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Rick Norsworthy, US Communications Director

Graduate trainees from the 1990s may recall some of the home-made training videos that the late, great George Short and I used in our courses.

My particular favourite was a G7 summit that was set in 1990 on the Isle of Skye, off the north-west coast of Scotland. It may not have been a coincidence that the Isle was the ancient seat of Clan MacKinnon and the source of my preferred liqueur, Drambuie.

The video started with the opening news conference of the summit, which was interrupted by two blasts that shook the building and had plaster falling from the ceiling in the media briefing room. Only later did we discover that two mortar bombs had slammed into the roof of the adjoining mansion where world leaders were meeting.

Amid the chaos, reporters scrambled to find out what had happened. We needed an official to provide the first clue.

In a brilliant piece of casting, George chose Rick Norsworthy to play the role of US Communications Director Bernard J Buchanan. This was clearly a risk. Rick was a noted stammerer. But in order to overcome his problem Rick called on his formidable powers of concentration and produced a bravura performance, which showed just the right blend of concern and bewilderment.

“I don’t know anything about the other leaders but President Bush is safe and unharmed, I followed him out of the building.” As reporters peppered the Communications Director with questions Rick was able to respond with crisp, clear responses. “I don’t know what caused the explosions. I have no idea.” The footage was in the can in one take.

Rick’s professionalism also shone through in the classroom, where as copy critic he dispensed advice and encouragement and the occasional gentle reprimand. After George Short’s untimely death in 1997, Rick and I ran a boot camp for the trainees in George’s beloved Edale in the Peak District. Rick was as ever a sound adviser and steadying influence when end of course celebrations risked getting out of hand. Many of us are in his debt.  ■