Sue Carroll: Journalist acclaimed for her straight-talking columns


For the last 50 years or so the chippy female columnist, with strongly stated commonsense attitudes towards nearly everything, has been an indispensable presence in British tabloid newspapers. Jean Rook and Lynda Lee-Potter were among the acknowledged mistresses of the craft – and the Daily Mirror's Sue Carroll, who died from pancreatic cancer on Christmas Day, aged 58, has every right to be ranked alongside them.

She became a star columnist in 1998, comparatively late in her career, after holding a series of executive positions on newspapers and magazines within Rupert Murdoch's News International group. When the rival Mirror lured her away she set out her stall in her debut article with a forthright declaration of principle – in effect a manifesto for all such columns: "I'm about real life... I don't like being told what to do by bullies. I will be looking at life in a rough, no-nonsense way and, most importantly, I intend to talk from the heart."

Her favourite targets included political correctness, yobbish behaviour and the "health police". A militant advocate for the right to smoke in public, she appeared on platforms at meetings organised by Forest, the tobacco industry's lobby group, in their failed attempt to head off the Labour government's ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants. She came down hard on celebrities whose foibles and public pronouncements provoked her disapproval. In 2002 one of them, the model Naomi Campbell, sued the Mirror for breach of privacy, also alleging that Carroll's description of her as a "chocolate soldier" was racist. The High Court awarded £1,000 in damages in relation to the use of the phrase.

Yet she had many friends in the entertainment world, among them Sir Bruce Forsyth and Barbara Windsor. That she was held in the highest regard is shown by the Mirror devoting 11 pages, plus a leading article, to recording her death. She was, too, in demand as a television pundit, mostly on Alan Titchmarsh's daytime talk show on ITV.

Born in 1953 in Gosforth, Newcastle, where her father worked in a shop selling household appliances, Susan Elizabeth Carroll left the local grammar school at 18 and went to Scotland to work for two years at Jackie, a magazine for teenage girls. Her principal task was to offer advice to readers on overcoming the problems of adolescence. In 1970 she moved to London as an interviewer of celebrities for the magazine Woman. Before long she achieved her ambition to join a national newspaper, when she was hired as a reporter on Murdoch's News of the World.

Over the next two decades she alternated between that Sunday tabloid and its sister daily, The Sun, doing less and less writing as she began to climb the executive ladder. In 1988 she was made editor of Sun Woman, a weekly supplement to the daily paper focusing on topics relating to health and emotional problems. One of its prime features was the "Page Seven Fella" – a scantily-clad and well-endowed young man, a counterweight to the paper's notorious Page Three Girls.

She returned to the News of the World to edit Sunday, its weekly magazine, and in a book published to mark the paper's 150th anniversary in 1993 she was described as "a voluptuous red-headed Geordie". (On her staff was a younger woman with similar hair colouring, Rebekah Wade, who was to rise rapidly through the ranks to become News International's chief executive, the post from which she resigned this year at the height of the phone hacking scandal.)

In the summer of 2010 Carroll was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, the disease from which her maternal grandfather had died. During afive-hour operation surgeons discovered that two malignant tumours could not be removed because they weretoo close to an artery. A few weeks later, while undergoing chemotherapy,she suffered a stroke that left her partly paralysed. Yet the following March she was able to write a long article in the Mirror describing her illness and its treatment.

"No one has blamed my lifestyle, so I don't regret a single cigarette or cocktail," she wrote. "I'd love my old life back but I was as determined then, as I am now, not to whinge about life being unfair." She promised to renew her column; but it soon became clear that her condition was untreatable.

She was unmarried but enjoyed a 25-year relationship with a married fellow journalist. She admitted this to readers of her column: "He's a rare and special man because he makes me laugh. He is also married, which is not so funny. It's not something I expect to be applauded for. I simply say that if people could choose who they would fall in love with, life would be a piece of cake."

Michael Leapman

Susan Elizabeth Carroll, journalist: born Newcastle-upon-Tyne 6 December 1953; died London 25 December 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas