The Birmingham Post’s first business editor and a leading light in the Midlands media world for more than 50 years, Keith Gascoigne, has died at 86.
Mr Gascoigne was a journalist for 20 years before he enjoyed a successful career as a public relations professional and twice served as the chairman of Birmingham Press Club, helping to rescue it from almost certain oblivion at one point.
Born in Sparkhill in 1926, he grew up in Coleshill, Warwickshire, where his father ran a funerals and furniture business. He was educated at Coleshill Grammar School and read English at the University of Birmingham.
He volunteered for the Army in 1944 and was commissioned into the Royal Warwickshires and sent to India attached to the Mahar regiment, an experience his family said gave him “a lifelong love of the Indian subcontinent”.
Demobbed in 1948 he first worked as a journalist on the Sheffield Telegraph from 1949-54.
After a short stint as a sub-editor on the Daily Express in Manchester he joined the Birmingham Post in 1955 as a reporter, before going to work for the Guardian in 1960.
He was there for three years before returning to the Birmingham Post in 1963 to take on the newly created post of industrial editor. He later became the paper’s first business editor, serving under editor David Hopkinson.
After leaving the Post in 1969, Mr Gascoigne became PR manager at IMI in Birmingham. He later set up his own PR company, GMA, and his clients included IMI, Society of Gas Industries, Edge Ellison and Hymatic. He retired in 1994.
Mr Gascoigne also served as president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and was twice chairman of Birmingham Press Club, once, in 1964 and again in 1979 after being a key player in saving the club from the threat of extinction. He was a director of the Press Club from 1977. He was also a former president of the Institute of Journalists.
A keen theatre lover, Mr Gascoigne was involved with the Lapworth Players theatre group for many years and was an enthusiastic participant in village life in Lapworth.
His first stint on the Birmingham Post as a reporter brought an added bonus for him in the shape of a weekly theatre column, which he said “aided my social life as well”.
Reminiscing on his time on the Guardian Mr Gascoigne recalled: “The Guardian had a slightly cavalier attitude to geography. Manchester looked after the North generally, and London office covered any area that could be reached by Underground.
“Otherwise, anything else, from coast to coast, was mine. Within days I found myself covering floods in Exeter, and very soon after the destruction of the Norfolk Broads by coypu.”
A keen rail enthusiast, he was instrumental in setting up Solihull and Leamington Rail Users’ Association and helped to run it for many years.
He spoke fondly of his first day as a reporter in Sheffield, noting: “I recall the thrill of being on a bus on my way into the office next day and seeing one of my paragraphs at the very foot of an inside page; I was, at last, in print and almost tempted to lean forward and tap an astonished reader on the shoulder to say ‘I wrote that’.”
In 1978, as a director of Birmingham Press Club, Mr Gascoigne was one of the “three wise men” along with Martin Sumner, and David Ashworth, who rescued the club from financial ruin. He subsequently wrote: “We were in really serious trouble. The three of us ran the club, doing everything, and investigating everything, and every time we lifted another stone something else nasty crawled out.
“We could have been closed down any day; we were breaking the licensing, fire, health, legal and financial laws and regulations.
Mr Gascoigne subsequently took on his second stint as chairman and in 1980 the fully refurbished club hosted Margaret Thatcher to present the Midlands Press Photographer of the Year award.
Paying tribute to Mr Gascoigne, David Dunckley, also a former business editor of the Post, said: “Keith’s death sees the passing of a character who was one of the most likeable, experienced and respected media people in the Midlands and a raconteur par excellence.
“No journalistic gathering, or indeed any gathering of the many interests he pursued, will ever be the same again.”
Peter Saunders, a former editor of the Post, said: “When I arrived at the Post in 1964 Keith was already ensconced as business editor and, I seem to recall, the sole member, of the business department – an empire that expanded rapidly after the arrival of David Hopkinson.
“Despite the pressures of those years he always freely offered help and advice to even the lowliest sub-editor, dispensed with his particular brand of twinkling, Pickwickian charm. That help continued after he left the Post and moved on to IMI and then his own PR agency; always professional, always cheerful and always the best of company.”
Mr Gascoigne died in Warwick Hospital on June 1 and is survived by his daughters, Caroline, Charlotte and Clare, and three grandchildren. His wife Arun died in 1994. His funeral will take place at Lapworth Church on Monday, June 10, at 12 noon.