Obituary: Lord Willis

Click to follow
The Independent Online
TED WILLIS was widely known as a talented and prolific playwright and author and as a Labour peer who contributed significantly to the Upper House, writes John Grant (further to the obituary by Peter Cotes and Lord Ardwick, 24 December). What should also be placed on record is his kindly and caring nature and his unashamed sentimentality over family and friends. He was always ready to help those down on their luck and sometimes needed the down-to- earth protection of Audrey, the wife he adored, against his own impulsive generosity.

Ted had two unfulfilled ambitions: to have been Arts Minister in a Labour government; and to have been a Tottenham Hotspur FC director (though he was ever- ready to join me at Highbury to watch Arsenal, his team's great north London rivals). He would have been a decided asset in either role.

These were minor disappointments in a lifetime of achievement. He described himself as 'a first-class second-rate author' but his work gave pleasure to millions of ordinary people. That was his great satisfaction.

He was a lifelong socialist, though somewhat disillusioned in later years. He was a staunch and understanding friend when I left Labour for the SDP, perhaps in part because he recalled his own youthful and temporary defection from Labour to the Young Communists and recognised too, the painful political readjustment of others close to him. He would readily deliver a word-perfect recitation of Kipling's 'If'. Ted certainly filled 'the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds' worth of distance run'. If he was slowing down a little on the last lap, he nevertheless wrote busily to the end. He was a 'wordaholic', a craftsman and true professional who always met his deadlines.