Dame Ann Leslie obituary


From the Sixties to the 90s, Ann Leslie, who has died aged 82, was among the many final of the good “firemen” – overseas correspondents dispatched by Fleet Avenue tabloids to cowl revolutions, elections and breaking information tales all around the world. Seemingly fearless, she wrote about what she noticed and uncovered in an accessible, first-person method, her prose elegant and considerate, and underpinned by analysis.

The vast majority of her profession, which started within the Manchester workplace of the Every day Specific in 1962, was spent working for the Every day Mail, the place she was cherished and promoted as its star particular correspondent. She significantly thrived underneath the 20-year editorship of Sir David English, who gave her the liberty to be herself.

However with the intention to undertake the powerful assignments (the place she normally travelled solo), and the lengthy reads she aspired to, Leslie opted to work as a contract after 1968, putting out from what she noticed as a entice of writing present enterprise interviews and columns. She lined the failed coup towards Mikhail Gorbachev, the autumn of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela’s lengthy stroll to freedom, China’s one-child coverage and its dying rooms, the hunger and struggling of North Koreans, and battle in former Yugoslavia. From Azerbaijan in 1998 she filed a 3,000-word report on the environmental catastrophe of oil-rich Baku.

She was totally different from most different distinguished feminine journalists of her day, together with the older, self-styled First Girl of Fleet Avenue, Jean Rook, of the Every day Specific – there was mutual antipathy from their first assembly, as reporters masking Harrogate toy honest – and the Every day Mail’s Lynda Lee-Potter, commentators who wrote columns largely from the security of their workplace chairs. A fellow journalist, Michael Leapman, described her as “within the custom of James Cameron [News Chronicle], Donald Sensible [Mirror] and Sefton Delmer [Express]”.

On the annual British Journalism Overview awards, which she attended when she was considerably incapacitated by in poor health well being, she got here throughout as a exceptional expertise. Her confidence, robust opinions, throaty voice and darkish eyes have been mesmerising, bringing to thoughts the Historical Mariner.

She appeared formidable, and will undertake a domineering stance worthy of Girl Bracknell to realize her purpose, however was all the time comfortable to speak. These qualities, mixed with robust opinions (not all the time conservative), information and expertise, made her more and more sought-after by broadcasters.

The gladiatorial ambiance of Query Time or Any Questions held no fears. She had the toughness and self-confidence that got here from the mix of a privileged background and willpower to beat the bullying by males that she had encountered as a younger journalist. She additionally turned being a lady to her benefit. A loyal person of heavy black mascara and a glamorous dresser, she wore a fur coat to go to the Falklands battle. She tended to cover key paperwork in her bra.

Daughter of Theodora (nee McDonald) and Norman Leslie, she was born in Rawalpindi, in pre-partition India, now in Pakistan. Her father, like her grandfather, was an oil govt, posted in India and Pakistan. At 9 Ann was despatched to Presentation Convent boarding faculty, Matlock, Derbyshire, then to the Convent of the Holy Baby Jesus in Mayfield, East Sussex.

She studied English at Girl Margaret Corridor, Oxford, and, after graduating in 1961, took a £20-a-week job on a whim within the Manchester workplace of the Every day Specific, then owned by Lord Beaverbrook. This was the swaggering heyday of the newspaper, and of the outdated Fleet Avenue mannequin of the nationwide press, when the newsroom tolerated drunken characters and large bills.

There have been 700 journalists in Manchester alone, and so they competed furiously, with underhand techniques, to scupper their rivals’ tales.

Leslie described the expertise in her autobiography, Killing My Personal Snakes (2008). “I had by no means felt so overseas as I did in Manchester,” she wrote. The actual training within the first 12 months was to “see off assorted sexist bullying males”, whereas studying the best way to drink. She beloved the tv collection Mad Males in later life, as a result of it completely described the sexism she encountered within the 60s.

In Manchester she rented a home with the actor Janet Suzman. After a 12 months, aged 22, and recognized as a “younger meteor”, she was transferred to London by her editor, Bob Edwards, to write down a column.

Throughout a 40-year profession, she received 9 British Press awards, two lifetime achievements awards, and the 1999 James Cameron award for worldwide reporting. She was appointed DBE in 2007 for companies to journalism. David Randall’s 2005 ebook The Nice Reporters known as her “essentially the most versatile of all of them”.

Leslie was by no means simple to pigeonhole. She was a member of the Nationwide Union of Journalists and a passionate believer within the free press. Journalism, she mentioned, “has by no means been an ego journey for me”. She described her work as “essentially the most exhilarating, exhausting, absorbing profession that life can provide”, however managed to mix it with a secure marriage to Michael Fletcher, whom she met at Oxford, and married in 1969, itemizing household life as her sole recreation in Who’s Who.

She ended her autobiography by saying that one of many duties of journalism was to shine a torch into darkish areas, “face the glacier within the cabinet, expose its coldness and cruelty to the intense, clear and humanising gentle of day”. This she did, unflinchingly.

Leslie is survived by her husband, her daughter, Katharine, and two grandchildren, Joseph and Martha.


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