On behalf of the family, I would just like to thank everyone here very much indeed for coming today. We are really touched – we know that some people have travelled a long way to attend this.
And we are very glad that Michelle Stanistreet, the General Secretary of the NUJ, is with us and will be speaking a little later. We are grateful to her – and to the NUJ – for providing and organising refreshments after the service in the St Bride Foundation and we do hope that you will be able to join us there afterwards.
Ken, my Dad, was born in Salford in 1928. His father was a cashier at the Manchester Ship Canal and his mother had been a dressmaker. A few years after his birth, his much-loved baby sister, Lois, was born. It was Dad’s Uncle Tom, his mother’s brother, a journalist on The Scotsman, who introduced him to the world of newspapers.
When he left school at the age of 15, Dad got his first job on one of two local papers – The Stockport Express. He soon realised that a knowledge of shorthand was going to be very useful in a newspaper office and set about acquiring this – more or less teaching himself over the next couple of years with the aid of a book, spending one or two hours most evenings working on developing this skill. It was while covering an event for his paper that he met – and fell in love with – Margaret, my mother. Mum worked on the rival local paper – The Stockport Advertiser, and the two young journalists, each reporting on happenings in the area such as council meetings and inquests, would wangle their respective office diaries to allow them to cover the same events.
Dad started National Service a month after his 18th birthday. He was commissioned as an officer and served in Egypt and Palestine in the British Army Newspaper Unit. On completion of National Service he returned to his job on the Stockport Express.
In 1950 he and Mum married. She was running the Macclesfield Advertiser, and they lived in an old tied cottage in Macclesfield that went with the job – whose front room was the editorial office. For the next few years, Dad worked for freelance news agencies, such as Exchange Telegraph Company, writing for most of the Manchester papers and some London ones – specialising in court cases and crime. He had become very active in the Stockport branch of the union – the NUJ – and was soon voted on to the National Executive Committee.
Their first child, my late sister Helen, was born in Macclesfield, as was I a little later. The family moved to London when I was three, where Dad took up a full time post as official with the NUJ. Jenny, their third daughter was born a few years after their move.
In 1970 Dad became General Secretary of the NUJ – a job he found both extremely rewarding and, at times, extremely stressful. At the end of his tenure he received the OBE for services to trades unions. I remember as a young teenager telling him that he should find something easier and less worrying to do, and he would joke that one day he planned to become a hedger and ditcher. And one day, seven years later, he did move on, not to hedging and ditching but to another very challenging role – at the Press Council where he became Joint Secretary, shortly afterwards taking over as Director – a job he remained in for 10 years, seeing the organisation safely through its metamorphosis into the Press Complaints Commission before retiring at the age of 62. Retirement brought a whole series of more and different activities. He undertook consultancy work for the British Council and the Thomson Foundation, advising foreign administrations, such as Fiji and Sierra Leone, on Press freedom and regulation and on establishing a Code of Practice for the Press. He became a Trustee of Reuters and served in this capacity for 15 years.
Outside work, his own interests and passions included: first and foremost – reading: his tastes were diverse, covering autobiographies, books about the use of words, military history and politics. But in general his preferred genres were probably the 19th Century English novel, with Anthony Trollope a particular favourite – and poetry. He seemed to know so many poems off by heart; I once asked him how he learnt them and he said “ Largely through osmosis”. Other pleasures included theatre-going and art galleries. We will have a taste today of some of the music he especially enjoyed: Gilbert and Sullivan, the songs of Flannagan and Allen, and military brass bands. The sight of Dad, sitting in front of the television and using his child-sized drum to accompany the bands playing at the Trooping of the Colour was a familiar one to us.
Always keen for new experiences, Dad was anxious to see as much of the world and its people as he could, and he and Mum did a lot of travelling in later years. At one point he developed a passion for canals and narrowboat holidays – a pleasing throw-back to his father’s time spent working for the Manchester Ship Canal – and also, as we later discovered when delving into family history, to the life of an earlier forebear who had made his living as a canal bargeman.
I believe that we – my sisters and I – were always conscious of how lucky we were to have the parents we had. Dad would make us laugh, tell us stories and read to us endlessly. He and my mum were constant companions for their almost 65 years of marriage, delighting in each other’s company.
Within the family, Dad was an important and influential figure. His passion for reading and for choosing and using words carefully and creatively has been passed down through his daughters to his six grandchildren who have all shown – and continue to show – an appreciation of the value of language and literature and of the importance of creativity.
It would be hard to find a better role model for a younger generation – a man who put so much into and got so much out of life, devoted to his family while constantly using his immense talents and skills to help improve the conduct of the profession he had chosen, as well as the conditions and therefore the lives of those working within it.