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Arthur Kay, West Country journalist and photographer, dies aged 85

Arthur Kay

Arthur Kay  -  © Private

15 October 2015

The legendary West Country journalist, Arthur Kay, has died aged 85. A photographer for well over 60 years, he was still covering news and sport for his local paper.

Arthur's pictures of subjects ranging from LS Lowry to The Beatles, Margaret Thatcher to Donald Sutherland, appeared in publications all over the country and the world.

The son of a Lancashire coal miner, Arthur began his career in journalism after national service in the RAF.

He worked, famously, for the Bolton Evening News, then one of Britain's most important provincial titles. But when he was offered a job on the Daily Mirror in the 1960s, he opted for the quieter life of Devon instead on a group of newspapers including the Sunday Independent, then owned by the Mirror Group, and operated as its training scheme.

Arthur moved with his young family to Dartmouth and was based in Newton Abbot at the Mid Devon Advertiser throughout the 1970s and early '80s. He also freelanced for national titles and then moved to the Sunday Independent as chief photographer.

After his retirement from his staff job in the 1990s, Arthur returned to freelancing. He was still taking pictures for South Hams Newspapers, based in his home town, Kingsbridge, until very recently.

A lifelong socialist, Arthur was an official for many years in the National Union of Journalists, which conferred honorary life membership upon him.

He was passionate about rugby union, music – his idol was the jazz saxophonist Paul Desmond – books, films, good food, red wine, malt whisky and good company.

In recent months, he had produced an article for the Sunday Independent on the BBC television programme The Onedin Line, in which, as an extra, he played several roles when it was filmed in Dartmouth in the 1970s. He also supplied imagery for the book The Promised Land, by the writer and journalist Stuart Fraser.

Stuart Fraser first worked with Arthur in 1982, and has been a close friend ever since. He said:

"To a generation of journalists, Arthur was a legend: his photography was superb, his humour razor-sharp, his principles absolute and his company the greatest of joys."

John Collings, Sunday Independent sports editor and a long-time colleague, said:

"Arthur set himself very high standards and his work always reflected that dedication, and a lifetime's devotion to the cause – definitely 'old school', mischievous, yet loveable."

Guy Channing, Sunday Independent picture editor and Plymouth-based freelance photographer who trained with Arthur, said:

"A statesman of his trade, no-one will come remotely close to filling the gap he has left – always professional, always funny, always Arthur."

Kevin Marriott, sports editor of The Cornishman, West Briton and Cornish Guardian, described Arthur as "a legend of a man… a true great of our profession".

Guy Henderson, digital editor of the Torquay Herald Express, said he was "the finest of blokes."

Tony Carney, the veteran West Country photojournalist and former Plymouth Evening Herald picture editor who also trained with Arthur, said:

"We would talk for hours about the business we both loved so much and I was so grateful to have the chance to learn from a master of the art of press photography. Most of all I am so glad to have called him my friend."

Arthur Kay died peacefully at home, and is mourned by his children, grandchildren and friends.

Tags: , photographer, newspapers, bolton news, daily mirror, sunday independent (uk), mid devon advertiser, south hams newspapers, the cornishman, cornish guardian, west briton, plymouth herald, torquay herald express