Obituary Robert Gibson

ANOTHER great Fleet Street name has been lost. Rob Gibson, former political editor of the Daily Express, has died.

Rob, pictured, who went on to start his own Westminster agency, Gallery News, was a popular name in the industry and warm tributes were paid last night.

His colleague JOE MURPHY wrote on Facebook: I am very sad to learn of the death of Rob Gibson, former political editor of the Daily Express and latterly founder of Gallery News. 

Rob was a gentleman, an esteemed and loyal colleague and wonderful company. A natural raconteur, he held us spellbound with Fleet Street stories and I learned a lot about the practical trade of journalism watching him negotiate stories. 

My favourite funny story about Rob was the time when as an ace chief news reporter he filed in a hurry from the airport, en route to Tehran, his take on the fall of the Shah. According to the legend he simply barked to the copytaker: “The people of Iran yesterday swapped a despot for a crackpot.  Point, par, take in PA! ”

Of course, this is just a story.  Rob always filed a full and professional report. But his intro as always captured the essence of the event with style and brevity. 

It was my great good fortune in life to be allocated a desk in Rob’s office on the Burma Road — aka Room 11 of the Press Gallery — in 1989. 

Rob was the senior statesman in this wonderful room under Big Ben and tried to keep order as some of the biggest personalities and greatest talents in SW1A created stories, humour, scoops, mischief and chaos. 

Crammed within a space the size of a modest bedroom were future diplo David Shaw, then of the Evening Standard, the late, great Peter Welbourn of the Star, and the brilliant Nick Assinder and Peter Hooley, both of the Express at the time. I was a shaver from the provinces, feeding local papers and I learned so much watching this roomful of noise, talent and experience. 

One of Rob’s curious roles at this time was unique. When there was a sudden leaving do or a sad loss of a colleague, people would gather in the old Press Bar and Rob would sing, unaccompanied, in his clear and tender baritone, the folk song Peggy Gordon. People would join in and the bar would fill with emotion. 

Tonight I’ll be “away with the mixer”, and will sing Peggy Gordon for Rob. A lovely man and a vital member of an era of grand characters and warm colours.

The Daily Mirror’s KEVIN MAGUIRE wrote in the New Statesman: The Daily Express’s former political editor Robert Gibson, who died recently, was scribe or secretary of the press gallery freemasons back in the day. The funny-handshake journalist, who went on to create his own Westminster news agency, was incandescent when this column revealed his furtive side after I was forwarded masonic lodge minutes he inadvertently emailed to a number of MPs. 

The parliamentary press pinny boys included an old Times hand, a couple of ex-Express scribblers and a one-time Westminster boss of the Press Association newswire. Reciting ludicrous oaths played a prominent role in the secret gatherings, I recall. After weeks of ribbing, furious Gibbo denounced yours truly as a Blairite. That was news to the Blairites but confirmed the political designation was a widely deployed smear in the Tony years.

CHARLES LEWINGTON: Rob was my first boss on the Express in Room 11, wise, knew how to handle a demanding news desk and handled the internal politics adroitly. And in later life, kept us all informed as colleagues came and went. RIP

ROGER TAVENER: I arrived in Fleet Street during the bitter 80s regional newspaper strike. Turned up at PA practically penniless, with a mortgage, but said I had to go on strike to support my old colleagues. PA said I'd lost my job.

I went on the picket line in the freezing mid-Winter. Rob sought me out, took me for a drink and, in that calm, uber-cool manner, assured me that it would all work out.

I needed somebody to say it because others warned this was professional suicide. He made a huge difference in so many, many ways.

Rob daily returned to chat and encourage those on the picket lines. I owe him a great deal and I'm incredibly sad to hear he's died.

If I'm one tiny part of the huge legacy he's left, I'm proud. Thanks Rob.

DAVID KEMP: Rob and I were friends for over 40 years which were often peppered with hilarious adventures at home and abroad. On email he was Perry (after the silver-headed Perry Como and I use to tease him occasionally with a rendering of Magic Moments) and I was referred to by him as Cliff.

Thanks for all the laughter, Perry, and for your quiet, wise counsel to me and so many others. When the late, sorely missed Chris Potter took me aside one evening and told me he was very ill he said: “You’re the second person I have told.”

And the first? “Rob Gibson.”

The old school of post war politicos used to ask of newcomers: “are they good citizens — or are they ****s or ****s?

Rob was a very good citizen.

Former Daily Star reporter TOM ROCHE said: 'Rob Gibson was indeed a lovely singer and also a major Elvis Presley fan, who wrote a highly successful biography of his idol, Elvis, A King Forever. He was aided with pictures from one Sid Shaw, an Elvis nut from Shoreditch and founder of the Elvis Presley Party (among its manifesto pledges; TV news programmes to be introduced with Good Rockin’ Tonight and training schemes for bell ringers to play Crying in the Chapel). 

'Bar a couple, I can name all the players in the Daily Star team photo, which I vaguely remember might have been taken on Hackney Marshes. We would go there for a couple of “friendly” training matches ahead of our annual Maundy Thursday drubbing by the hairy-arsed Northerners featured in red in your earlier photo, despite the presence of our Scottish captain, Brian Steele and big Geordie Chris Boffey in defence and Welsh Huw Whittow between the sticks. 

'I see we were in all green for this partıcular game, but you never knew how we would turn out. Having no official kit, we would borrow whatever we could from contacts in the amateur game, once playing with a large and proud, and reasonably appropriate, Star of David on our chests. 

'Like everyone else, it seems, I remember Rob Gibson for his kind and gentle manner, particularly his encouragement to me when I was a Fleet Street stripling.’

*Tom Roche later worked for IRN and Sky News

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