'She was feisty ahead of her time': Journalist who threw beer over 'obnoxious' Dylan Thomas dies aged 100 - Press Gazette

'She was feisty ahead of her time': Journalist who threw beer over 'obnoxious' Dylan Thomas dies aged 100

Pioneering Bristol journalist Barbara Buchanan, who was credited with saving lives through her campaign for cervical cancer smear tests, has died at the age of 100.

In 1933 she persuaded an editor to employ her as the first female trainee news reporter at the now long-defunct Bristol Evening World newspaper.

She went on to win the title Britain’s Woman Journalist of the Year in 1967 for her crusading features in the Bristol Evening Post.

The award citation said: “Miss Buchanan’s range of writing covered many of the major social problems of the day.

“The judging panel were particularly impressed by her series on cervical cancer in women and the campaign she mounted for improved facilities for testing in the South West.”

Her oldest son Charles said: “We were all immensely proud of her – for years afterwards she used to get letters from women who said she had saved their lives because of the smear test.

“The surgeons were also so delighted that they invited her to write articles for medical journals.”

Barbara reached her century in a nursing home near Bristol on New Year’s Day and died on Wednesday 4 March. Her married name was Breyer but for much of her life she was widely known across the West Country as Barbara Buchanan, her maiden name and newspaper byline.

She was married and widowed twice. Her first husband John Danvers-Williams died aged 32 in 1944, leaving her with two young sons, six-year-old Charles and baby Quentin.

She later married Jan Breyer, a Dutch man born in Shanghai, who was a test engineer in Bristol’s aircraft industry.

Barbara was born in Bristol and spent most of her life living there or nearby in North Somerset, apart from a spell working as a freelance journalist in London in her early twenties. In 1939 she returned to Bristol and the Evening World, where she later became women’s editor until the paper closed in 1962 at the climax of the city’s newspaper war.

Barbara then joined Bristol’s victorious remaining evening paper, the Post, as a feature writer, where in addition to her forthright campaigns she also wrote a lighter personal column called Saturday Chatterday.

Among the family she leaves are her two sons, daughter-in-law Sandra, ex-daughter-in-law Liz, three grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Barbara was a great role model for me and dozens more female journalists who have followed in her West Country wake.

She was a small woman with a big booming voice and strong opinions – she terrified me when I was a young reporter and she would appear in the Post newsroom and bark at me about what I should or shouldn’t be doing. But I grew to answer back and love her dearly.

She was feisty ahead of her time, and rightly proud of her journalistic credentials.

It was her cheerful boast that she took her noisy old typewriter into hospital so that not even childbirth could interrupt her writing for long.

Another claim to fame was that while she and her first husband, also a journalist, were freelancing in London in the 1930s she once flung a glassful of beer over a drunken and obnoxious Dylan Thomas in a Soho bar.

This obituary and above tribute was written by Barbara Buchanan's former Bristol Post colleague Quita Morgan



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