One last toodle-pip from Bacca

BILL HUNTER reports on the death of Alan ‘Bacca’ Baxter, North-East district reporter for the Daily Express, who died aged 82 on 16th October 2015

 Alan passed away in a final scene that will join the best of journalism's folklore.

After brushing aside the devastating effects of a stroke over the past few years Alan was taken to the hospital for the last time where it was discovered he was terminally ill.

alanbaxter

The whole family returned to his bedside to say their farewells and as Alan chatted with them he announced he wanted a last request – his favourite tipple, a Gordon’s gin and tonic.

His son Mark raced out and returned with the drink which his dad downed with gusto and passed away with a smile and his last word: “toodle-pip”.

Alan and I talked a lot usually once or twice each week. He simply shrugged off the devastating effects of a stroke and speech difficulties and talked a lot about sport, colleagues and the 'good old days' on the Daily Express. He never complained and we had a lot of laughs. He really was a most impressive and courageous man.

The following tributes have been received from Alan Baxter’s colleagues:

Alan and the late Gordon Amory pretty much taught me allI knew about reporting when I was sent up to Newcastle from Manchester in 1969. It was a great Geordie city then and those two plus an ancient court reporter and Jimmy in the telex room made a formidable bureau. They were wonderful days, much missed as are Alan and Gordon.

– JAMES MACMANUS

*****

I spent my first day as the new boy at the Mail on Tyneside chasing a Baxter page lead about four fishermen being hit by a tanker off Hartlepool. As I was thinking of going home the phone rang. It was Alan:  "Welcome to Newcastle! You might want to join us on the fish quay in North Shields. A crew man on a trawler has gone berserk with an axe and the skipper has locked himself in his cabin. The Navy is escorting the boat here. We're in the Low Lights.” 

"Thanks, what's that?" - "A pub

Of course.

Two aspects of Alan and the best of the Geordie culture he was proud to represent in one memorable opening day – a formidable competitor and an absolute gentleman.  

As anyone lucky enough to be sent north-eastwards on a job or for a spell in their district office soon got to know, it was one big family on 'communal' shouts ("Every news desk gets four reporters for the price of one," said Alan) and at the same it was understood that we were free to plough our own furrows with exclusives to keep Them happy. 

Alan was central to those exhilarating (ok, boozy) times and if anyone stepped out of line he was usually the one who delivered the gentle reminder that we were all in this madness together. If your hat was in the ring, he would counsel quietly, it's best if it stays there. The (well-oiled) North-East vehicle purred with Alan at the wheel.

RIP Alan -  and Clive (Crickmer) and Leo (Dillon) and Gordon (Amory) and … but that will do because the list is becoming disturbingly long.

Good health and wonderful memories to those who survive him and them.

– ROGER SCOTT

*****

It was men like Alan Baxter who made me want to work for the nationals. Because as well as being supremely talented he made the job look incredibly easy and lots of fun. Who wouldn't want to do journalism HIS way?

– CAROLE MALONE

*****
Newcastle will never be the same. Alan and Gordon Amory were mentors, interpreters and most of all friends to so many people. Me, very gratefully included.

– DAVID HAIGH

*****
A great gent and a brilliant journo. He turned down Fleet Street fame for his love of Tyneside. Alan, Gordon and Stanley made up the finest Express district team in Britain (with apologies to Les Clare, Les Poole and Stan Pope!)

– JOHN BELL

*****

I started work in the Newcastle office of the Express on 1st February 1970 and planned to stay a year. That year stretched to eight. And the key reason for the change was the magnificent Alan Baxter.

To say he was my mentor is to put it too mildly. He was my teacher, my inspiration and my friend. I remember on our first "trickle round town”, as he called our frequent drinking outings, in Robinson's wine cellars in the Bigg Market, he advised me to stay in the Dean Street office no more than 12 months. It was his only advice to me I ignored.

How could I turn my back on such a wonderful experience? Working with Alan and Gordon Amory, another true national legend, totally changed my life. I learned so much from them. About journalism, of course. About fun. About life. And certainly about the North East, where I remained living and working until the mid Nineties.

Thank you Alan Baxter. Great journalist. Magnificent man. I owe you. Big time.

– PHILIP ARIS

*****

I was sent to Newcastle on holiday relief for a month in 1967. What an experience, working with Messrs Baxter, Blenkinsop and Amory. 

They introduced me to working – and drinking – practices that were eye-openers. 
How sad that they are all now no longer with us. But what memories and gratitude remain. 

– PETER HOLLAND



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