‘A sad day for Royston’: Tributes pour in for ‘true gentleman’ and former Royston Crow editor Les Baker

PUBLISHED: 18:00 09 May 2016 | UPDATED: 10:12 10 May 2016

Les Baker.

Les Baker.

Daniel Wilson

Tributes have poured in after the death of a committed and hardworking Labour councillor who edited the Royston Crow for eight years.

Royston Town councillor Lindsay Davidson, NHDC’s Fiona Hill, NHDC’s Ashley Hawkins and Royston Town councillor Les Baker.Royston Town councillor Lindsay Davidson, NHDC’s Fiona Hill, NHDC’s Ashley Hawkins and Royston Town councillor Les Baker.

Les Baker passed away on Saturday at the age of 68 following a period of illness.

The Royston resident was a journalist for more than 40 years, and served on Royston Town Council.

He was widely known across the town for his community work, including Royston in Bloom and Creative Royston.

Fellow town councillor Lindsay Davidson said: “He was a great person for Royston and a huge support for me. He really cared about Royston, it was a place very close to his heart.

Bob Smith, Mayor, Chris Murphy, Royal British Legion Royston Branch, Lindsay Davison, Peter Burt, town council and Royston in bloom and Les Baker, Chairman Royston in bloomBob Smith, Mayor, Chris Murphy, Royal British Legion Royston Branch, Lindsay Davison, Peter Burt, town council and Royston in bloom and Les Baker, Chairman Royston in bloom

“He is going to be so missed. A lot of people respected him. He fought for Royston. He was somebody who really promoted the town so well. Anything that helped to promote Royston, he was there.”

Mayor Ben Lewis said: “A sad day for Royston. Les was a true gentleman. He embodied the spirit of Royston.

“Les dedicated his life to public service. I have memories as the editor of Crow and being involved in the town council. You will not find a soul who wouldn’t speak of him with the utmost respect and fondness.”

Chris Lennon, who worked with Les at the Crow, said: “Les was the Royston Crow and, despite a 40 plus year career in journalism taking him to Fleet Street and back, being editor of the Crow was his dream job.

Les Baker, Bob Smith and Maurice HillLes Baker, Bob Smith and Maurice Hill

“He had an absolute passion for the localness of local newspapers and did everything he could to make the Crow a cornerstone of the Royston community. Back in 2000, Les offered me – a then-just-qualified senior sports reporter – the job of assistant editor, taking me under his wing and showing me how ‘news’ should be done (or, more than likely, how it shouldn’t be done).

“More than just a boss, Les was a friend, too. He was kind, patient, sometimes rambling – boy, could his stories go on and on... and on – and had a great wit and sense of humour. A staunch Labour man, we’d rarely see eye to eye politically – but that certainly led to some fun debates over the Tuesday night ‘Nemo and chips’! And, for those of us who worked at the Crow in that era, how much richer our lives are for knowing where Waterloo Sunset was written (allegedly...) and who Margaret Thatcher bought a pram from (allegedly...)!

“Les passed on Saturday evening, peacefully in his armchair holding hands with his wife, Chris. Exactly how he wanted to go.”

North Herts Labour councillor Judi Billing said: “He was without doubt one of the Labour Party’s best ever and most consistent campaigners and friends. I worked and laughed with him – and sometimes cried – over about 40 years I think and was aware that it took a very special kind of campaigner to keep the faith over all that time in a town like Royston, which was rarely a humdinger of a good news story for us!

“But Les was also of course a journalist and definitely knew how to make small successes into major moments of joy.

“Others will, I’m sure, say more about Les over the next days and weeks, and share their special memories.”

Former Crow reporter Matt Gooding said: “He was quite a character, he was softly spoken and had a really good sense of humour.

“He always had a good joke. He seemed to come from a different era of journalism. He was a dedicated Arsenal fan and we used to talk about sport quite a bit. He was a real force for good in the town.”

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