In his own words … Paul Carter bids us farewell

Paul Carter 1


In the final analysis the venue for Paul Carter’s funeral was apt. It was held in the chapel of Mortlake Crematorium, an Italianate masterpiece described as a building of "exceptional quality and character".

Those words could just as easily be used to describe Paul, former deputy editor of the Daily Mail and night editor of the Daily Express. And the qualities of this extraordinary man were the magnet for a huge turnout of family, friends and colleagues for his funeral. By my reckoning the attendance was more than 150.

Paul, who died after a 30-year-long cancer battle aged just 54, had an immense intellect and a kindness to his fellow men and women that has been rarely matched in the cut-throat world of Fleet Street.

It was typical of the man that, knowing his days on earth were numbered, he wrote and directed his own funeral. It was a triumph of micro-management … even down to the flowers that decorated the chapel, which has been described as “probably the most undiscovered Art Deco treasure in London”.

As the wickerwork coffin was borne into the chapel to the theme of the 1971 film Get Carter  – a touch of whimsy from Paul – there came another surprise; the service was conducted not by a priest but by the author Simon Parke, a friend who once wrote a column for the Mail.

Paul had originally thought that he was “entirely indifferent" to how his funeral was directed, said Mr Parke, but, typically, he changed his mind saying “I realised that was bollocks”. So the service was carried out to Paul’s specific and very particular instructions.

mortlake crem

The introductory music was Impromptu No 3 in G-flat major by Franz Schubert. A love of Schubert had, in Paul’s words, been “one of the most precious gifts given to me by my mother”. He always played the impromptus to himself before an editing shift on a Sunday at the Mail because “it was guarantee that there would be at least some transcendent beauty”.

The poem Lights Out by Edward Thomas was read by Peter Brennan, Paul’s friend and former English teacher. Paul wrote that he had chosen this “because it was so unflinchingly wise and ruthless and brave”.

Kevin Acott,  a school friend, read Love (III), a verse by George Herbert.

Paul’s sister Sue Carter gave an insight into her brother’s life as a child and there were tributes by Mike Wright, a friend from university; and colleagues Susie Dowdall and Andy Gregory. Katherine Whitbourn read the poem The Trumpet by Edward Thomas.

Committal music was The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams and the closing music was Lonely Teardrops sung by Jackie Wilson.

A terrific wake was held at the Coach and Horse at Kew Green where Sue Carter had laid on a lavish treat with no expense spared. The publication of this report was somewhat delayed as a result of the hospitality.

The day was a fitting tribute to a man of towering intellect, unparalleled journalistic ability and an irrepressible sense of humour and decency.

So farewell then Paul, you wrote your own funeral. You would have spotted some inconsistencies in the service but unfortunately you weren't able to be there to correct them.

God will forgive you.

Paul Carter 2

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre