Exit Buckland, still providing the laughs


ASHLEY WALTON reports from St Bride’s on the memorial service for Chris Buckland

The irony of the whole event would have made him roar with laughter.

The great and good of the world of politics and journalism were crammed shoulder to shoulder on the benches of St Bride's just hours after the most extraordinary General Election in British history.

As Mrs May was driving to the Palace trying to form what the Mirror described as “coalition of crackpots", in St Bride's the congregation were voting for Chris Buckland, one of the most popular and best political journalists of his generation.

The Sun's Trevor Kavanagh, standing in for an unwell Les Hinton, and Daily Mail supremo Paul Dacre, made the congregation laugh with the stories of Buckland's marvellous sense of fun and unique nose for a story.

Chris could see through fraud but he didn't think he deserved success, because he was  driven by insecurity, but he charmed everyone

While working for the Daily Mirror in Belfast Chris coined the phrase that the IRA had "swapped the ballot for the bomb".  Weeks later the IRA blew up the Mirror printing plant in Northern Ireland as revenge.

Dacre said that Chris brought a touch of panache to everything he did or wrote. Sent to Belize to cover a possible war he did an advance piece and discovered in a newspaper cutting that the only thing Belize was famous for was the cultivation of a certain kind of tree used in the manufacture of chewing gum.

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"By Gum it's war," he wrote.

When he arrived in Belize he discovered that the gum trees had died from disease. Never mind, it was a great headline.

Dacre told how Buckland went alone aged eight and queued to get into the Commons public gallery. Years later he became a top lobby correspondent for the Express.

"He didn't do bullshit or sycophancy, his loyalty was to which ever paper he worked for at the time and had close friends on both sides of the House," said Dacre.

There were the tales of how Chris, much the worse for drink, passed out at a Sex Pistols rock concert, sleeping peacefully, his head against a massive loud speaker.

Chris finally beat the battle of the booze and was never seen without his new trademark Diet Coke along with the usual cigar.

There was a fascinating tale of Pierre Trudeau's wife forgetting to put on any underwear which sadly did not contain any detail.

"He would have laughed so much at the irony of today," said Dacre.

Dacre said that Chris "walked tall" despite his genetic disabilities had had "huge guts" in whatever story he was facing.

There was marvellous opera from the choir singing Buckland's favourite Con te partiro (Time To Say Goodbye) and we all left to the sound of a brass band playing the Stars and Stripes Forever.

Among the congregation Lord Drone spotted from the days of the Express, Paul Potts, Roger Watkins, John Roberts, Ashley Walton, Compton Millar, Michael Evans, Rosemary Carpenter, Alastair McIntyre and Richard Dismore.  Apologies to anyone missed in the crush.

*Chris Buckland died on 28 February, 2017, after a 10-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 73.

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LAST PICTURE: Buckland celebrating his 73rd birthday at the Garrick Club in London in January 2017                           Picture: JAMES MacMANUS


CHUMS: Chris with his best friend Syd Young

Farewell Buckers

A sub’s tribute

Times Obituary 

Telegraph Obituary (best of the reports)

Press Gazette report

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre