THE world of journalism in Herefordshire has lost one of its last ‘old school’ hacks with the death of 77-year-old Colin Osborne at the weekend.

A fearless investigative reporter and champion of Hereford city’s regeneration plans, the man at the helm of former newspaper, the Hereford Journal, for many years, was famous for his direct approach to tackling local news, and was a fierce opponent of political correctness.

He once made headlines around the country when he refused to remove his trademark trilby hat in a Hereford pub.

Mr Osborne, equally at home mixing with powerful players in Herefordshire or in Parliamentary circles, was interviewed at his Hereford office about the hat row by Radio 4’s Today programme team.

With typical acerbity he snapped at the BBC reporter and his team: “Where’s John Humphrys?”

But his sharp wit made him a popular figure among Hereford’s movers and shakers and his colleagues.

Indeed, his particular training style for young reporters made him a favourite among legions of trainees who respected his forthright approach.

Said former trainee Neil Tipton: “I learned so much from him – not least a whole lexicon of rather ripe language!”

He remembered Mr Osborne “swathed in a cloud of cigar smoke and rather irascible”, but also as an “intensely loyal friend” who helped him further his career.

“He had a particular loathing for pomposity and was renowned for having a short fuse,” he said.

But he taught him not to panic when faced with a blank page and a looming deadline.

“He would disappear off for long lunches, returning several hours later with a cracking story to fill the front page!”

He would often announce that he was going for a “sarsaparilla” before heading to Gilbies wine bar, a favourite haunt.

Mr Osborne’s long-time friend, Councillor Terry James said Mr Osborne was a “larger than life” character who always fought for the underdog.

He took no prisoners!” he added: “What was remarkable was that those people in receipt of his wrath all seemed to love him!

“The world will be a duller place without him.”

Mr Osborne worked on the Yorkshire Post and Western Daily Press before moving to Hereford where he worked in Bulmers’ public relations’ office.

Former PR manager George Thomas said he was a “first-class newsman”.

Mr Thomas said: “Colin had a great work ethic and would never let a good news story fall by the wayside.

He was a great character, a great companion and a damned good newsman.

“He was the scourge of Herefordshire Council!” he added.

Mr Osborne suffered a series of health setbacks, enduring open heart surgery and later bowel cancer, before his more recent illness.

His strong personality was evident at the Journal where he sought to flout a no-smoking rule, and was frequently to be seen smoking cigars.

During the 1990s Colin worked for the Ludlow and Tenbury Wells Advertiser newspapers.

Says his editor at the time, Vince Bufton: "He was a thoroughly professional journalist who took great pride in his work. A lively colleague, sharp-witted, humorous and one who suffered no nonsense. If he asked a direct question he wanted a direct answer - and usually got it! He was warm-hearted and generous and wonderfully loyal to his friends."

Ian Morris, the assistant editor at the Hereford Times, said staff on Holmer Road enjoyed the rivalry with Mr Osborne's free sheet.

"We all enjoyed his old-school ways despite the many jibes he made towards the HT on his pages," he said.

"But it was all done in the right spirit; he was a great character."

Mr Osborne is survived by his wife, Judy and his three children.