Looking back | Roger Guttridge – 5th May 1950 to 8th August 2023

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Roger Guttridge

Readers of The BV will be saddened to hear of the death of Roger Guttridge, the Dorset writer and local historian whose articles have been one of the great delights of the magazine since we started it during the pandemic. We send our deep and sincere condolences to his wife, Sylvie, his son, Andy, and his family. The greatest tribute we can pay to our friend and hugely respected colleague is to dedicate this month’s Looking Back to his life and work, with tributes from some of those who knew and worked with him.
A journalist, a news-hound, a swimmer and swimming correspondent, a local historian with a special interest in smuggling, a lover of The Beatles, Queen and a great supporter of his son when Andy started his own band as a student … Roger Guttridge was a man who lived life to the utmost, right up to the end, still contributing his columns to The BV.
After a four-year battle he died of leukaemia on 8th August.

Bournemouth Evening Echo Chief Reporter, 1984

A journalist first
As a district and chief reporter for the Bournemouth Evening Echo, Roger was a true newshound. Andy recalls family days out when Roger would spot a blue flashing light – ambulance, fire engine or police vehicle – and rapidly turn the car around to follow it, keen to be first on the scene, first with the story.
But he was no sensational headline seeker. He believed in the importance of the local newspaper in the community and he was involved in and concerned about many aspects of life in Bournemouth and Wimborne, where he worked for the Evening Echo, and throughout Dorset, which he mined for stories for some of his many books.
His interests extended even across the Atlantic to Newfoundland, where he explored the centuries-old connection between the remote Canadian fishing community and the many families in Dorset and Poole, whose fathers, sons and brothers went west to find work fishing the Grand Banks.
John Newth, long-time editor of the sadly now defunct Dorset Life magazine, recalls his relationship with Roger, over many years and hundreds of articles. Speaking at Roger’s funeral, he praised the reliability, consistency, quality and total professionalism of Roger’s work. If John had even the wildest idea, Roger would track it down – and he never missed a deadline! John remembers their years together as filled with many laughs.

Far right – with other journalists in flooded Leigh Road, Wimborne 1979

How we met
When Laura and Courtenay started The BV, Roger Guttridge was one of the local journalists they hoped to persuade to join them. Laura recalls:
‘One of the first people I was determined to track down and woo into working with us was Roger. We had never spoken before, and we arranged to meet for a coffee – it was mid-pandemic, so we sat on a bench in Stur market square under an umbrella in the pouring rain.
‘I thought I was there to interview Roger. I was, of course, actually there for him to interview me. Two hours and a cheese toastie later he had decided to accept my offer – and we were friends.
‘He swiftly became an essential part of the BV – not just for his unmatchable local history columns, but also as a mentor, confidant and sounding board. It’s difficult to imagine an issue of the BV going out which will not be pre-empted by a long and winding chat with Roger as he gleefully regales me with a number of potential – and all equally bonkers – local history stories to choose from.
‘He was never just a columnist. I was proud to call him a friend, and I will miss him very much.’
From its very first edition, Roger’s Then and Now and Looking Back articles have been go-to sections of The BV – you can read the archive here. Roger remained a true professional right to the end – just a couple of weeks before he died, Laura decided not to publish the piece he submitted for his Looking Back column. Two days later he sent another article – a hilarious tale of a 16th century East Dorset squire, Henry Hastings, described as a “champion seducer,” whose quarry was as likely to wear skirts as fur or feather.
It was much better than the first piece, but it was typical of Roger that he had (albeit perhaps unwittingly) kept the best for last.

Interviewing Olympic 100m breaststroke champion and world record holder Adam Peaty (left), National Arena Swimming League finals, Cardiff, 2019.

Roger Guttridge – a brief life
Roger Guttridge was born at Redhill, Surrey. The family moved back to his mother Connie’s native Dorset in the early 1950s. He went to Blandford Grammar School before beginning a 50-year career in the media, including newspapers and magazines, book writing and publishing, PR and marketing, radio and television. He was a district reporter, chief reporter and deputy news editor of the Bournemouth Daily Echo, wrote some 20 books, including tales of smuggling and murder, and edited several others.
Roger was particularly renowned for his books on Dorset and his local history columns, in the Echo (Bournemouth and Dorset), the original Blackmore Vale and Stour & Avon Magazines, Dorset Life, and latterly, here in The BV magazine.
He was the Bournemouth Daily Echo’s swimming correspondent from 1988 to 2018, contributed to Swimming Times, the national swimming magazine, and wrote about swimming for other newspapers, including the Daily and Sunday Express. He covered three Olympic Games (Athens, Beijing and London), two Commonwealth Games (Manchester and Glasgow) and many World and European Championships. He was press officer for the Great Britain Swim Team in 1999 and 2000.
He took part in or advised on many television and radio programmes, including a BBC Radio 4 programme about the real-life smuggling influences behind J Meade Falkner’s classic novel Moonfleet (set in Dorset).
During 2018, he appeared on the BBC 1 series Murder, Mystery and My Family, in which he revealed newly discovered documents to the grandson of Charlotte Bryant, who was hanged in 1936 for poisoning her husband with arsenic; the BBC 4 series Beach Live: Jurassic Coast Revealed, in which he discussed Dorset’s smuggling history; and The One Show on BBC1. He appears on both parts of the two-part DVD Dorset: Along the River Stour, presented by Bonny Sartin of The Yetties.
Roger continued to work right up until his last week when he was admitted to Poole hospital. He died at the age of 73, four years after his leukaemia diagnosis. He battled his illness with courage and determination right up until the very end.

The Three Rogers: photographers Roger Lane (R) and Roger Holman (L) with Roger at Knowlton Church, in 1991

Roger and the original BVM
Roger and Fanny Charles, who edited the original Blackmore Vale Magazine for 23 years, both worked for the Bournemouth Echo (although not at the same time) – their careers criss-crossed for nearly 50 years and for many years he was the local history columnist for the BVM.
Fanny says: ‘Readers love local history – if they are locals of many generations they are probably related to somebody in one of the stories; and if they are incomers, these snapshots of life in past times help them to feel part of their new community.’
She recalls that she envied the Echo having Roger, and admits that she was excited when she heard that the paper’s cost-cutting management had dispensed with his services.
‘I got on the phone to Roger as soon as I heard and persuaded him to meet me for lunch at a local pub. I asked him to bring his history column to us and he agreed. He also brought his swimming contacts and expertise. So our little magazine – which couldn’t compete with the Echo or the Western Gazette in covering football, cricket or athletics – had an authoritative and always readable stream of swimming news, local, regional, national and international.
‘Roger had a much wider audience with us – because we had an enormous circulation, and his articles were appreciated by thousands of readers for years.’
Fanny was delighted to see Roger’s articles in The BV, where of course they became go-to sections for so many.

Publicity shot for the launch of Dorset murders in 1986

The Three Rogers
Roger was one of a trio who were affectionately known locally as The Three Rogers. The only survivor, photographer Roger Lane, remembers his great friend and colleague:
‘It is with great sadness that I mention the passing of my long-term friend Roger Guttridge with whom I shared the same birthday, albeit five years apart (me 1945 and Roger 1950).
My late fellow photographer Roger Holman and I worked with Roger Guttridge on our first book Landscapes of Dorset, and again on Villages of Dorset. We frequently toured Dorset, signing copies of the books and promoting them with talks. Sadly, I am the only Roger remaining, but in the spirit of my friends, I intend to carry on with camera and words as long as I can.
‘Roger was a tremendously generous and quiet professional with a subtle sense of humour, generous with his advice and personal help to me with my writing. He was a constant supporter for fair and reasonable terms for authors in respect of publishing contracts with the Society of Authors.
‘His knowledge of Dorset and in particular the Blackmore Vale was unsurpassed, along with his personal history of smuggling and one of Dorset’s most famous smugglers, Roger Ridout, from whom he was a direct descendent.
‘Whenever we met, Roger – knowing my life-long interest in motor-racing – always held a detailed conversation about the last Grand Prix or the next. It amazed me how he knew so much about it when ‘his’ sport was swimming, but that was no doubt due to his enquiring mind as a journalist.’

Interviewing England cricketer lan Botham in Wimborne c.1984

And to Canada
Roger had a lasting interest in Newfoundland – outside his beloved Dorset, but still closely connected to it through its Poole and Dorset links. He researched the fishing trade – many men went from Dorset to fish the then vast cod stocks on the Grand Banks – and deep connections such as the old folk and sea songs and the language. The dialect spoken in the eastern Canadian province still has traces of the Dorset dialect that Thomas Hardy and William Barnes would have known.
Roger’s interviews and discoveries developed into a series of well-researched articles and proved fascinating and helpful to Fanny Charles, after she found a family connection – ‘My great great grandfather went from the Blackmore Vale to fish the Grand Banks – and he died out there.’
The exciting recent discovery of a pair of swanskin mittens – the last surving example of the fabric made uniquely in the Blackmore Vale – was directly due to Roger’s involvement with the Swanskin Seafarers of Sturminster Newton heritage project.
Andy also benefitted from his
father’s Newfoundland connections: ‘He arranged for me to go over to Memorial University in St Johns to do my sixth form work experience at the Geology Department there. That was an amazing experience for me at the age of 17.’
What is common to all the tributes and memories from Roger’s colleagues, past and present, is their affection, respect and admiration for a true professional, a man who loved Dorset and who was much-loved.

  • We would like to thank Sylvie and Andy Guttridge for permission to reproduce the photographs of Roger.

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