A eulogy delivered by Jim
Edwards, a friend and former BBC World Service News colleague
of Jane Carrington, at her funeral on Monday, November 21,
2005, at the Reading Crematorium, All Hallows Road, Caversham.
Jane died of cancer on November
Jane was vital to the working of Bush House newsroom for
more than 20 years. One or two thought they might know her
official job title but no one used it. Her name alone was
enough to make clear her importance.
Jane was in charge of the highly complex rota system required
for the 24 hours a day operation providing 200 new bulletins
and programmes for 44 different language services. It required
a skill and personality such as Janes to ensure the
system worked. Cock-ups were unknown.
After her departure computers were never able to match her
abilities. Unlike the staff they couldnt cope with night
shifts the dawns as they are known in newsroom parlance.
Janes office with windows overlooking the newsroom
was a sanctum of support, friendly, intelligent conversation
on a wide range of topics and of discreet help. The
door was virtually always open. If it were closed there was
keen interest in the rest of the room as to who was in there,
and why. The journalists talked freely to her, secure in the
knowledge that nothing they said would be heard outside that
It was the knowledge of the individuals thus gained that
enabled Jane to ensure the shift system ran smoothly. Journalists
can be quite temperamental and Jane was skilled in ensuring
that those who had to work together were as compatible as
possible. She was informed about liaisons and the ending of
them; no confidence was betrayed. In a room full of curious
and inquiring journalists she was better informed than any
of them. Everyone knew it, but few of the curious had the
temerity to question her. Should they try there was a raising
of the eyebrows which quickly made them realize they had overstepped
Although not herself a journalist she had the journalists
skill of knowing when to be silent to invite that further
disclosure which occurs between friends. One former well-known
correspondent described her as a model interviewer.
Jane had a real skill in persuading people to change a shift;
it was done with a smile that made one feel generous about
spending a night in the newsroom rather than in bed.
The new wave of journalists arriving in the 1960s found a
room peopled by men and women of high calibre who had either
fled the advancing Nazis or Red Army and/or served in the
armed forces and some of whom it was whispered had seen service
with the Secret Service or army intelligence. They were of
various, generally European, nationalities as well as British.
Jane was a real link between them and the new brand of journalist
arriving with experience in news agencies, in Africa, Switzerland,
Australasia and other parts of the world, as well as with
newspapers in Britain. She was a keeper of newsroom oral history
stretching back before the time the various regional newsrooms
She also probably features in the former communist secret
police files in Poland . During the Cold War two senior Polish
media figures being shown around the newsroom repeatedly asked
about the Censor. Just before they left, they spotted Jane
in her corner office and were triumphant:Ah, shes
the censor! They were disinclined to believe an explanation
that although Jane was indeed powerful her power was restricted
to planning the rota. You see, they knew that in the communist
world such people were often very important politically. Jane
was highly amused.
It was difficult to think of Jane with a life outside the
newsroom, however people were curious. She was a very private
person but some gradually learned of her love of the garden
at her cottage in Dunsfold in Surrey and of the Oxfordshire
countryside where she had lived after the war. They learned
that the painter and prominent member of the Bloomsbury group,
Dora Carrington, was her aunt.
Her sister Joanna was also an artist of note and so is her
niece, Joannas daughter Sophie. Her father founded Puffin
Books. Jane, herself, had a love of literature and could talk
engagingly about it.
In retirement she kept up with her old friends and colleagues,
most of them also retired, and there was a steady stream of
visitors to Goring.
Jane was frequently in pain and discomfort caused by the
polio she contracted about the age of five. As we know, it
got worse as the years went by but she did not complain, indeed
it was never mentioned; rather she was matter of fact about
the consequences of disability.
She had a collapsible chair which could be stowed in a car
boot so that she could be taken out on picnics or to lunch
in one of the marvelous old country pubs she had either known
much of her life or had recently learned about. There was
at least one occasion when the only way in was to be carried,
in her chair, up a flight of steps. She judged a pub not on
the quality of its beer or wine she usually restricted
herself to a glass of lager and one of wine but on
its ambience and food.
Lunch would often be followed by a tour of her favourite
places, with a stop here and there to enjoy a familiar view
and to explain its place in her childhood and youthful memory.
Jane was at the BBC for nearly forty years. A former correspondent
described her as probably the last civilized person in Bush
House. Her death was a great shock. It truly marks the end
of an era. She herself, of course, would not have seen what
all the fuss was about.
Jane will be very sadly missed - but remembered with great