Former Northampton newspaper editor dies aged 99

Ken Nutt (third from right) with staff of the Mercury newspaper
Ken Nutt (third from right) with staff of the Mercury newspaper

A former Northampton newspaper editor who ended up in later years living in his old school classroom has died aged 99.

Ken Nutt was in charge of the Mercury and Herald from 1972 to 1975 but before that was an esteemed sub-editor on the paper.

Niece Fiona Seymour said: “Ken was a gentle man and he remained a journalist through and through.

“Even late in his life he would wake in the night thinking for a moment that the paper was about to go to press.”

Mr Nutt was born in November 1916 and was the elder son of George Nutt, a Mayor of Northampton.

Growing up in Kingsley Road, he was awarded a scholarship at the Town and County School, which is now the Northampton School for Boys site.

He would later, aged in his nineties, move into an old flat off Billing Road that used to be the headmaster’s house and in which he could rememember having lessons as a boy.

In between, Mr Nutt lived his life fulfilling his passions.

After leaving school aged 18, he became a junior reporter at the Chronicle & Echo then, after a spell in charge of the Daventry district, was recalled to Northampton to establish his reputation as a rare sub editor.

In a tribute piece on Mr Nutt’s retirement, a colleague wrote: “Very often he was quicker and more informative than the nearest dictionary or reference book.

“He was the only person in the office who, to take just one unlikely example, had read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from start to finish.

“Ken’s local knowledge has been legendary in the office for longer than most of us can remember.”

In all, he spent 44 years in local newspapers, interrupted by the Second World War, during which he registered as a conscientious objector and worked on a farm in Billing and a market garden in Towcester.

He married late in life, wedding Mercury and Herald theatre critic Julia Gordon-Lennox (daughter of a Daily Mail editor) when he was aged 57.

After their retirement he travelled extensively round Europe, where his fluency in French and Italian - as well as lesser knowledge of German and Latin - came in handy. Indeed, he continued to speak the languages well into his nineties and composed poetry in several languages.

Eccentric for the times, he went to Nepal aged 57 and trekked as far as the approach to Everest. He also took his grandparents on a holiday to France in a self-built caravan which predictably broke down and saw the whole group have to hitch-hike to Paris.

Another earlier adventure had, in the same care-free spirit, seen him cycling through Tito’s Yugoslavia.

In the parochial side of his life, he was a keen gardener and was sometimes peculiarly kind to nature. His family remained amused by an episode where he was asked by Julia to remove a cluster of snails from their garden and so packed them all in a bag and carried them to a field to set them free.

Even though his body had slowed down by the time Julia died from cancer in 1986, his mind was sharp until the end.

Living for several years with his sister (they both also ended up in the same Northampton care home) he continued to love words, completing crosswords and often sending letters to the Chronicle & Echo accompanied by cuttings with corrections made to the grammar.

Determined to make it to 100, he in fact passed away at a Brixworth nursing home days after entering his 100th year.

Fiona’s husband, Patrick, said: “I think he would have been satisfied with that.”