The Gazette's Farewell Tribute To A Retiring Colleague (11 May 1973)
It’s easier to say hello to a new colleague that farewell to an old friend.
And when that happens to be a respected colleague at the end of his journalistic career, it’s a task that’s well nigh impossible.
Our attempt to do so is certain to come as a surprise to the man in question – H.S. Hepworth. For this is the spot regularly occupied by his popular weekly column “That Reminds Me…”
Earlier this week, he penned the column as usual. And up to the time this edition went on sale, he was given no reason to believe other than that it would be published.
In the meantime, what was transpiring behind his back, so to speak, began with his Gazette colleagues’ determination to put into form of words a tribute to a man who would more readily have agreed to let the occasion pass.
And that speaks volumes of H.S. Hepworth – affectionately known as Heppy to countless people in this part of North Bucks which was fortunate to claim him from his native, beloved Yorkshire.
Regular readers of this column have already learned something of the background to the man. And these details, so absorbingly presented in his own inimitable way, give us fascinating glimpses of the man as a boy.
Here in the Gazette office, Heppy’s weekly articles have been as avidly read by friends of many years standing as we have good reason to know they have entertained you, our readers.
And it is here important to state that although he officially retires today, he is not laying down his pen. The column goes on, and from next week returns to its regular place in the paper.
This brings us to one other announcement – introducing, in itself, another facet of Heppy’s considerable ability. For his interest in, and unquestionable knowledge of music’s many and varied forms will also continue to be chronicled by the Gazette.
To say that music’s loss was journalism’s gain may not be over-stating the effects of young Heppy’s decision to direct his talents more towards the keyboard of a typewriter rather than that of a pianoforte.
Personally, we don’t know whether a child inherits some form of empathy towards music, or whether its(sic) something to do with his background during the formative years. Whichever is the case concerning our subject, there are many people today who have cause to respect the outcome.
We’ve been talking to just a few of them. And the terms of praise in which they have spoken of him have given us further cause to admire both the man and his sincerity.
Some critics can be harsh or even downright vitriolic – perhaps merely in order to seem impressive. Heppy brings his own sense of fair play and kindness to his critiques – or, as one distinguished musician put it to us: “He’s always constructive, never destructive.
No-one who knows the man needs assuring that this attitude in any way affects his judgment.
If music is good, he reports the fact, and explains what elevates it above the commonplace. If it’s not so good, he has the ability to offer sound advice for its improvement subsequently.
For Heppy’s a man whose judgment is respected – and you have to travel a long, often hard path to arrive at that enviable position.
Fortunately, Heppy’s path led him to this area just after the last war when, as he has so succinctly put it: “While on demob leave I wrote off for the first suitable job that offered accommodation.”
The kind of newspaper life he had most enjoyed in pre-war years had been district work on weekly newspapers. He aimed to get back to it – “it was unambitious, but it allowed a good deal of latitude and was a congenial way of life.”
Over the intervening years, while just about everything around him has changed (he would not agree with the use of the work “progressed”) he has conditioned himself to accept constant change as one of the dilemmas of life.
Now – although he has given us scant cause for believing this to be true – we guess he’s looking on today’s retirement as another dilemma.
So are we, Heppy. We will miss your kindly and authoritative presence in our midst, but we’re delighted that our many thousands of readers will continue to be informed and not infrequently amused by your scribblings.
So may we end this well nigh impossible task by saying Farewell, old friend. We wish you a long and happy retirement, and trust that you and your wife spend it here with us rather than fall to the lure of your native northern moors.