Fond farewell to Shields Gazette legend Janis Blower

Janis Blower has retired after a 44-year career at The Shields Gazette.
Janis Blower has retired after a 44-year career at The Shields Gazette.

A legendary Shields Gazette scribe has retired after 44 years of sterling service – with words of praise ringing in her ears.

Janis Blower was presented with a bouquet and a bottle of champagne at a fond farewell in the Gazette offices in Beach Road yesterday.

Janis Blower’s retirement will cause the same shock as the day Marsden Rock collapsed. She has been there forever as a constant reminder of our rich heritage, often pointing out the amazing in the ordinary.

Ray Spencer

Born and brought up on the town’s Lawe Top, Janis joined the paper in August 1971.

The respect in which she is held was evident by a litany of tributes from current and ex-colleagues, friends, readers and well-known borough figures.

Ray Spencer, executive director of the Customs House in South Shields, compared her retirement to the loss of another great South Tyneside institution, while also dubbing her the “guru of local history”.

He said: “Janis Blower’s retirement will cause the same shock as the day Marsden Rock collapsed.

“She has been there forever as a constant reminder of our rich heritage, often pointing out the amazing in the ordinary.

“Places we take for granted she celebrates. Janice is the guru of local history, her loyal readership hang on her every word and her mailbag and inbox are filled with correspondence from around the world.

“Janis is a one-off whose sterling work for the Gazette and the town she loves will never be forgotten and, I suspect, never equalled. Happy retirement Janis, you are a legend.”

Joy Yates, editorial director of Johnston Press North East, said: “Janis has been a true ambassador for The Shields Gazette and is respected and well regarded by the community as a voice of authority on the history of South Tyneside.

“She will be missed by her loyal readers as well as her colleagues. We wish her a long and happy retirement.”

Tom Fennelly, honorary secretary of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, of which Janis is president, has known the Gazette writer all her working life.

He worked alongside her on the newspaper and with the Shields and District branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Mr Fennelly, who later became the press and promotions officer with South Tyneside Council, said: “Janis has had an immense career in journalism and is extremely popular with and much-loved by local residents and now, via the web, by people in every part of the world.

“She has made a great contribution to our interpretation and understanding of local history.

“Janis has absolutely made the Cookson Country page her own hallmark, and whoever follows her has mighty footsteps to fill. She’s a great lass and thoroughly deserves a long and happy retirement.”

Dorothy Fleet, of South Shields Local History Group at the town’s Central Library, said: “Janis has gained the respect and affection of so many people in our borough.  

“She has interacted with considerable expertise and her own personal touch, to help us understand and enjoy the development of our town and the rich history of the people who have gone before us.

“Her much-loved Cookson Country pages, ‘All t’githor’ publications, talks and her active commitment have informed and inspired and South Shields Local History Group are proud to have her as our patron.”

One of the borough’s most senior politicians, also added to the praise.

Councillor Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for culture and leisure, said: “I would like to congratulate Janis on her retirement and wish her the very best for the future.

“As a passionate ambassador of South Tyneside she has helped to bring the borough’s past to life with her engaging writing skills and impressive knowledge of local history.

“She will be sorely missed by her band of dedicated readers, who like myself, enjoy reminiscing over her Cookson Country pages and browsing the fascinating historic images she uncovers from the borough’s archives.”