Obituary: Harry Fieldhouse
Thursday 11 March 1993
FLEET STREET has lost one of its most innovative talents with the death of Harry Fieldhouse. Imaginative, gifted, witty, Fieldhouse always seemed slightly withdrawn from the world about him, but, at his peak, ideas flowed unceasingly and he could be one of the most understanding and encouraging of editors.
His career oscillated between newspapers and magazines and perhaps this lack of a consistent thread may explain why he never reached the heights for which his talents certainly equipped him. After the war he started as a feature writer on the Daily Sketch where pre-war he had been a copy boy. He soon transferred to the Sunday Express as 'Cross- bencher' and began his lifelong admiration of Lord Beaverbrook. Unfortunately this was not fully reciprocated and Fieldhouse became a leader-writer on the Daily Express; there he met his wife Shirley Lowe, with whom he remained friends even after their divorce. In 1960 he switched to editing Tatler, where he was able to display his ability for dealing with gifted contributors. But, always independent-minded, Fieldhouse objected to what he saw as managerial interference with editorial matters and resigned; Elizabeth David, the cookery writer, promptly resigned as well, saying she would not allow anyone but Fieldhouse to handle her work. Other women who blossomed under his sympathetic eye at one time or another were Lynn Barber, Penny Vincenzi and Angela Ince.
Fieldhouse then went to IPC where for a time he was PA to Hugh Cudlipp, acting both as an amanuensis for Cudlipp's second book, At Your Peril, and perhaps more usefully as a handyman on Cudlipp's boat, which was in some need of repair. (Fieldhouse was a brilliant DIY-er.) Always abreast of new developments in printing, he was working on a new photojournalism feature when he became the first man to bring the device of Letraset into the Mirror composing room, and nearly provoked a strike of printers in the process. He devised and later became the first editor of Nova in the mid-Sixties but, perhaps because it was a magazine well in advance of its time, sales disappointed Cudlipp and they parted company. Meanwhile, Fieldhouse had been helping his friend Bob Guccione with the dummy of Penthouse (Guccione had been a cartoonist on Tatler during Fieldhouse's editorship). Later he helped bring it out in the US.
Perhaps mistakenly believing that girlie magazines were the path to financial riches, Fieldhouse started his own, Alpha; but his heart wasn't involved; it did not last long and cost a lot of his own money. He soon found a job on the Telegraph magazine and transferred in 1976 to the Sunday Express magazine, where his literary skills gained my total admiration. He last appeared in print as a contributing writer to the Twentieth Century Chronicle.
Harry Fieldhouse was full of surprises. He combined a passion for the latest gadgets with an equal obsession for the English language, producing a guide to that subject for Everyman in 1982. Asked once what gift he would like to bestow on his adored son Dirk, he replied: 'The gift of scepticism'. Harry had that in full measure. He also had a passion for large Cadillacs which he would drive round the narrow streets of London expatiating meanwhile on the superiority of American engineering.
While outwardly calm and unemotional, he formed many friendships with outgoing ravers, which perhaps showed most clearly the sort of man he would like to have been himself. His last years as Parkinson's disease gradually overcame him were sad but greatly eased by the loving care of his son, with the generous help of his former wife. An original and versatile figure has gone.
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