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An unflappable copy taster

I was sorry to hear from Vicky Barrett that Terry Blunsum had died only a few days after she had driven to Lincoln to visit him in hospital. An unflappable copy taster on the World Desk, Terry had an encyclopaedic knowledge and a wide range of interests ranging from gardening and d-i-y to Arab politics. We shared an interest in woodworking and home improvement and when asked where he had gone on holiday he would usually say: “Up a ladder.”

He was in Beirut at the same time as Kim Philby, the Soviet spy and Observer correspondent. He recounted how he and his wife Eileen once picnicked only a few yards away from Philby in the hills of Beirut shortly before the former MI6 officer disappeared and turned up in Moscow.

I first met Terry in Cairo in 1965 on my way to Algiers for an Afro-Asian conference held two weeks after a coup which toppled President Ben Bella. Terry and I covered the arrival in Cairo of Chinese Premier Chou En-lai. I smuggled myself into the airport VIP room but a Xinhua correspondent I had met at a cocktail party the night before pointed me out to Egyptian security and I was taken into custody. Terry had to rescue me.

After Cairo we lost contact until 1979 when Terry suddenly turned up on the World Desk.  He had spent the intervening years working for a newspaper in Australia but returned to England because Eileen had become wheelchair-bound from multiple sclerosis.

A modest man, Terry never mentioned that he had written books until I saw a couple in the bookcase in his living room. He had written one on Libya and co-authored another on Egypt. ■