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Geoffrey Wareham (Read 704 times)
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Geoffrey Wareham
Apr 11th, 2022, 1:36pm
 
This is taken from the Daily Telegraph:

Geoffrey Wareham, journalist who posed the question to James Callaghan that led to the headline ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ – obituary

He reported from war zones, natural disasters and royal tours and taught a young Jeremy Paxman how to do his expenses

By Telegraph Obituaries10 April 2022 • 1:36pm


Strikingly handsome and impeccably dressed, Wareham travelled the world in the 1970s and 1980s covering conflict zones and natural disasters, as well as royal tours and political occasions. In 1979 he unwittingly laid down a marker in British political history when a question he threw during an airport news conference proved a trigger-point for the Labour government’s downfall during the Winter of Discontent.

Corralled in a group of journalists at Heathrow on a freezing January day, Wareham asked the prime minister James Callaghan, returning from an economic summit in the West Indies: “What is your general approach in view of the mounting chaos in the country at the moment?” Callaghan’s response: “I don’t think other people would share the view of mounting chaos” was swiftly translated into the front-page headline of The Sun as: “Crisis? What crisis?”

Although Callaghan had never used the words, they proved politically toxic. “Not even the threat of up to two million people being laid off work next week worried jaunty Jim,” the paper reported. “He blandly blamed journalists for talking of ‘mounting chaos’ in strike-battered Britain.” Prompted by Wareham’s question, delivered in his distinctive languid drawl, the phrase has since passed into political folklore.

As a Fleet Street newspaper journalist, Wareham reported from Goonhilly Downs in Cornwall in 1962 as the first television pictures transmitted to Britain from the United States were bounced off Telstar, the American satellite launched from Florida.

In 1975 he reported for the BBC on the Balcombe Street siege in London, which ended with the surrender of four IRA terrorists and the release of their two hostages, John and Sheila Matthews, whose flat they had stormed six days earlier. Among his notable radio dispatches from abroad was one from the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Bayeux during commemorations marking the 40th anniversary of D-Day on June 6 1984.

Wareham surveyed assorted sovereigns in a radio news feature, The Monarchs (Radio 4, 1980), recalling the 1966 centenary regatta of the Royal Danish Yacht Club in which the kings of Denmark and Greece and Spain were racing their boats.

“There was a dreadful shambles at the windward mark and, after the race, King Constantine asked me and a girl reporter if we would give evidence before the protest committee.

“While we were sitting on a car, drinking beer and waiting to be called, the girl came in for quite a bit of playful bantering from Constantine and Juan Carlos, to which she blurted out the unforgettable response: ‘Oh! You kings are all the same.’ ”

The youngest of three brothers, Geoffrey Wareham was born in Newton Abbot, Devon, on November 22 1929 to Donald, a teetotal Methodist minister awarded the MC during the First World War, and Grace Wareham, née Sugden. All three boys were keen outdoorsmen who adventured together, sailing, camping and fishing for trout.

During the Second World War, the family lived in Exeter, where Geoffrey witnessed air raids on the city, trawling through the bomb sites with his brothers for items of interest once danger had passed. As a teenager he worked on the land during harvest time and later underwent two years of National Service in the RAF.

At Hele’s grammar school in Exeter he had shown an aptitude for the written word, and with a keen nose for news (inspired by his uncle, the Daily Mail editor Arthur Wareham), he embarked on a career in journalism. He started at his local newspaper, the Western Morning News, on 10 shillings [50p] a week, his father signing a form agreeing that he would not gamble or visit taverns, billiard rooms or dance halls, be of good character and avoid houses of ill repute.

Moving to London, Wareham made his mark in Fleet Street at the Evening News, Daily Express and Daily Mail; he covered the Tristan da Cunha volcanic eruption in 1961 and reported the first sighting of Francis Chichester’s ketch Gipsy Moth IV as he ended his single-handed voyage around the world in 1967.

Joining the BBC as a reporter the following year, Wareham initially worked across both television and radio and hosted the London and south-east nightly television news magazine Town And Around.

On radio he became a regular contributor to and an occasional presenter on the Today programme, interviewed successive prime ministers and reported from trouble spots including the Falklands, Northern Ireland (where a bullet struck his car), the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq and Iran), and Africa (Mozambique and Zimbabwe). He followed the Queen, Margaret Thatcher and other dignitaries, providing splashes of colour during overseas tours and state occasions, and regularly filed dispatches for From Our Own Correspondent.

On foreign duty with Brian Barron, left, and Keith Graves

On foreign duty with Brian Barron, left, and Keith Graves

In 1975 he was sent to the scene of a road crash in Clapham and told that the Jimmy Young programme wanted a two-way interview with “the reporter on the scene”. Wareham explained that he had only just arrived. “I haven’t a clue what’s going on but I know a man who does,” he added, handing the microphone to a rookie, Alan Green, later a senior football commentator, but then still in basic training.

Later Wareham recalled teaching a young Jeremy Paxman to do his expenses, and gamely joining the St Moritz Cresta Run with a British bobsled team.

Retiring in 1989, he moved back to Devon and married Joan, his second wife, with whom he travelled extensively. Resuming his youthful passions, he honed his flair for fishing and yielded impressive produce from his vegetable garden. His love of journalism and the land came together when, with the horticulturalist Don Cockman, he hosted Radio Devon’s popular gardening programme The Potting Shed.

He remained an enthusiastic adventurer at sea and on land. In 1989, when he was 60, he cycled solo across the United States from the Pacific to the Atlantic, with only a few essentials in his panniers to sustain him. Despite numerous punctures and broken spokes he covered 4,000 miles in nine weeks, a marathon he recalled in The Daily Telegraph in 1991. Still cycling at 90, he would quip he was “better on two wheels than two legs”.

Geoffrey Wareham is survived by Joan (née Howard) and a stepdaughter by that marriage, and by his first wife Nathalie (née Singh) and their daughter and son.

Geoffrey Wareham, born November 22 1929, died February 11 2022
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