A hard-working man of integrity and humility

Barrie

ASHLEY WALTON reports on the memorial service for Barrie Devney, former Industrial Editor of the Daily Express

Laughter, the vital ingredient of any Express Memorial, flooded St Bride’s Church in London’s Fleet Street.

This was not only a celebration of the rich life of a Fleet Street giant, but also of a decent hard-working man of integrity and humility.

The choir were laughing too as they whistled Eric Idle's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, the perfect epitaph for Barrie Devney, the Daily Express's top Industrial Correspondent.

The Church was packed with hacks wearing bright yellow, a special request from Barrie's family who wanted the day to be bright and cheerful.

Paul Routledge, now the Mirror's political correspondent who worked with Barrie during the height of the 70s and 80s industrial turmoil, told how union leader Joe Gormley was not only one of Barrie's best contacts but also a close friend.

"Barrie was a constant source of good humour, " said Paul. He told the congregation that Barrie (a legend in our lunch times) was supping with Joe in a top restaurant when he received a call from the Express News Desk. 

“We're told that Joe Gormley is in a particular restaurant having lunch with a fat man who is obviously a communist," said the man from the Desk. "You bloody idiot," replied Barrie. "That's me!"

Terry Pattinson, former industrial editor of the Daily Mirror, told the congregation: "Barrie was always having jokes at my expense just because I'm a bit short. He often carried a tin with him for me to stand on if I was making a speech."

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He revealed how Barrie was put in charge of the mortal remains of Sir Trevor Evans, another of Fleet Street's industrial giants who died in 1981.

He expected Trevor's remains to be in an urn but they arrived in a battered shoe box which remained for some time in Barrie's desk. A date was fixed for Fleet Street finest industrial hacks to dispose of Sir Trevor's remains with all due dignity.  The plan was to scatter them in Lincoln's Inn Fields, a spot Trevor loved.

"As the party  left the Express Barrie realised the box was splitting and Trevor was leaking out  and down the front of Barrie's suit," said Terry.

There followed the joyous sight of a bunch of portly middle-aged men jogging towards the Fields desperately  trying to reach them before Sir Trevor disappeared.

"By the time they reached the Fields the box was empty and Sir Trevor was all down Fleet Street," said Terry.

Barrie was a great fan of Mansfield Football Club. His favourite line on his not-very-good side was: "Mansfield are going to have a good day today. Why? Because they are not playing."

Barrie's son Chris, who attended the service with his sister Sue, said: My Dad was a big character, he was no good with a paint brush or a lawn mower and with no airs or graces. To us he was simply Dad."

He told how for his Army passing-out parade Barrie turned up late, as usual wearing a cream Burberry coat stuffed with notebooks, covered with biro stains and scattered with fag ash.

At the cookhouse bash which followed the three-star General who was in charge of 20,000 men wandered over to Barrie. He looked him up and down and then said sarcastically: "So what do we do for a living?"

Barrie drew himself up to his full height and held out his hand: "I'm Barrie Devney of the Daily Express."  The room fell silent. The General, now firmly in his place said meekly: "Can I get you a cup of tea?"

"This was my Dad's style," said Chris. “He was a decent, hard-working man who never forgot where he came from.

“Barrie Devney, Dad, a truly singular man."

The laughter continued into The Punch Tavern where a glass or five were raised to Barrie's memory.

*Lord Drone spotted the following at the memorial service; they are, in no particular order: Jeremy Gates, Peter Hitchens, Alan Cochrane, Clare Dover, Esther Harrod, Maurice Hibberd, Jim Davies, Jim Watson, David Wooding, Michael Watts, Roger Watkins, Richard Dismore, Terry Manners, Ashley Walton, Alan Frame, Alastair McIntyre, David Eliades, Leon Symons and Paul Wilenius.

Alan Cochrane’s tribute in the Daily Telegraph

Friends and deadly rivals

A fine industrial editor

An inspiration to Fleet Street’s big names


© 2005-2019 Alastair McIntyre