As Kathy Rathbone turned the pages of an ageing copy of the Leader with her beautifully manicured hands she said: “Oh well, we’re growing old together, aren’t we.”
At 74 she’s a grandmother now, but retains a quiet elegance gleaned almost 70 years ago from two refined sisters who ran a private school in Penyffordd. She was sitting in our archives library telling me how she had had the daily Leader delivered to her home in Hope from day one.
She had not missed a single issue since the first on Monday, October 29, 1973.
Even when she was on holiday she arranged for her neighbours to take it and read it until she came home.
That makes a staggering 10,370 copies of the paper over the years and she still looks forward to reading it every day with a ‘nice cup of tea’.
“It’s my local paper, and I love it,” she said. “I can’t believe that 40 years have gone by since the first one dropped through the letterbox.
“The Leader was delivered for years by paperboys or girls, and I always made sure I tipped them at Christmas. These days I pay by direct debit, and it arrives by van.”
Kathy, who still keeps busy working part time as a fashion consultant and saleswoman at Country Casuals and Vyella in Mold, uses the Leader to buy and sell, tackles the crossword every day, enters all the competitions, and of course all her family’s milestones have been recorded within its pages.
“My golden wedding, my sons’ weddings and the births of my grandchildren have all appeared in the Leader,” she added.
“I made sure my parents’ golden and diamond anniversaries were celebrated in the paper and their obituaries were also sent in.
“The Leader has been there for all the big events in my life, it’s provided me with hours of entertainment, it’s kept me informed, and helped me when I’ve been looking to buy or sell something. Basically it’s been a big part of my life and I’d never think of cancelling it.”
Kathy, who worked for the National Coal Board at Llay Main and Llay Hall before marrying electrician John Rathbone, and eventually opening her own shop, Flair Fashions in Hope, even sends cuttings of the Leader to her sons Ian and Howard in South Africa and Australia.
“If I see anything that’ll interest them. I send it on,” she said. “It’s a link to home.”
I asked Kathy what had made her so loyal to the Leader for so long, and for the first time in nearly an hour she struggled to find the right words to explain the bond she felt with the newspaper. She looked down at a copy from the 1980s to find inspiration.
“It could be all the local news inside. It could be the competitions. It could be a feeling of being part of the community, “ she said. “It could be just a habit I enjoy.”
Then she stopped, and thought a little longer.
“I think it’s all the above and more,” she said smiling to herself as she turned another page.