Retired Mercury photographer dies at 83

Retired Mercury photographer Lee Sheldrake, who has died after a long illness, aged 83, was drawn back to his Norfolk roots to end his working career.Born in Pulham Market, he was brought up by his grandfather, who was a lay Methodist preacher and would cycle around his local circuit.

Retired Mercury photographer Lee Sheldrake, who has died after a long illness, aged 83, was drawn back to his Norfolk roots to end his working career.

Born in Pulham Market, he was brought up by his grandfather, who was a lay Methodist preacher and would cycle around his local circuit. He was taken to chapels and used to ride on the handlebars, where he would sing in choirs where his grandfather preached.

As a teenager, his restless nature saw him working with gangs of Irish contractors laying concrete for the airfields across the region in the early years of the war. Later, he joined the RAF and trained as a wireless operator/rear gunner but was grounded by an ear infection.

His talent at Morse code led to a key role as a leading instructor and later a posting after the D-Day landings to Normandy, where he became involved in inter-service communications. Always unconventional, he even acquired a Jeep in exchange for a bottle of whisky, which improved his service life in the field.


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After the war, he moved to the West Country and Cornwall where honed his photographic skills, even taking beach pictures. Soon, he was on the move again to Yorkshire, where he even tried his hand selling encyclopaedias, as a rating valuation officer, and then talked his way into working in the darkroom of the York Evening Press's photographic department. He stayed for a number of years but then moved again backed to Cornwall, where he ran a children's clothes shop and also worked as a freelance photographer.

Then, he returned to his native Norfolk, where he soon became exceptionally well-known on his patch, which included the Mercury's sister weekly papers at Beccles, Bungay and Diss as well as covering the Waveney Valley and Lowestoft.

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A keen gardener, and especially skilled at growing vegetables, he retired on his 62nd birthday in May, 1987 in declining health after about 13 years' service.

He leaves a widow, Jenny, and son, Mitch. A funeral service will be held at St Faith's Crematorium on Friday, December 19, 5pm.

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