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12th December 1958 - 8th August 2013
On Thursday 14th November, 2013 at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Graham Usher was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.
The Venerable David Meara delivered the bidding:-
We gather in St Bride's to celebrate the life and honour the memory of Graham Usher, political activist, journalist and foreign correspondent, who was for many years the Economist's Palestine correspondent as well as writing for numerous other publications including the Nation, and broadcasting on radio and television. He combined a talent for cultivating informed inside sources with incisive and logical analysis. He will be remembered for his clarity of intellect, his integrity, his courage and his passion for justice, especially for the Palestinian people.
Graham was funny, generous and warm-hearted, socially committed, articulate, but also a good listener, always meeting people on their own terms. As we give thanks for having known him, and for all he meant to us, so we commend him to almighty God, trusting that at the end of our brief day is the eternity of God's love.Amen.
Matthew Carr read 1 Corinthians 13
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Barbara Plett Usher read A Lover's Call by Khalil Gibran
Where are you, my beloved? Are you in that little
Paradise, watering the flowers who look upon you
As infants look upon the breast of their mothers?
Or are you in your chamber where the shrine of
Virtue has been placed in your honor, and upon
Which you offer my heart and soul as sacrifice?
Or amongst the books, seeking human knowledge,
While you are replete with heavenly wisdom?
Oh companion of my soul, where are you? Are you
Praying in the temple? Or calling Nature in the
Field, haven of your dreams?
Are you in the huts of the poor, consoling the
Broken-hearted with the sweetness of your soul, and
Filling their hands with your bounty?
You are God’s spirit everywhere;
You are stronger than the ages.
Do you have memory of the day we met, when the halo of
You spirit surrounded us, and the Angels of Love
Floated about, singing the praise of the soul’s deed?
Do you recollect our sitting in the shade of the
Branches, sheltering ourselves from Humanity, as the ribs
Protect the divine secret of the heart from injury?
Remember you the trails and forest we walked, with hands
Joined, and our heads leaning against each other, as if
We were hiding ourselves within ourselves?
Recall you the hour I bade you farewell,
And the Maritime kiss you placed on my lips?
That kiss taught me that joining of lips in Love
Reveals heavenly secrets which the tongue cannot utter!
That kiss was introduction to a great sigh,
Like the Almighty’s breath that turned earth into man.
That sigh led my way into the spiritual world,
Announcing the glory of my soul; and there
It shall perpetuate until again we meet.
I remember when you kissed me and kissed me,
With tears coursing your cheeks, and you said,
“Earthly bodies must often separate for earthly purpose,
And must live apart impelled by worldly intent.
“But the spirit remains joined safely in the hands of
Love, until death arrives and takes joined souls to God.
“Go, my beloved; Love has chosen you her delegate;
Over her, for she is Beauty who offers to her follower
The cup of the sweetness of life.
As for my own empty arms, your love shall remain my
Comforting groom; you memory, my Eternal wedding.”
Where are you now, my other self? Are you awake in
The silence of the night? Let the clean breeze convey
To you my heart’s every beat and affection.
Are you fondling my face in your memory? That image
Is no longer my own, for Sorrow has dropped his
Shadow on my happy countenance of the past.
Sobs have withered my eyes which reflected your beauty
And dried my lips which you sweetened with kisses.
Where are you, my beloved? Do you hear my weeping
From beyond the ocean? Do you understand my need?
Do you know the greatness of my patience?
Is there any spirit in the air capable of conveying
To you the breath of this dying youth? Is there any
Secret communication between angels that will carry to
You my complaint?
Where are you, my beautiful star? The obscurity of life
Has cast me upon its bosom; sorrow has conquered me.
Sail your smile into the air; it will reach and enliven me!
Breathe your fragrance into the air; it will sustain me!
Where are you, me beloved?
Oh, how great is Love!
And how little am I!
Mark Taylor read The Beautiful Game
Barbara Smith read An excerpt from Dispatches From Palestine by Graham Usher
The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-
Goldberg Variation 25 - Johann Sebastian Bach
Ubi Caritas - Maurice Duruflé
In My Life - John Lennon/Paul McCartney arr. Daniel Jordan
My One And Only Love - Guy Wood/Robert Mellin played by a jazz band of musicians from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire
Valiant for Truth - Ralph Vaughan Williams
I Shall Be Released - Bob Dylan arr. Matthew Morley
The Firebird - Igor Stravinsky
When The Saints Go Marching In - New Orleans Second Line style played by the jazz band
The Lord's My Shepherd
OBITUARIES & COMMENT
Graham Robin Usher passed away peacefully early Thursday morning, August 8th 2013. He died at home after succumbing to the effects of a rare degenerative brain condition known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. He was 54. Graham was born on 12th December 1958 in Debden, a Council Estate on the Eastern outskirts of London, the second son of John and Mary Usher. His working class background and the labour union activism of his father, a printer, formed the bedrock of his worldview. He left school without graduating but later entered art college on the strength of his portfolio. He studied English and Philosophy at Sussex University, earning a Bachelor's degree with distinction.
After leaving university Graham became active in the revolutionary left, engaging in passionate support of the 1984 miners' strike and taking part in the anti-fascist and anti-racist struggles of the time. He also worked in further education colleges in London's multi-racial East End, teaching immigrants and refugees. This experience, and his disillusionment with what he considered the arid political landscape of the Thatcher years, led him to take a job teaching English in Gaza in the early 1990s. There he switched to journalism shortly before the Oslo Peace Accords were signed in 1993.
Graham started by writing for the specialist magazine Middle East International but quite quickly became the Palestine correspondent for The Economist. He wrote also for Egypt's English-language Al Ahram Weekly, Middle East Report, The Nation, and Race and Class. He broadcast for numerous outlets, chief among them South African radio. Graham's journalism and the publication of two books - Palestine in Crisis (Pluto Press 1995) and Dispatches from Palestine (Pluto Press 1999) - established him as the most authoritative and perceptive Western journalist in the Occupied Territories, and a remorseless critic of the Oslo Process. In 2005 he left the Middle East for Pakistan, where his wife Barbara Plett was posted as BBC Correspondent. Graham continued reporting from there and later from the United Nations, when they moved to New York in 2009.
His friends and readers remember him as a journalist with fierce intellect, analytical clarity and deep political commitment. Graham had a remarkable ability to grasp the larger picture, but embed it in the lives of the ordinary people and political movements that he instinctively understood to be at the centre of the story, even when they were assigned to the margins in mainstream news copy. As a man he will be remembered for a keen wit, a humble spirit and great warmth and generosity. He was a jazz fan, a devoted follower of the football team Manchester United, and a lover of literature and theatre, involved in the dramatic telling of many a tale both onstage and off.
Graham lost his father John in 1970. He is survived by his beloved wife Barbara, his mother Mary, his brother and sister-in-law Geoff and Frances Usher and their children Stephen and David, his uncle Stan Tebbs, numerous cousins, and a multitude of friends.