Former Morecambe and Preston journalist dies, aged 78

John Morrell.
John Morrell.
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An outstanding journalist with a career lasting 45 years, whose family forged a long and successful association with Morecambe’s Central Pier, has died at the age of 78.

John Morrell, who joined The Visitor as a junior reporter in 1954, went on to work for the Lancashire Evening Post at Preston for almost 30 years, specialising in sport, entertainment and feature writing.

His father, Eddie Morrell, a leading show producer, comedian and song and dance artiste, was for many years general manager of the Central Pier, from where he also produced the Starlights summer show, which ran for a record-breaking 26 years.

John, a talented entertainer like his father, along with sisters Juel and Janita, appeared in many of his father’s productions, including pantomime, and considered turning full-time professional.

In the event, he joined The Visitor where his extensive knowledge of sport quickly saw him producing the newspaper’s sports pages, which became hugely popular.

John covered both Morecambe Football Club and Morecambe Cricket Club matches and his reports could prove controversial – on one occasion he was banned from Mossley Town’s ground after a particularly hard-hitting account of a match against the Shrimps!

The sports pages reflected his flair and innovation - including the introduction of markings for players’ performances and player-of-the-year awards.

Morecambe Football Club director Rod Taylor said this week: “John’s reporting in The Visitor of Morecambe FC games remain legendary; reading his accounts brought a game to life. A proper journalist!”

In 1970, he moved to the Lancashire Evening Post, joining the sports desk, following mainly Blackburn Rovers but also covering national and international fixtures.

He ghosted weekly columns for Sir Tom Finney and Sir Bobby Charlton, becoming friends with both soccer legends.

He became the newspaper’s chief features writer, a role that took him all over the world, including a flight to the Falkland Islands from where he filed special reports shortly after the conflict with Argentina ended.

His appointment as Entertainments Editor enabled him to review top shows in Blackpool, Manchester and London.

John, who retired in 1999, never lost his love of the stage, having appeared, in his younger days, in his father’s productions, a number of local amateur shows and summer productions at Morecambe Bay Holiday Camp.

He was a personal friend of Dame Thora Hird and her daughter, the film actress Janette Scott, and also of Sir Ken Dodd.

John was a former president of LADOS and a life member of the John 0’Gaunt Liberal Club, Lancaster.

He leaves his wife, Enid, three children, Kim, Nick and Sarah (an elder son, Dean, died in 1990 following a road accident), nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A service at St Paul’s Church, Scotforth, at noon on Friday April 7, will precede cremation.

Alex Willis Funeral Home, Heysham, are making the arrangements.