FORMER Swindon Advertiser reporter, conservationist, film-maker and media consultancy director Martin Carter has died aged 55 after falling ill earlier this year.

A well-known and highly respected journalist during his years in Swindon, Martin was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour while on holiday four months ago.

He died at a hospice near his home in Somerset on Saturday, August 20.

Martin joined the Swindon Advertiser as a news reporter from the Western Daily Press during the early Eighties and worked on the paper for six years, becoming a well-known and popular figure around town.

It was while reporting for the Advertiser on serious conservation issues that faced the fledgling River Thames near Cricklade that he and his partner, Diane Scully, of Swindon, decided to make a film about it.

Neither had any experience of film production but with the technical assistance of Thamesdown Community Arts, they jointly directed and produced the documentary called Shallow and Crooked.

During filming they acquired the services of Britain’s leading environmental figure of the day, TV’s green guru David Bellamy who views feature prominently.

The work received its premier at Swindon Town Hall in 1991 and became an important tool for conservationists fighting to maintain the integrity and environment of the Upper Thames between Cricklade and Lechlade.

The documentary was also shown at the Natural History Unit's showcase for new films.

It was while reporting on the Hungerford massacre of 1987 that Martin became interested in the way the health service dealt with casualties that led him to leave the Advertiser and go into media relations for a number of NHS authorities.

He later becoming a director of a consultancy that advised the NHS on media issues.

Martin and Diane recently married after Martin’s condition was diagnosed.

His best pal, Jem O’Carroll, of Swindon, who knew Martin for well over 30 years, said: “We were soul brothers from the start and maintained the friendship to the very end.

“He was intelligent generous and funny. He treated everyone as equal and this quality enabled him to help everyone feel at ease in his presence.”

Old Town-based freelance journalist and Advertiser contributor Barry Leighton, who worked with Martin in Swindon, said: “This is devastating news for anyone who knew Martin. Quite simply, he was a great bloke.

“We all had huge respect for Martin in the Advertiser news room both as a person and a journalist. He certainly knew his stuff as a reporter.

“He was very passionate about the stories he became involved with. He was also fiercely competitive in just about anything he undertook…from football to Trivial Pursuits.

“You meet scores of people along the way in this profession, but Martin sticks out. He was a bit special, Martin.”

* Martin Carter’s humanist funeral will take place on Thursday, September 8 at 2pm on fields adjoining his home at Tremaine Cottage, 2 Milton Martock, Somerset, TA12 6AL