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Chapter 1     Chapter 2    Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6   Chapter 7   Chapter 8   Chapter 9   Chapter 10    Chapter 11   Chapter 12   Chapter 13   Chapter 14

 

Chapter 14

After that things seemed to happen very fast. Of course we made our own news. The fire and subsequent arrest of Martin was featured extensively on the local nightly television bulletins.

In the face of adversity everyone pulls together. Thankfully the weekly paper was printed at works five miles from the office. Our copy was also set there each week. So we were able to get out an emergency edition of the newspaper that week with details of the fire and photographs courtesy of the fire brigade.

From that point we worked from home, although the advertising department was able to hire an office just outside town. We weren't going to let the fire destroy our livelihood. Every week we met in the advertising offices for an editorial conference and from there we went our own way, pulling together as a team to produce newspaper after newspaper - something Shad Greene would have been proud of.

The investigation established that the fire had been started deliberately and in the downstairs room and that entry had been through the back door. I don't know whether the fact we kept the door unlatched during the day had any effect on our insurance claim - that was something down to the owners.

Shad Greene was cremated and a special tree of remembrance planted by his widow in the grounds of the crematorium. We wrote a glowing obituary in the newspaper from information given to us along with photographs from Mrs Greene. Neither myself nor Louise would ever forget his unique ability to communicate with people without actually saying anything.

It took almost a year to clear the site and erect a new set of offices. They were more modern but didn't have the character of the original and were open plan.

It took 18 months for things to get back to normal. Martin was charged with murder and, after a very short trial during which he admitted everything including being fully aware that Shad Greene was on the premises, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He told the court of his resentment towards Greene and life in general but it was felt that he was fit enough to plead and he told the court that he was fully aware of the results of his actions. Neither myself nor Louise ever visited Martin and to this day we have no idea what happened to him, although now some 30 years later he will have served his sentence and be living somewhere, perhaps trying to put his past behind him. We have forgiven him, although it took a long time to search our hearts before doing so.

Myself and Louise stayed with the newspaper for another two years before I tired of covering the same old stories. It was a joint decision to move and I worked for an news agency in Yorkshire for 18 months before becoming deputy editor and then editor of a small weekly newspaper in Lancashire. After 10 years in this role I started my own public relations agency which went from strength to strength and now employs five people - one of whom is Louise and one of whom is my eldest son Tim who joined the company after leaving university.

Our youngest son Michael is an accountant and has two children of his own. They were our first and to date our only grandchildren.

In writing this book I decided to follow up on some of the people I worked with. Tony Willson now lives in retirement on the banks of a Scottish Loch with his fifth wife. He made his fortune from soft porn films in London before deciding that enough was enough and taking up salmon fishing.

Birkett died in the late 1990s after a distinguished career as editor of the journal where he regularly wrote a column full of memories of the past that he entitled the Shad Greene Memorial Page. Robin left the Journal a year after myself and Louise and worked for many years for the BBC in East Anglia, firstly as a reporter and subsequently as a producer. He eventually got married in his mid 30s and has two children - one of whom I understand is a very skilful footballer. We still keep in touch via Christmas cards and the occasional e-mail.

Modern technology has transformed the world of journalism. Today we have 24 hour channels pumping out news and views day and night. Mobile phones, laptop computers, the internet are all now taken for granted. Perhaps if we had mobile phones in the 1970s we would have been able to establish that those calls to the office had been hoaxes and stopped Martin. But it's no good looking back with ifs. The past is the past and we can't change it. We can only use it to learn from and move on.

The journal had been my first job in journalism. I moved on over the years but I never forgot my roots and the many memories of the people the sights and sounds of my years spent in an English seaside town.

THE END