I’m blogging this article by Peter Preston quite a bit after time, but I am blogging it for the same reason I started Slugger (and no, it was not to gain friends or to influence people): to save myself from tangling with inscrutable newspaper archives in re-finding the good journalism that I pick up along the way. This is my top pick of the obits for the late Bill Deeds, and as such it bears even such a tardy mention on Slugger:
So why, dead at last at 94, so many eulogies? Greatness has nothing to do with it. Bill Deedes had two things that could not be matched in the Fleet Street he served inexhaustibly: life force and wisdom. He wasn’t just nice, he was wise in an unpompous, forgiving way. He was a journalist you could trust – and respect – because his real personality came through. There aren’t too many of them around. Treasure them when you can.
It wasn’t merely the energy of a nonagenarian that inspired a kind of awe, though. It was what he wrote and the way he wrote it that counted. Take his last column, only a couple of weeks ago, penned from his bed.
‘It is time the world was shaken awake to the infamy of what is going on in Darfur,’ he wrote.
‘In terms of man’s inhumanity to man, what has been going on there for four years is now comparable to the death camps for which Germany’s Nazis were found guilty. That statement may provoke cries of outrage from some: surely the Holocaust stands alone?
‘Not to me it doesn’t, and as a soldier I had to enter one of those camps and went to the trial of its commandant. I have also been to Darfur.’
Perhaps he sometimes played the flannelled fool, perhaps his love for the old, wet Conservative party of Supermac sometimes blurred the line where journalism began. But nothing he did in his long, long life was malevolent or crooked or even unkind.
Dear Bill. You made your own luck in the end, and with a humanity that will linger in the memory of those who knew and followed you, long after the anecdotes are worn out by repetition and the obituarists have moved on. Journalists can be human beings, too.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty