Obituary: Lord Ardwick

JOHN ARDWICK - or John Beavan, or Lord Ardwick, for he tailored his 'signoff' according to the subject of his piece - was a supporter of the Independent from its brave beginnings in 1986, writes James Fergusson.

In the first place this was sentimental, for one of the founders, and for eight years its Deputy Editor, was Matthew Symonds, his son by Anne Symonds, the BBC World Service journalist. Ardwick was frankly sceptical about the newspaper's chances and declined offers to invest in its shares on the grounds that he would need the money to bail his son out when it folded. But when, by that strange combination of luck and alchemy that is now the stuff of hardback books, the Independent was launched into the world to a surprising succes d'estime, Ardwick became one of its loyalest admirers. If you rang him before lunch, he would complain that he had had a wasted morning because he could not put the paper down.

His commitment to the Independent, fortunately, went further than a subscription at his newsagent's. One of the less obvious problems of founding a new quality newspaper is that it has no one to write its obituaries. The average age of the paper's first staff was unusually low (it was said to be 32) and of retired staff (a traditional writing-pool for obituaries) there were none. John Ardwick in his several sobriquets personified our historical memory in two important subject areas - politics and journalism. He became an invaluable adviser and contributor.

He it was who, in the middle of an awkward night less than three months after the paper was launched, dictated a seamless leading article on the death of Harold Macmillan. Over the years following he reported from the 'waiting- room', as he called the House of Lords, with obituaries of fellow Labour peers including Lords Blyton, Heycock and Underhill, Ponsonby of Shulbrede, Silkin of Dulwich and Stewart of Fulham, as well as such figures from journalism as Harold Hutchinson, Cecil King and - his junior by 24 years, untimely snatched - Peter Jenkins, the Independent's political commentator. Several hefty obituaries that he also wrote survive him.

The sparkle in Ardwick's eye was matched by the relish in his writing. He made no secret of enjoying this new work of his old age. He concluded his obituary of Michael Stewart in 1990 with a quotation from RH Tawney: 'To have useful and interesting work to do, and enough money to do it properly, is as much happiness as is good for the sons of Adam.'

(Photograph omitted)

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 People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on