TRIBUTES have been paid to former Wiltshire Times deputy editor Keith Gale, who has died after a short illness.

The popular 72-year-old, who had two spells at the newspaper, died on Sunday at Frome Community Hospital with his wife Pauline and children Richard and Deborah at his side.

He had been taken ill and admitted to the Royal United Hospital in Bath the previous week, days before he was due to marry his partner of 28 years.

Staff at the RUH rallied round to organise the wedding on the ward and the couple exchanged vows, watched by his children and brother Roger, on October 30.

“The staff were wonderful and pulled out all the stops for us. It was lovely,” said his wife. The couple lived in Tytherington, near Frome, where Mr Gale took huge pride in his garden.

Mr Gale was born in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, and started his first job in journalism as a trainee reporter on the St Neots Advertiser.

His ability as a journalist and warmth as a colleague led him to a variety of newspaper roles in Biggleswade, Wembley and Bedford before he took a role as a journalism lecturer at the Westminster Press training centre in Hastings, Sussex.

While there he was an inspiration, friend and confidant to hundreds of trainee journalists, many of whom went on to become editors or work on national newspapers, TV and radio.

He first came to Trowbridge as deputy to editor Jack Brennen in 1990 before moving to the Bath Chronicle and then to edit the Wiltshire Star.

He came back to Trowbridge in 1996 as deputy editor and was instrumental in the Wiltshire Times winning weekly paper of the year at the South West Media Awards a year later.

Mr Gale retired in 2008 but continued to work hard with his wife running their PR firm, PR Plus Media, until his death.

Former colleague Gary Lawrence, who edited the Wiltshire Times for a spell and was the longtime editor of sister paper the Gazette and Herald, said: “Keith was one of the good guys of the newspaper world. He was a ferociously hard worker, kind, loyal and very, very funny.

"I never met anyone who didn’t speak of him warmly and my career was richer for having spent a precious few years with him.”

Among the dozens of tributes paid to him on Facebook, former Times reporter Lucy Bailey wrote: “He was a kind, generous and witty man and, of course, a fabulous journalist. What Keith didn’t know about the newsroom wasn’t worth knowing. Always a tale to tell and a twinkle in his eye.”

Another ex-Times reporter, Charley Sheffield, said of him: “So funny, so down to earth and irreverent. A proper old fashioned newspaper hack.”

A funeral service for Mr Gale, who had four grandchildren, will be at West Wilts Crematorium in Semington at 3.15pm on Monday, November 19. Flowers are for family only but donations for the Friends of Frome Community Hospital and Dorothy House Hospice can be made via William Adlam Funeral Director in Frome.