Obituary: Tom Greenwell

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TOM GREENWELL was an exceptionally talented journalist.

In the early 1950s he became a gossip columnist for the Evening Standard's "London Last Night" and became a member of the group known as the "Angry Young Men" whose members were mainly writers. The novelist John Braine, who in 1957 wrote Room at the Top, the writer Stuart Holroyd and Greenwell shared a house together in Chepstow Road, in Notting Hill, west London, and the social life was hectic. John Osborne and Colin Wilson were among other friends. Greenwell's first marriage, in 1953, was followed by divorce in the same year.

In the early 1960s Braine, a Yorkshireman, introduced Greenwell to Kenneth Young, then Editor of The Yorkshire Post. Greenwell accepted a job offer to be leader writer - just to fill in for six months until they found somebody else. In 1961 he became chief leader writer, and held this influential post, specialising in Middle Eastern affairs, until his retirement in 1988.

Greenwell was born in 1923, the son of a marine engineer. Although enlistment age was 18, at 16 he lied about his age and joined the Royal Navy on the outbreak of the Second World War. He was with the Combined Operations Forces, serving on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Fleet and in 1944 on the sea-going liaison with the Italian Navy. From 1945 until 1953 he was attached to the Foreign Office in Signals Intelligence as an Overseas Control officer. Like others who saw action, he seldom discussed his signals, secrets and war experiences.

For many years Greenwell was a member of the Institute of Journalists, and in 1983 he was appointed OBE for his services to journalism. Outside the profession, his many interests included theatre and music. After his retirement from The Yorkshire Post he wrote a War Monologue which won a prize at the Wakefield Literary Festival in 1997. It was performed by three different sets of players on three consecutive nights giving three interpretations.

Tom Greenwell stayed at our family home in Leeds for 10 years before his second marriage, in 1972, to Vicki, with whom he had a daughter, Camilla. (My mother used to let rooms to musicians, theatrical types, journalists and many other wandering minstrels and characters.) He was wonderful company, amusing, sharp, happy to take his seat at any impromptu poker school. He had a rare and enviable ability to get on with his fellow man.

"Hire that act!" he cried one evening in our hall. The person singing and playing on our piano in the drawing room was Georgie Fame, then appearing at the Empire Theatre, Leeds, as an unknown piano player in an unheard- of rock 'n' roll group.

Tom Greenwell had good eyesight and, remarkably, for a journalist, he never wore spectacles. He donated his eyes to be used by others after his death.

Richard Auty

Thomas Greenwell, journalist: born Beamish, Co Durham 20 May 1923; twice married (one daughter); died Leeds 27 March 1999.

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