Don Ludlow, a journalist who worked on The Northern Echo group of newspapers for almost 50 years, has died.

Because of current restrictions, a small group of friends and former colleagues attended Don’s funeral service at Darlington Crematorium on Wednesday to remember a colleague widely described as a “gentleman”.

Don, from Linden Gardens, Richmond, who would have celebrated his 90th birthday this November, entered journalism as a trainee reporter on his home-town weekly paper in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

The Northern Echo:

Don Ludlow in 1969

By the 1960s, however, he had moved north and began working for what was then North of England Newspapers, publishers of the Northern Echo and Evening Despatch, in Darlington.

Don initially worked on the Evening Despatch, rising through the ranks to become its chief sub-editor, the senior journalist responsible for the editing and production of the newspaper,

He was in charge of daily production of the Despatch in the summer of 1977, when the National Union of Journalists called a strike over negotiating rights that lasted nine months.

When Robin Thompson took over as the new editor of the Despatch in 1978, with the warning that the paper was not expected to survive more than six months, he identified Don as the person who understood the production process better than anyone and promoted him to deputy editor.

The Northern Echo:

Don Ludlow, presenting a trophy in May 1981, at Darlington FC’s Feethams ground

The Despatch survived for a further eight years, finally succumbing to the inevitability of publishing economics in 1986.

Former colleagues emphasised what a polite, calm and professional man Don was, never becoming flustered when under pressure, but always getting the job done.

Former colleague June Hawden said: “He was a good teacher. He steered me through – always very calm and he never said a bad word about anybody.”

Following the closure of the Despatch, Don became deputy editor of the advertising Features department, which served all the centre’s newspapers, including the Northern Echo.

However, when the newly-created Advertiser Series of free weekly newspapers needed a deputy editor a couple of years later, Don got the job.

Don was also group motoring correspondent, a “perk” that saw him travel all over Europe attending launches and test drives of new cars.

He became a member of the Northern Group of Motoring Writers shortly after its inception in the 1960s and was honoured with a Life Membership of the Group in recognition of his long service.

Don tried to retire in the late 1990s but he soon returned to the Advertisers as a part-time sub-editor for many more years, finally retiring when he was well into his 70s.

Andrew Smith, former editor of The Northern Echo, gave the eulogy at Don’s funeral. He said: “I think I speak for all his journalist friends and former colleagues in saying that it was a genuine privilege to have known Don and to have worked with him. He was, in the words of several former colleagues, a gentleman.”