A GIANT of media law who began his career as a trainee reporter at The Westmorland Gazette, has died at the age of 85.

Tom Welsh, who died on April 10, was regarded as one of the country’s key advocates for press freedom.

He served the industry for decades as a journalist, editor, lecturer and most notably, as a law expert.

Born in Southend-on-Sea, the father-of-four and loving grandfather to six, spent the last 35 years in Broughton-in-Furness, with devoted wife, Mary, who writes a regular walks column for the Gazette.

Mr Welsh was often the man editors would call day and night seeking his softly-spoken counsel in the midst of a legal crisis.

As the co-author to McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists with the late Walter Greenwood, his name was synonymous with court reporting, and his works studied by generations of trainees.

In his early years, he studied law and history at Cambridge and then joined The Westmorland Gazette as a trainee in 1953. He returned to the area in 1979 for a seven-year stint as editor of the North-West Evening Mail in Barrow.

His wife Mary said: “Tom was full of integrity. The village thought of him as a gentleman. He was dedicated and always totally reliable.”

After Kendal, he worked at the Yorkshire Evening Press and Oxford Mail before joining national daily the News Chronicle in 1959. In 1963, he become a senior copy editor with Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, and in 1966 became a journalism lecturer at Harlow Technical College. In 1969, he became editor of the North London Press series. From 1973 to 1976 he worked for the Inner London Education Authority as a press officer.

In 1976 he became the first director of Journalism Studies at City University, London.

Bob Satchwell, of the Society of Editors, said: “Tom played a huge part in the lives of journalists working in all parts of the media because of his contribution to their training.”