Deaths of “local legend” and board games inventor

Two well-known veteran Midland journalists have died, both at the age of 81.

They were Warwickshire-based Tom Swain, whose funeral takes place at Oakley Woods Crematorium, near Warwick on 18 August at 3.15 pm, and Mike Woods, who was also a prolific inventor of board and card games.

Tom, who died in Warwick Hospital on August 1 after being taken ill a few days earlier at his home, retired 20 years ago after working for 30 years as chief reporter in the Leamington Spa office of the Coventry Evening Telegraph.

“Tom was a local legend,” said former colleague Peter Rhodes. “He was the ultimate district reporter. Everyone in Leamington knew Tom, and Tom seemed to know everyone.

“He had dozens of contacts and the magical ability to produce stories from nowhere within a few minutes of deadlines. He was a great professional and a gentleman.”

Born in Somerset and educated at Wells Grammar School, he became a trainee reporter on the Wells Journal, having earlier contributed sports reports on local cricket and football matches.

He completed two years of National Service with the Somerset Light Infantry, seeing active service during the 1950s Malaya Emergency.

Later, having completed his newspaper training, Tom joined the Stratford Herald as a general reporter where he met and married Joan, a freelance journalist, who died 12 years ago.

Tom became a sports writer with the old Birmingham Despatch and when that newspaper closed in 1963 he joined the Coventry Evening Telegraph. He was in charge of the Leamington district office from the 1960s until his retirement in 1996.

Mike Woods worked for the Gloucestershire Echo and the Evesham Journal during a career which also saw him work in public relations for cider company Bulmers. He worked at the Echo in the 1960s and 1970s, where he was based in Tewkesbury for the newspaper.

Outside of journalism, he was one of the UK’s premier games inventors, with a portfolio of more than 100 games. He had partners in Australia, Canada, the USA, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and India.

His widow Jan told the Echo: “I would like to say that Mike had a great sense of humour and huge enthusiasm for life. His passion for games was such that he was always hoping that each game he invented would be the next Scrabble or Monopoly.”

Mike died in Cheltenham General Hospital after a short illness and his funeral was held at the town’s crematorium.