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For more than half a century journalist Derek Bellis has run a freelance news agency covering north Wales. In this autobiography he recalls the stories he's covered, such as the Investiture of Prince Charles, an interview with The Beatles, the loss of 15 holidaymakers in a river tragedy, and the astonishing story of a chapel minister who mutilated and photographed dead bodies.

A capable journalist - Derek Bellis

9781784617257
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Title
A capable journalist
Author
Derek Bellis
format
Paperback / softback
Publisher
Y Lolfa
Language
English
UK Publication Date
20190919

For more than half a century journalist Derek Bellis has run a freelance news agency covering north Wales. In this autobiography he recalls the stories he's covered, such as the Investiture of Prince Charles, an interview with The Beatles, the loss of 15 holidaymakers in a river tragedy, and the astonishing story of a chapel minister who mutilated and photographed dead bodies.

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I first encountered Derek Bellis during the spring of 1969. He was one of a dozen or more hacks who descended on Aberystwyth to cover Prince Charles's term at university prior to his investiture. At press conferences he was the quiet one among a largely raucous lot who tended to breakfast on pink champagne. He was a listener rather than a talker, hence his thoroughness.

Bellis is today the oldest practising journalist in Wales, having for many years run a north Wales freelance news agency. His autobiography covers six decades and includes his recollections of both famous and infamous incidents. They vary from the investiture to an interview with the Beatles, from the north Wales child abuse tribunal to the Duke of Edinburgh being enlightened on the sex life of an oyster. Probably the most bizarre story he covered involved a chapel minister who mutilated and photographed dead bodies.

As you would expect from such a seasoned journalist, his life story is eminently readable. It is informative and revealing; it is suffused with large doses of humour and, occasionally, indignation. The former includes an account of a meeting with the late, great Ken Dodd. The latter is largely aimed at both violent and non-violent activists. Even peaceful protesters at the 1969 Urdd Eisteddfod are deemed to be 'boorish'.

In one respect, this is a sad book, in that journalists nowadays seem to have lost their personal rapport with their public. As Tim Rayment, deputy editor of The Sunday Times, notes in his foreword, during Bellis's long watch an entire class of reporters has all but vanished. Luckily, Bellis is still with us. The late News of the World's boast was, 'All human life is here'. That would have made a great subtitle for this comprehensive autobiography of a more than capable journalist.

He describes his book as being 'about fun and tragedy, achievement and disaster.' An ex-tram conductor and a strawberry picker, Bellis entered journalism as a 17-year-old with the North Wales Pioneer, earning 18 shillings a week. Ever since then he has not only witnessed history being made, he has also reported much of it.

In recent years, Bellis has rightly been honoured with various journalistic awards. He deserves at least a knighthood, if only for having survived meeting as many as 11 prime ministers. Meeting just one would have driven me back to picking strawberries.
Lyn Ebenezer @ www.gwales.com

Type
BOOK
Keyword Index
Journalists - Wales - Biography.
Country of Publication
Wales
Number of Pages
198 , 16 unnumbered of plates

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