Profile: Sir Edward Pickering

Edward Davies Pickering (‘Pick’ of the Times, as Fleet Street knows him) was born on the fourth of May in 1912 in what was then the North Riding of Yorkshire, and educated at Middlesbrough High School before embarking on his career in journalism. He cut his teeth on the Northern Echo and Newcastle North Mail before arriving at Fleet Street as sub-editor for the Mirror. By 1939 he was already chief sub-editor of Rothermere's Daily Mail. He did his wartime service with the Royal Artillery, before joining the staff of Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, where he wrote daily communiqués for General Eisenhower.

After the war he returned to the Mail where he worked as managing editor, moving to the Daily Express in the same capacity in 1951, and becoming editor in 1957. Sure-footed among the quicksands of postwar journalism, and keeping the respect of fellow professionals in a world where the wallet is meant to reign, he has gone through a series of directorships; Daily Mirror Newspapers, International Publishing Corporation, William Collins, and Times Newspaper Holdings since 1981.

He joined the Press Council in 1964, and served on it as member and vice-chairman till 1982. He joined the Press Complaints Commission in 1991.

Since 1982 he has been Executive Vice-chairman of Times Newspapers Ltd, and Chairman of Times Supplements Ltd since 1989.

Honours have duly come his way: a knighthood in 1977, Mastership of the Guild of St Bride since 1981, freedom of the Stationers' and Newspaper Makers' Company in 1985. an honorary Doctorate of Letters of the City University in 1986, and in the same year the Astor Award for distinguished service to the Commonwealth press.

A man well into his eighties who insists on working at the kind of pressure we think proper to someone of half those years needs some sort of explanation — is it fear or compulsion? The alternative answer may well be that the rest of us have got it all wrong, and that passionate love expressed through work is the only proper way to live, and that life lived like that may well give out, but is unlikely to ebb away gently.

What I have said above is largely a list of achievements, the stuff that obituaries are made of. They tell us something about a man's importance. But they tell us little or nothing about a man's significance. For that we have to turn to the intimate memories of those who have seen his work at close quarters, and those who have known his manners over a long stretch of time.

Simon Jenkins, in a Times' tribute for Sir Edward's 80th birthday, says of him: “From every angle, from every sector of the market, he has seen our industry at its best and worst. Yet he has survived with his intellect intact, and with his sense of humour.” Robert Edwards in the same issue says “Not once did I witness Pick feed a single member of his staff to the raging lion (Lord Beaverbrook). Such was his loyalty, they were not much afraid of him but ashamed to let him down.” And Canon John Oates, of St Bride's Church says “He is the one who ensures we have the names of the reporters or photographers who are in danger, so that we can pray for them.”

And above all we owe him a collective thanks for being the one who decided that the Quincentenary of William Tyndale must be celebrated, and then set about drumming up the necessary support.

Indeed, this little publication is itself the latest in a long line of printed papers that owe their character to his restless passion and ferric zeal.

pen and ink sketch portrait of Sir Edward Pickering

Valid HTML 4.01!