Tony Dawe

11th September 1945 - 23rd April 2017

On Thursday 14th September, 2017, at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of journalist Tony Dawe 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 give thanks for the life of Tony Dawe – and, as the Journalists’ church, it is our privilege to be hosting this celebration of the life of one of the outstanding investigative reporters of his generation: a man who had Fleet Street in his blood.

We give thanks for his consummate skill and professionalism as an investigative reporter, writer, and editor. For his determination, intellectual rigour and insight. For all that he did to nurture and encourage young journalists. For all that he contributed to the profession that was his life.

We remember, too, a man of great wisdom, known for his kindness and his generosity; a man of great heart, and great personality; an amiable man, with a gift for friendship and a tremendous sense of fun. We remember a man with a profound love of cricket; a man who loved his restaurants.

And above all we remember a man who was devoted to his family, who were always so very close to his heart.

Loving God, our refuge and our strength,
as we gather today to give thanks for the life of Tony Dawe,
whom we love but see no longer,
we rejoice that he is now held safe in your loving arms.
Though parted from us, he remains alive in our hearts and in our love.
Hold him in your perfect and infinite care,
Until the day comes when we, too,
can find life, and peace and perfect joy with him,
enfolded in your love and grace for all eternity. In Jesus’ name we pray.



Will Ellsworth-Jones

Tony went into hospital on Easter Sunday with no one knowing just how ill he was. On the Tuesday he could only walk with difficulty. He was getting frustrated because no one seemed to be able to diagnose what was wrong with him so Tony, being Tony, threatened to discharge himself because he was just plain bored.

On the Wednesday he was very much worse, breathless, exhausted and in pain. And yet across the ward Liz could hear him talking on the phone to his boss at The Times.

He assured Mark that he would be writing up all the interviews in his notebook for the forthcoming supplement: Top 50 Employers For Women or Top Tottie as he reduced it to in his deliberately non-PC way. There was no need to commission anyone else. And there was no need to commission anyone else for the piece he was writing about Rotterdam. That he would write as soon as he was out of hospital. But of course he never left hospital. He died early on Sunday morning.

And in many ways the qualities that he showed in those last few days of his life were the qualities that shone through his life and particularly his journalistic life.

I knew him in the Seventies when we both worked in the Sunday Times newsroom. He was fun, he was good and he was loud. Loud ties, loud shirts and loud voice. He faced stiff opposition. We had a medical correspondent who SHOUTED down the phone questions about the most intimate subjects which you would much rather not hear about; we had an education correspondent who was a little deaf and thought that if he needed shouting at then so too did everyone else. We had a local government correspondent who was shouting at her many connections in Ireland, not about local government, but about her horse. Despite his voice Tony was almost a horse whisperer in comparison. But more important he was dogged, persistent, committed and as Magnus Linklater former news editor of The Sunday Times says ‘he would never let you down.’

He rose through the Sunday Times ranks, ending up as News Editor himself. One reporter looking back on those days says ‘He was absolutely the outstanding news editor of my career.’ From there he went to the Daily Express where he worked with the investigations team led by Jack Crossley. Sue Peart, now editor of the Mail on Sunday You Magazine recalls ‘ One kind of knew that he was the absolute beating heart of the newspaper where all the really big stories were generated. I think it was a couple of years before I even dared speak to Tony! But he really was a gentle giant a lovely man with a tremendous sense of humour.’

Next he moved to The Times where, again led by Jack Crossley he covered major events like the Kings Cross Fire, and the SAS shootings in Gibraltar. From there to the Sunday Express, landing up as Deputy Editor before being made redundant in the endless game of musical chairs that the Express was playing at the time.

It was his last staff job, he became freelance in 1991 and although he got no more titles he managed to survive in newspapers much, much longer than most of us. Finding a congenial slot at The Times, he commissioned pieces, wrote pieces, had a Travel column for 15 years, represented The Times at functions, had a desk, a computer, a phone – and yet he wasn’t on the staff or even on a retainer. Pretending a certain amount of incredulity he explained ‘I am a person of no position whatever, but they keep asking me to do things.’ I think this remarkable feat of survival was largely due to his writing and editing skills, but also because whenever managers were looking for their inevitable cuts there was no Tony; since he wasn’t on the staff and he wasn’t on a contract, he was invisible – to them at least.

When he worked on the Sunday Times the paper was swiftly becoming famous for its investigations and there was considerable rivalry between the sixth floor where Insight hung out and the Fifth floor where we worker bees were slaving away. And while Insight ran away with most of the glory it was on the fifth floor that many investigations were being pursued week after week and Tony was at the heart of them. In particular he was the leading investigator in one of the biggest scandals of the 70’s involving the architect John Poulson who bribed his way across North East England, using local councillors and others in his pay to get the contracts to re-develop their cities. Del Mercer, his news editor at the time says now ‘I chose Tony for the Poulson scandal because he was a good investigative reporter, tenacious, and good on detail. It was a long slog, it needed persistence and Tony had it.’

Tony had shown that determination from early days. In 1966 he won a place on the Thomson graduate training scheme for journalists and promptly abandoned his degree course at Liverpool University. His first job was with the Middlesborough Evening Gazette as a reporter although he wrote an occasional column called Tony Dawe Speaks Frankly which I am sure he had no trouble at all in writing. Two years later, aged 22, he got a job on The Sunday Times and he was on his way.

And as he climbed up the ladder he was happy to give back what he had learned. Reporter Michael Bilton remembers getting off a plane from the Caribbean with a good and exclusive story on how the banana company Geest was treating or rather mistreating their workers. Now of course the problem was that he had to actually write the story. Michael says: ‘Tony’s advice was simple: Start with one character, tell his story in two or three pars then move on into the broader story background. Tony shepherded me through the process, he was a terrific mentor.’

But Michael says what he will always remember Tony for is his understanding when his wife lost their baby at full term. ‘No one could have supported us more than Tony. He was kindness itself and told me only to return to work when the family was settled. I was absent for five weeks and when I went to tell him I was ready to go back to work he took me out to lunch.’

Yet although Tony led an exciting journalistic life he never went on about it. Nigel Williamson, former news editor at The Times, who worked with Tony for several years read his obituary in the paper and added ‘I didn’t know half the stories in this obituary. There are some reporters who would never have stopped reminding the rest of us of their glorious byline history if they had covered the Vietnam War and an expedition to the North Pole, yet I was unaware that Tony had reported either of those stories until this morning’s paper. He seemed to operate on the basis that he was only as good as his next story – not the last one- and that speaks volumes for the man’s modesty and professionalism.

But of course concentrating on this serious side of Tony is to tell only part of the story. Take nicknames they are a very mixed blessing. Who wants to be called Tricky Dicky, or Milk Snatcher, or Paddy Pantsdown. Tony was just about the only journalist I knew who had a nickname, two actually. There was the simple one T Dan Dawe after T Dan Smith a major villain in the Poulson case, and the slightly more complicated one: Two Dinners Dawe. There are differing accounts of how he acquired this nickname but the one I like the best comes from his cricketing days. He regularly opened the batting for his beloved Coldharbour Cricket Club – usually successfully. But on this one occasion –unfortunately an all day match – he was out for a duck. Thus there was a long day ahead of him and when he came back to the pavilion he could only console himself by polishing off not one but two lunches, washed down with the requisite amount of port. No wonder former chairman of the Club, Clive Acres, in his address at Tony’s funeral called him ‘more galleon than gazelle’ and said that Tony had certain specific batting rules for batsmen joining him which included: ‘no quick singles and no running three.’

But the thing is that unlike the politicians these were fond nicknames acknowledging that Tony was a slightly larger than life character, someone who everybody warmed to. The temptation at this point is to fill the church with anecdotes to illustrate this, but maybe they are for The Humble Grape. I think two short ones will suffice one from his life in journalism the other from his cricketing life.

Peter Wilby who was education correspondent at The Sunday Times in those days remembers Tony for his humour, conviviality and good journalism and good lunching. ‘We once went to lunch in a nearby restaurant where the service was unusually quick and we had finished eating and even had coffee by 2pm. I said to Tony ‘I suppose we should get back to the office.’ ‘No we can’t go back to the office NOW,’ replied Tony ‘They’ll think we’ve quarreled ‘ And he immediately ordered another bottle of wine.

But I will leave the last word to Patrick Kidd the Times’ political sketchwriter and diary editor who knew Tony as a much-loved friend and colleague.

‘I recall him playing cricket for my charity team at Audley End in a match which ended in a sudden rain shower. I still have the vision of Tony walking out onto the outfield in this deluge wearing only underpants – he was of course a statuesque figure – and clutching a bottle of shampoo so that he could have a natural shower. God knows what visitors to the English Heritage house must have made of it. The sign of a good life is being remembered with a smile after you have gone and Tony certainly has provoked a lot of smiles.

Mark Barber

With Tony’s passing, another stalwart of old school journalism, hot metal and liquid lunches has been taken from us. It also means that I find myself addressing you, his fellow Fleet Street hacks, whereas ordinarily I would have asked the man himself to perform the task.

This is why those of you who also attended Tony’s funeral in May will have seen me in a suit more times than he did in the 6 or 7 years I worked alongside him.

For Tony was a natural front man. Prince or pauper, debutante or dustman, he had the ability not just to mingle easily with them, but also to enable them to relax in each other’s company.

I remember one visit with him to my home town of Stevenage – or Saint Evenage as he lovingly referred to it. Borough had just seen off the mighty AFC Wimbledon and Tony was taking the edge off his disappointment with a pint or two, along with a gang of my rough-hewn mates from school.

He had immediately clicked with them and when he went to the bar to buy his round one of them leant over and said in a hoarse whisper: “Great bloke, and very well spoken.”

And he was. Whether talking to captains of industry, or haranguing the hapless IT department of The Times. No one could impress, or berate, in so erudite a fashion.

While Tony’s command of the language was universally admired, the same could not be said of his grasp of technology.

Take his mobile, for example. It was a Doro flip phone, specifically designed for the technically challenged.

I believe it holds the dubious distinction of being the only mobile ever to be handed in to lost and found on the Underground. And if Tony hadn’t claimed it the next owner was likely to be the V & A.

His antipathy to all things technical was nothing new. A feature he wrote while working on The Times motoring supplement in 1996 carried the standfirst: Fine weather, beautiful cars, what could go wrong?

I’ll let Tony explain:

“Jane threw a tantrum last Friday night. Not surprisingly really; she had been deprived at the last minute of first place in a historic parade and behaved in the only way a grand lady knows.

“Jane is a 1901 Daimler, one of the oldest and finest on the road. But her place at the head of the cavalcade of Coventry-built cars organised to celebrate the centenary of the British motor industry, had been usurped by a more original model.

“Her response was to stop in her tracks at busy traffic lights on the fringe of Coventry city centre.

“If Jane had been petulant, Big Bertha, the 1948 Jaguar Mark 5 that I collected the next day, was a real bitch.

“She looked extremely elegant with her long black nose and graceful body but became bad tempered.

“Bertha boiled over and by the time we reached the hills we were both enveloped in steam.

“Several buckets of water later we attempted to continue but Bertha flatly refused. After a long rest we finally made it to the lunch stop where I required buckets to drink and decided to retire.”

But retirement was never on Tony’s mind, unlike a lunchtime livener or a “meeting with chums” as he politely referred to it.

Starting with a pint — or two – before food to “lubricate the route”, he would progress to a large glass – or two — of montepulciano to kick-start the creative process.

While for us mere mortals that would herald an afternoon nap, for Tony it served merely as the prelude to penning two 600 word features, a sidebar, factbox and a couple of fillers before close of play.

A prolific and entertaining writer, he never missed a deadline, although he often took it to the wire. And his integrity was never in question.

Throughout his long career he raged against the dying of the journalistic light – often to the dismay of our commercial paymasters.

Tony loved what he did and was happy to share that passion with those he worked alongside. I, together with the other members of the New Tricks team, was lucky enough to be one of those beneficiaries.

I feel privileged to have worked with him, to have learnt from him and to have been counted as his friend — gifts for which I will remain forever grateful.

Cheers Tony.


Sally Brown read 1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child; I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

James Dawe read Days of Summer by Neville Cardus

Every summer I travel north, south, east and west to watch cricket. I have seen the game played far down in Kent, at Dover, near the cliffs trodden by King Lear. There, one late August afternoon, I said goodbye to a cricket season on a field which lay silent in the evening sunshine; the match, the last of the year, was over and the players gone. I stayed for a while in the falling light and saw birds run over the grass as the mists began to spread. That day we had watched Woolley in all his glory, batting his way through a hundred felicitous runs. While he batted, the crowd sat with white tents and banners all around – a blessed scene, wisps of cloud in the sky, green grass for our feet to tread upon, ‘laughter of friends under an English heaven.’ It was all over and gone now, as I stood on the little field alone in the glow of the declining day. “The passing of summer”, I thought. “There can be no summer in this land without cricket.”

Sue Ockwell read Bear eats huskies’ rations – Tony Dawe reports from the Arctic for The Times, 1 June 1969

An Arctic Adventure

In 1969, The Sunday Times sent their new young reporter, Tony Dawe, to cover the final months of the British Trans-Arctic Expedition, an epic journey by land across the polar ice-cap. Between March and June, by air and sea, he tracked Wally Herbert and his team as they made the first surface crossing of the Arctic Ocean. Collectable by-lines rolled in – Tony Dawe on Ice Island T3, Arctic Ocean. Tony Dawe, Thule, Greenland. Tony Dawe, Point Barrow, Alaska. Tony Dawe on board HMS Endurance off Spitzbergen. Tony Dawe in the Greenland Sea. Tony Dawe, The North Sea. He was just 23.

Here, with an acute interest in the team’s food supplies, he reports for The Times on June 1, under the headline Bear eats huskies’ rations.
“A shortage of food and fuel is today threatening the four weary members of the British Trans-Arctic Expedition as they drift on the ice away from the most northerly island of the Spitzbergen group, where they made their first landfall.

They are down to their last supplies of meat-bar, dried vegetables, biscuits and cheese and there is little food for the 35 huskies. Herbert had intended to reach the Spitzbergen mainland by today and pick up supplies moved by helicopter off HMS Endurance, but the expedition is still drifting out on the ice more than 60 miles from target.

The ship’s helicopters are making regular ice reconnaissance flights, and I joined Lt Cmdr Tony Pawsey on a trip to Biskayerhuken, 15 miles from the ship’s present position, to collect supplies.

As we flew over the ice, we saw polar bear tracks, seal holes and birds silhouetted against the glaring whiteness as they flew in perfect formation, unperturbed by the helicopter’s whirring blades. Approaching the supplies hut at Biskayerhuken, we disturbed a herd of reindeer which raced away, almost outstripping the helicopter with their long, elegant strides.

We discovered we were not the first visitors. The door had been broken down, the supplies were in disarray and there was no sign of the dog food. Some small pieces of cardboard were all that remained of 10 boxes of dog food. But even this had obviously failed to satisfy the polar bear’s appetite: a tin of porridge oats had also been ripped open, one of its sides being pitted with huge teethmarks.”


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

Nocturne opus 9 No 1 in B flat minor – Chopin

In paradisum from Requiem – Fauré

O quam gloriosum – Victoria

Bring us, O Lord God – Harris

In my life – Lennon & McCartney arr. Jordan/Buckley

Matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs – Brian & Michael arr. Morley

Rhapsody No 3 – Howells


Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven

Dear Lord And Father of Mankind

He Who Would Valiant Be

Obituaries & Comment

congregation sitting for service


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