Shirley Meehan obituary

<span>Shirley Meehan worked on the Guardian’s editorial team in Manchester from 1969 to 1996.</span><span>Photograph: Denis Thorpe/The Guardian</span>
Shirley Meehan worked on the Guardian’s editorial team in Manchester from 1969 to 1996.Photograph: Denis Thorpe/The Guardian

My former colleague Shirley Meehan, who has died aged 87, was a member of the Guardian’s editorial team in Manchester for almost 30 years.

She joined the paper in 1969 just as its 90 Manchester-based journalists were preparing to move from their original imposing home on Cross Street to a more utilitarian base down the road. She remained committed to the Deansgate office even as the Guardian’s operation in the north shrank rapidly from 1976 onwards, and retired in 1996.

Shirley was an assistant to the news editor Harry Whewell, who, with his deputy, occupied an inner sanctum (with pet canary). After the news desk moved to London, she supported the small reporting team left in Manchester and later took particular pleasure in compiling the weekly list of arts events to be covered by critics.

She enjoyed many a first night and gallery opening and was especially proud of major exhibitions of the work of the Guardian’s Manchester-based photographers Denis Thorpe and Don McPhee. She was also a regular on office wayzgooses (traditional end of summer outings) that typically featured bouncy castles and a trip by vintage bus to the Lake District.

Born in Manchester, she was the daughter of Annie, a part-time mill hand, and Denis, an iron foundry worker. Both her parents had origins in Ireland, and Shirley was a Catholic all her life. The family home was in Blackley in the north of the city and she never lived anywhere else.

After passing the 11-plus she went to Notre Dame high school for girls, where she was a high achiever and made lifelong friends.

Her first job was in the information bureau at Manchester town hall, where she regularly met reporters on the hunt for city council stories. In the 1960s she took off with Britannia Airways and became a senior flight crew member. She loved the life, the parties and particularly Beirut, where she discovered the songs of the great Lebanese singer Fairuz, but eventually swapped it for the Guardian.

In her spare time, with a wheel and kiln, she became an accomplished potter, continued her interest in fashion – she was always elegantly dressed – and later created a beautiful garden at her home. In retirement she cared for her parents, nursing her mother until she died at 102. For her own part, she remained fiercely independent to the end, determined always to make her own decisions.

She is survived by a sister, Barbara, a brother, Anthony, two nieces and four nephews.