St Bride’s tribute to Peter Tory

Peter Tory in plane

                                     Mr Tory I presume: Peter sets off in search of Basingstoke 

By ALAN FRAME

It seems scarcely believable that it is almost four years since our brilliant former colleague, William Hickey editor and friend Peter Tory died. He was 73 and had lived several lives in that time. Those lives are reflected in a plaque which his partner, the artist Jacquie Govier, has had installed on a pew in St Bride’s, Fleet Street, where Peter’s memorial was held to great laughter and applause.

The inscription ‘Gentleman, humorist, explorer, aviator, raconteur’ is mostly self-explanatory apart from the ‘explorer’. We would all accept him as a gentleman; he was the Malvern-educated son of the British Ambassador to Ireland (incidentally both the obituaries of his father Sir Geoffroy – not a spelling mistake, after all this did not appear in the Grauniad – and son took up the whole of the Telegraph’s obit page on the same day); humorist, it goes without saying; aviator – he flew a Tiger Moth and a two-seater Spitfire trainer and was asked by the evil Maxwell to form a squadron to drop food supplies to starving Africans (needless to say this was another attempt at self-aggrandisement by the pension fund plunderer who dropped it the moment he was told the cost); raconteur, of course as anyone fortunate enough to have a six-hour lunch with him would affirm. 

Tory plaque (1)

But explorer? This is Jacquie’s reference to the surreal Hickey mission to discover Basingstoke, whose residents had complained about feeling cut off after a ring road had been built. To help choreograph this flight of fancy, Tory borrowed a camel from Longleat and, assisted by John Roberts and John Rydon in pith helmets and a very sporting West Indian chap in Accounts duly stripped to the waist, they arrived at their destination where they were met by the mayor. Quite what His Worship really thought remains a mystery. Pure Tory at his wonderful whimsical best. The inspired headline on the spread? Basingstoke I presume. 

The St Bride’s plaque is one of hundreds commemorating great journalists including many from the Express. Before Peter’s, the most recent to a distinguished Expressman is the one for Danny McGrory. The two were good friends and it’s nice to think of them reunited in Fleet Street’s spiritual home.   

© 2005-2017 Alastair McIntyre