Ex-Herald reporter Carol Saunders dies aged 68
PLYMOUTH is mourning the loss of a highly respected and popular journalist.
Carol Saunders, a reporter on The Herald for 25 years, died peacefully at her home on The Hoe on Friday, aged 68.
Carol was the paper's longest-serving reporter when she retired four years ago after half a century in journalism.
Affectionately dubbed The Herald's Golden Girl – for her blonde hair and skill as a reporter – Carol's career included interviewing the Beatles, meeting then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and jetting around the world as a travel writer.
A mark of her standing in the community was the farewell she was given at Plymouth Magistrates' Court when she finished work in February 2009.
The then Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Brian Vincent, presented Carol with a gift on behalf of himself and the city, and tributes from court staff included one by District Judge Paul Farmer.
Special permission was given for a photographer from The Herald to take a picture of the retiring court reporter – cameras are normally banned on the premises.
Carol leaves two daughters, Charlotte, who lives in Lincoln, and Tara, in North Carolina, USA, and two grandsons. Carol was divorced from Eddie Buckley, a hotelier, who died in 1985.
Charlotte said: "She was much loved by her daughters and her family. She loved her work."
A post-mortem examination showed Carol died of a pulmonary embolism, a blockage of one of the arteries in the lung by a blood clot. Details of her funeral have yet to be announced.
Tributes following her death were led by her former editor, Bill Martin, now at the helm of the Western Morning News, who said she was "almost the archetypal local newspaper journalist" of her era.
"She was really dedicated, really hardworking and a chain smoker," he said. "She was completely reliable. You could not ask for a safer pair of hands for a story."
Susan Bahman, legal adviser to Plymouth magistrates, said: "Carol was very well known, very respected and known for her fair reporting. I am very, very sad that she has died."
Carol served under six editors and saw the paper's name change from the Western Evening Herald to the Evening Herald, then to The Herald.
She was originally from Hereford. Before moving to Plymouth she was a reporter with the Express and Star in Wolverhampton. There she interviewed the Beatles, met Mrs Thatcher and became the women's editor at the unusually young age of 21. While on a travel writing assignment in San Francisco she shared a jokey kiss with the American singer and King of Calypso Harry Belafonte.
The Herald's former head of content, Mike Bramhall, worked with her on both papers and knew her for 34 years. "She was the queen of the newsroom at the Express and Star and it was the same on The Herald," he said.
"Carol used to dig out some great stories because of her ability to chat to people of all ages and backgrounds.
"She was a very kind, very generous, very bubbly person. She was very glamorous, a girl-about-town in her sports car when she was younger and like an auntie to all the younger people in the newsroom when she was older."
Carol was known for her ability to tackle any story, from hard news and court reports to the lightest of reads.
Typical of her sense of fun was when she teamed up with a city fishmonger for an April 1 spoof.
Parts of a conger and a cuttlefish were stitched together with the help of a surgeon and the creature was put on display in Plymouth Market as a "squeel", believed to have been "extinct for 2,500 years". Many shoppers swallowed the story hook, line and sinker.
Her talent as a campaigning reporter helped make an appeal for the Plymouth and District Leukaemia Fund a notable success.
Carol was never one to play up to an audience and said she was "gobsmacked" at the response to her retirement. Ever unassuming and understated she had a straight-forward attitude to her profession. She said when she retired: "If anyone asks why I'm a journalist, I say 'We're here to tell the people what they need to know'."