Ross Benson

Journalist for the 'Express' and 'Mail' equally adept as diarist and foreign correspondent


Ross Benson, journalist: born 29 September 1948; Deputy Diary Editor, Daily Mail
1968-71, writer and foreign correspondent 1997-2005; Deputy Diary Editor, Sunday Express
1971-72; staff, Daily Express
1973-97, Foreign News Editor 1975-76, specialist writer 1976-78, US West Coast correspondent 1978-82, chief foreign correspondent 1982-87, chief feature writer 1987-88, Diary Editor 1988-97; married 1968 Beverly Rose (one son; marriage dissolved 1974), 1975 Zoë Bennett (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1986), 1987 Ingrid Seward (one daughter); died London 8 March 2005.

Ross Benson, journalist: born 29 September 1948; Deputy Diary Editor, Daily Mail 1968-71, writer and foreign correspondent 1997-2005; Deputy Diary Editor, Sunday Express 1971-72; staff, Daily Express 1973-97, Foreign News Editor 1975-76, specialist writer 1976-78, US West Coast correspondent 1978-82, chief foreign correspondent 1982-87, chief feature writer 1987-88, Diary Editor 1988-97; married 1968 Beverly Rose (one son; marriage dissolved 1974), 1975 Zoë Bennett (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1986), 1987 Ingrid Seward (one daughter); died London 8 March 2005.

Ross Benson was the most versatile of journalists. One of Fleet Street's leading gossip columnists in a period when gossip was becoming the chief selling point of the mid-market tabloids he worked for, he was also a gifted foreign correspondent, producing a body of distinguished, award-winning reportage, most recently in Iraq.

Born in Scotland in 1948, Benson had a peripatetic childhood, moving with his parents to Africa, Australia and the Netherlands before being sent to Gordonstoun, the tough Scottish private school, where he was a contemporary of Prince Charles. After leaving school he worked for London Life magazine and then, at the age of 20, joined the Daily Mail's diary column. In 1971 he switched to the Sunday Express and then moved over to its daily sister, where he stayed for most of his career.

He was anxious not to be typecast as a gossip writer, although his charm and enjoyment of high-society functions seemed to make him a natural for the role. His real ambition was to be a foreign correspondent, and in 1975 he persuaded the Express to appoint him deputy foreign editor. In 1978 he was sent out to Los Angeles as its West Coast correspondent - an ideal berth for him, combining tittle-tattle about the Hollywood stars with the opportunity to travel around the United States and other parts of the Americas on more serious and rewarding assignments.

I met him in El Salvador on one of his earliest forays into the region's hotspots, and was struck by his determination to counter any impression that his main strength was in covering the frothy side of life. He had the perfect demeanour for a foreign correspondent - calm, patient, courteous and refusing to be ruffled by the obstacles that officialdom liked to strew in our paths. He was the opposite of the flashy reporter who always seeks to be at the forefront of the action. He knew that it was just as important to nag away at the essence of a story, to find out what local people were really feeling and what lay behind the conflict.

Impressive, too, was his stylish attire. Even travelling in the depths of the jungle he would wear a clean and crisply pressed safari suit. Back home, his Savile Row suits and Jermyn Street shirts became something of a Fleet Street legend. The word dapper could have been expressly invented to describe him.

He moved back to London in 1982 and for five years was the Daily Express's chief foreign correspondent, flying out to cover the major stories of the period, including the Falklands War. In 1983 he was named International Reporter of the Year in the British Press Awards. In 1988, though, he was lured back to take over the paper's diary column, with the formidable task of going head-to-head with the Mail's Nigel Dempster, then the doyen of the gossip trade.

In 1990 he published his first book, as ghost writer of the "autobiography" of George Best, the colourful footballer ( The Good, the Bad and the Bubbly). This was followed by a biography of a Beatle, Paul McCartney: behind the myth (1992), and a royal book, Charles: the untold story (1993).

He went back to the Daily Mail in 1997 and to foreign reporting, always his real love. In recent years he wrote with feeling and insight on the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. He became especially incensed when David Blunkett, then Home Secretary, accused him and other British reporters in Baghdad of being influenced by Iraqi propaganda. His work in Iraq won him a London Press Club award last year.

Benson was married three times and had three children. His 1987 marriage to Ingrid Seward, the editor of Majesty magazine, was the one that endured. They had houses in Oxfordshire and in Belgravia - not too far from Chelsea's home ground, where he was a season-ticket holder, and where he watched his team beat Barcelona in the Champions' League on the evening he died.

Michael Leapman

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: General Manager

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of global logisti...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - £70,000 OTE

£35000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager (Vice President...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Marketing Executive i...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable