A newsdesk stalwart described as one of the Welsh ‘tafia’ who helped launch a pioneering evening newspaper in the 1960s has died suddenly.
Ralph Slater, who was in his 70s, was a key member of a four-strong team transferred from the South Wales Echo and Western Mail to launch the Thomson Organisation’s award-winning Evening Echo and Evening Post at Hemel Hempstead in 1967.
Under Echo editor Ivor Lewis, they helped win a string of national awards as the papers emerged as trailblazers in the age of web offset printing and computerised typesetting.
Ralph was deputy news editor under the late Bryan Stiles, a fellow Welshman who later went on to become a sub-editor on The Times.
The ‘tafia’ also included the late David Francis, who was deputy editor, and Dudley Stevens, who was news editor before moving to London.
John Tylee, who also worked on the Echo news desk before moving to TRN’s London HQ, and then to Campaign, where he was associate editor, said: “When I joined the Evening Echo at Hemel Hempstead the paper was barely out of its nappies and I was a 21-year-old barely through my weekly paper training and nervously stepping into the much faster-moving world of evening newspapers.
“As the then deputy news editor, Ralph did so much to make that transition as smooth as possible. I always admired the skill with which he ran the newsdesk, his quick-thinking and the jokes that helped keep everybody calm and coping under pressure.
“And you usually knew the balloon was going up when Ralph looked up as you stepped through the newsroom door first thing in the morning and were told: ‘Don’t take your coat off.’”
When the then merged Evening Post-Echo closed in 1983, Ralph remained in Hertfordshire as a weekly editor.
In retirement, he and his wife Diane spent part of the year in Mauritius. She said he died suddenly after they had spent an enjoyable day out in London.
Ralph’s funeral will be at 2.20pm on Friday, 16 June, 2017, at Worthing Crematorium, Horsham Road, Findon, West Sussex BN14 0RG.