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A glass of chablis, then my Dad Ken Lawrence died

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Expressman Ken Lawrence’s daughter Gillian has sent this tribute to him from the family

My Dad, Ken Lawrence, passed away on Friday June 25th, aged 90. 

He was ready,  "it's time for me to be off" he said not so long ago. He suffered with dementia, was increasingly frail and deteriorated rapidly during COVID. 

Ken died peacefully, after enjoying a nice chablis with dinner the evening before.   

He was Sports Editor of the Sunday and Daily Express for 25 years and then Press Secretary for the Test and County Cricket Board (as it was called back then). He loved all sport, but cricket was his first love. He was a long time member of both MCC and Surrey Cricket Club, an Honorary Life VP of Surrey and he was a proud Lord's Taverner, becoming Chairman in 1995.    That same year his book, A Century of Cornhill Tests was published.  

Ken was passionate about supporting youth in sport. He was the inspiration behind the Taverners' Inner City cricket programme for youth and the Daily Express Boy's Golf tournament. My brother and his friends benefitted hugely from his purpose as he spent hours in the cricket nets encouraging and rewarding them with sixpences!  

 He started his journalistic path with the Berkshire Chronicle. He needed special permission to leave school early to take up a position as copy boy. From there he moved to the Evening Standard, then to the Wokingham Times.  A weekend job with the Sunday Express in London took him to Manchester in around 1964 as temporary Sports Editor for the Sunday Express.  Temporary became permanent and he didn’t return to London until 1973 when he became Sports Editor of the Daily Express.   

 Everyone will have their funny stories and memories. We remember how Dad had to call maintenance one morning  because his TV wasn’t working. It turned out that the overnight cleaners had simply unplugged it. Lucky he had a good day job as a journalist.   

Then there was the time that he and his deputy, Norman, attended what they thought was the annual carol service at St Bride's. Dad didn’t read the notice carefully enough … it was a choral service. The vicar on his way out nodded to Dad and Norman and said “how lovely to see you gentlemen here”. That probably made his day.

Ken was married to Jean for 66 years and leaves  two children, Gillian (Brian) and Andrew (Dawn) and four grandchildren, Kieran, Liam, Matthew and Carys.   

 He would want you to raise a glass in celebration of a great life. 

Ken’s colleague PETER TOZER writes: No more enthusiastic or energetic journalist ever worked for the Express than Ken Lawrence, my boss and friend since 1973.

His policy during his long spells in charge consecutively on the Daily and the Sunday was that a wide variety of sports be covered; he was not a fan of the big-hit type of coverage (mostly football) prevalent today. Squash, badminton, bowls, show-jumping, speedway, yachting (perhaps a nod to the proprietor of the time) and even the occasional polo result got a mention.

He had a passion for cricket and had been at school in Reading with one of England’s greatest batsmen, Ken Barrington, with whom he remained friends until the player’s untimely early death in 1981. I was second in the office on the Sunday morning after Barrington’s death had occurred overnight in Barbados. The boss, red-eyed and hunched at his desk, greeted me with just: “I can't believe it. Kenny's dead.” It was the only time I saw him distressed.

Ken’s lunches regularly went into extra-time but they were usually spent entertaining useful contacts from the world of sport, allowing him to point his reporters in the right direction.

He had a knack of cultivating editors, so that sport was allowed, in the main, to operate independently and without interference. Enter the redoubtable Sir Larry Lamb and we feared things might be about to change. We needn't have worried. That summer Ken escorted fellow cricket devotee Sir Larry to every England Test match, suitable hospitality de rigeur, and the status quo prevailed in sport.

Although Ken’s sometimes full-on tactics as captain of the "games department" didn't suit everyone and he could be noisily impatient towards those with a contrarian point of view, he was encouraging and generous to teammates kicking in the same direction as himself. Most of all, he was Express through and through.


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Ken with Jean, his wife of 66 years

 

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