Jackie Heap - a journalist with newsprint in her DNA - dies aged 73
Jackie Heap - © Private
7 February 2012
Jackie Forster, who wrote under her maiden name Heap, has died aged 73 after a short illness at her Lancashire home at Thornton Cleveleys, with her husband Eric and daugther Caterina at her side.
She was an NUJ life member and a committed trade unionist. Her late father Jack was a Blackpool Gazette linotype operator and she said newsprint was in her DNA. Jackie became a cub reporter in her teens and worked for The Gazette for almost 40 years, retiring in 1994, but continuing to write on a freelance basis, and support charities.
Former chair of the local Osteoporosis Society, Jean Marsh, said:
"Jackie was the first reporter to give such support and encouragement personally and professionally and without her we would have never raised the money for a scanner. Many are in Jackie's debt to this day."
The family has requested donations to be sent to the Alzheimer's Society and Red Cross.
Jackie's former colleague Jacqui Morley recalls her friend:
"We still call them cuttings, although it's a long time since archivists painstakingly cut stories from a newspaper and stuck them on a card to file.
"They are invaluable as reference sources, not just to us but local historians and other researchers.
"Mostly they are filed under subject. Other times under the reporter's name. Today we access computerised files, in theory at the touch of a button, in practice hoping one random word will finally resonate and produce the relevant file. They are fascinating, these cards containing the small print and finer details of so many lives.
"I stumbled across one of my articles there, written in 1976, when I was 20 years old. The article was dreary. Long intro, all the dated style points of overseers, proof readers, linotype operators obeyed to the letter. No literals. But nothing to distinguish it either. A jobbing hack's effort.
"It appeared alongside a feature by Jackie Heap. Heapie as we called her. I came across it while re-reading her articles, a masterclass now, as then, in quality journalism.
"We think we work hard today, but here was a woman who was not only women's editor but wrote a weekly column for the local sailing community, property house calls, main features, news.
"Each card – the sum total of her labours more than I could carry – bearing the stamp of her individuality as a writer and woman of substance.
"Her writing, like herself, was rather beautiful, spare, elegant, warm, compassionate, witty. Timing spot on.
"She knew how to start and end an article, just as she knew when to advise her daughter the 'price of independence was loneliness', and showed us all how to live – and leave – life gracefully and with great dignity. She died at home, her daughter and husband at her side. She was also a Life member of the NUJ and a committed trade unionist – passionate in the face of injustice, pragmatic, prepared to man a picket line when she felt protest was the only option.
"I attended her funeral the other day. Standing room only and not much of that. I stood at the back between a model given a career break by Heapie and a charity campaigner helped, too.
"Lots of familiar faces, including former colleagues, reunited once again for a funeral, but I was struck by the sheer diversity of those present and the many lives Jackie had touched not just through words but deeds.
"Her own daughter Caterina reminded of us how Heapie once appealed for volunteers to sit with elderly people, and when not one came forward did so herself – forming a friendship which endured to the old lady's death, at 95, and beyond with her daughter… who was at the funeral.
"Jackie retired 17 years ago, at the age I am today. I still get mistaken for her. It used to irk me. I'm the Other Jacqui, I'd say. I wish I could still say that today. But there is and always was only one Jackie Heap. You could say it's on the cards…"