Friday 20 December 2013
Nick Turner’s memories of meeting and liking Lord (Roy) Thomson prompted my recall of a time when ties between Thomsons and Reuters were close and cordial. Thomson, then in his late 70s, came to Peking in 1972 and fellow correspondent Jim Pringle and I spent two pleasant evenings in his company, in the Reuter office/apartment we shared and at a dinner given by British Ambassador Sir John Addis.
I don’t recall much of his conversation on the first occasion, as he and Jim became engrossed in matters Scottish, but remember he showed a sharp appreciation of Addis’s outstanding collection of Chinese porcelain.
More pertinent to the Thomson/Reuters link, he was accompanied by (later Sir) Denis Hamilton, editor-in-chief of the Thomson-owned (London) Times and Sunday Times. Hamilton went on to become chairman of Reuters 1979-85, only leaving Thomsons when Lord Roy sold the Times and Sunday Times titles to Rupert Murdoch in 1981.
To my chagrin, Hamilton remembered that I had turned down his offer of a job on The Sunday Times in favour of Reuters, but graciously acceded that with Thomsons I would not have got the foreign assignments I had enjoyed with the Baron.
At that point, no British newspapers had correspondents in China, and both Lord Roy and Sir Denis quizzed Jim and I at some length about our work and living conditions. Research, I realised later when The Times got the first such visa and David Bonavia - formerly of Reuters - arrived in Peking. (David, a Chinese and Russian speaker, had been sent on his only assignment for Reuters to Zambia).
While Nick Turner and I may share fond memories, I realised this may not stand for all my former colleagues - I recall Jim (Prince of Darkness) Forrester saying on a number of occasions that he had joined Reuters to get away from Thomsons. ■