'Giant of journalism and much loved
· Tributes to Bill Deedes span political spectrum
· Veteran newsman filed last column on August 3
Saturday August 18, 2007
Lord Deedes, one of the leading figures in British journalism, former Telegraph
editor, war hero and Tory cabinet minister, died at his home in Kent yesterday
after a short illness at the age of 94.
His career spanned most of the 20th century; from early beginnings as a young
reporter sent to cover the Abyssinian war in 1935 to becoming a decorated
solider during the second world war; he then moved into politics, joining post-war
government under Churchill before returning to journalism.
Last night Fleet Street luminaries and politicians paid tribute to Bill Deedes (as he
preferred to be known), a "giant among men".
Gordon Brown said Britain owed a "huge debt of gratitude" to Lord Deedes for
his public service in a career which spanned more than 76 years. "Few have
served journalism and the British people for so long at such a high level of
distinction and with such a popular following," the prime minister said.
It was a popularity immortalised in fiction first as the model for the war
correspondent hero of Evelyn Waugh's Scoop and later as "Dear Bill", recipient
of the fictional letters from Denis Thatcher in Private Eye.
But it is as a journalist he will best be remembered. Aidan Barclay, chairman of
the Telegraph Media Group, said: "Bill Deedes was a giant among men - a
towering figure in journalism, an icon in British politics, and a humanitarian to his
very core. He was part of the fabric of the Telegraph: in his passing, we have lost
part of ourselves. We will not see his like again."
The veteran editor and anti-landmine campaigner had served in Harold Mac-
millan's cabinet; held the Military Cross; was made a life peer in 1986 and
knighted for services to journalism in 1999. He wrote his last column for the
Telegraph on August 3.
Lady Thatcher described him as a "dear friend", adding: "He had a uniquely
distinguished career in politics and journalism. I am deeply sorry at his passing."
Despite retiring as editor of the Telegraph in 1986, Lord Deedes was still
reporting from hostile environments even into his 90s, highlighting the plight of
Bosnia, Kosovo, Angola, Liberia and Sudan.
Jeremy Deedes, his son and the former managing director of the Telegraph,
said: "The Daily Telegraph was his great love and his dearest wish was to die in
harness which happily is how it ended."
Conrad Black, the former owner of the Telegraph awaiting sentencing in Canada
for fraud, said Lord Deedes had been "a legend, an institution, and a beloved
figure to generations of journalists". He described Lord Deedes as a tirelessly
conscientious reporter who had been particularly supportive of young journalists.
"He was a wise and delightful colleague. He will be long and gratefully
remembered by all of the people who knew him."
The Tory leader, David Cameron, said: "Bill was quite extraordinary: doing
enough in his time to fill at least three lifetimes. He was always a source of both
wisdom and entertainment."
Murdoch MacLennan, TMG chief executive, said: "The sun has set on a
remarkable life, lived very much for the benefit of others."
His wife Hilary Branfoot, who he married in 1942, died in 2004. They had two
sons, one of whom, Jeremy, survives, and three daughters, Juliet, Jill and Lucy.