FRIENDS and former colleagues have paid tribute to Bill Allen, former editor of The Farnworth and Worsley Journal and the Bury Times and Radcliffe Times, who died on Wednesday, aged 69, after a battle against cancer.

The keen sportsman and married father-of-three spent his career in newspapers — even working in Australia for a while, when the country was actively encouraging Brits to come over for £10 and settle there.

But he remained a Radcliffe lad at heart — starting as reporter at the Radcliffe Times — and settled in Higher Ainsworth Road where he raised his two sons and daughter.

Mr Allen, who played cricket in local teams, worked his way up to become editor of the Farnworth and Worsley Journal in the 1980s and went on to edit other local papers in the group.

He played Sunday League Soccer until he was 62, retiring around the same time, and enjoyed cycling.

The former Canon Slade School pupil joined the Bury Times Group in 1989, where he became a well-known and respected figure in the borough, serving as editor from 1991 until 2005.

To many, Mr Allen was known as Fred, his middle name, and it stuck with him after he left school.

After taking early retirement, he continued to follow his passion, cricket. In 2014, at the age of 67, he travelled to Rwanda with the charity Cricket without Boundaries to spread the sport though coaching and link it to HIV/AIDS awareness and empower local communities.

Friend and colleague John Ellaby said: “I had a great regard for Bill, having worked with him for many years, first on the former Farnworth and Worsley Journal and later at the Bury Times.

“He edited both papers and proved himself time and time again to be a great journalist with a keen news sense who always had time to help and guide young reporters.

“But he could be a tough taskmaster and woe betide any reporter who messed up a story. Having said that, he was one of the kindest and most sincere bosses you could ever meet.”

Mr Ellaby, who lives in Bradshaw, said: “Apart from being a boss, he also became a great friend. In fact, I and a few ex-colleagues from the Journal still got together with Bill every few months, some 30 years after the paper closed.”

Former colleague Andy Scoble, now Senior Content Editor at The Bolton News, said he had more to thank Bill for than most.

He said: “Bill gave me my first proper job in journalism at the Worsley Journal after I had finished university, and also took me on as a sub-editor at the Bury Times a few years later.

“He was a fiercely loyal man, a wonderful story-teller and a great friend who maintained his dry sense of humour even when he was seriously ill.”

Former colleague and friend Sheila McNulty said: “I knew Bill as a reporter and a friend.

“He was an exceptionally good boss and to become editor of the Bury Times and the Radcliffe Times is a job he would have wanted because he loved his home town.”

Ian Savage, group editor of The Bolton News and Bury Times, said: “Bill was an excellent journalist and cared deeply about the newspapers he worked for. His death has left friends and former colleagues deeply saddened.”

Mr Allen is survived by his wife Lynne, three children and grandchildren.