Tributes paid to former West Somerset Free Press editor Gareth Purcell

We are very sad to report the death of the West Somerset Free Press’s long-serving editor, Gareth Purcell, who died at his Williton home on Friday April 28 aged 70.

Gareth retired in 2020 after being at the helm of the Free Press for 37 years, steering it through major technological changes from broadsheet to tabloid, surviving a fire which closed the offices for months and, preparing it for the traumas of the Covid pandemic.

Whatever the circumstances, under Gareth’s calm and steady leadership, the paper never failed to appear on a Friday.

Born in Buckinghamshire, Gareth left school to join the Bucks Examiner weekly newspaper in Chesham as a junior reporter, later moving to the Beds and Bucks Observer, where he became deputy editor.

His ambition to be an editor by the age of 30 was fulfilled in 1983 when he arrived in West Somerset to lead the Free Press’s editorial team.

News understanding

Tributes poured in praising Gareth’s hard work and dedication over three decades and his insistence on solid accurate local journalism and balanced news content.

Local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said: “Gareth really understood what local newspapers are about. The great sadness is that he didn’t live long enough to enjoy the long and comfortable retirement which was undeniably his due reward.”

Scott Wood, Managing Director of Tindle Newspapers Limited, said: “Gareth was warm, caring and engaging, liked by all and in the period of time that I got to know him as Editor of the West Somerset Free Press you couldn’t help but be positively impacted by his enthusiasm for everything local.

“Gareth was editor for over 37 years and a loyal and long serving member of the Tindle team, well respected by the Company. Everybody within the Tindle community is sad at his premature loss.”

Gareth died at home, surrounded by his family. He leaves his wife, Sandy, son Gavin, daughter Rhiannon, daughter-in-law Josie, son-in-law Kevin and two grandchildren.

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