Mexborough poet and crossword setter dies at 78

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MEXBOROUGH-born poet, cryptic crossword setter and lecturer Harold Massingham has died.

Award-winning Mr Massingham set crosswords for national newspapers and magazines for more than 30 years, puzzling readers under the pseudonym “Mass”. He also compiled chess puzzles.

He lectured and taught poetry to groups – for free – on behalf of Manchester University, and hosted poetry readings and talks to inmates at Strangeways Prison.

The father of four, who lived most of his life in and around the Manchester area, died recently in Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, after a short illness. He was 78.

Mr Massingham was born in Mexborough, and attended Mexborough Grammar School.

He moved to Manchester to study at the age of 18, and graduated in English in 1954, before becoming a teacher at Wright Robinson Grammar School in Gorton.

He went on to lecture for the extramural department of Manchester University from 1971 onwards.

Mr Massingham published his first poetry book, Black Bull Guarding Apples, in 1965. It which won him the acclaimed Cholmondeley Award three years later.

His other published works included Frost Gods, and Sonatas and Dreams.

As a crossword setter, he compiled puzzles for The Spectator, The Listener and the Sunday Telegraph.

He was also a setter for the Independent up to his death.

In 1965 he retired to Spain with wife Patricia, but moved back to live with family in Stockport after her death last year.

Relatives are reportedly planning to publish a manuscript of 70 previously unseen poems in his memory.

Mr Massingham leaves three sons, a daughter, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A service and committal was held at Manchester Crematorium on Friday, March 25.