I am very sad to learn of the death of Rob Gibson, former Political Editor of the Daily Express and latterly founder of Gallery News.
Rob was a gentleman, an esteemed and loyal colleague and wonderful company. A natural raconteur, he held us spellbound with Fleet Street stories and I learned a lot about the practical trade of journalism watching him negotiate stories.
My favourite funny story about Rob was the time when as an ace chief news reporter he filed in a hurry from the airport, en route to Terheran, his take on the fall of the Shah. According to the legend he simply barked to the copytaker:
“The people of Iran yesterday swapped a despot for a crackpot. Point, par, take in PA! ” Of course, this is just a story. Rob always filed a full and professional report. But his intro as always captured the essence of the event with style and brevity.
It was my great good fortune in life to be allocated a desk in Rob’s office on the Burma Road — aka Room 11 of the Press Gallery — in 1989.
Rob was the senior statesman in this wonderful room under Big Ben and tried to keep order as some of the biggest personalities and greatest talents in SW1A created stories, humour, scoops, mischief and chaos.
Crammed within a space the size of a modest bedroom were future diplo David Shaw
, then of the Evening Standard, the late, great Peter Welbourn of the Star, and the brilliant Nick Assinder and Peter Hooley, both of the Express at the time, plus Peter MacMahon of Scotland on Sunday (this was before Health and Safety laws were applied at The Palace). I was a shaver from the provinces, feeding local papers and I learned so much watching this roomful of noise, talent and experience.
One of Rob’s curious roles at this time was unique. When there was a sudden leaving do or a sad loss of a colleague, people would gather in the old Press Bar and Rob would sing, unaccompanied, in his clear and tender baritone, the folk song Peggy Gordon. People would join in and the bar would fill with emotion.
Tonight I’ll be “away with the mixer”, and will sing Peggy Gordon for Rob. A lovely man and a vital member of an era of grand characters and warm colours.