Journalism world pays tribute following the death of ex-Diss Express reporter and charity worker Brian Ager

Brian Ager and wife Maureen celebrated their golden wedding in 2011

Brian Ager and wife Maureen celebrated their golden wedding in 2011

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Former Diss Express reporter and journalist charity worker Brian Ager has died aged 79 following an illness.

Mr Ager, from Burgate, died peacefully at home on Friday, June 6.

He joined the Diss Express as a ‘cub reporter’ aged just 16, in the early 1950s.

His work as reporter was interrupted by National Service but after doing his duty he returned to the Diss Express, before stints at the Eastern Daily Press and in the Midlands. At the EDP he worked alongside authors Frederick Forsyth and Tony Grey in their outposts in Dereham, Diss, Great Yarmouth, Sheringham, Thetford and Wisbech where he launched the paper’s office and his son Michael was born.

Michael said: “The only good thing about dad’s illness was that people were able to tell him how wonderful he was before he died.

“I knew he was a brilliant father and husband but it is lovely to realise the esteem and affection he was held in by so many others.”

To fully qualify as a journalist, Mr Ager needed A-levels and to learn shorthand but, according to his son, his humble background meant that he could not afford to stay on at school so he was thrust in at the deep end as an office junior.

On his first day at the Diss Express he was given a list of tasks and he jumped on his bike and got down to it. When he returned later that day with the list completed he was told that had been his work for the whole week. However, more work was quickly found to keep the keen cub reporter busy.

He then worked at a news service, the BBC and The Times before settling at the Financial Times newspaper. Former managing editor of the FT David Walker said: “He was a person of great humanity who cared deeply about his colleagues, as well as being truly professional in his trade.”

On retirement he returned to this area with his wife Maureen, who is originally from Wortham, living in Roydon where he was active in Diss and District branch of the Royal Air Forces Association, Royal British Legion and Probus.

He was also a tireless worker on behalf of the Journalists’ Charity – run by journalists for journalists. Former ITV executive and Journalists’ Charity chairman Laurie Upshon, said of Brian: “He was a man of honour, compassion with a great sense of humour. Above all he was a true gentleman.”

Shortly before Brian’s death he wrote to tell him: “Your contribution to the charity has been immense: as a Trustee for 35 years; as Chairman in 1988 and 1989; and as treasurer since 1993. You have been a constant presence, bringing stability and offering wise counsel as the charity has undergone major change. The Trustees have asked me to pass on their sincere thanks for your tireless work, sound judgement; and the wit, wisdom and common sense that you have brought to our meetings.”

In Brian’s recent resignation letter to the Journalists’ Charity, characteristically labelled by Brian as his swansong, he said: “I have enjoyed my time with the charity and this farm worker’s son who had spent his time in London confined to a subs desk met all sorts of interesting people as a result. There was the Queen, Prince Charles and any number of politicians. The one that impressed me the most was Margaret Thatcher.

“She attended our receptions regularly, gave a speech which was mainly about our charity, with just one political point at the end. Then - glass of whisky in hand - would chat to all and sundry. But what I find most impressive as treasurer is that she made a donation to our charity. Other politicians please note.”

n Pay your tributes to Brian Ager. Email, or write to Diss Express, Mere Street, Diss, IP22 4AE.

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