Condliffe, the chairman and proprietor of the Cheshire-based Congleton
Chronicle series of paid-for newspapers, has died suddenly at the age
Condliffe joined the Chronicle, then owned by the Head
family, as a cub reporter in 1943 and never left, being chairman and
proprietor when he died on Tuesday 11 December.
born in Kidsgrove in 1928, although his family had lived in the
Congleton area for hundreds of years – there is a John Condliffe,
surgeon, from 1600s buried in Astbury Church. John’s father was a
blacksmith, as was his father before him, and ran a shop selling
general goods and hardware.
He attended the School of Commerce in
Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, where his studies included shorthand, business
studies and typing.
After leaving there, he worked at Kidsgrove
Gasworks, while looking for a job in journalism, the only job he ever
wanted. His father was against the change as the gasworks offered job
security and a pension.
He moved from there to the Chronicle in
1943. In those days, newspapers were very different to today’s high
tech offices. The editor, Lionel Head, had a typewriter, desk and
chair, the senior reporter had only a desk and chair and cub reporter
John had only a desk, at which he stood to write copy in longhand.
metal type was set by Linotype and Intertype machines, with headlines
and anything else in big type set by hand. Rolls of newsprint were not
used and each of the sheets had to be fed by hand into the old press,
which had no folding facility, so that after they had been printed,
pages had to be fed by hand, into an ancient folding machine, kept
together with string and wire.
In 1949, he launched the Sandbach
edition of the Chronicle, staying in Sandbach for two years before
being made chief reporter and moving back to Congleton.
with the company for the rest of his life, leaving only for National
Service in 1946, working as a shorthand writer in the War Office. He
rose to chairman and eventually, along with business partner Ray
Stacey, bought out the company from the Head family in 1988. After 30
years as editor, he handed over the editor’s chair to his son Jeremy,
the current editor and managing director.
Over the years he gave
untold help to many organisations in the area and was always willing to
lend a hand to anyone who came looking for information or guidance.
in his partial retirement, he spent much of his time helping people
with historical research, spending many hours looking through the
Chronicle archives, which date back to 1893.
However, his major
achievement was to keep the Chronicle as an independent newspaper,
despite increased competition, growth of national and multinational
newspaper companies and the increased cost of new technology.
He leaves a wife Shirley, whom he married in 1957, and sons Jeremy and Andrew.