Guardian’s supplement stirred up memories for cub reporter

CONFERENCE: (left to right) Peter Gillibrand, Eddie Jackson (partially obscured), Paul Bolton, Dennis Taylor, Alan Curran, Peter Tottey and George Birtill
CONFERENCE: (left to right) Peter Gillibrand, Eddie Jackson (partially obscured), Paul Bolton, Dennis Taylor, Alan Curran, Peter Tottey and George Birtill
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The Guardian’s recent 24-page supplement celebrating the paper’s 140th birthday stirred up a lot of happy members for one former reporter.

The supplement devoted a page to a photo special of the newsroom in 1949, when George Birtill was the editor.

Mr Birtill’s son David, himself a respected journalist, provided the pictures, which show a youthful Alan Curren in the background.

Alan, who was fresh out of Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School, first cut his teeth as cub reporter at the Guardian in 1947.

He was Mr Birtill’s first appointment and this marked the beginning of an exciting career in journalism which would take him to the Bolton Evening News and the Telegraph in Manchester.

Alan joined the Guardian as a fresh-faced 16-year-old and is full of fond memories for his time in Chorley.

The 79-year-old, who now lives in Horwich, said: “I knew I wanted to go into journalism when I finished school and it was rather fortuitous that I saw the job advertised.

“I was the first one to be appointed by George Birtill and when I started I was trained on the job.

“You really were thrown in at the deep end.

“But George, or Mr Birtill as we had to call him, was a joy to work with.

“He could be infuriating and stubborn at times, but he was extremely likeable and a very generous man. I respected him greatly.”

Alan was reading the Chorley Guardian 140 year anniversary special when he spotted himself in the photo from 1949.

It shows the editor George Birtill and his team of reporters thrashing out their Friday conference and Alan remembers it well.

He’s pictured with Peter Gillibrand, Eddie Jackson,Paul Bolton, Dennis Taylor, Peter Tottey and Mr Birtill.

“In those meetings we would exchange ideas and give our suggestions for stories,” he recalled. “But George ran the meetings and he was the boss.

“This may sound a little corny but at the Guardian in the 1940s and 50s, it was very much like a family.

“All of our other personal friends were all working during the week and socialising at the weekend whereas all of us at the Guardian were at work at the weekend.

“We sent a lot of time together, it really was a family. They were all always very generous, kind and helpful towards me.”

Alan’s time at the Guardian was cut short when he was called up for National Service in 1953.

This was not his only break from the industry, as he and his wife, Vina, went on to run the corner shop on Seymour Street for two years.

“We had a proper Lancashire corner shop while our only child was very young,” he said.

“ But we used to have to work long hours so that was when I went to the Telegraph in Manchester.

“Then the phone rang and it was George Birtill and he wanted to make me an offer. He was looking for a news editor and asked me if I wanted to do it, so I went back.

“Over the years there were big changes that I experienced in the industry because of the changes in technology.

“As you can see in the photos of the Chorley Guardian in 1949, it went from metal production to computers. Things really did change dramatically.” Mr Birtill was the editor of the Guardian from 1946 until 1977.

Alan retired in 1992 and lives with his wife Vina in Horwich.