IAN Bennett, a giant in local journalism who chronicled life in Saddleworth for more than 33 years including the notorious Moors Murders, has died aged 85.Apart from being the reporter for the Oldham Evening Chronicle, Uppermill-based Ian was also a well-known figure in the local community.
He was a former long-serving secretary at Saddleworth Golf Club, where he was president in 2004, the club’s centenary year.
Ian remained a trustee and honorary member of the golf club until his death. He was found by a carer who had gone to help him get up on Sunday, May 31.
When Ian joined the Chronicle in 1965 and assigned Saddleworth as his patch, he could never have envisaged the whirlwind start.
Janice Mallalieu, Ian’s close friend, related the story after his move from Warrington to the Chronicle’s district office on High Street, Uppermill, the only live-in job at the newspaper.
She said: “Ian moved in and told his bosses he would be decorating over the weekend in readiness for starting work on the Monday.
“But on the Sunday morning he received a call to say the first body had been found on the moors. He didn’t even know where they were.”
Janice added the Chronicle provided Ian with a “clapped out Ford Anglia” for him to cover the rural communities.
It ought to have been no surprise that Ian became a journalist as he followed in the footsteps of his father Gordon.
His career started on the Warrington Guardian, travelling by train and bike, to Cadishead and Irlam, before a stint at head office. Then it was on to the Co-op Press, a busy weekly which had several editions.
The next step was to work for a provincial evening newspaper which brought Ian to the Chronicle.
Former Chronicle editor Philip Hirst said: “I think Ian believed he was just passing through on the way up to the top.
“Maybe they are, but Ian wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last to find a place and people around him that suited and a fulfilling job. In fact, he was probably luckier than most to find it so early in his career.”
Philip also related details about the “traumatic start” to Ian’s career at the Chronicle.
He said: “Ian was decorating the house until 1.30am and was roused at 8am the next day to cover what has turned out to be one of the longest-running stories in the history of journalism.
“Few people could have thought back in 1965 that we would still be writing stories about Myra Hindley, Ian Brady and the Moors Murders in 1999 when he retired.
“Wwhen he turned up at the police station on his first day, they didn’t recognise him as a Chronicle reporter and told him to get lost.”
Philip also spoke about how well Ian integrated into the community.
He explained: “Being well known, of course, is the most important part of being a live-in district reporter.
“In Saddleworth it is probably more difficult to be accepted than in most places since it believes itself to be a rather special bit of Yorkshire and Ian was a Lancastrian from Great Sankey.”
Ian’s late wife Marj was also an integral part of the operation, answering the telephone and taking adverts when he was out and about, and Philip described their partnership as essential in making the job the success it was.
“Ian was affable and good company. He was a pleasure to work with and pass the time with,” Philip added.
Those sentiments were echoed by Mike Attenborough, the retired Chronicle news editor, who described Ian as somebody who got on with everybody and nobody had a bad word to say about him.
He added: “Above all, though, he was a good journalist. Apart from the Moors Murders, he covered events like Saddleworth Parish Council, the Whit Friday brass band contests and walks and the Remembrance Sunday service at Pots and Pans.”
Steve Asquith, captain at Saddleworth Golf Club, said: “We were deeply saddened to hear about Ian’s death and send our condolences to his family.
“Ian joined the club in 1966 and was president in 2004. He remained an honorary member and trustee and contributed a lot. He is a sad loss.”
Ian, who remained in the Chronicle house until his death, had two daughters, Jill, who died some years ago, and Sue. He also leaves granddaughters Rebecca and Victoria. His funeral was at Oldham Crematorium on Friday, June 12.