A FORMER editor of the Packet who went on to to preside over Cornwall's tourism industry has died aged 92.

Wellington James Thompson, known as Ken, who earned widespread respect and popularity in two careers, first as a journalist of the “old school” and then as an award-winning Cornwall Tourist Officer, died last night (Thursday).

He had lived in Falmouth and Penryn from 1962 to 2018, when he moved to a residential care home in Kent to be close to his family.

Ken came to Cornwall from Leicestershire on his appointment as Editor of the Falmouth Packet weekly newspaper, with his late wife Enid becoming Chief Reporter.

He held that post until 1969, also editing a sister publication, Cornish Magazine.

Ken was a regular broadcaster on the BBC’s Morning Sou’ West radio programme and, with Enid, created and ran Cornwall’s only international press agency until his career switch in 1974, when he was invited to become Cornwall Tourist Officer.

In that role, he presided over the Cornwall Tourist Board at a difficult stage in its development during a period of fast growth for the holiday industry.

Ken’s publications, led by his county guide Discover Cornwall, won wide acclaim, including three national design awards, before he took early retirement through ill health in 1987. Even then, he found time to write travel guides for Berlitz and Penguin books.

In 1976 he returned from a heart attack to redesign and transform the county guide, winning national recognition in 1978, 1981 and 1982.

He introduced full colour advertisements, made the guide freely available and increased its circulation from 45,000 to more than 200,000 copies annually.

Together with Restormel’s Tourism and Publicity Officer, Don MacIntosh, Ken established the principle of a marketing consortium in which tourism and publicity officers from the district councils worked closely together to promote Cornwall.

Ken was known not least for his frugal approach to life on the road as county tourist officer. Instead of staying in hotels, he would more typically sleep in his motor caravan.

He said at the time: “There’s a space on the roof of Earl’s Court where exhibitors can leave their vehicles parked overnight – I join them but stay put there in my caravan!

“Then there have been the times when I have taken my caravan onto a platform at Olympia Station during the World Travel Market.

“I’ve done a deal with the railway porters and it’s all been very convenient. I’ve certainly slept in some strange places, but it’s been very helpful to have my home on my back.”

Ken was born in Nottingham in June 1927 and educated at the city’s High Pavement School. He began his journalistic career as a copy boy on the Nottingham Evening Post in 1944, where his talents, initiative and passion for hard work were soon recognised with his progression to trainee journalist.

He later moved to the Post’s Loughborough and Mansfield district offices and completed his training in 1948, when he joined the Evening Mail’s news team at Leicester.

That marked the start of a long and happy association with the Northcliffe Group and in the following year he became the Evening Mail’s chief reporter.

He held that post for eight years until, in 1957, he decided it was time for a change of direction. This followed the merger of the Mail with its bitter local rival, the Leicester Mercury, after being acquired by Northcliffe, the latter’s proprietors.

He moved to Coalville to become editor of the weekly newspapers Coalville Times and Ashby Times, whose private owners were investing heavily in new plant and offices. For a number of years Ken was also East Midlands Regional Secretary of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors.

Ken and Enid and their son Tim made the big move to Cornwall after an approach from the Packet’s owners, Mr and Mrs Leslie Dean, who both came from areas served by Coalville and Ashby newspapers.

With the Packet, Ken continued to be anything but a desk-bound editor, rarely resisting the opportunity to give rein to his newshound instincts and getting directly involved in a number of stories that won worldwide headlines.

In his autobiography, Between The Lines, Ken reflects: “For 30 years, Enid and I were engaged in a relentless pursuit of news, having little regard for the domesticity of life which more traditional folk see as being paramount to their reason for living.

“...nothing took precedence over the next story. I can recall once phoning the Coastguards repeatedly after learning of ships colliding in the English Channel and asking if they felt it was ‘big enough’ to warrant me returning home from holiday.”

Ken, whose second wife, Madeleine, predeceased him in 2010, leaves a son, Tim, daughter-in-law Sue, two grandsons and four great grandchildren.

Cremation will take place in Maidstone followed at a later date by interment of his ashes at Falmouth Cemetery.