "I think we have regarded him as Nantwich's 13th councillor."

     Alan was invited to a presentation ceremony at Brine Leas High School, Nantwich, only to find it was to himself. The headmaster, Mr Mike Butler, gave him a bottle of wine and his thanks for Alan's  "co-operation during his long association with the school." It was one of several bottles of wine that Alan received in the closing days of his career.     

   One of his last articles was a piece in the July 20 issue about Nantwich Show covering his recollections over the years in a special supplement for the annual agricultural event on the outskirts of the town.

   Good luck in your retirement, Alan. Enjoy it. The first word you have to learn - yes, even to Margaret! - is "No". As I have found, people will think you are bored out of your mind now that you do not have to go to the office every day and will find all manner of tasks for you to do to fill your time!

   Alan was succeeded at Nantwich by staffer Jamie Oliver (no, not the famous "Naked Chef", but a namesake). [See the Update below.]

lCopyright picture from The Nantwich Chronicle used with the permission of the Crewe Editor, Dave Fox. 

AWARD: Alan's service to Nantwich in reporting events in the town was marked by the Rotary Club of Crewe and Nantwich Weaver in January 2006. They presented him with a Community and Vocational Service Award. Alan received a framed certificate from the President of club, Nigel Parry.

ANOTHER END OF AN ERA . . . The Nantwich Chronicle office closed on Friday, September 29, 2005, and the town is now covered from the Crewe office. Another coffee shop - we seem to have had a spate of them lately - opened up in the office. I won't start to name the coffee shops - I might miss one and get my knuckles rapped. But next time you are in Nantwich, take your pick! 

PS (July 2006): Or you could visit this Letter from Nantwich.

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