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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn