HERALD proprietor and committed ‘newspaperman’ for some 70 years Sir Ray Tindle celebrated his 90th birthday in style this week, with a lavish luncheon for his staff and distinguished guests at Farnham Castle.

Sir Ray, who has owned The Herald series of newspapers since 1969 and lives in Farnham, was honoured with an OBE in 1973, a CBE in 1987, and was knighted in 1994 for services to the newspaper industry.

He now owns some 185 titles - many of which he has saved from the brink of collapse and 70 are more than a century old - plus shares in another 200 spread across the UK.

To celebrate the occasion of his 90th birthday, he was joined by around 90 members of the Tindle Newspapers family at the historic Great Hall of Farnham’s iconic castle on Monday as well as his wife Lady Beryl, son Owen and several guests of honour.

These included the new Rector of Farnham, Reverend David Uffindell; deputy chief executive of the News Media Association, Lynne Anderson; and editor of newspaper industry journal PJ, Gary Cullum.

The celebrations began with Sir Ray’s cutting of a birthday cake wielding a ceremonial Japanese sword obtained during his wartime service in the Far East, followed by a two-course lunch and speeches.

Rev Uffindell said grace, followed by a toast to The Queen and a birthday message from Her Majesty’s deputy private secretary Edward Young (pictured) read by Tindle Newspapers executive director Wendy Craig.

Mrs Craig added: “I imagine that the young Ray Tindle standing on the railway station in London among thousands of other school children being evacuated at the beginning of the Second World War did not think for one minute that he would become a captain in the wartime army; a successful owner of nearly 200 local newspaper titles and three radio stations; and Lord of the Manor of Farnham. The town he loves so much.

“We are very grateful for the passion Sir Ray has for newspapers, which started all those years ago, and which has provided jobs and security for so many Tindle staff. His 90th birthday gives us the opportunity to thank him publicly for what he has done for us all.”

Herald managing director Scott Wood also recounted his many years working alongside Sir Ray.

“People often ask me what it’s like to work with Sir Ray Tindle,” he said. “I say quite simply he is a remarkable man, and you will not find a more committed man or a better person to lead our company.”

Responding, Sir Ray gave a humourous speech thanking his guests, staff and close colleagues, as well as recalling many of his favourite memories and anecdotes spanning his full seven decades in local journalism.

Explaining his origins in the industry, Sir Ray said he found himself on a troopship bound for the Far East in 1944 when he was tasked by the senior officer to keep the 1,000 soldiers aboard entertained during the five week voyage.

He duly launched a daily newspaper, capturing snippets of news from the ship radio and filling the rest of the paper with the stories of his ship-mates.

“Everyone was a soldier and everyone had a story,” he told his guests on Monday. “Some had been with Monty in the 8th Army fighting in the Western Desert, some had served with Bill Slim in the 14th Army in Burma.

“Many had been in the campaigns in Europe and one had been in the 1940 battle in France and had been brought back to the UK from Dunkirk in that famous and brilliant evacuation.

“After a few days the troops grew to love the ship’s paper. It was about themselves and things that they were or had been involved in. It was ‘local’ to them, in a sense.

“That five weeks ‘crash course’ in journalism decided my future. I’ve been full-time on locals ever since and I’ve loved every minute with my super staff in making local weekly newspapers strong and viable.”

Sir Ray went on to recount his experiences surviving the post-war strikes and breathing new life into loss-making papers such as the Tooting Gazette and Tenby Observer by ensuring “every line” was filled with strictly local news and faces.

He also recalled launching the Tindle Enterprise Centre in Bordon during the early 1980s recession to give the unemplemployed a place to “get their ideas off the ground” rent-free.

­This grabbed the attention of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who paid a visit to Bordon and the Farnham Herald offices, and persuaded Sir Ray to open another nine centres across the UK.

“We’re going through another difficult period now, some few even say we are doomed,” Sir Ray continued, invoking the spirit of Churchill’s great ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches’ speech following the evacuation of Dunkirk.

“That is not so. We may have to change a bit, perhaps quite a bit, but the press will live forever.

“Our local papers will always be wanted because they superbly carry news of local happenings that are not covered, or not covered in detail, by other media.

Bringing an end to the celebrations, Sir Ray was surprised with a copy of his very own newspaper ‘Tindle’s Army’ packed with special birthday greetings from many of his titles - delivered by two members of The Herald staff dressed as paper boys for the occasion.