Lionel Walsh • My Life and Times

20 March 2010

A tribute to Lionel Walsh
on his 80th birthday
by his brother


< Chapter 18 <

You will all understand that today is a very special day for Lionel; for not only is it his 80th birthday, it also affords him a wonderful opportunity to meet again some of his most valued friends and colleagues.

Forgive me, if I start by paying a tribute to my "little brother." He is an amazing fellow for, despite his casual, laid back attitude and his disdain for those of his profession who strive endlessly to satisfy their masters in Fleet Street or Lang ham Place -- Lionel rarely missed a trick!

At an early age he learnt those words of advice:

“Always behave like a Duck
Keep calm and unruffled on the surface,
But paddle like the devil underneath”

Together we enjoyed a happy childhood, brought up in Harrogate, a town known as “The Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales” and still one of the most beautiful towns in the country. Life was not easy before the war especially for our father, veteran of the Great War. Our parents were engaged for 5 years as my Father learnt to be a photographer. Lionel did well at school and though he was academically bright he was also good at boxing, the noble art, and swimming. It was at Sedbergh that lie excelled in modern languages, composition, debating and ‘treading the boards’ in school plays – there was a ‘touch of grease paint’ in his blood inherited from our aunt, a former star of musical comedy, a ‘Cochrane Young Lady’ from the era of Ivor Novello, Jessie Mathews and Noel Coward.

Lionel chose, after National Service in the Intelligence Corps where he saw service in Austria and on the former Yugoslavia border, a journalistic career commencing as a cub reporter with a ‘sleepy weekly’, the Harrogate Advertiser, attending and reporting funerals and writing ‘obits’, before moving on the that great provincial newspaper the Yorkshire Evening Post.

After some years in Leeds with the YEP he travelled to London and won his first appointment with Reuters. Lionel’s journalistic career is well documented in his web site. It was on his first Reuters overseas posting, to Bonn in West Germany, known then as “The small town on the Rhine”, that he met a beautiful German girl — Veronica Hoene — who quickly won all our hearts. They married and eventually along came Brendan, Terry and Theresa — three bright and intelligent children all of whom inherited a great deal of their mother’s charm, kindness and character. Together the family saw a good deal of the world with postings to Argentina, Geneva, London and Paris.

Sadly, our two very different professions, each resulting in postings to widely separated countries, meant that we seldom saw each other for many years at a time. Though Lionel did join and obtain a commission in the Territorial Army, serving with and qualifying as a parachutist with 12/13 PARA, now 4 PARA, we failed in our attempt to persuade Reuters to apply for him to be embedded in 3 PARA, the Parachute Battalion in which I was then serving as a Company Commander, before we dropped into Port Said during the Suez crises — one scoop that Reuters certainly missed! Incidentally, Sir Christopher Hogg, former Chairman of Reuters, was a Platoon Commander in 3 PARA and also took part in the initial airborne assault.

Following an exacting tour as Chief Correspondent and Chef de Bureau, Paris, Lionel retired from Reuters and joined the ICC and OECD. He also worked freelance until being struck down by a stroke which left him wheelchair bound and paralysed on one side.

The last decade has not been a happy or rewarding time for Lionel and his family: the loss of Brendan and shortly after his dear and devoted wife, Veronica, "Vroni" as we the family called her, to cancer was a tragic and cruel blow to them all. Despite all these personal tragedies Lionel has shown the greatest courage and resolve -- never once has he ever complained or moaned about his lot.

I want also here pay a tribute to Terry and Theresa who jointly decided that it was no good leaving Dad in France. They decided last October to bring him home to England. What an undertaking, a difficult operation -- ‘D’ Day in reverse. There was a great sigh of relief when we heard that “The Eagle had landed.”

Throughout his career Lionel has been blessed by having loyal friends — clearly demonstrated by those here in this room — some of whom have come from as far as Brussels, Paris, Geneva, and London — even one stalwart from New York. How wonderful and a great tribute to my brother.

I wrote to a few of his chums whom I knew would not be able to join us here in Sheffield this morning. Let their stories and tributes conclude this “Tribute to Lionel.”


Brother Michael led the birthday tributes

See extracts of speeches and tributes from Mohsin Ali, Michael Reupke, Donald Armour, Randy Holden



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