Ivor Key, our man in New York

Ivor Key, former Daily Express staffer in New York and a great character has died at his home in Connecticut. He was 86.

Reporter John Edwards said: "George Gordon went to visit and found him dead in the living room. A shocking experience. Ivor had been wrestling serious illness for a few years.”

Ivor started his newspaper career at the Doncaster Evening News in South Yorkshire with, among others, Michael Parkinson.

After his National Service in the RAF, he moved on to the Sheffield Star before being lured to the Express in Manchester.

Before long he was on his way to Fleet Street where he became a foreign correspondent, covering several international hotspots including the troubles in Aden in the 1960s.

While there he escaped serious injury when a hand grenade was lobbed into a ditch he was sheltering in during fierce fighting between rebels and the British army.

After Aden he was sent to Africa where one of the last white colonies, Rhodesia, was in revolt and later declared independence. He also reported from Zambia and Kenya.

At one time he was used as the central figure in a Daily Express cinema advert where he “starred” as a reporter calling his news desk from an out of town phone box.

After leaving London, Ivor went to work in the Express’s New York office in the late 1960s under foreign editor David English, later editor of the Daily Mail.

Eventually Ivor became bureau chief, working alongside such greats as Brian Vine and Philip Finn.

Ivor also spent time in the Caribbean and was with British forces in Anguilla in 1969 during the island’s struggle for independence.

After leaving the Express he joined Star Magazine in New York as showbusiness editor when Rupert Murdoch launched it to rival the National Enquirer.

Following his retirement to Harwinton, Connecticut, Ivor spent much of his time playing golf, a game he hated in his younger days, and was a board member for 20 years at the country club where he played.

He had a passion for many years for horse racing and attended some of the major meetings in the UK and USA, including the St. Leger in his home town of Doncaster.

For some years Ivor worked as an agent for the Irish Bloodstock Agency dealing with sales of racehorses to American owners.

He was predeceased by his wife Doreen. He is survived by his daughters Frances and Melissa and four grandchildren.

JIM DAVIES writes: I first met Ivor in the late fifties when we both worked in Doncaster — an astonishing journalistic hive which at the time boasted the branch offices of two regional dailies, three evening papers, two weeklies and two high-powered freelance agencies.

Ivor ran the district office of the Sheffield Telegraph and Star and I was on the Yorkshire Evening News.  We were committed rivals on the job but great buddies in the evening — and particularly Saturday evening when Ivor, a man with a lifelong taste for a gamble, ran a poker school in his office.

Regular punters included Michael Parkinson, then on the Yorkshire Post, Terry Willows, Philip Finn, Frank Clough, who went on to become football editor of The Sun and myself. Most of us ended up broke but we never held it against him!

Ivor and I went on to work for the Express in both Manchester and London before he decamped to New York where our paths would occasionally cross, usually in some dive where he always seemed familiar to the demi monde, and I spent one lovely weekend at the house in Connecticut  he shared with his late wife Doreen with its lovely garden and parakeets and where he died alone.

We were lifelong friends but I never let him forget the day at Doncaster racecourse during Leger week when at his insistence I put my month's mortgage money on a horse he said couldn't lose. It came second!

JOHN SMITH writes:

Back in the 1970’s, Ivor and I were rival correspondents in New York, Ivor for the Daily Express and me for the Daily Mirror.

Ivor was great company and we shared many an adventure as we criss-crossed America. He was at his happiest when his passion for gambling rewarded him with a winning horse (a somewhat spasmodic occurrence).

In 1972 we spent a couple of weeks in Trinidad, covering the murder trial of Michael X, a Trinidadian thug who established a Black Power movement in Britain. His real name was Michael Abdul Malik, but he styled himself on the fiery American militant Malcolm X.

The trial provided us with great shows in our respective papers so, secure in the knowledge that our fanciful expenses would contribute greatly to the cost, we decided to each treat ourselves to a Rolex watch in the airport duty free shop as we left the island.

Back in New York, Ivor proudly wore the handsome timepiece for several weeks.

Then, one evening at the bar in Costello’s, I noticed Ivor didn’t have it on.

“Still got it?” I inquired.

Ivor shrugged and with a rueful grin, replied: “Unfortunately not. It finished second in the 2.30 race at Belmont Park.”

PS: Being of a more parsimonious nature, after more than 40 years I still have my Rolex. Whenever I wear it, memories of Ivor will burn bright.


© 2005-2021 Alastair McIntyre