Don Hardisty, former Daily Mail, Express and Star sports writer, has died aged 91.
He was in hospital after suffering breathing difficulties at home in Handforth, Cheshire when he contracted an infection, not believed to be Covid. His wife Chrissie and children were able to be with him during his last hours.
Educated at St Lawrence’s and Park Grove Primary Schools, then, by means of a City scholarship, at St Peter’s, he spent part of his National Service from 1947 to 1949 learning typing and shorthand in the RASC. This was a bonus which was too good to waste and he swung his first job, as a sports sub with the Yorkshire Evening Press in York, on the strength of it. In 1951 he moved on, albeit still within the Kemsley empire, to The Star in Sheffield as a news reporter.
He survived six months of almost non-stop inquest reporting by order of renowned chief reporter Ernest Taylor, returning to normality with the help of such colleagues as Tony Carthew, later with ITN, and Derek Lambert who later decided writing novels would be more congenial as well as profitable.
Spending Coronation Day walking around Sheffield in pouring rain looking for street parties convinced him to return to sport and later in 1953 he moved to the Daily Mail in Manchester as a sports sub for the princely salary of 14 guineas a week, plus another two guineas Saturday match fee.
Two years later he turned to sports writing full time in the golden days before floodlights were invented and all midweek football kicked off at 2pm on early-closing day. Since few journalists had cars, midweek games could often involve travelling on Tuesday; returning on Thursday – two nights in hotel.
There were so many daily and Sunday papers in Manchester there would often be a coachload of match reporters on the train to Sheffield on Saturday, some carrying on to the likes of Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley. On the return journey if there was a bar on the train it was usually drunk dry by the time it reached Manchester, then the party continued at the Queens Hotel, moving to the Portland after the Queens was demolished.
This lively and highly talented community suffered a tragic loss in the Manchester United air crash at Munich in Feb 1958 in which eight writers died with players and officials of the club. Don would have been on this trip but for a change of editorship at the Mail which saw Eric Thompson restored as chief Northern sports writer. Eric was among those who died.
In 1966, following the break-up of his first marriage, Don gave up his job at the Mail on the eve of the World Cup to start freelancing in Caernarvonshire. Needless to say, despite travelling back to England every Saturday to cover matches for the Sunday Express, this was hardly a living and it was not long before he and Christine, the lady who was later to become his second wife, started a guest house in the small seaside town of Pwllheli. With the acquisition of a residential licence he soon achieved another ambition to become a landlord. The bar at the Glyn became a regular tourist spot with visiting journalists.
After further flirtations with business – caravan parks and a furniture warehouse – Don returned to regular journalism when Ray Bower, editor of the North Wales Chronicle in Bangor and a friend and colleague from his days in Yorkshire, offered him a job as news reporter and extremely casual sports editor.
By this time Don and Chris were living near Benllech in Anglesey and the welcome arrival of their son Jonathan in 1974 convinced them they would have to return to the real world and earn some money, which by this time was to be had in much-increased quantities in Manchester.
On their return in 1975, Don started work as a casual on the Daily Express and joined the staff within a few months. In 1978 he went back on the road as a sports writer when the Daily Star was born but after five years returned to the Daily Express as a sports sub, continuing to write for the Sunday Express. When the Express began to wind down the Manchester operation he took his redundancy in 1988 but rapidly returned to spend a few uproarious months as a member of a gang of casuals who, with – and sometimes without – the remaining staffmen, brought the paper out.
He continued as a freelance sports writer to work for the Telegraph, the Sunday Express and the Independent. In later years, back problems forced him to substitute gardening for canal cruising as a main leisure activity, along with travel. This was sadly curtailed by a heart attack and subsequently a stroke.
Don retained a love for sport and journalism however and would often catch up with a group of old colleagues – calling themselves The Ampersands – at the Railway Hotel, Handforth.
He is survived by his wife Chrissie, children Chris, Andrew, Claire and Jon, grandchildren and great grandchildren.