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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border