My friend and former colleague Mark Stanway, who has died aged 61 of complications arising from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, was one of a once large, now shrinking, cadre of journeymen journalists.
More often than not straight out of school, such journalists would begin in their teens as reporters indentured to a local newspaper, which would undertake to train them hands-on in the trade. Once they had passed a proficiency test, they would usually move on to fresh fields, either remaining a reporter or, perhaps tempted by more regular hours, becoming a subeditor.
So Mark, while he had a relatively privileged upbringing – his parents sent him to Winchester college – rejected the dreaming spires for the hard reality of ordinary men and women whose lives were chronicled by the local press.
He was born in Leek, Staffordshire, the son of Elvine (nee Clowes) and Colin Stanway, an engineer and partner in a firm manufacturing bespoke electric motors at a factory in Stoke-on-Trent. On leaving school he returned to Leek and was taken on by the market town’s Post and Times newspaper.
He reported for the Congleton Chronicle and then the Macclesfield Advertiser. By way of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Burton-on-Trent he joined the Evening Gazette, Blackpool, then the Yorkshire Evening Press, as a subeditor.
In the parts of the non-anglophone world with an English-language press there was a healthy demand for native users of the tongue who were also skilled subeditors and production journalists. By his early 30s Mark was in Nicosia helping to produce the Cyprus Mail, and he later went to Bangkok to help launch a new English-language business daily, to Hong Kong, and to France, living in Nice and Castres.
In between these foreign posts, he worked for the Oxford Mail, Daily Telegraph and, until a few weeks before his death, the Observer, where we met. He is fondly remembered by his colleagues there and by his many friends in Oxford, where he had made his home, for his good humour and generosity.
A voracious reader, he was particularly fond of Trollope, and enjoyed holidays on English waterways. He was an accomplished cook, particularly of the Cantonese cuisine picked up while in Hong Kong, and a great francophile, fluent in French.
Mark is survived by his sisters, Karen and Lorna, nephew, Thomas, and god-daughter, Roisin.