Sandra Chapman: A tribute to Austin Hunter

Ex-News Letter editor, Austin Hunter
Ex-News Letter editor, Austin Hunter

I returned home this week to read of the death of a very special man, Austin Hunter, who was the News Letter’s editor when I decided to give up full-time work 11 years ago.

He wanted me to continue writing for the paper in my retirement and we sat down together one day to discuss what format it would take.

As ever, Austin had lots of ideas, including fun ones – he knew the readers so well - and between us we agreed a plan which has evolved a little in that time to today’s Sandra Says.

He loved newspapers once telling me he felt more comfortable with them than being a television reporter. Yet he was an outstanding reporter on screen too. He lived and breathed news in all forms and went on to different aspects of journalism when he gave up the editorship of this newspaper.

I last met up with him, accidentally, at the Somme Centre in Bangor where I had taken my Canadian visitor this year.

His bear hugs were always special and he greeted my friend like he’d known him all his life, taking a great interest in his grandfather’s role in the great Battle.

He was his usual bubbly self that day, delighted our idea all those years ago was still going strong. We promised to keep in touch.

What a very special man he was, a big loss to all of us who knew and worked with him.

Strangford MP Jim Shannon summed him up so well “a larger than life character”.

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Austin Hunter wrote: ‘Nothing compares to being News Letter editor’