Tributes to photographer who had a smile for all

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The life of a much loved former Reporter Series photographer who captured the memories of generations of people across the Heavy Woollen district will be celebrated this week.

John Chambers, who died in hospital earlier this month aged 77, was a familiar and friendly face to many in the area having spent over 30 years taking pictures for the Spenborough Guardian, then latterly in his career the Batley and Birstall News and Dewsbury and Mirfield Reporter.

Family, friends and former colleagues will come together to remember him at his funeral on Wednesday, April 4 at Dewsbury Crematorium.

John joined the staff of the then independently owned Spenborough Guardian and Heckmondwike Herald in 1973, having left his job as an Army photographer a few years earlier.

In 1995, when the Dewsbury Reporter Series took over the Guardian and Herald, he moved to the central photographic department based in the old Dewsbury Reporter offices in Wellington Road.

He covered events across the whole North Kirklees area until his retirement in 2005.

Over the years John photographed everything from major disasters and royal visits to wedding anniversaries and school galas and he always said it was the varied nature of the job he loved most.

When he retired he said: “You’re not stuck behind a desk, you’re out meeting people and talking to them and that’s what’s most interesting.

“I’m always getting stopped by people saying they remember me taking their pictures. Nowadays I get people coming up to me saying they’ve just celebrated 25 years of marriage - and I took their original wedding picture!”

As well as being there for the most momentous days of people’s lives, John was witness to some of the biggest stories the country has seen.

One of his first jobs as a press photographer was the IRA coach bombing which claimed the lives of nine soldiers, along with one of their wives and two young children, on the M62 near Birkenshaw in 1974.

John was also there the day Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe was brought to face Dewsbury magistrates after his arrest in 1981.

Those who worked alongside John remember him as a consummate professional who always had a smile and a joke for everyone.

Former editor-in-chief of the Reporter Series John Wilson said: “Working with John was a real pleasure. He was a great ambassador for the papers and to many people in the Cleckheaton and Heckmondwike area he was the Spenborough Guardian.

“He was the sort of character you need in any newsroom - utterly reliable, totally dedicated and with a smashing sense of humour.”

Outside of photography John’s other big passion was amateur theatre and he was a member of Spenborough Amateurs for many years. He also took on the role of Father Christmas, bringing joy to hundreds of children across Yorkshire each year.

A love he shared with his wife Brenda was classical music and the pair also adored Tenerife, where they regularly holidayed.

Brenda said: “We liked staying at home and playing board games - and John would spend hours doing crosswords.

“We never had too much excitement - but we just loved each other’s company and that was enough for us.”

John was well respected and much loved in the community which he served for so long - but that respect and love was very much reciprocal.

Upon hanging up his camera bag for good he said: “The thing about working for a local paper is that it’s part of the community. It’s about keeping the community informed and hopefully I’ve done that in my own little way”.

John leaves his wife of 50 years, Brenda, daughters Suzanne, Denise and Adele and seven grandchildren.

His funeral service will be held at Dewsbury Crematorium on Wednesday, April 4 at 10.30am.