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June 1, 2014updated 04 Jun 2014 2:53pm

‘Extraordinarily brave, reckless, kind’: Tributes to Richard Ingrams as he announces his retirement

By William Turvill

Journalists who have worked under Richard Ingrams at Private Eye and The Oldie described him as “brilliant”, “extraordinarily brave”, “reckless” and “kind” after he announced his retirement on Friday.

Ingrams, who founded and edited both the Eye and Oldie, told Press Gazette he had been summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the publisher of his second magazine but was “too old” to attend and instead resigned.

Current Eye editor Ian Hislop, who was taken on by Ingrams and then made editor of the title when he stepped down in 1986, said he was “eternally grateful” for his support and said his departure from The Oldie was a “great shame”.

He told Press Gazette: “He’s a brilliant editor. What he did with The Oldie is amazing. You know, setting up a new print publication that actually works is pretty extraordinary.”

Francis Wheen, the Eye’s long-serving deputy editor, praised Ingram as an editor not driven by “market research”.

“I think it’s no mean feat to have effectively created not one but two magazines that are loved by their readers,” he said.

“I think one of his great strengths as an editor is that he, it sounds paradoxical, but he became loved by the readers precisely because in one sense he didn’t [care what they] thought….

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“He was like someone who threw a party for his own amusement and then if other people turn up that’s almost incidental because it’s for his own pleasure.

“As a result of that, I think it’s part of the reason he was so successful at Private Eye and The Oldie, in what made them so distinctive, in that they were reflections of his character and his tastes.”

Wheen added: "An awful lot of publications these days, market research drives them on… whereas in Richard’s case he seemed almost sublimely untroubled by that.

“He just produced a magazine that he wants to read. And that’s what makes them quirky and unusual and eclectic and also devil-may-care and mischievous and not afraid of causing offence – and perhaps even slightly reckless sometimes.”

In what turned out to be Ingrams’ last Oldie editorial he paid tribute to freelance journalist Miles Goslett who brought in what was arguably one of the 22-year-old magazine’s greatest stories – the BBC’s cover up of the Jimmy Savile scandal, for which it jointly won scoop of the year at last year’s London Press Club awards.

Ingrams picked out Goslett’s interview with Joan Woolard, who won ‘Oldie Heckler of the Year’ for attending a Barclays Bank shareholders’ meeting and publicly calling its executives “greedy bastards”, in the editorial.

He wrote: “Miles has previously distinguished himself by being the first journalist to reveal, again in The Oldie, the BBC’s cover up of the Jimmy Savile saga.

“Uncomfortably aware of how often I report the deaths of contributors, today I have better news for you – Miles has just returned from his honeymoon.”

And Goslett, formerly of The Mail on Sunday, Sunday Telegraph and Evening Standard, was among those to pay tribute to Ingrams.

“I’m really sorry to hear that Richard has resigned. He’s been a great supporter of many freelance journalists during his editorship of The Oldie.

“He was the only editor in London willing to publish the story I had a couple of years ago about the BBC’s cover-up of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse allegations, a brilliant example of just how fearless he is.

“By allowing me to write another awkward story for The Oldie before that, about the death of Dr David Kelly, he helped to raise £50,000 in six weeks – money that was used to bring a case about Dr Kelly’s death to the High Court.”

He added: “Richard is The Oldie, and I think The Oldie will miss him enormously.”

Daily Mail journalist Quentin Letts, who also writes for the magazine, described Ingrams as “one of my great pin-ups”, praising his “angry, radical journalism”.

He told Press Gazette: “He embodies a lot of the greatest journalistic virtues, Ingrams. In that he is completely bloody minded. He’s unimpressed, yet interested, in power… and he’s got a great sense of mischief.”

Another Oldie contributor grateful for Ingrams’ sense of mischief is BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney, who thanked him for publishing Scientology stories that other editors “would rather saw their own heads off” than publish.

“Richard Ingrams is probably the greatest print editor I’ve ever worked for. Brilliant, extraordinarily brave, always up for trouble and… one of God's great squad of awkward Englishmen," he said.

“He was also a man of good judgement. And this very rare quality in Fleet Street, a kind man.”

Referring to the Savile story, Sweeney said: “He was brave and right to run that story.

“He’s also been a consistent supporter of my reporting on Scientology, including in the latest issue [of The Oldie]. In a way that other editors would rather saw their own heads off, Richard would gaily print stuff which the Church of Scientology really would detest.”

He added: “There isn’t anybody like him in the world. It’s a sad day. Carter Ruck, the Church of Scientology, the late Jimmy Savile, they’ll all be happy.”

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