John Mellor: Kent Messenger Group photographic manager

John Mellor, former photographic manager of the Kent Messenger Group, has died at the age of 69.

He worked for KMG from 1960 to 1993. Despite spending more than four decades in Kent, Huddersfield born Mellor was immensely proud of his roots and never lost his accent.

In his early years with KMG, he worked for the weekly Chatham Observer. Before becoming photographic manager, he was the KMG’s chief photographer.

Norman Smith, a former managing editor of KMG, said: “I worked closely with John for many years and developed a great deal of liking and respect for him. He was a KM character whose occasional Yorkshire bluster failed to conceal a kind heart. “John was a talented photographer, though too little was seen of that talent in later years as he became immersed in the administration and demands of running a busy department with countywide coverage.

“With sweeping technological developments and company reorganisation looming, he felt it was probably time to take things a bit easier and he took early retirement in 1993, though he continued to do occasional relief work for KMG. He was a popular regular at the staff pensioners’ party. He’ll be missed by a great many people.”

John White, assistant editor of KMG’s new media department and a former Kent Messenger news editor, said: “John displayed a rather gruff manner at times. When you asked him to do something he nearly always kept you waiting. ‘You want, you want’, he used to say to me. But he always acceded to the request in the end, usually with a grin on his face.

And he always took pride in doing a professional job.

“As photographic manager, he was chiefly deskbound, but often turned out late at night in an emergency. On one occasion, we both attended a major road accident in the early hours.

When he had finished taking his pictures, he said to me, ‘It’s all right for you. You can go back to bed now, but I’ve got to go all the way back to the office to process the film.’ The next morning his photographs of the crash scene were first class – John’s pictures always were.”

Brian Lewis, editor of the Kentish Express and a former deputy editor of the Kent Messenger, said: “John was up there among the best of Kent press photographers. His cricket action pictures were the best. He was a gruff, no-nonsense Yorkshireman with a heart of gold and when we laughed at his ‘eh-oop’ and other Yorkshire-isms, he laughed too.”

David Jones, community editor of the Medway Messenger, said: “John had one or two catchphrases, which he always used at the start of a sentence, and I can recall that one of the subs was able to mimic his voice and his catchphrases to perfection. But it was all very good-natured. John was definitely one of the old school, a real character. But he was also an extremely good photographer and his forte was cricket pictures.”

Mellor, who died of cancer, leaves a widow, Brenda, one son, also named John, and a daughter, Yvonne.

This article appeared in the Kent Messenger on 10 October Mike Gunnill, freelance photographer, writes: I was a young snapper who had fabricated his photography experience and had been given a job by the editor without John knowing – not the best of starts with the group photographic manager for the Kent Messenger Group.

The only common ground we had in the beginning was that we both came from Yorkshire, my only saving grace in his eyes. I had to work hard in those early days to make up, but I will never forget he was always there to help with words that would inspire, and continue to do so years later.

Whenever the pressure got to him, he would cover Kent Cricket Club in Canterbury, knowing the team on a first-name basis and returning to the office showing he had never forgotten his craft.

A good man. In fact, I bet he is reorganising that big darkroom in the sky, right now – and “it will be done properly, lad”.

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