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Andrew Waller - unflappable

To all the well deserved, complimentary epithets bestowed on the late Andrew Waller, I would simply like to add “unflappable”.

Our paths crossed many times, but never more dramatically than in Beirut in 1975. It was there that I remember in particular his qualities of stoicism and serenity that colleagues have remarked on in Moscow and other tough news beats.

Andrew succeeded me as Reuters bureau chief in Beirut, just as the Lebanese civil war was beginning to explode.

Aside from the growing tension on the streets, our handover was unusually tricky, for Reuters “re-org” reasons. My job of chief correspondent & manager was being split in two. Andrew was taking over news responsibility from the Mediterranean to the Gulf, while Alecco Joannides was to be in charge of business for the region. Staff and infrastructure were being reorganised.

The split was probably a sensible decision by London management, given the importance of Middle East news, but it would have been easier to implement if we had been allowed more than the usual concise Reuters handover: just a few days in this case.

Andrew took it all in his stride, though, and so did Alecco, who arrived at about the same time. Andrew tackled the world news story with cool professionalism, while Alecco displayed boundless optimism in one of the world’s worst business environments.

Unflappable and irrepressible, respectively, Andrew and Alecco formed a good team. But not for long. Savage fighting soon engulfed Beirut and Alecco moved Reuters business base to Bahrain. Andrew stayed on to cover the Lebanese civil war and much else in the turbulent Middle East.

It was a long time ago, but my impression of Andrew in those days is still vivid.  In later years it was always a pleasure to meet socially, together with his wife Jacquie and my wife Marie-Hélène, who first met Andrew in Beirut. We offer Jacquie and the family our warmest sympathy. RIP. ■