Sylvia Courtnage Michael Reilly Lionel Barlow

Book Branch has lost an outstanding branch and workplace activist in Sylvia Courtnage, who died of cancer on 23 June aged 68. Sylvia, a committed socialist since the 1970s and a supporter of the Socialist Appeal newspaper, began her trade union career in the Inland Revenue Staff Federation. By the late 1980s, she was a member of the NUJ Freelance Branch, and worked for various Pearson financial titles. Sylvia later became a staffer at Tolley, which was eventually absorbed into LexisNexis. By 2005, Sylvia was established in Book Branch, soon becoming a committee member and holding offices including chair. She took over the vital and unpopular role of treasurer, which she was still efficiently fulfilling until not long before she died. Sylvia was a hardworking, unflappable branch representative at NUJ delegate meetings. It was in the LexisNexis chapel that Sylvia’s qualities of determination and intelligent leadership would be most thoroughly tested. She was actively involved in the chapel’s successful campaign for recognition and was joint mother of chapel through a series of disputes over matters such as pay, redundancies and outsourcing. In 2007 and 2011, the chapel returned strong mandates in ballots for industrial action on pay. On both occasions, Sylvia was instrumental in using those ballot results as negotiating leverage, and the chapel settled for improved terms. Her calm, personable negotiating style coupled with her ability to win members’ trust for the fight ahead made her an irresistible force. Her gentle persuasiveness also meant she was an excellent recruiter for the NUJ. An enthusiast for lifelong learning, Sylvia took a first degree in her 20s, an MA in her 40s and, by the time she retired in 2016, had already embarked on a PhD at London Metropolitan University. She was prevented by illness from completing all the case studies to illustrate her thesis on the trade union response to outsourcing (inspired by her experiences at LexisNexis), but the university found the quality of her work so high it awarded her the doctorate posthumously. Sylvia will be much missed in the NUJ, and

especially by her husband Phil Sharpe. Annie Pike

26 | theJournalist

For umpteen years, union stalwart Michael Reilly flew the flag for Berwick and Borders journalists at Scottish executive council meetings and delegate meetings. He was an amiable individual, happy to listen to others’ points of view. But this concealed a steely determination which occasionally manifested itself when chapel-management negotiations got tough, or if the other side tried to pull a fast one. And he wasn’t afraid to tell it straight to colleagues either. But, more often than not, it was his calm, measured tones that contributed most in discussions with fellow members and bosses. As well as being greeted with sadness, news of

Michael’s passing in a Tyneside hospice at the age of 73 brought back happy memories for many who were fortunate enough to count him as colleague and friend. Born in Edinburgh, Michael grew up in the East Lothian town of Prestonpans. After leaving school, he completed a film-making course in Bournemouth before joining the Tweeddale Press Group in 1976 as a photographer with the Berwickshire News. He retired in 2010. Away from work, Michael, who lived in

Berwick, was a keen gardener. He loved travel – especially to warmer climes – and was fluent in Spanish and French. At his packed funeral service at Houndwood

Crematorium in Berwickshire on August 28, it was revealed Michael was a bit of a champagne socialist, having a predilection for an occasional glass of bubbly. When challenged about this apparent clash with working-class credentials, he had simply answered with a smile, relaxed in the knowledge that he had probably done far more for hard- pressed employees than his accuser ever would. John Toner, NUJ Scotland national organiser

said: “Michael was a quietly spoken man, who spoke succinctly and only when he felt a point had not been made by someone else. Because of this, we were always attentive to his wise words. He will be remembered fondly by all of us who had the pleasure to know him.” Michael is survived by wife Aileen, and children Jamie, Sarah, Emma and Alex.

Derek Forrest

Veteran journalist and former PA man Lionel Barlow has died at the age of 101 at his home in Kent. Lionel began his career as a journalist on a

small, now defunct paper in Hythe, Kent. He then joined the army during the war years and reached the rank of warrant officer after serving for four years in Iraq. When he left the army, he returned to work on

the Folkestone Herald before joining the Kentish Express where he worked for 10 years. However, he left them in 1960 to join Extel,

working as a reporter at the High Court. When that side of their operation came under the wing of the Press Association, he remained at the courts with the PA Law Service until he retired in 1982. During his spare time, he covered point-to- point races and motor cycle racing for the local papers, and also wrote for racing magazines the Motor Cycle News.

When he retired from the PA, he remained at the court providing, a service on property cases for Estates Gazette. Finally, he worked as a freelance, still at the courts, for courts agency UK Law News. During his time at the courts, he founded the

High Court Journalists’ Association, and among other things masterminded their annual dinner which was one of the social highlights of the court calendar. At one stage, he played a prominent role in the

NUJ and was a member of their standing orders committee.

I met Lionel when I joined the PA in 1969. He

was one of the very last of the old guard who were on the PA Law Service at the time. He was one of the true characters from that era of journalism. They worked hard, drank hard and played hard. Lionel’s list of contacts was second to none. If

you wanted to know where something was going on at the courts or wanted an introduction to a judge or a barrister, Lionel was the man to go to. He knew everything and everybody.

Roger Pearson

More obituaries on the NUJ website:

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