Journalist James Gillespie on motor scooter in Paris

James Gillespie

24th August 1958 - 25th October 2019

On Wednesday 29th September, 2021 at 3pm a service of thanksgiving for the life of James Gillespie was held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street.
Download Order of Service (pdf)


The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered the opening:

We are here to honour the memory and to celebrate the life of James Gillespie – Jim, as he was known to many of you in the world of journalism.

The shock of his death, particularly in such appalling circumstances, was devastating to all who knew him, and it is never easy to come to terms with something so heart-breaking.  But our task at this service is above all to give thanks for Jim, both as an outstanding journalist and as a unique and extraordinarily gifted human being.

We begin now with an opening prayer by the priest and poet John Donne.

Let us pray:

Bring us, O Lord, at our last awakening
Into the house and gate of heaven,
To enter into that gate and dwell in that house
Where shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
No noise nor silence, but one equal music;
No fears nor hopes, but one equal possession:
No ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity
In the habitations of your glory and dominion,
World without end. Amen.


Claudia Joseph

On October 25 last year, I sat down to watch the new Bruce Springsteen film, Letter to You – in a poignant twist, released in time for the anniversary of Jim’s death. As I listened to the lyrics, I was staggered to find out that I was listening to a love letter to all the people Bruce had lost in his life. Jim would have loved it. It was the perfect metaphor for anyone grieving.

As any Bruce fan will know – and Jim was one of the greatest – ‘if you can’t find yourself in a Bruce song, then you haven’t lived’, and I quote directly from him. Jim. Not Bruce. He once told me that if he were on Desert Island discs, he would choose eight Bruce songs. That would have been a first.

But Jim wasn’t just a Bruce fan, he was one of the most talented journalists I’ve ever met. He was also one of the most modest. He would never have expected his photograph to sit on the journalist’s altar alongside Marie Colvin, Peter Sissons and Clive James. Nor have obituaries in three national newspapers as well as Press Gazette AND he certainly would have dismissed suggestions that he might have a thanksgiving service at St Bride’s. He would have told me that nobody would come, he wasn’t important enough, that I was up myself. Well, he was wrong. It’s testimony to the number of people here today and the glowing tributes from friends and colleagues that he was much admired and loved.

I first met Jim in 2003 when he became my boss on the Mail on Sunday’s Review section. He was the editor and I was a mere freelance. Yet that did not stop us arguing over anything and everything. I can see him now, sitting behind his desk, cluttered with coffee cups and papers, ordering me around, slashing through my copy and correcting my grammar. He was the very essence of an old-school journalist – he absolutely loved the job and excelled at it, whether he was dictating an intro, writing a headline, or injecting his dry wit into his colour writing. But woe betide anyone who cut his copy or inserted a cliché in a story. I constantly threatened to quit – which would have been difficult as I obviously wasn’t staff – and he constantly threatened to sack me. In one instance he wrote: ‘I’m afraid I cannot accept your resignation. You will carry on with your work as, and when, instructed.’ He’s lucky I didn’t take him to a tribunal. My only respite came when he left to go to the Daily Mail. By then, to quote him, he had ‘made’ me and we’d become firm friends.

He was not the most PC of journalists but he got away with it – most of the time – because of his bombastic confidence and self-deprecation. Since he died, I’ve looked back at his Twitter feed, in which his sense of humour shines through. ‘Standard western prostitute of the press,’ according to one admirer, he wrote underneath his handle. ‘Media whore,’ according to another. ‘In my spare time a journalist.’ Jim took to Twitter immediately – although he didn’t Tweet in quite the same way as most people. His feed is littered with requests for cups of tea from colleagues; criticisms of people’s attire; book recommendations; complaints to South Eastern rail – and conversations about planes – his father took him to Farnborough Air show as a child and he was a true plane spotter. One particular favourite was when he was sent to the Lindo wing to cover the birth of Prince George. ‘Think I have established myself pretty damn quickly as a totally inept Royal reporter,’ he Tweeted after missing George’s first photo call.

As well as editing and producing copious amounts of copy, Jim was also a published author: he wrote a moving biography, A Greater Love, about World War II, and had written an unpublished detective novel set in Nasser’s post-war Egypt. He was fascinated by the war and would have loved to have lived in that era, even down to wearing a suit, tie and bowler hat. But there was always time for a joke. When his book was published in Spain, he said: ‘I can write in Spanish now, it appears…’

He was also a brilliant public speaker – doing talks at Radley and the London College of Fashion – was a talented photographer – although it took him hours to take a shot – and collected vinyl. He was a Crystal Palace supporter – even when they were bottom of the league – was a keen cyclist and squash player and was learning to play golf. He was well on his way to becoming an old codger.

But most people here will remember Jim for his love of vino, hummus, M&Ms and fish finger sandwiches, hatred of vegetables and wicked sense of humour. When he once went on a diet, he told me: ‘I don’t think you fully appreciate the trauma I’m going through on this food business…’ He couldn’t help but see everything through a comic lens.

He was especially thrilled when a reader sent a letter to the Sunday Times mentioning him in the same breath as Prince Philip: ‘The campaign against wind turbines seems to be gathering momentum with luminaries such as Donald Trump, the Duke of Edinburgh, and your own correspondent James Gillespie in the vanguard,’ they wrote. Now, sadly the Duke and Jim are both together. But I will always be proud to call him my friend.

Daniel Janner

I was very flattered and honoured when Claudia asked me to speak today. She told me she wanted it to be personal; and to focus on my friendship with James. I aim to stick to my brief.

I first met James over 5 years ago. James was clear: it was to be James and not Jim.

Dominic Lawson had made the introduction. He told me that James was an absolutely brilliant investigative journalist.

However, my family had been advised by lawyers in no uncertain terms to have nothing whatsoever to do with the Press. Journalists were bad news and were to be avoided.

Fortunately, as things turned out, James’s quiet persuasiveness proved the lawyers wrong.

I agreed to meet James for the first time in Pret a Manger in Fleet Street. I was naturally a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect from this high powered Sunday Times journalist. But I did expect him to have a notebook and pen. He apologised saying he had forgotten both. I thought this maybe a cunning ploy to put me at my ease. But no, he had forgotten the journalist equivalent to my wig and gown. And it was left to Rymans next door to save the day.

His shrewd caustic wit and charm were irresistible. We became close friends, meeting regularly at my home in Muswell Hill, the Garrick Club and Middle Temple Hall. My two sisters also warmed to him and trusted him totally; and he had agreed to write a book for us.

Paradoxically he and I enjoyed taking the micky out of the most serious subjects. False allegations. The inquiry into child sexual abuse; describing it as a legal titanic. Lawyers – especially inflated fees.

He always kindly referred to me not just as a QC; but a leading QC! And the picture which appeared in the paper of me holding my wig caused great hilarity. James described it as a dead rat.

But his acute sense of the absurd did not detract from the very serious matters that brought us together; nor the pioneering work he produced to uncover the truth about the false allegations scandal. James was one of the first and most influential journalists to see through the troubling trend of public figures being wrongly accused of charges of historical sexual abuse. When he began to look into the subject, it was unpopular.

My late father Greville was one of the most prominent victims of this dangerous witch hunt. James’s articles were instrumental in exposing the lies of the allegations. He did the same for others including Lord Brittan, Paul Gambaccini, Harvey Proctor and Dana Scallon, whose brother was wrongly accused and later acquitted of all charges. When he began to look into the subject, it was unpopular. The tide, better described as a tsunami was very much against him. He became a target of nasty trolls.

The trolls clearly didn’t know James, if they thought this would dampen his sprits. In fact, they did the precise opposite. And Operations Midland, Conifer, Enamel and others subsequently proved him right. To his eternal credit and bravery and skill.

After one particularly brilliant piece, about my late father, and overcome with emotion I gave him a gift. The Mont blanc pen I had given my father on his 80th birthday. I had had it inscribed with Lord Janner. Four years later, I began to regret it. I now had a grandson and wanted to give it to him. And much to the absolute shock and consternation of my whole family, I plucked up the courage to ask James for it back. As was typical of his kindness, he had no hesitation in saying yes. His only concern was that he was worried he had lost it! But happily, he hadn’t, and he gave it back to me last year.

As well as his campaigning journalism at the Sunday Times, the breadth of his work for the paper was remarkable. He wrote for the News Review. On health and social affairs issues – for which Pauline’s own career as a social worker gave him invaluable insights.

For the sports section: reflecting his own passion for road cycling. And swimming – having been a champion swimmer at school. The travel section and the Atticus diary – in his own inimitable style.

His waspish sense of humour and fun were known to many. Colleagues spoke of his kindness – especially towards younger, less experienced journalists. Apart from his journalism, I think one of the reasons James and I got on so well because we had much in common. We were the same age. We both married wonderful women; in the same year – in 1983. He had 3 boys; I had 3 girls.

He often spoke to me of how proud he was of his boys; Liam, Daniel and Matthew. He absolutely adored being with them. So much so he told me that he really didn’t want them to leave home – ever. He was against the idea. Despite the fact that they were in their late twenties with partners. And when they did leave, he compensated for the loss by following them on holiday. Especially if a Bruce Springsteen concert was involved. Even if he ended up paying for everyone.

It goes even further than that. James made it clear that he didn’t like animals. But when Daniel brought home two cats, even though they were both blind, he made an exception. He went so far as to call them Bruce and Clarence. The latter was Bruce Springsteen’s saxophonist.

There were other things which many of his friends understandably had trouble with. His support for Crystal Palace. And living in Bromley. But we all knew that James was a brilliant journalist; and a brilliant bloke.

We all miss him terribly.


Matthew Dennison read Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.
And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

Roderick Gilchrist read an excerpt from Scoop – Evelyn Waugh

Gosh. Wasn’t the choir wonderful? Jim would have loved it. Bruce Springsteen was his favourite musician.

But now for something completely different.

Most of us here today know Nicholas Tomalin’s Prescription for Success in Journalism… rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability.

Jim wouldn’t mind me saying he had all of these in spades. But he also had one other vital quality for success in the Street of Shame….the ability to laugh at the madcap nature of luck that can lift you up or down the snakes and ladders of the newspaper world.

So we think he will be laughing up there in the hereafter at the passage chosen from Scoop – Evelyn Waugh’s satire on the hectic pursuit of hot news.

To set the scene, Salter, the Daily Beast’s hapless foreign editor, has been charged by Lord Copper, the paper’s owner, with sending his star reporter, Boot, to cover a war in darkest Africa.

Sadly, Salter has briefed the wrong Boot – the one who writes about pets. In other words, a classic Fleet Street muck up.

But there is worse. The wrong Boot if refusing to go, which will get Salter in trouble with his boss. Well,  we’ve all been there.

So, a desperate Salter resorts to the dark arts of executive persuasion. He threatens Boot with the sack but offers the balm of lavish expenses if he will do the job….a persuasive technique I suspect also familiar to many here today…

‘Listen,’ said Mr Salter. ‘I don’t think you have fully understood the situation. Lord Copper is particularly interested in your work and, to be frank, he insists on your going. We are willing to pay a very fair salary. Fifty pounds a week was the sum suggested.’

‘Gosh,’ said William.

‘And think what you can make on your expenses,’ urged Mr Salter. ‘At least another twenty. I happened to see Hitchcock’s expense sheet when he was working for us in Shanghai. He charged three hundred pounds for camels alone.’

‘But I don’t think I shall know what to do with a camel.’

Mr Salter saw he was not making his point clear. ‘Take a single example,’ he said. ‘Supposing you want to have dinner. Well, you go to a restaurant and do yourself proud, best of everything. Bill perhaps may be two pounds. Well, you put down five pounds for entertainment on your expenses. You’ve had a slap-up dinner, you’re three pounds to the good, and everyone is satisfied.’

‘But you see I don’t like restaurants and no one pays for dinner at home anyway. The servants just bring it in.’

‘Or supposing you want to send flowers to your girl. You just go to a shop, send a great spray of orchids and put them down as “Information”.’

‘But I haven’t got a girl and there are heaps of flowers at home.’ He looked at his watch again. ‘Well, I’m afraid I must be going. You see I have a day-return ticket. I tell you what I’ll do. I’ll consult my family and let you know in a week or two.’

‘Lord Copper wants you to leave tomorrow.’

‘Oh. I couldn’t do that anyway, you know. I haven’t packed or anything. And I daresay I should need some new clothes. Oh, no, that’s out of the question.’

‘We might offer a larger salary.’

‘Oh, no thank you. It isn’t that. It’s just that I don’t want to go.’

‘Is there nothing you want?’

‘D’you know, I don’t believe there is. Except to keep my job in Lush Places and go on living at home.’

It was a familiar cry; during his fifteen years of service with the Megalopolitan Company Mr Salter had heard it upon the lips of countless distressed colleagues; upon his own. In a moment of compassion he remembered the morning when he had been called from his desk in Clean Fun, never to return to it. The post had been his delight and pride; one for which he believed he had a particular aptitude…. First he would open the morning mail and sort the jokes sent him by the private contributors (one man sent him thirty or forty a week) into those that were familiar, those that were indecent, and those that deserved the half-crown postal order payable upon publication. Then he would spend an hour or two with the bound Punches noting whatever seemed topical. Then the ingenious game began of fitting these legends to the funny illustrations previously chosen for him by the Art Editor. Serene and delicate sunrise on a day of tempest! From this task of ordered discrimination he had been thrown into the ruthless, cut-throat, rough and tumble of the Beast Woman’s Page. From there, crushed and bedraggled, he had been tossed into the editorial chair of the Imperial and Foreign News…. His heart bled for William but he was true to the austere traditions of his service. He made the reply that had silenced so many resentful novices in the past.

‘Oh, but Lord Copper expects his staff to work wherever the best interests of the paper call them. I don’t think he would employ anyone of whose loyalty he was doubtful, in any capacity.’

‘You mean if I don’t go to Ishmaelia I get the sack?’

‘Yes,’ said Mr Salter. ‘In so many words that is exactly what I–what Lord Copper means…. Won’t you have a glass of port before we return to the office?’

John Witherow read Double Vision – James Gillespie, first published in the Sunday Times, 23rd December 2012

Talking to James Rock in his central London offices can be a disconcerting experience. Rock, 46, is one of the directors of the entertainment technology company Musion, and is sitting in a low armchair in front of a small, dark stage. As he speaks, a rather tatty, greying man with spectacles and a discernible paunch appears on the stage and walks towards us. The newcomer looks disturbingly familiar. It is me.

What I am looking at is my hologram, and pretty rough he looks, too. I am (the real me, that is) speechless: so that is what I look like to the rest of the world.

Creating holograms is what Musion does. So far, it has produced hundreds of them, from rock musicians to theatre actors to dancers with the Bolshoi Ballet.

The new technology is not really new at all. It began life on the Victorian stage. The technique is based on “Pepper’s ghost”, a theatrical trick devised by the London chemist John Henry Pepper for Dickens. In 1862, he used off stage mirrors to project a ghostly image onto a piece of glass during a performance of the writer’s play The Haunted Man.

The process of creating my hologram was relatively simple. We first shot some scenes in a small studio, where I was filmed against a black background, posing questions to an imaginary person. The film was transferred to a projector, beamed onto mirrors, then onto an angled foil – and there my hologram was, up on the stage.

So I ventured out into the footlights and stood next to myself. We eyed each other warily, then the hologram began the show by asking me questions.

I replied to myself, frequently forgetting what questions to expect from my hologram and shuffling about on the stage in an absurdly shifty manner. I could even “blend” into my hologram by standing in exactly the same place on the stage. Then, when I took a step away, lo, there were two of me.

Great news. If a band were to perform with a re-created dead member, they could all move normally on stage behind the foil screen and, as long as they did not actually collide with the hologram, it would look as if the band member were alive.

Such a “digital resurrection” would start at £50,000. I am much cheaper: a couple of thousand and I am yours.

So what was it like to come face to face with your own hologram? It was bizarre (obviously), slightly unnerving and in every way extraordinary. Suddenly, you are seeing yourself as everyone else sees you, and it is not always a comfortable experience.

One of the handful of spectators who watched me on stage observed: “It was funny the way you seemed to be getting so annoyed with yourself.”

He was right. If both of us had spent any more time together, a fight would have broken out. Now that would be good theatre.


The choir & organist of St Bride’s performed the following anthems and songs:

‘Spitfire’ Prelude – William Walton
Psalm 23 – Brother James’ Air
Symphony No 3 (Second movement) – Henryk Górecki
The River – Bruce Springsteen arr. Léon Charles
Every time we say goodbye – Cole Porter arr. Jonathan Seers
When the saints go marching in – Traditional arr. John Rutter
Dam Busters march – Eric Coates


He who would valiant be
I vow to thee, my country

congregation sitting for service


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