A JOURNALIST who edited the Gazette & Herald for 23 years has died aged 89.

Norman Railton became deputy editor at the paper in 1962, before being promoted to editor in 1964 until his retirement in 1987.

“What he doesn’t know about his subject isn’t worth knowing,” colleague Jack Childe once wrote. “Many are the young and older men privileged to have worked with him who have gone off into the world more sure of their craft.”

Norman was born in Keighley in 1928. He started his newspaper career in 1944 at the Lancashire Evening Post. Following two years of National Service in 1946, he rejoined the paper as a junior reporter.

His grandson Tom Garbutt said: “In 1948, you learned on the job, starting with menial tasks. Features were encouraged. His first bylined piece was on imaginative plans for beautifying pit spoil heaps.”

Norman met his future wife, Joan, at his tennis club in Preston. They were married in 1953 and had two children, John and Jane. They came to York in 1957 when Norman started work at then then Evening Press. He moved to the Gazette in 1960. By chance, he missed three large stories during his editorship. He was on holiday for the Barry Prudhom murder and the 1971 Helmsley coach crash in which eight people died. When fire ravaged York Minster, he was in hospital, recovering from a mild heart attack.

“During my 24 years as editor of the Gazette & Herald these were three of the outstanding local dramas, and to my lasting regret I missed them all,” he said during his retirement speech. “Fate, quirky as ever, decreed on these occasions my contribution was not required.”

He marked the Queen’s visit in 1971 with a colour souvenir - when colour in papers was rare. He brought changes, including weekend features, a junior section and a bigger sports section.

Upon his retirement in 1987, he moved to Helmsley, watching local cricket and following Spout House in the Feversham League.

At the time, Norman wrote: “The local weekly - that regular audit of events, a unique presentation of an area’s successes and failures, foibles and changes that a day or two after its birth is cast aside by most readers without further thought, yet is cherished by a few as matchless, unrepeatable and historically-valuable social document. For 25 years it was my privilege to play some part in this remarkable achievement.”

Norman died on January 2. He leaves behind Jane and John, grandsons Tom, Matthew and William, and great-grandsons Jacob, Sam and Freddie. Tom added: “He will be greatly missed.”