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“True gentleman” who ran the Hackney Gazette dies aged 95

PUBLISHED: 15:44 08 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:52 08 September 2020

Former managing Director of the Hackney Gazette John Bernard Potter, who's family-run business Potters Press owned the newspaper as well as other titles until the 1990s. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

Former managing Director of the Hackney Gazette John Bernard Potter, who's family-run business Potters Press owned the newspaper as well as other titles until the 1990s. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

Courtesy of the Potter Family

The former managing director and publisher of the Hackney Gazette passed away last month at the age of 95.

John Bernard-Potter contributed to the designs of the former Hackney Gazette offices, at the corner of Dunston Street,  built about 60 years ago. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter FamilyJohn Bernard-Potter contributed to the designs of the former Hackney Gazette offices, at the corner of Dunston Street, built about 60 years ago. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

Family, friends and former employees of John Bernard-Potter paid tribute to “one of life’s true gentlemen,” who helped steer the paper towards the digital age.

John Bernard-Potter died on August 14, 2020.

He was born in Muswell Hill, though his parents were originally from Hackney, and entered the family newspaper business in 1948 after being decommissioned from the navy where he had worked as a radiographer on a sub marine.

John Bernard Potter on the roof of the Hackney Gazette offices in Dalston. Picture:  Courtesy of the Potter FamilyJohn Bernard Potter on the roof of the Hackney Gazette offices in Dalston. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

John’s son Gordon Potter told the Gazette about his father, who ran the family-owned publisher Potters Press, responsible for the Hackney Gazette and other newspaper titles until it changed hands in the 1990s.

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Gordon said : “He will be hugely missed because he was a very kind and generous, philanthropic type of guy.

Linotype compositors were machines used in past to print newspapers and other publications and were part of the an old Linotype compositors were machines used in past to print newspapers and other publications and were part of the an old "hot metal" printing process . Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

“He loved his cricket, he loved his family obviously, but he also loved his staff.

“He was a family man and a kind and generous man - he was one of life’s true gentleman.”

Gordon followed in his father’s footsteps and forged a career in the print industry, even working for his father for a few years in the 1980s.

John Bernard-Potter helped steer the paper into the digital age. Picture:  Courtesy of the Potter FamilyJohn Bernard-Potter helped steer the paper into the digital age. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

He said: “I saw that stage from old hot metal and saw dad, and the company, transition out of the old hot, smelly, sweaty environment, with workmen making slugs of copy to make up letters that were manually put into the galley trays that made up the old way of printing.

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“Dad was responsible for that transition into the first round of digital, photographic paper and film production, basically transitioning to film production which was the intermediary to the digital printing process.”

John Bernard-Potter moved the Hackney Gazette out of its former address at 505 Kingsland Road to a steel and concrete 2000 sq ft building he helped designat the corner of Dunston Street. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter FamilyJohn Bernard-Potter moved the Hackney Gazette out of its former address at 505 Kingsland Road to a steel and concrete 2000 sq ft building he helped designat the corner of Dunston Street. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

Gordon remembers the big photographic rooms with large IBM machines “whirring away” to produce the text, known as copy, which would be “whittled down” by editors and later produced onto film for print.

“It was quite a process” said Gordon.

John worked with his brother Ray and was remembered fondly at his funeral held on August 27 at New Southgate Cemetery and Crematorium in Barnet.

Charless Potter launched the paper a century and a half ago. Picture:  Courtesy of the Potter FamilyCharless Potter launched the paper a century and a half ago. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

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Having trained as an architect draftsman, John also contributed to the designs of the iconic Hackney Gazette building which once featured prominently on the Dalston landscape, described by his son as a commanding example of modern factory architecture.

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Burt Firecracker and the Hackney Gazette delivery team. Picture:  Courtesy of the Potter FamilyBurt Firecracker and the Hackney Gazette delivery team. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

Meanwhile, former employees like Steve Howey also paid tribute.

He started working at the Hackney Gazette when it was owned by Potters Press straight after finishing school.

Corner of 505 Kingsland Road and former home to the Hackney Gazette and Potters Press. Picture:  Courtesy of the Potter FamilyCorner of 505 Kingsland Road and former home to the Hackney Gazette and Potters Press. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

Steve ended up working at the paper for almost 30 years, as an advertisement manager and then later running circulation.

Steve said: “When you start work from school, obviously, it’s your first job and everything is very strange but, I have to say, as an employer [John] was a real gentleman.”

He said his former boss was always open to new ideas, showing great care towards his staff and business as the newspaper industry was experiencing great changes.

Hackney Gazette delivery van. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter FamilyHackney Gazette delivery van. Picture: Courtesy of the Potter Family

“The nice thing about John Potter was that he was someone who took an interest in the individual – he wasn’t just an employer,” said Steve.

“He, without being overly nosey, liked to know about your family, about your hobbies and your ideas for the future.”

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Steve recalls significant changes to the paper over the years and John acting as a “guiding ship,” always ensuring employees were given the training and skills to adapt.

“He wasn’t someone you worked for,” Steve added.

“He was someone you worked with”.

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John was also very keen on black and white photography and took up landscape painting later in his life.

His son recalled his father walking the streets of Clerkenwell and Hackney with his camera during his retirement.

“He loved taking photographs of the area,” Gordon said.


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