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Sunday 19 September 2010

Fleet St farewell to ‘mischievous’ journalist Alan

Ruth Dudley Edwards reports on the memorial service in London of ‘Sunday Independent’ columnist Alan Ruddock

‘Mischief’ was the word most used of Alan Ruddock last Thursday at his packed memorial service in St Bride’s, the Fleet Street church that serves the press.

It was used by the Reverend George Pitcher, himself an iconoclastic journalist, as he spoke lovingly of a man of great talent and with a marvelous gift for friendship. It was used, too, by Ian Birrell, a distinguished protégé of Alan’s, who described his horror when, as they took tea with loyalist murderer Billy Wright, Alan mentioned genially that Birrell was a Catholic. Birrell spoke of Alan the polymath, story-getter and ‘dark wit’, who delighted in catching out cant, puncturing pomposity and taking on the Establishment.

As well as recollecting Alan’s joy in attacking orthodoxies, the foreign correspondent Richard Beeston communicated the sheer terror of being a passenger as Alan drove a motor bike recklessly and badly around South Africa.

They let him speak for himself, too.

There was a hilarious quote from an article he wrote in 1994 in The Sunday Times about Albert Reynolds that led to a celebrated and massively costly libel case, and which made English legal history by extending the rights of responsible journalists. The expense wouldn’t have troubled Alan. As his friends pointed out, he took little notice of his newspapers’ money men.

We were reminded of the letter from Jackie read to his funeral service that spoke of the great life they had had with their three boys; the things they wanted to do were done.

Journalists gave readings, including entertaining passages from two Sunday Independent articles. Alan’s anger in 2002 about child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and what he considered an episcopal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice was fierce, but an account in 2006 of the mayhem unleashed by Michael O’Leary on vested interests was gleeful.

Hymns were traditional and ended triumphantly (“Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son/Endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won”) and a magnificent English choir extended its range with Lennon and McCartney’s In My Life and the very Irish The Parting Glass. Then – on instructions from the Reverend George Pitcher – the congregation strode off to that legendary hang-out of hacks, El Vino’s.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards