A passion for papers won out for Richard
07 February, 2020 — By Ian Nash
Richard Garner learned his trade in journalism at the Islington Journal. PHOTO: SUSANNAH IRELAND
RICHARD Garner rose to be one of the most respected education journalists in British newspapers and a successful crime writer – after honing his interviewing and writing skills on the old Islington Journal 50 years ago.
Richard, who died from cancer earlier this month, just 15 days short of his 70th birthday, was a north Londoner through and through.
His father, Eric, was a draper who owned retail shops in Enﬁeld, Finsbury Park and later Mill Hill. His mother, Dorothy, ran the shops during the war when his father was abroad on active service.
One of two children – his brother Graham is 10 years older – Richard went to Highgate School where he excelled in English.
He took a one-year journalism training course at Harlow College after his A-levels.
But it was the Journal that convinced him journalism was definitely his trade. He often said: “College gave me the skills to be a journalist but it was my first job that made me one.”
Eric Gordon, his then editor, had no doubt he would make it. He remembers this new reporter being obsessed with work: “Whatever time I arrived at the office Richard would be there, furiously typing away on his next story.”
Richard’s career might have taken a different path as he pursued his passion outside work as a DJ for Paddington hospital Radio 5. He even had a trial for BBC Radio 1, launched on the death of pirate radio in the late 1960s.
But his love of journalism won out. In 1973 he moved to the Kent Messenger and in 1977 to the Birmingham Evening Mail where he became education correspondent, a specialism he adored.
In 1980 he joined The Times Educational Supplement where he became news editor.
From there he went on to become education editor of the Mirror and then the Independent.
Charles Clarke, a classmate who rose in politics to become Secretary of State for Education in Tony Blair’s government, had no doubt about Richard succeeding. He said Richard was “the outstanding student in English. Of course, his tremendous writing capacity, with his insight and understanding, was the key to his success as a journalist”.
When the Independent print edition closed and Richard reached 65, quiet retirement was the last thing on his mind. Instead, he returned to another youthful passion for crime writing.
He published three novels – Best Served Cold, Jill R The Ripper and Three’s A Crowd. And in case anyone thought Richard had not shown enough evidence of excellence, he was also an outstanding cricketer and lifelong member of MCC – having had trials as a schoolboy for Middlesex Cricket Club.
He was married three times – first to Sarah Fuller (divorced in 1978), then to Anne Wilkinson who died from cancer in 2008.
Finally, he married Barbara Hopkin three weeks before his death.
• The writer is a friend and former colleague