Last Friday I received an email from an old friend in the Press Gallery informing me of the death of Ian Craig, until earlier this year the political editor of the Manchester Evening News. We have since covered this sad story on HoldtheFrontPage, while both the Evening News and the North-West media website How Do have also published lengthy pieces.
As will be seen from those links, the tributes have been led by no less a figure than Tony Blair, and whatever you think about the former Prime Minister, the fact that he has chosen to take time out from campaigning for the EU presidency to express his sorrow at Ian's sudden loss is a measure of the huge respect in which this great journalist was held.
For those that don't know, I worked in the same room as Ian for the whole of my nine years in the Lobby. Not only was he someone I was proud to call a friend, but he was a hugely important guiding influence on my career throughout my time there.
As his distinguished former editor Mike Unger has already said, Ian was quite simply one of the greatest political journalists of his generation, and proof if ever it were needed that not all the best lobby hacks are to be found on the nationals.
There was nothing that went on at Westminster that Ian didn't know about - often several days before it appeared in print or was broadcast on the airwaves. But more than that, as the comments on the various threads have shown, he was a true gentleman, whose personal kindness and courtesy towards colleagues and contacts alike were legendary.
I find myself in complete accord with the comments of his former MEN colleague Rodger Clark on HoldtheFrontPage: "You could not wish to meet a finer journalist or a finer gentleman. Ian will be sorely missed."
Ian was one of the people I hoped I would stay in touch with after I left the Lobby in the summer of 2004, and although I did have one last drink with him on a brief visit back there in May 2005, I hadn't seen him since then.
That's modern life I guess. Times change, and people move on. But I never forgot Ian, and I never will.