Giant of Welsh Media David Cole Dies Aged 74; Journalist and Businessman Played Key Role in Public Life

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 4, 2003 | Go to article overview

Giant of Welsh Media David Cole Dies Aged 74; Journalist and Businessman Played Key Role in Public Life


Byline: Mario Basini

PERHAPS the most influential and versatile Welsh journalist of his generation, David Cole, has died aged 74. He was that rarity, a newspaperman who combined considerable gifts as a writer with great administrative skills and business acumen.

At 27, he became the youngest editor of The Western Mail and, at the time, the youngest editor of a daily newspaper in the United Kingdom.

He rapidly became a key figure in the major international media group, the Thomson Organisation.

He played a major part in the restructuring of provincial newspapers in Britain, pioneering the introduction of new technology into the indus t ry.

In 1977 he received the CBE for his services to journalism.

He was managing director, chief executive and later chairman of Thomson Regional Newspapers and deputy managing director of the International Thomson Organisation.

He was also chairman of Western Mail and Echo Ltd, a post he held for 20 years before standing down in 1994.

From his teenage days, he wrote poetry, an interest that was encouraged by his lifelong friend, the artist Andrew Vicari. Urged on by Vicari, he published four books of verse that, he admitted, were considered a little old-fashioned because ``my verse occasionally rhymes and scans.''

He edited several books, including one examining the character and future of Wales and another that put religious experience under the microscope. Among those who contributed to the latter volume, Challenges to a Challenging Faith, was the present Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Rowan Williams, who was Bishop of Monmouth at the time it was published in 1995.

Another of Mr Cole's friends, Viscount Tonypandy, the former Speaker of the House of Commons and a prominent Methodist lay preacher, also wrote an essay for the book.

Mr Cole's own contribution included a moving examination of the pressures that illness and the loss of a loved one can exert on a person's faith. Both he and his first wife Alma were born in Merthyr Tydfil. When she died in 1990 they had been married for almost 40 years and had three children; their first child, Nigel, died in infancy.

As well as his hugely successful career as a journalist and businessman, Claude Neville David Cole, made a major contribution to the civic and cultural life of Wales. He was, at various periods, chairman and president of the Civic Trust for Wales, a director of the Welsh National Opera, a member of the governing body of the Cardiff College of Music and Drama, founder chairman in 1966 of the Cardiff Festival of Music and a member of the Council of the Cardiff New Theatre Trust.

He chaired the Cole Committee on the training and recruitment of nurses in Wales from 1961-63 and a working party on Welsh tourism from 1963-64. He was also a member of the Aberfan Disaster Fund.

He had been a member of the Court and Council of the University of Wales since 1962 and was a leading member of the University of Wales Press.

He received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Wales from the Prince of Wales in 1989.

He was president of Cardiff Business Club and, from 1963, president of the Tenovus Charities, which have raised more than pounds 20m for medical research since 1959.

He was born at Gwaelodygarth in Merthyr Tydfil on June 4, 1928. His father, William Cole, who died when David was 10 after being injured on the Western Front in World War I, ran a number of ironmongers shops in Merthyr and Caerphilly.

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