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Allan Barker: Soul and backbone of Editorial

Allan Barker - “The Sarge” - was, to a great extent and to many of us, the soul and backbone of Reuters Editorial desks during his long and distinguished career. He was the solid, unflinching apostle of clear thinking, succinct writing and direct reportage. He could cut you down to size, without rancour, and then lift you up with a laconic Aussie utterance of praise. He could be honestly critical if criticism was merited, and unstintingly generous in giving advice and approval.

I worked under him, first, in London on the World Desk, then in India and Thailand when he was Asian News Editor, and then again in London when he headed the combined Business and Features Desk. One of my earliest memories is of the time he was sent to Bonn to help out during the final phase of a crucial West German election in the early ‘70s. I’d written a “curtain raiser”, which had an insipid intro. Alan, who had only been in town for a few days, grunted, excised the intro and hammered onto his typewriter a few punchy opening sentences that set the scene, encapsulated the atmosphere of the campaign and explained pithily the ramifications of the upcoming vote. All I could do was to thank him heartily and learn from the experience. Then we went out for a beer and an engrossing chat about cricket.

Dear AB - you helped and harried us, you infused our memories and our anecdotes of all the good times. Thank you. Ave atque vale. RIP. ■