Reg Herbert: Former editor of the Wrexham Evening Leader dies aged 85

Former Wrexham Evening Leader editor Reg Herbert dies aged 85

Reg Herbert

Retired journalist Reg Herbert, who enjoyed a career spanning more than six decades, has died aged 85.

Interviewed after he was awarded the MBE for services to journalism in 2007, he said: “I’ve been very fortunate to have been in love with the job I have done for so many years. I’d do it all over again if I had the chance.”

But it could have been very different as, following his return to his copy boy job at the now defunct Liverpool Evening Express after two years of National Service, he was made redundant. 

Reg decided to move to North Wales where he got a job as a reporter at the Wrexham Leader. It was 1959 and the beginning of a career with the paper that would eventually culminate in him becoming Editor in Chief of the group, heading up newspapers across North Wales.

As a reporter he covered many crime stories, including the infamous Mini car murder case in 1967. A young woman plotted with her older married lover to murder his wife and she enlisted the help of another married ex, who made the killing look like a car crash. Reg covered the trial, which made all the nationals at the time, and filed exclusive background pieces on the case, which shocked the country. 

Twelve months earlier he covered the trial of Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley at Chester Assizes, on order for some of the nationals. Another story resulted in a chance encounter with the Richardson brothers, the crime gang rivals to the Krays in the 1960s. But Reg’s scouse wit and charm left him unscathed. 

In 1973 Reg reported on the trial of the Shrewsbury 24, the pickets involved in the UK’s first national building workers strike. One of those convicted was Ricky Tomlinson, who was sentenced to two years in prison. Reg interviewed Ricky numerous times about the case and a decade later Ricky called him at home to tell him to put Channel Four on the television as he was starring as trade unionist Bobby Grant in the new soap opera Brookside. The rest is TV history. 

For many years Reg filed copy to the nationals, constantly on his home landline or in a phonebox to copytakers. As young children we often wondered who on earth he was talking to when he finished every call saying: “Point. Par. Ends. Please Credit Herbert Wrexham.”

Reg resisted the lure of a staff job on Fleet Street. He had so much more he wanted to achieve on his patch. And he did it with the success story of the Evening Leader in the 1980s and 1990s, representing the readers and the area he loved so much.

A journalist who understood his readership, Reg got to know many personally. A shopping trip on a rare day off would take an age as Reg would be constantly stopped in the street by someone who wanted to give him a tale or two. A trip to the pub to meet contacts would take even longer. And, I will say it quietly, police officers would regularly call him at home with tip offs. Journalism built on trust and loyalty. 

Reg also took great pride in training up rookie reporters, sometimes straight from school, and giving them their first break in the industry. He would demand the best, remind them they were only as good as their last story and call them at all hours of the night to find out why the police helicopter was flying overhead. But he brought fun to the newsroom with the sound of his infectious laugh. 

Reg finally retired from the Evening Leader in 2001 on his 65th birthday but he wasn’t finished then. He provided community news content for the Leader for the next 18 years on a freelance basis. Away from the job, he was a lifelong Evertonian, first visiting Goodison Park as a young boy after the Second World War. He also followed Wrexham FC and, of course, filed match reports to the sports desks of the nationals.

Above all Reg was a devoted family man, who leaves his wife Jean, four sons and nine grandchildren. In 1991, Reg was interviewed by the Press Gazette about the incredible 17.5 per cent year on year rise in circulation of the Evening Leader under his editorship. Asked about his move from Liverpool to North Wales, landing his dream job and getting married, he reflected: “I’ve lived happily after.”

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