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Obituary: Don Gomery

By 2nd April 2010July 27th, 2023No Comments

It is with great sadness that we record the death of journalist Don Gomery, the Guild’s honorary general secretary for the past 25 years.

Don was taken ill towards the end of March and spent his last days in the care of medical staff at the Kent & Sussex Hospital. He died on the afternoon of 1 April. Our thoughts are with his wife, Pauline, and members of their family.

Don was a skilled journalist, who worked on Dairy Farmer and Farmers Weekly during his long career. He was editor of The Farmers Club Journal for the past 10 years.

He enjoyed company and greeted everyone with his characteristic broad smile. He was also the most enthusiastic supporter of the Guild and its role as a community for agricultural journalists and communication professionals.

In addition to his role as secretary of the Guild, he gave his time as secretary to the Trustees of the Guild’s Charitable Trust and as the Guild’s representative at the International Federation of International Journalists (IFAJ).

His contribution to the Guild and its members is unmatched.

The following obituary by James Campbell, northern editor of the Irish Farmers’ Journal, who served with Don on the IFAJ executive committee, was compiled with the help of Guild members Nick Bond and Denis Chamberlain.

Anyone who met him would have found it difficult to guess Don’s age. Having passed ‘normal retirement age’ during the 1990s, he maintained a youthful zest for life, work, travel and social interaction.

Less than two weeks before his death, Don had seemed indestructible. It is no wonder, therefore, that his passing came as a great shock to all who knew him.

The son of a Fleet Street journalist, Don Gomery went to the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester to study agriculture and started as a farm journalist with Dairy Farmer, a title that he subsequently edited. He went from there to Farmers Weekly where he was European and political correspondent and eventually deputy editor.

He then moved into public relations with Pharo Communications, then based at Stoneleigh, where he worked on a number of national accounts. For the past 10 years he was editor of the The Farmers Club Journal. He also wrote for various titles on a freelance basis.

In all of this, he proved to be an extremely capable, fair and gentlemanly player.

Don was a mainstay of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists of Great Britain. As its representative on the executive committee of the International federation of such organisations, he was a positive contributor of time and talent.

His wise counsel was seen in his service on sub-committees and as chair of the professional development committee, a role he took up without hesitation when called upon by colleagues. He also served as one of the honorary auditors of IFAJ.

Apart from committee work, Don’s ready wit, his fantastic memory and willingness to share his experiences with other journalists were always evident at IFAJ events. Perhaps these exchanges helped keep him young at heart.

Don was an excellent ambassador for his Guild and for his country. He provided an exemplary link between the British Guild and IFAJ, bringing the best of British ideas and experiences to international gatherings and faithfully communicating IFAJ matters to Guild members.

A perfectionist, particularly in relation to accuracy and syntax, Don expressed his views in a clear and deliberate manner.

With English being used as the ‘working language’ in meetings of the IFAJ executive committee – bearing in mind the varying command of English by people from different countries – his clarity was an asset. It served as an example to others.

His period of illness was mercifully short but this means that Don’s passing has come as a great shock. We appreciate that the pain of that shock is felt particularly by his wife Pauline and family, to whom we extend sincere sympathy.

Details of funeral arrangements will be posted here as soon as they are available.

Members can post their own tributes to Don below by email.

“He was a consummate agricultural journalist, a perfectionist as far as accuracy and syntax were concerned, and the mainstay of the British Guild – for which he had been honorary secretary for 26 years. He was totally committed to the IFAJ, fulfilling his role as the British executive member with
dedication, and he was looking forward to attending his 30th congress in Belgium this year. Above all, Don was an honest, helpful friend to all those who knew him.” Nick Bond

Don was a great champion of all things about the Guild and will be very sadly missed by all. Stephen Howe

Don was a welcoming face to me when I first joined Council, one which I will much miss. His knowledge and encouragement were much appreciated. Mike Donovan

He was a lovely man, full of kindness and thoughtfulness for others. He will be sorely missed by the many friends he made. May he rest in peace. Margaret, Countess of Mar

What dreadful sad news. A great stalwart of the Guild for so many many years. We will all miss him. Arthur Anderson

Don was an ambassador for the Guild at home and abroad as well as a diligent and hard working secretary. He will be sorely missed, but remembered fondly by all associated with him for his tremendous wit, good nature and desire to see a job done well and to the very best of his ability. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. I’ll miss his wise counsel, his friendship and his frequent e-mails, many of which latterly were about the frustration we both shared over the Blackberry 9500 phone we both have the misfortune to own. Joe Watson

It was my privilege to work with Don on and off for more than 40 years. He was a professional to the core whether as Editor of Dairy Farmer, a persistent, accurate and thoughtful journalist in his many roles at Farmers Weekly, a wise PR counsel and as Editor of Farmers Club Journal. A colleague and friend who is irreplaceable. Denis Chamberlain

Don was one of the joys of my IFAJ experience. He was a great teammate on the IFAJ executive committee, a loyal friend and a valued voice of experience when it came to helping agricultural journalists around the world. I never heard him say one unkind word about anyone. He was a great man who will be missed. Mike Wilson. President, International Federation of Agricultural Journalists

Top bloke. Am saddened by his passing. Graham Fuller.

Some 40 years ago, Don and I were political correspondents. But rivalry did not prevent friendship, and we were close until he so sadly died. He was my willing successor as General Secretary of the Guild. I did a stint of 18 years, he more like 25 during a time of enormous change. My stewardship was in an era of pen, paper, typewriter and telephone; his of computers, emails and the world-wide web. He consulted me a lot in the early days, scarcely ever latterly – for obvious reasons. I enormously admired his abilities and unflagging industry, not least in matters international. Only weeks before he died he gave me my (surely) last assignment – the John Harris obituary in the Farmers Club Journal, which he edited with talent and dedication. We all mourn a man of many parts; a smiling man, a laughing man, a man of integrity, good company. I mourn a fellow Christian and loving friend. Peter Bell, FGAJ

I first met Don when a client of Pharo and instantly recognised him to be one of nature’s true gentlemen. Ageless and seemingly indestructible, his passing was a great shock. I shall miss him. Roger Chesher

Don had long moved on from Dairy Farmer when I joined the group but he still took a benevolent interest in my ‘progress’ and although our paths might not cross for years at a time his greeting was always just as warm. He will be much missed. John Foster

I’m saddened at this news, but happy that I was able to talk with Don prior to the Guild’s AGM last month. Whenever we met, he would remind me of those early Wednesday mornings in the late ’70s when we met for breakfast at the “Watford caff” prior to spending the day in an airless chamber at Odhams reading galley proofs, passing pages and listening to Frank Butcher’s outrage at a split infinitive or some other “meaningless tripe”. Cheers Don, you made a new boy feel welcome. See you later. Mike Bird

I met Don for the first time in 1979, when I joined Farmers Weekly as a sub-editor. For the 31 years since then he has been an admired colleague, a close friend and confidant, and a most entertaining companion at various IFAJ and GAJ events. It is still impossible to believe that he is gone and I shall miss him to the end of my days. My heart goes out to Pauline and his family. Lindy Margach

What sad and shocking news. One of the highlights for me of the recent Guild AGM was talking to Don for the first time in 20 years. He seemed as youthful as I remembered him in the 1990s when I worked for RBI. He was someone whose work ethic and style I respected. And his wide, blue eyes were something else. I’m glad I had the chance to tell him that despite his cataracts, he was still bright eyed. To the end, it seems. Sarah Henly

Don was a consummate professional and a true gentleman, and an excellent ambassador for agricultural journalism, and The Guild. I also had the pleasure of working closely with him, and being on the receiving end of numerous grammatical lectures! His standards were always high, and he was never backward in coming forward to correct us when ours didn’t come up to scratch! He will be missed in the short term, but warmly remembered in the long term as a friend to all who knew him. Chris Walkland

Don was a consummate and outstanding journalist and, more important, a loyal, warm and supportive friend. As he had worked both sides of the fence, in Journalism and Public Relations, he possessed that extra dimension as an outstanding communicator. He was also a pretty useful photographer which is reflected in the many excellent images which he took during his ten years as an outstanding Editor of The Farmers Club Journal. Nor should one forget Don’s good dress sense: he was always impeccably turned out which says something very positive about him. Don was an outstanding Honorary General Secretary of our Guild for about 25 years and would have been attending his 30th IFAJ Congress in Belgium later this week. We have all lost a marvellous person and, like many others, I shall miss him very much indeed. Sam Luckin.

Very sorry to hear of Don’s death. I first met him at the Farmers Club on my first job for Crops in 1987 and remember him as a kind man; eager to offer re-assurance to a rookie reporter. Mike Stones

Having known the Guild almost since its inception, I can say with confidence that Don was way up there among the Greats who have served our wonderful organisation over the years. We who have had the privilege of knowing him owe him a considerable debt and mourn the passing of a good friend. Mary Cherry FGAJ

I didn’t know Don well; but whenever we communicated he was kind and helpful. He was clearly a dedicated individual, and I’m sure the Guild will miss him greatly. Andrew Blake (formerly Farmers Weekly)

Don was always supportive to young journalists and played a major role in developing relations with the British Guild and the IFAJ. I first met Don as a young man at the Royal Show. Our eyes met across the steak bar on the Irish stand!! I especially remember two great trips with Don. We went to the Czech Republic in May 2004 as guests of Dana and then to Poland in 2006. The Polish trip was organised by former executive member. Anna Orzechowska.

Anna collected us from the airport and we travelled six hours by car. Don and I braved the elements. It wasn’t only the weather we had to worry about but Anna was travelling at about 90 miles a hour and the car was literally blowing all over the road. Don asked Anna to build in a couple of pit-stops so we could have a few glasses of wine to cushion the trip! Half way during the journey out came a bottle of Baileys from his definitely made the remaining hours go by quicker. We both attended the Berlin Green Week for over 25 years and served on the executive committee of IFAJ for 18 of them. He was a stalwart supporter of IFAJ and was proud to represent the British Guild. He was a friend, mentor and an all- round nice guy. He had a great sense of humour, was extremely thoughtful and supportive. Don was a inspiration to young and old. I will miss his friendship. David Markey

What sad news and so sudden – but Don would have been the last person to have relished hanging-on to life for months and months. He was always such a kind and cheerful person. Like many others, I will remember him as a welcoming and friendly face when I was a ‘new girl’ on the scene. What also stood out, was Don was of the old school where standards were standards which had to be adhered to. He was a real journalist and am sure has passed on his beliefs to many of us working today. Frances McKim and Helen Riby, Active Solutions

There’s a theme here of a warm-hearted man who not only had time for his established friends and colleagues but also for newcomers to our business. My first experience of Don’s friendly ways is no exception; as a 17-year old fledging journalist attending my first press conference in the high flying setting of the Hilton Hotel in London, I was advised to seek out Don and did so. Sure enough, I got a welcoming smile and some friendly words that made the event less daunting. Needless to say, I enjoyed the same generous welcome whenever I met him in the years since. Rest in peace. Peter Hill

What a lovely man, so ably supported by his wife Pauline, with whom my thoughts are at this challenging time. It was good to see him recently at the first out town GAJ AGM, while at the same time supporting the Midland Group Question Time for Agricultural lead politicians. All part of the move to keep the Guild forward looking in these turbulent times. You could always rely on Don to support the Guild in many ways, both here in Great Britain and on the International scene. One personal memory being his early arrival on the first day of each Royal show. This gave us time to chew the cud over a Bacon butty before the youngsters arrived. He will be a difficult act to follow. John Allan Hon Sec GAJ Trust 200 Club, FGAJ

I well remember Don’s arrival at Farmers Weekly where he invigorated thecoverage of business, politics and Europe. It’s good to see him remembered by so many colleagues from the golden years of FW, and sad that now one fewer remains. My contacts with Don as Guild seretary were always responded to promptly, efficiently and with quiet good humour.His stalwart service to the Guild is a lasting memorial. Sandy Cox

I first met Don in the early Sixties when he was with Dairy Farmer and I with BOCM. We had some great times together, moments that were full of humour and fun, while retaining the professionalism required for our jobs. He was a great guy and will be sadly missed. My deepest sympathy goes to Pauline who herself played an essential role in supporting Don’s endeavours. Jim Kettle

I am extremely shocked to hear about Don’s death. What more can one add to the kind remarks that have already been said, except to say that I will aways remember him personally for the friendship help and sound advice he gave me when I was chairman of the Guild. He was a true gentleman who will be sadly missed. Robert Benson