ALAN FRAME attends the unveiling of a plaque to his old friend and colleague Ross Benson
To St Bride’s in Fleet Street for a short and very moving ceremony marking the dedication of a plaque commemorating the life of Ross Benson. Ross, pictured left, was one of the finest journalists to have graced the pages of our once great newspaper, at times Diary Reporter, US West Coast Correspondent, Feature Writer, Diary Editor and intrepid Chief Foreign Corr.
It still seems difficult to believe he is no longer with us, debonair in impeccable suits and with manners to match. His sudden death in March 2005 was an appalling loss not just to his extended family – Ross never did things by half and was married three times – but to journalism.
Two of Ross’s wives were at St Bride’s where the Rector, Canon Alison Joyce, said prayers and Dominic Sutherland, Ross’s stepson to whom he was very close, read an edited version of Benson’s final despatch from Bagdad, an extraordinarily powerful piece of writing which moved us all to tears. Hearing it again and reading it later, it is agonising in its intensity.
It demonstrates a Ross Benson far removed from the classmate of Prince Charles (at both Gordonstoun and Geelong Grammar in Sydney) or the boulevardier strutting the environs of Annabel’s in his days as a Debs’ Delight. It is reprinted HERE and is a textbook lesson for all of us on how to write sparingly and not just on what is seen but also from what is felt. Sadly for the Express, it appeared in the Daily Mail where Ross had decamped in 1997, a home which appreciated his vast talents (and vast expenses claims!) and gave him the breadth of display we once did at the Express in its heyday.
Old Express hands Geoffrey Levy, at 79 still going strong at the Mail, John McEntee, Neil Mackwood and yours truly were joined by Richard Kay and Leaf Kalfayan of the Mail.
The event had been organised by Ingrid Seward, Ross’s widow and editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine. Their daughter Bella had flown in from New York as had Ross’s daughter Anoushka by second wife Zoe, along with Anoushka’a three children Fred, Kit and Elfie and husband Sam Houser.
Ross’s widow and third wife Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine
Ingrid and Ross’s second wife Zoe with her grandchildren Elfie and Fred
Ross’s daughters Bella, left, and Anoushka who had both flown in from New York
Benson’s fellow diarist and colleague John McEntee of the Daily Mail