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Former Stratford Herald editor Les Emes dies aged 92

FORMER Stratford Herald editor Arthur Leslie Emes, who was known as Les, has died age 92.

A father of three – and a journalist until the day he died – Les was born in Handsworth, Birmingham, where he lived up until his 20s, apart from when he was evacuated to Pebworth during the Second Word War.

He attended Aston Commercial School, not far from Villa Park, the home of his beloved Aston Villa Football Club where he was a frequent visitor and saw Pele play in the early ‘70s.

Les Emes (62013837)
Les Emes (62013837)

Les did National Service at RAF White Waltham and in the 1950s emigrated to Australia where he started work in the shipping industry.

It was in Brisbane that he met his first wife Barbara and had three children, Lorraine, Terry and Adrianne. It was also in Brisbane that Les started on his journalism career, becoming the editor of Queensland Master Builder magazine.

In 1970s the family returned to England, but instead of flying, Les brought his family to Southampton on a four-week cruise ship travelling half-way around the world.

After a short stay in London, the Emes family moved to Wootton Wawen, bringing Les closer to Birmingham and into the newsroom of the Herald where he had a job as reporter.

He went on to become deputy editor to Harry Pigott-Smith and was later editor himself, not afraid to hold people to account. For a short spell during his decade as Herald editor, Les worked alongside his youngest daughter, Adrianne, who followed in her father’s footsteps to become a reporter and would go on to become the title’s news editor.

“There was no other job in his mind than being a journalist,” Adrianne told the Herald.

Les never lost his passion for the city where he grew up and was regularly catching trains and buses to visit Birmingham up until the age of 90.

He also loved the city’s trams and buses – especially those in the old cream and blue livery – and even completed a tram-driver’s course, inspired by his own father worked on the trams.

During one of his visits to Birmingham, on 21st November 1974, he had taken Adrianne to watch Swan Lake. He initially parked by a pub called the Mulberry Bush, but then moved the car at the last minute. A couple of hours later, the pub was one of those destroyed in the Birmingham pub bombings.

Les never forgot the sound of the bombs going off and took a keen interest in the subsequent trial of the Birmingham Six. He maintained from the outset the wrong people had been arrested and was vindicated in 1991 when they were released.

In 1976 Barbara left England to return to Australia. Les met and married his second wife, Janette, in the early 1980s and they lived together in Sidelands Road, Stratford.

Les Emes (62013835)
Les Emes (62013835)

After being widowed he became involved in St Andrew’s Church, Shottery, and was a church warden. As he got older, the church supported Les, especially during the Covid pandemic.

In his last few years, Les moved lived in care homes, the last of which was in Leamington.

He had a dry, offbeat sense of humour and was willing to try anything (including tequila shots – in his 80s – at his niece’s 18th birthday party).

He wrote nonsense poetry and collated some of it in a small, handwritten book called Load of Rubbish in Rhyme.

Les is survived by his three children and nine grandchildren.

His funeral will take place at 2.30pm on Thursday, 9th February, at Oakley Wood Crematorium.

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