IN the early 1990s News photographer John Pratt and I climbed the massive tower crane which was dominating the Worcester skyline as the CrownGate development took place. We hadn’t intended to, but arriving at the site canteen to interview the operator we were told he had already left and the only way we were going to meet him was to get up the crane.

And so we did. In our office clothes and with John carrying all his photographic equipment. No safety harness, no special kit, no insurance, just a hard hat each “in case you fall on your heads”. As if it was going to matter much from that height. Up we went, rung after rung  after rung, as the slim steel tower creaked and swayed in the breeze. More than 200 feet later, above the height of Worcester Cathedral, we eventually clambered into the crane driver’s cabin.

As he surveyed the chemical toilet, kettle and small TV screen, John announced: “Do you think we’ve arrived in Heaven!” Well he has now, because one of the real characters of local photo journalism has gone to the great developing room in the sky. John Pratt, press photographer, antiques collector, clock repairer and vintage car enthusiast has died just short of his 80th birthday and the world is a less colourful place.

To go on a job with John invariably involved a detour of some sort, either to pick something up or drop something off, and you were well advised to factor that into your time schedule. On one occasion I remember we went to interview a lady out in the sticks whose old cottage was being renovated, although that wasn’t the story.

As we returned to the car, John suddenly asked: “Can you hang on a minute. I’m just going to pop back.” Five minutes later he returned. “Forgot something? “ I asked. “No, I’ve just bought her fireplace,” came the reply. “ I’m coming back on Saturday to take it out.” I was only glad he didn’t take it there and then, because the back of his old Volvo was already crammed with what looked like the entire contents of a Tything antiques shop and I feared having to sit with the fire grate on my lap.

He was born as a group of German bombers flew over Kidderminster in 1941 and his first job was with a photographic studio in the town where Stan Webb, later to gain fame with rock group Chicken Shack, was a photographer’s assistant. The pair have remained friends for 58 years.

A talented artist, John then tried his hand working for Worcester Royal Porcelain, but found such a restricting environment was not for him and after a chance meeting with Bill “Rich” Richardson, then head of the photographic department of the Worcester Evening News, he became a press photographer instead.

John started with the paper when its headquarters were in Trinity Street in the city centre and then became part of the move to  Hylton Road in 1965. For a while he worked in his home town on the Kidderminster Times (part of the same Berrow’s Newspapers group) before returning to Worcester and the Evening News in the late 60s.

For the next 30 years or so, he was a regular face taking press pictures at news, social and sporting events across the county and among several successes won the Midlands Press Photographer of the Year award in 1988. He finally quit the company in the early 2000s to enjoy himself with his two main interests of antiques and vintage cars, while his ability to repair old timepieces many folk found very handy.

Working with John was a joy and entirely unpredictable.

For those of us who have known him all these years, John Pratt has always been a Peter Pan figure, hardly seeming to age a day and to think cancer has now claimed him is a horrible shock. He died at home in Lechmere Crescent, Worcester, with  Chris, his wife of nearly 40 years by his side. The couple have a daughter Stephanie and two grandsons Oscar and Henry.  John had a son Rupert, by a previous marriage, with two more grandsons Xavier and Lochlan.

There will be a private cremation for John, but later in the summer, when the world is on a more even keel, the family hope to organises a memorial gathering for relatives, friends and former colleagues in the grounds of Witley Court, one of his favourite places.