Out There: The stories that rocked our town

Cockle Disaster. Picture Garth Hamer.
Cockle Disaster. Picture Garth Hamer.
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It’s the end of an era – for me at least.

I’ve moved on from my job as news editor of The Visitor (and the Lancaster Guardian) after nearly 20 years.

However, I’m not moving out of the area and I’ll continue writing this column for the foreseeable future.

Leaving The Visitor has made me think about how lucky I’ve been to live and work in such a friendly and beautiful part of the world.

There are people who deride Morecambe, but after visiting countless towns and cities over the years, I think it’s a wonderful place. As a native Scot, I’ve always found the people of Morecambe to be kind and welcoming.

My first week as a reporter on The Visitor was one of the most memorable of my career.

There was a double murder on the White Lund Industrial Estate and I went to Bolton-le-Sands to interview Geraldine Marrocco, the widow of one of the men who was killed. I have never forgotten that interview.

I was so moved by the way Geraldine welcomed me in and spoke lovingly of her husband Tony and his business partner Paul Sandham. It was humbling to be able to help Geraldine in some small way and we kept in touch. Terry Clifton, a sadistic killer who escaped from police and was dubbed ‘Spiderman’ by the national media, was eventually convicted of the horrific double murder.

Working on a local paper is a great privilege. People invite you into their homes, they trust you and often it’s possible to make a difference in their lives. Every day is different – there’s no job quite like it.

This week The Visitor is looking back at the Morecambe Bay Cockling Disaster. Working on stories to do with the disaster has never ceased to be moving and deeply shocking to me.

Being able to press the authorities for changes to the law and to question why 23 Chinese people died needlessly in Morecambe Bay has been an honour.

After the disaster The Visitor started two campaigns – Home for the Hover and Protect Our Cocklers. Being at the opening of the new RNLI Hovercraft Station was a highlight of my career so far.

One of the greatest joys I’ve had over the years has been interviewing local people about Morecambe and the wider district in times gone by. This oral history is fascinating and I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to tell me their stories.

Interviewing Dame Thora Hird at The Midland Hotel was a treat as she held my hand and said she liked my accent because it reminded her of her late husband (he was Scottish too).

Dame Thora wasn’t always full of praise for Morecambe, but on that occasion she spoke in warm terms of the town’s illustrious past.

Sadly, Dame Thora passed away not long after that.

From the day I got off the train at Morecambe Station and walked along a windswept promenade in 1995 to the present, my fondness for the area has grown and grown.

I will continue to be an advocate for Morecambe and will always do what I can to help the town to prosper.