ALAN Whalley, the former editor of the St Helens Star and one of the finest local newspaper journalists of his generation, has died at the age of 86.

He passed away on Thursday last week after a battle with pneumonia.

Alan’s wonderful prose and mastery of storytelling, evident in the multi-award winning Whalley’s World column, enriched the pages of the Star for 36 years, until his retirement in 2009.

He edited the Star from the mid-70s until 1992 and his giant, magnetic personality helped drive and nurture a team to create a newspaper that established itself as part of St Helens culture .

Away from the typewriter and notepads where he made his name, he was a warm, loving compassionate husband, dad, granddad and friend.

When he passed away last week he was surrounded by wife Sandra, daughter Robyn and son Lincoln.

St Helens Star:

Alan with his youngest grandchild, Theodore Thomas Whalley, who was born earlier this year

Speaking from their home in Moss Bank, Sandra, 67, surrounded by dozens of cards inked with tributes to her husband of nearly 47 years, and Robyn paid tribute.

“He was a magnetic personality, someone who who would hold court in a room,” Robyn, 45, said.

“He was a real people’s person, with charisma – people were drawn to him.

“He was also an incredibly loving and giving dad and granddad– with a fantastic sense of humour.”

St Helens Star:

At home with wife Sandra

Sandra reflected on the many messages she had received from from friends and ex-colleagues which described Alan as a “one-off, the like of which we won’t see again”.

She said: “In our younger days, it didn’t seem as though we could go anywhere without someone knowing him. He was so well loved about town.

“He was a wonderful, romantic man, with a sharp mind. He loved to be out meeting and talking to people.

“He was also very brave. He’d had his health problems, including an horrific fall in which he injured his face a decade ago. But he showed such courage and character to get on with life.”

Alan’s career spanned 60 years after he was taken on as a 15-year-old cub reporter back in 1948 with the former St Helens Newspaper and Advertiser. He went on to work at the Warrington Guardian, operating as a sportswriter and district man at Newton-le- Willows, before joining the Post and Chronicle in Wigan.

He moved on to the St Helens Reporter as assistant editor, before becoming a sub-editor with the Daily Telegraph in Manchester.

It was in 1973, shortly after the Star’s birth, that he was attracted by the newspaper’s founder Malcolm Smith, launching his Whalley’s World column that he labelled the “page of the people” and later taking the helm.

St Helens Star:

Alan was still collecting awards in the latter stages of his career

Frank Martin, a former deputy editor of the Star, described Alan as “a mentor and a mate to me for more than 40 years”.

He added: “I was privileged and proud to work alongside him for around 30 of those years and witness a master of his craft at first hand.

“His award-winning Whalley’s World column was eagerly anticipated and readily devoured by thousands of readers, not only in St Helens, but worldwide with ex pats from America to New Zealand, keen to retain links with their hometown, lapping up tales of the town’s colourful characters past and present penned by its finest storyteller.

“I will personally be forever grateful for the positive influence he had on my own career in journalism and the unstinting support and friendship he offered me over the years.

“My thoughts are with his beloved family and his many, many other friends during this sad time.”

St Helens Star:

Sandra Whalley, Lord Pilkington, Lady Pilkington and Alan at a charity event

Steve Leary, who succeeded Alan as editor, was another to pay tribute: “He took over as editor and transformed the Star into a superb award-winning local newspaper, hand-picking a superb supporting cast of local journalists including Frank Martin and Rod Winstanley.

“But Whalley’s World was the cornerstone of the paper in those formative years. Alan regaled his army of regular readers with enjoyable tales of St Helens ancient and modern.

St Helens Star:

Notepad and pen at hand, Alan as a young journalist 

“When I took over as editor, I had Alan to thank for moulding my own career.

“When I joined the Star I could write, but Alan taught me how to communicate. He always said: ‘Don’t bother with fancy frills. Just tell the story like you are chatting to someone in the pub or in the street’.

“Not bad advice from a master of the craft.”

Alan’s funeral will take place at St David’s Church, Carr Mill at 11.30am on Tuesday, October 22 followed by a service at St Helens Crematorium at 1pm.