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June 10, 2014

Recent Roy - CopyFormer Romford Recorder editor, Roy Mills has died after a long illness, he was 80.
Roy edited the Recorder for 31 years, and I worked there for most of that time. He was one of the paper’s longest serving editors, who achieved record sales for what was to come the flagship of the Recorder series. (pictured right Roy Mills)
His legacy of never taking no for an answer and checking the facts was drilled into us all, and at times his name was the cause of a maelstrom of frustration, but experience soon taught that he was right. He used to say no one makes mistakes on purpose, that is why our copy always went past levels of experienced journalists before being printed.
All his achievements, and there were many, were because of his deep love of journalism, Romford and his paper. His favourite saying was ‘It may be a winkle barge, but it is my winkle barge’, exercising his humorous modesty as the paper became a major force in the east end of London.
Roy eating hat wRoy’s honesty and sense of fun served him well (pic left when Romford Market traders challenged him) and was always willing to admit he may have been tad wrong. He  became involved in all of the town’s charitable and voluntary groups and plagued us in the newsroom to empty our pockets for the latest fund raising project.
I think he would have been saddened to see the present state of our industry that has been diminished in popularity and readership by cutbacks and amalgamation. He would fight all attempts to marginalise the Recorder’s influence in the town, and we can only surmise how he would have reacted to the effects of the information highway that has made universal in-roads into printed media locally and nationally.
The Recorder’s circulation is now a fraction of what it used to be, many readers preferring instead the instant and free media of hyperspace.
Every week the massive team of journalists and advertising personnel produced 200 page papers with extra supplements on top. Roy made it his mission to serve the community of Havering, and make the Recorder a friend as well as essential reading of what was happening in the borough.
Never one to shy away from a ‘good yarn’, the paper regularly reached the news stands with bright ‘Exclusive’ tags on the pages, and he would make the 20 or so journalists life a misery if we did not produce the goods.
It was a good training ground and I spent 32 years making my way to being deputy editor, but nothing was ever easy as fewer and fewer faces appeared in the newsroom to replace those who had left.
1960s Romford journalists wIn some respects he was a hard task master, but he was also nice man who much preferred to help others and took genuine delight in the successes of his staff. (above, a gathering of former Romford journalists last year who served on the papers during the 1960s. Unfortunately Roy was too ill to attend)
He kept the momentum going as the almost weekly campaigns kept us busy. ‘Square Deal for Rainham’ when the village was cut off by the A13 and lacked a proper bus service. Many other areas benefitted from similar campaigns as they turned to the Recorder for help.
The degeneration of South Street brought ‘Windy City’ in an attempt to inject life into the bottom end of the town as shop after shop closed. In some respects it was too successful and the attempt to turn the area into a cafe society was hijacked by night clubs and pubs selling cheap beer.
He was also an avid backer of the idea of a Hospice and sent a team out to St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney, putting in article after article and promoting St Francis in raising funds.
Roy was also inadvertently responsible for naming the new state of the art swimming pool by the Town Hall roundabout. Referring to it as the Dolphin, the name of a similar facility in the south west of England, he sent a team down to feature the ground breaking wave machine and facilities and the name stuck.
Roy pic eating hat w - CopyHis regular Editor’s Comment was typical of his impish sense of humour, (right, one of his favourite pictures when his Secretary, Sandra Knight, baked a ‘hat’ cake for him to eat after challenging Romford Market traders over an issue) and almost every Friday his door would be slammed shut as he answered phone calls from readers who did not always agree with his views. (see above)  Short of taking refuge under our desks, the newsroom would quickly empty to cover sudden and essential breaking stories.
He always spoke of his time on Coal News and was at his desk when the tragedy of a sliding colliery spoil tip in the Welsh village of Aberfan, killed 116 children and 28 adults. That terrible day, Roy was at the centre in getting the factual story out to the world wide media.
He was very proud of the Romford Recorder and the achievements of the paper and particularly proud of his many staff over the 31 years of his stewardship.
Roy’s funeral is this Friday (June 13) at 10.40 am at Southend Crematorium, Sutton Road, Southend SS2 5PX.


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