Lives Remembered: Harry Pugh

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My friend Harry Pugh, who has died aged 74, made a name for himself as a reporter in the days when phones had wires attached and newsrooms were loud with the clatter of typewriters.

He was full of laughter and mischief, noisy and opinionated. But above all, he was a fine journalist. He could sniff out a story from a great distance and pursue it with the zeal of the born hunter.

I first met him when we were young reporters on a weekly paper in Aberystwyth, the Cambrian News. Even then, Harry had a keen eye for a story. A vivid piece about two upland farmers forced out of their holding to make way for a reservoir sticks in my memory. So does his impish sense of humour.

"Where are you preaching next Sunday, Dewi?" he would ask an elderly scribe who doubled at weekends as a lay preacher in chapels. "I'm going to come and barrack you!"

We went our separate ways, Harry's ambition taking him to London and a job with Illustrated, a magazine specialising in photojournalism. From there he went to Manchester, to Express Newspapers, and covered major stories for the Daily Express, Sunday Express and The Star for nearly 30 years.

Always ready to go the extra mile, he provided reams of background copy in his coverage of the Moors murders. But his biggest scoop was to break the news of the birth of the world's first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978, snatching the story from under the noses of world-class opposition.

In the view of former colleague Bill Hunter, he was "a man for all seasons, the very epitome of the complete reporter with all the skills, cunning, humanity and wit that are a part of the whole. With his extrovert character he achieved almost legendary status in the North of England and Ireland."

I lost touch with Harry but happily renewed our friendship a few years ago, thanks to Richard Jones, another Cambrian News "old boy". By then Harry had taken early retirement and moved to rural Herefordshire with his wife Barbara to set up as a freelance. He had embraced country life to the manner born, not least because it gave him the chance to indulge his love of walking, taking a 30-mile "ramble" in his stride.

His brain as sharp as ever and his zeal for the chase undiminished, he was filing stories to the nationals with all his old resourcefulness. He also found time to write two non-fiction books. One of them, Wild Justice, told of the fight for justice for 16-year-old Lynn Siddons, whose murderer was convicted only after a successful civil action had been brought by her family – the first time this sequence of events had occurred.

Harry Pugh at last set journalism aside when he and Barbara moved to Leek in Staffordshire to be nearer their two children and grandchildren. He remained a dedicated rambler, however, until his health began to fail early this year. A brain tumour was diagnosed and he died on 11 September.

After his funeral and cremation the old press gang from Manchester gathered at his local in Leek to swap tales of Harry. For once, he himself was the story.

Herbert Williams

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