Obituary: David Henshall: a newspaper man to the end and one of life’s enthusiasts
PUBLISHED: 17:02 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 19:29 08 April 2020
David Henshall, columnist and former news editor of the East Anglian Daily Times, as well as editor of the Ipswich Star in the mid-1990s, has died at the age of 90.
David, although born in London, he was evacuated to the Norfolk/Suffolk border during World War II, staying with relatives, and his teenage adventures roaming the fields and lanes of north Suffolk contributed greatly to his later columns for this newspaper.
David joined the EADT as a reporter shortly after the war and swiftly became part of a lively sports department where he struck up a firm friendship with another young reporter Sam Reynolds who went onto become the best man at his wedding to Gloria, a glamorous beauty queen.
Journalism in those days was often a late-night boozy affair and David often regaled friends with stories of how he and Sam held court in the EADT social club until the small, wee hours of the morning. John Cobbold, one of the directors of Ipswich Town Football Club and the Tolly Cobbold brewery was a frequent guest and the three of them were often rounded up wandering through Ipswich town centre and given a lift home by passing police cars.
As David would say, they were different times. By the mid 1950s, London was calling. David wanted to make his name in Fleet Street, joining The Daily Mail. As the sixties started to swing, it was a good time to be a journalist and David rose up the ranks of London’s Evening Standard ending the 1970s as managing editor.
In 1983, David and Gloria and their family of four daughters – Susan, Noel, Abigail and Ruthie – decided to return to Suffolk where David took over the role of news editor on the Evening Star from Reg Hardy.
As the business evolved over the coming years, David also took on the role of news editor for the EADT and became the Anglian’s theatre critic championing the work not only of professional companies like The Wolsey, Eastern Angles and the Colchester Mercury but also amateur groups like Ipswich Operatic and The Gallery Players.
David was a newspaper man to his very core. In addition to his day job editing the news agenda, he also loved writing his Lighter Side column which started in the mid-1990s and continued until late last year. He also contributed a Saturday theatre interview for more than 20 years.
His love for the job also meant that he was one of the few people to not only retire twice but gain a promotion into the bargain. David retired as news editor of The Evening Star and then several months later came back as a pro-tem editor for six months filling a gap between appointments and adding readers.
Finishing his career as editor meant so much to him, particularly editing a paper that he started out as a trainee on. But, as David settled into active retirement he took a huge amount of pleasure in being around his family. He was hugely proud of all his daughters and was an enthusiastic grandfather to Ella, Lily, Dolly and Eliza.
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His world was rocked in August 2007 when daughter Noel took her own life while working in advertising in the USA. It was something that no-one had suspected. Daughter Ruthie said in an interview later that Noel’s death had shaken her father’s view of the world and, although he tried to compensate, he was never quite as laid back again.
Former Ipswich Star and EADT editor Terry Hunt worked alongside David since his return to the paper. He described David as a “wonderfully supportive, kind and understanding boss - but, most of all, a lovely man.
“David was News Editor when I joined the Newsdesk in Ipswich in 1984. He was great to work with and helped me and others enormously. He was always professional, but also great fun. A laugh was never far away.
“When we heard David was moving to the EADT from London, the word was that he was a real ‘hard man’ and we were all rather worried.
“But the first time I met him - at the Alexandra restaurant in Felixstowe for a pot of tea and a plate of fancies - I was greeted by a vision in a powder blue suit and pink cravat. I knew instantly this was not the ‘hard man’ we had been expecting!
“In his first spell at the EADT, David was best friends with my late father-in-law Sam Reynolds. They were both young sports journalists.
“David and Sam were best man at each other’s wedding, and both had four daughters.”
Arts editor Andrew Clarke added: “David was a father figure to me in many ways. He was certainly a mentor. He taught me a lot about the art of reviewing, teaching me skills that I not only continue to use but I now share with other young journalists. He gave me two very valuable pieces of advice: ‘Always be honest. If you are honest you can defend any position.’ And the other. ‘Always be kind. Never say anything in print that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face in the bar afterwards.’
“If these two quotes appear to contradict one another then that reveals the art of writing reviews. David was a master at telling you the truth but in an understanding way.”
Brad Jones, editor of the EADT and Ipswich Star, said: “David was a much-loved colleague and friend to many of us, and we are devastated to hear the news.
“He was a wonderful writer, with such a light touch and no short amount of humour. It was a privilege for us to publish his weekly column until only recently.
“He’ll be sadly missed by his former colleagues, past and present. Our thoughts are with his family.”
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