TrIBUTES have been made to Keith Dolley, a former pupil of Farnham Grammar School and newspaper reporter in the town for almost four decades.

Keith died of a stroke aged 85 on November 30. He devoted most of his working life to serving the best interests of the town.

As a reporter for the Surrey & Hants News, Keith played a big part in a successful campaign to save the Farnham Maltings historic area. He is survived by his wife Ann, who recalls he was “always campaigning for justice in Farnham”.

Keith was also a frequent contributor to the newspaper’s widely-read and prickly Frank Scribe column.

He had attended Farnham Grammar School from 1945 to 1950.

More than a decade later, he discovered he had a nose for news after he was hired as a reporter for the Surrey & Hants by his Farnham Grammar School friend Guy Bellamy, who edited the paper in the 1960s.

Before entering journalism, Keith had various odd jobs, including looking after the rental rowing boats at Frensham Little Pond.

Keith – described as a “gentle, caring newspaperman” – retired from the Surrey & Hants News in 1999. By this time, Keith and Ann already owned a farmhouse in a wine-growing region of France near Bordeaux, as well as their country home a few miles from Farnham.

Ann said: “We met when I was a student at the Farnham School of Art. We frequented the same coffee bar, which was opposite the art college and next to the Surrey & Hants office. We were married in 1966 – my maiden name was Ann Stevens.”

Later the school became the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, and Ann was the deputy dean of the design faculty at the time she and Keith retired in 1999.

Ann continued: “We sold our house which we had designed and built in the late 1960s on a plot of land on the Lord Selbourne country estate near Blackmoor, a few miles from Farnham. The house was featured in Country Living magazine’s 1987 new-year edition.

“After we retired we spent approximately half the year in a house we had earlier bought in France and the other half in a house we bought in the English village of Hambledon, bought after we sold the Blackmoor house.

“The farmhouse and the small house in Hambledon were of similar age but totally different in size.

“Keith called the Hambledon house our cupboard in the South Downs. The French farmhouse was huge. It was featured in Country Homes and Interiors’ September 1992 edition while we were still having it restored.

“We bought the ruined French farmhouse in 1982 – it had not been lived in for seven years.

“It had two and a half acres of land and was in the centre of the wine area, 60 miles south of Bordeaux. We spent the next 30-odd years restoring it, mostly during our holidays before we retired.

“We sold both the French farm house and the Hambledon property in 2013-14 and moved to Somerset to a restored barn.

“Keith’s ill health brought us back permanently to England. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s seven years previously. He died of a stroke in a nursing home in Yeovil on November 30, having been there for six months.”

Ann adds: “Keith’s hobbies were writing, especially poetry, drawing, and listening to opera music. His poetry was read at his cremation.”

And to his hobbies, Michael Prentice added: “Journalism, and restoring that old, run-down French farmhouse.

“Not bad for a former boatman at Frensham Little Pond known to cry, ‘Come in, Number 5’.”

Michael Prentice