Tributes paid to respected and loved Hitchin journalist Roy Mack
- Credit: Courtesy of Lesley Mack
Former local journalist Michael Palmer has joined others in paying tribute to Roy Mack, who was a chief reporter for the Hertfordshire Express series, following his death aged 91.
Roy enjoyed a career spanning more than 70 years, coming to Britain as a young teenager after surviving being interned in Shanghai by the Japanese with his brother Cyril for the duration of WWII - his father having held a departmental manager post for the Shanghai Water Company in the city when war broke out.
He trained as a journalist on weekly newspapers in Norfolk and secured a significant scoop by breaking the news of the death of King George VI in 1952. His weekly call to Sandringham meant that he was in the right place at the right time for the announcement posted at the house gate.
Roy joined the Hertfordshire Express in 1956 after working on Norfolk weekly and regional daily papers, becoming chief reporter and living with his wife Sadie and four daughters in Hitchin.
He left at the end of 1962 to move to Singapore along with his family where he worked for the Ministry of Defence as a journalist and film cameraman.
For the three years he was in South East Asia he was responsible for most of the official TV film coverage of the guerrilla war that waged in Borneo between Malaysia and Indonesia.
In 1966 he returned to live in Hitchin and took on the role of executive editor for Visnews where he was in charge of their global output and network of more than 500 news reporters and camera operators.
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It was a job that took him to major cities and countries in the world for the next 21 years, before he retired in 1987. He continued to live in Hitchin, along with Sadie, who sadly died in 1988.
He took up residence in Maples Court in Hitchin and enjoyed a life of visits from his daughters, grandchildren and friends. He also had regular lunches with former journalist colleagues.
Speaking for the family, Roy's daughter Lesley Mack said: "Since Dad's death we have been contacted by so many people who knew or came into contact with him. It is clear to us that he was much respected and loved and he will be sorely missed.
"It was Dad's wish that there should not be a funeral but the reaction to his passing has been such that we are now thinking of having a memorial service to which everyone will be invited."
Brother Cyril, who lives in Australia, said: "Roy and I never forgot the first 15 years or so of our early lives that we spent growing up in China, comfortable and spoilt that we were, two young boys running riot through the crowded streets of Shanghai and upsetting the locals – that is, until the Pacific war and the POW camp came along which was a difficult time.
"But what we did learn from those days is that we had to quietly watch over and cover each other's backs and be there if we were ever needed. This we did all those years. I will miss him terribly and so will my wife, Enid."
Former local journalists Barry Bremner, who worked as chief reporter for the Herts Pictorial - the Comet's predecessor and a rival weekly to the Express - and fellow Express colleagues Judith Aylott and Mike Palmer have many memories of Roy's standing in the newspaper world.
Barry said: "When I first met Roy in the 60s, he and I were very much in opposition as chief reporters on rival papers, but our news battles welded a great respect for each other.
"Since then, and particularly in our lunches together, that respect developed into a very close friendship and even during the lockdown we kept in touch and frequently chatted on the phone. I shall miss him very much."
Judith added: "I joined the Herts Express in 1957 at the age of 16. Roy was the chief reporter and I was very much the junior doing church calls, collecting bus parcels and making the tea, but Roy was always kind to me and from him I learned my trade.
"I spent my entire career with his wisdom ringing in my ears."
Mike said: "Roy was a reporter of the old school and would never take no for an answer when chasing a story. If this meant hassling a colleague to keep investigating, then he was ruthless in that respect and we all knew that Roy would never let anything drop until he had got what he wanted.
"He was an outstanding journalist and a credit to his profession."
Roy is survived by his four daughters - Jennifer, Lesley, Sally and Josephine, eight grandchildren, a great grandson and his brother, Cyril.