Tributes to Philip Finn, ace reporter

Finn bowtie

PHILIP FINN, former New York editor of the Daily Express, died on May 4th, 2015 aged 79. Below are tributes from his many friends.

Photographer Steve Wood said: "Of all the good folks I had the pleasure to have worked with Phil was tops. As a friend he was always at hand guiding me gently along the path trodden as a rookie photographer in the Big Apple.

"He and Brian Vine were like surrogate fathers to me and I owe them both a debt of gratitude for all the moments shared. 

"Anyone who didn't warm to Phil just wasn't worth knowing. He could get past the most firmly closed doors be they in the corridors of power or the alleys of poverty. 

"After leaving NYC in the late 1980s I never saw Phil or Ann Marie again but we kept in touch though of late I hadn't heard a lot from him. I was told a few weeks ago that he had been admitted to hospital in Aiken, South Carolina with throat cancer which spread to his lungs and he was sent home in hospice care 

"Under the circumstances it can be said that he had a fine innings and was spared the prolonged agony of a crippling disease.”

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James DaviesWhat desperately sad news about Phil Finn. He and I first met in the Doncaster office of the Yorkshire Evening News in 1959 and, with others, shared an insanitary set of digs, drank in a pub run by the brother of heavyweight champ Bruce Woodcock, played poker till three in the morning with Michael Parkinson and Ivor Key and learned the craft that he was to distinguish throughout his life. 

Later we worked together on the Express in Manchester where he conveniently lived above the Land o' Cakes, the office boozer, ate curries at ghastly hours and generally had a fabulous time.  

Phil was  a great reporter - one of the best I ever worked with - as well as a truly loyal colleague.  We went to London almost simultaneously in the mid-Sixties and once again found ourselves working side by side in  David English's notorious "Smersh" team.  He then went to New York which he conquered comfortably but we kept in touch over the years and he was a huge part of my yesterdays.  

My thoughts go to Ann Marie, his wonderful wife and the one consolation for us both is that we knew him.

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James Mossop: Great man. Outstanding journalist. Used to visit him in his South Carolina home whenever I was at the Masters down the road in Augusta. RIP Phil.

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Terry Pattinson: He was the first Expressman to befriend me when I arrived in Fleet Street on holiday relief in 1969. We had a beer or three in the Old King Lud, which is now a bank. He was respected throughout Fleet Street and most of us were in awe of him. RIP.

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Alan Frame: Phil certainly was one of the DX greats. Sad to think we've lost Barrie Devney, Terry Evans and Phil already this year, every one a brilliant and dedicated Express man and a proper human being.

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Ian McKerron: Phil was a true pro who never lost his enthusiasm for a good story. Sadly, we should add Donald Stewart to the list of dedicated and now departed Expressmen. Donald died earlier this year from motor neurone disease after 40 years on the Express.

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David Richardson: As DX Foreign Editor I had the pleasure of working with three of the paper's outstanding journalists – Ross Benson, Danny McGrory and, of course, Phil Finn jnr as he always titled himself.

Phil was a dream to work with – full of ideas and no request for a 1,000 word feature at 0600 his time impossible (this was long before internet help).

His string of exclusives are legendary.

His final World Exclusive splash was rewarded by a phone call from the editor telling him he was redundant.

My wife and I remained close friends with Phil and Ann Marie and visited them in October. Phil was fighting fit and seeking his eighth hole in one.

Sleep well old friend.

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Martin Gilfeather, a photographer who worked with Phil on the DX in Manchester during the 1960s: We are here in Aiken with Ann Marie. Sadly we didn't quite make it in time but at least Phil knew we were on our way. His brain was sharp right until the end, he was not in pain and he died at home with his loving wife and two dogs beside him.

Phil was just one of the best and it was a great privilege to have known him as both a brilliant colleague and close friend.

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Ian Bain: Many years ago, Phil and I went for a drink in Old Bell.  "You know New York," he said. "They've offered me a job there. Do you think I should take it?"

Phil was a delightful man and a truly gifted reporter who took everything in his stride, including his illness. So sad to lose another of the good guys. 

© 2005-2019 Alastair McIntyre