Marlborough reporter Nigel Kerton retires today after 45 years
11:24am Thursday 22nd November 2012 in By Lewis Cowen
For four decades Nigel Kerton has been as familiar a sight around Marlborough as the Town Hall – a place where he has spent more hours than he can care to remember
When Nigel Kerton closes down his computer at the end of the day today, it will be the close of a journalistic career that has spanned five decades.
Mr Kerton is more than just a patch reporter in Marlborough.
He has embedded himself in the community, among other things founding the town’s gardening club and organising Christmas Day lunches for older people at the town hall with his wife Joy.
He said: “When I started I was advised not to get involved by joining local organisations, but I don’t see it that way. If you are seen to be involved with the community, people are more willing to tell you things.”
Mr Kerton was born in the Mendip Hills, at Bishopsgate, which is now part of Bristol. But when he was young his parents bought the village shop in Lyneham and he spent his formative years there, attending Lyneham Primary School and Malmesbury Grammar.
He said: “I was determined to become a forester in Savernake Forest. That never happened but in all the three houses I have lived in in Marlborough, I have been able to look out on the place I wanted to work.”
In 1963 the family moved to Weston-super-Mare where Mr Kerton’s parents took over a shop and Mr Kerton enrolled at Weston technical college.
After leaving he called into the offices of the local newspaper, the Weston Mercury, to scour their jobs columns.
He was aware of a large figure arriving at his shoulder, who turned out to be the editor. Mr Kerton said: “He asked me if I was looking for a part-time job. When I said yes, he said they needed a gofer in the reporters’ room.
“The next day I was given a notepad and told there was a woman in reception whose husband had just died. I was given a list of questions to ask and I kept that list for years.”
That chance meeting was the launch pad for Mr Kerton’s long career in journalism. While at the Weston Mercury he learned his trade but his heart was in Wiltshire.
He said: “While I was at Lyneham I got very friendly with a lovely young girl called Joy. We were teenage sweethearts and we kept in touch when I went to Weston. But it was a long way to travel to keep our relationship alive.”
The couple were engaged in 1967 but the commuting continued. Then, out of the blue, Mr Kerton got a phone call from the editor of the Swindon Advertiser, Fred Avery, who said they had a vacancy for a reporter in Marlborough.
He celebrated his 21st birthday in the Gazette & Herald office in Kingsbury Street, which in those days was branded as the Swindon Evening Advertiser office.
The couple were married shortly afterwards. They have two children, Paul and Claire, and four grandchildren: Evie, Nathan, Tom and Vicky.
Mr Kerton has many fond memories of his colleagues on the Gazette at the time – Arthur Paget, John Leech, Terry Gaylard, Denis Kingman – and working with talented photographers like Colin Kearley, Bob Lowrie and Trevor Porter.
But in 1986 he got an offer he couldn’t refuse from the Western Daily Press which led him to some big stories which went “national”.
He and his colleagues Brian Best and Mervyn Hancock received a national Campaigning Journalist of the Year award for exposing the scandal at West Wiltshire District Council when council officers bought the council’s own IT company at a knockdown price after describing it as “worthless”.
It was, in fact, a very lucrative operation. The officers involved were charged with offences but the case was eventually dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service for reasons which Mr Kerton is still in the dark about.
On the lighter side, Mr Kerton broke the story of the Tamworth Two, a pair of pigs that escaped from a Malmesbury abattoir and defied recapture for some weeks.
In the end, the porkers were reprieved and sent to a petting farm. The pigs were immortalised in print and on film.
Mr Kerton returned to the Marlborough office of the Gazette 12 years after he left and has spent the final years of his career in the town he has adopted as his own and to which he owes his allegiance.
He plans to stand for the east ward of the town in the Wiltshire Council elections next May as a Tory party candidate, despite all his years representing his fellow workers on Newsquest Wiltshire’s staff council.
But this doesn’t mean he has joined “the bosses”.
He is disconsolate at the decline in respect for the local reporter. He said: “Journalists are undervalued by employers. I have spent my life writing about the average wage but never achieved it.
“I didn’t have to be a journalist. I once contemplated becoming a professional snooker player. I once played Steve Lee, but he beat me all ends up.”
Mr Kerton has met countless celebrities over the years, including HM The Queen, but has never been overawed by them. He said: “The only reason I have been so successful is I’m such a friendly guy. I treat everyone as equals.”
Mr Kerton has been recognised officially for his dedication to the communities he covers.
In 2007 Pewsey Parish Council presented him with an award for Outstanding Service to the Community while, in 2000, Marlborough and District Rotary Club gave him their Centenary Community Award for outstanding vocational service to the community.
Gazette editor Gary Lawrence said: “This industry won’t see many more like Nigel Kerton. His love for the communities he serves, his determination to bring in a story and his knowledge of the area and its people are very rare commodities.
“If I had to sum up what makes Nigel such a great journalist it is the fact that he lavishes care and attention on every story he writes, no matter how mundane it may seem at face value.
“He understands that every story is important to the people it is about and to me is that is a quality to cherish.
“We’ll miss him at the Gazette but more importantly the people of Marlborough and Pewsey will miss him.”
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