Obituary: David Bridgman

Nick Jaspan's picture
by Nick Jaspan
David Bridgman David Bridgman

Robert Waterhouse looks back at a life led by the former Birmingham Post, Scotsman, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and all-round celebrated journalist David Bridgman.

Between 1961, when London printing started, and 1976, the Guardian was published simultaneously in London and Manchester – where the northern editions, as well as those for Scotland and Ireland, were written, edited and printed. David Bridgman, who has died aged 81, was night editor – in charge of editorial production – for the Guardian in Manchester during the period before simultaneous printing finished in August 1976 with Manchester's closure. He then moved across to the Daily Telegraph in Withy Grove, where he became assistant night editor until Manchester publication also ended in September 1987.

His laidback approach, all humour and charm, was much needed in the 1970s and 1980s as new technology and revised working practices rocked the newspaper industry. Dai, as he was known to colleagues, raised his eyebrows, not his voice. One night at Withy Grove his downtable subs stayed out considerably longer than their normal, modest, 90-minute break after first edition. On their return it was obvious that they'd consumed a beer or two too many. Clearly angry at this, Dai simply said "Go home" and produced the later editions by himself. The contrite subs never cared to tax his patience again.

Born in Swansea, Dai attended Swansea grammar school and started in journalism as a junior reporter for the South Wales Evening Post. He moved to the Birmingham Post as a subeditor, then on to the Scotsman, before joining the Guardian in 1964. Like many Manchester-based journalists, he had no desire to work in London. Always passionate about cinema, he became a freelance film critic for the Manchester Evening News and for BBC Radio Manchester.

For a few brief months in the summer and autumn of 1988 I was Dai's editor when we launched North West Times, a regional morning broadsheet published from Manchester which lasted just 43 issues. Dai, as night editor, was one of many national newspaper journalists who joined the venture.

In the run-up to the launch Dai, Jim Lewis and I (all ex-Guardian) interviewed a string of highly experienced journalists looking for work after the Manchester closure of the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail. It was a nerve-racking task, but Dai's choices were excellent. NWT's demise had nothing to do with people's skill or commitment: it simply ran out of cash before a market could be established.

Dai retired to live in the Swansea area, but had moved to Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, before his final illness.

He is survived by his second wife, Hazel, and his children, Jill, Madeleine, Patrick and Chris (Kit), from his first marriage, to Janet, which ended in divorce.

Robert Waterhouse is the author of The Other Fleet Street and was the editor of the North West Times. This obituary first appeared in the Guardian.

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