Leading Yorkshire journalist Mike Ackroyd has died suddenly aged 78.
Mike, who passed away at home on 31 August, was widely respected for his sports reporting along with his writing and sub-editing skills.
In a career that spanned many decades, he worked as a freelance sports reporter for the national media and latterly in partnership with his daughter Catherine running a successful PR agency.
He began on his hometown paper the Hull Daily Mail in 1957.
Two days after his hand-written application was sent – in which he expressed a love of cricket – a newspaper delivery driver called at his home.
“Are you the kid what(sic) likes cricket?” the driver asked. “Yes.” “Get in the van then.”
Ten minutes later Mike was a trainee sports reporter – and so began his 60-year career.
From 1977, he provided copy for all the nationals as well as radio and TV reports via his eponymous Mike Ackroyd Press Agency (MAPA) in Hull’s Old Town.
He was a familiar and highly-respected figure at Hull City AFC, Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull RLFC grounds and was held in high regard by players and managers across the decades.
He had a reputation as a fair, honest reporter with those about whom he wrote – and was thought very highly of by all with whom he worked. There is not a sports desk in Britain that did not know of his assiduous professionalism.
Colleagues and friends all readily recall Mike’s great sense of humour and polite and gentle demeanour.
Alongside his sports reporting, Mike – who had also been a freelance sub-editor on the Daily Star in the early 1980s – later produced award-winning company newspapers for Northern Foods, Express Dairies and Rowntree’s, joining his daughter to set up Mapa PR in 1996 where he worked until his death.
With Mike’s flair for writing and editing, Mapa PR won, in successive years, the gold award for the UK’s best company newspaper, Express News, with the citation reading: “This is the company newspaper against which others should be measured.”
Michael John Ackroyd was born on May 18, 1940 in Hull – the only son of Lieutenant John Gordon Ackroyd (died Burma, 1944) – and Catherine Ackroyd (nee Hanger).
He was educated at Froebel House and Redhouse School Moor Moncton, near York before Warwick School and latterly Pitman’s [shorthand] College, Hull.
His mother remarried and with her second husband Ted Every started the Newland Park and Grange Park hotels in Hull, where Mike spent many happy years.
He married Carol in 1967. They have two grown-up daughters Catherine and Hermione and three grandsons, Otto, Elliot and Vivian. Mike was a devoted family man and he and Carol recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.
He was also a keen cricketer, mountaineer and all-round sport fan.
His daughter Hermione said: “My father particularly loved mountaineering and walking in hills especially in North West Wales. Reading and gardening, looking after his dog, Hodge, were also among his passions.
“He saw the best in everyone and had friends from many different walks of life. He was also a supporter of the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra and loved jazz and all kinds of music.
“He was a great raconteur and often spoke about the excitement of the Hull Daily Mail newsroom in the 1960s – with all the attendant camaraderie, jokes and stories.
“But most of all he was a gentleman, and a great father, husband and grandfather.”
Long-time friend and former colleague Brian Lavery, ex-Hull Daily Mail, Northern Echo, Humberside Newsline, Scottish Mail on Sunday and Express Newspapers and now an author and university lecturer, said: “Mike was my friend and mentor from back when I thought I knew more than I actually did – right up until now.
“He helped edit my books and was always ready with wise advice. He got me my first shift on a national in the 80s subbing at the Daily Star in Manchester when I was just 24.
“I always sought his counsel and his company. He helped many in their careers across his sixty years in press and media. He was a consummate journalist.
“He was a great friend and a brilliant storyteller with a fantastic sense of humour. For more than 35 years we met each Friday in the Old Custom House bar and before that The George pub in Hull’s Old Town area.
“He often joked we had put the landlord’s kids through college – and paid for his Merc.
“I have never heard anyone speak ill of Mike, which in our business is achievement enough.
“But Mike had three truly great achievements. He married one and fathered the other two. He was devoted to Carol, Catherine and Hermione and never tired of regaling us about his grandkids. I was honoured to call him my friend and I will miss him more than I can say.”
Rory Squires, a former journalist and editor at Press Association Sport and now a communications professional for the international sports industry, said: “Mike took me under his wing when I was only 14.
“He was an outstanding journalist and an inspirational mentor, and I continue to aspire to his standards which have underpinned my career. His impact on my professional life cannot be underestimated.”
One of Mike’s former Boothferry Park helpers is now the BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym, then a reporter with the local commercial station, Viking Radio.
Hugh said: “I remember Mike from my early days in radio journalism with Viking Radio in Hull. He ran the press box at Boothferry Road, then Hull City’s ground.
“I was somewhat overawed when sent to cover a match there but Mike could not have been more welcoming to this very green newcomer. He was a real gentleman and went out of his way to help, providing guidance and information on the team and progression of the matches.
“I won’t ever forget his kindness and good humour. It was a delight to meet Mike again a few years ago when I spoke at a Hull Bondholders event. We had a few laughs about life in that old Boothferry Park press box.”
Another one of his Boothferry Park helpers, Phil Ascough, ex- Hull Daily Mail, Yorkshire Post, Bermuda Gazette and BBC North, now a media consultant, said: “The response I’ve had since posting details of Mike’s passing on Twitter has been overwhelming, and it’s been the same with texts, phone calls and emails.
“Everyone thought the world of him. He will leave a big hole in a lot of lives.”
One of Mike’s contemporaries, Roy Woodcock, added: “Mike was a member of what I would consider as the last great subs’ bench at the Hull Daily Mail when I moved across from news reporters around 1975.
“Working alongside him was the best education a ‘newbie’ could wish for; it was as if you learned by osmosis.
“I only saw and shared memories with Mike at the Hull Daily Mail reunion earlier this year; he was still on great form and it provides a great lasting memory to have. To paraphrase a favourite song of mine: He was a proper journalist of the Mr Ackroyd kind.”
Another contemporary, Stuart Russell, ex-assistant news editor at Hull Daily Mail and latterly ex-assistant editor of the Grimsby Telegraph, who now writes the Flashback supplement for the Mail, said: “Mike was a superb journalist and his creative design work on a wide variety of publications was widely acclaimed.
“He always gave the impression of loving life and living it to the full. He was a great character highly respected by all who knew him.”
Sam Hawcroft, ex-Hull Daily Mail, now editor at H&E Magazine, freelance sub-editor and musician said: “I first met Mike twenty or so years ago, and Martyn Hainstock (Hull City announcer and my late partner) persuaded him to give me some footy reporting work.
“I was a bit green back then, I reckon he had the patience of a saint, but he gave me my first real taste of journalism as one of his many Boothferry Park helpers.”
Hull Daily Mail municipal editor Angus Young said: “Mike was the Dorian Gray of Hull – when I last bumped into him he looked exactly the same as he did when I first met him in the early 1980s.
“I will always remember his smile, his nose for a story and his unfailing attempts to persuade the Mail to feature some of his more obscure press releases. A lovely bloke.”
Former journalist JJ Tatten, who shared offices with Mike in Hull, said: “I was very fond of Mike – and spent many a glorious late Friday afternoon over the past 15 years roaring with laughter as he regaled myself and my friends Brian Lavery and Mick McGarry with tales and anecdotes.
“The standard of gag was top notch – and if they were not, Mike would feign solemnity, place a bar towel on his head (in the manner of a judge’s Black Cap) and sentence me to death by execution in a public place.
“He always had such a youthful demeanour – so he never really grew old. His cheeky inner school-boy would often surface.”
The funeral will be held at 1pm on 25 September at St Peter’s Church, Rowley with a wake at Rowley Manor. No flowers but donations to Cancer Research UK are welcome.
Picture: Kev Ladden