INSPIRATIONAL and irrepressible journalist Iris Clapp has died. She was 67.

Iris was a respected news and features editor for the Colchester Gazette from 1980 until 2009 and won plaudits for her engaging, informative and entertaining writing.

She also mentored generations of trainee journalists, sharing her wisdom and experience and guiding them to hone their news sense and writing abilities.

A force of nature, Iris was known for her forthright and uncompromising manner but was also deeply loved for her generosity, kindness, warmth, sense of humour and intelligence.

Iris was born in Burnley to Elizabeth and Ken Murray.

Her mother had left Austria after the Second World War and met Ken while working at a mill in Burnley.

Iris loved the written word from when she was a young child.

Her sister Linda said: “She loved books. She was always a prolific reader and wrote stories from when she was a little girl, adding the illustrations and the binding.”

After leaving school, Iris undertook a journalism course at Harris College in Preston.

She began her journalistic career on the Rossendale Free Press in 1972 but left to study English Literature at the University of Kent in Canterbury three years later.

After graduating, Iris returned to work on the Burnley Express until 1980 when she moved to Colchester.

Linda said: “She was passionate about journalism, she loved everything about it.

“She loved her job and it suited her to a tee.

“She wanted the truth to be told and for people to know what others might want to be kept hidden.

“She did not broadly like politicians because they were not especially open or forthright.”

Iris interviewed a number of leading political figures during her career including former Cabinet minister Lord Wakeham, who was injured in the Brighton bombing, Lord Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Linda said: “She said she interviewed Mrs Thatcher for quite a long time and was pleased she got the interview.

“But when she went back through her notes, she realised she had said nothing of note and she was really angry.

“She wanted the truth to be told.”

After leaving the Gazette, Iris became a learning administrator with Colchester Institute, helping adult learners to develop their educational skills.

Her search for truth never left her and neither did she forget her roots although she supported Liverpool FC rather than her home side Burnley.

She was a trustee of the Burnley Boys and Girls’ Club, a group which helps children in a deprived part of the area and which is based just yards from where she grew up.

Iris also had great human empathy and took a training course with Amnesty International so she could give talks about the organisation in schools and to groups.

Linda said: “She was passionate about everything to do with people.

“Things did not mean anything to her, apart from her books and her music, it was people who mattered.

“It did not matter where you came from what you had, she treated everyone the same.

“You might sometimes get the brunt of her anger but she always did it for your own good.

“She was fun-loving and was the life and soul of any party. She was young at heart and loved the children of her friends and family.”

Vicky Passingham worked with Iris for 22 years and was her deputy when she was features editor at the Gazette.

Vicky, who was also Iris’s friend for more than 30 years, said: “Iris was an exceptional journalist and the tributes which have flooded in are a true testament to the impact Iris had on so many people’s lives.

“She helped teach and support a generation of journalists.

“She could be fearsome but she was always fair and won everlasting respect and love from those who knew her.

“She was a warm, caring, intelligent woman who had a passion for life and a thirst for knowledge. We will miss her dearly.”

Iris, who lived in New Town, Colchester, was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and died at St Helena Hospice.

She leaves behind her sister, Linda, brother-in-law Peter, nephews James and Douglas and great niece, Ruby, as well as an army of friends.