Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-11 > 1196021630

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] TRAVERS: Arthur James Travers
Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2007 20:13:50 -0000

AJ Travers
Last Updated: 2:29am GMT 21/11/2007

AJ Travers, who died on November 2 aged 95, was a diminutive, assiduous and
slightly pedantic Irish member of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph reporting
staffs for almost four decades.

Armed with a sharp, forensic mind, twinkling eyes and 200 words-per-minute
shorthand, Travers made the coverage of by-election campaigns his own, and
became known simply as "Paddy" to politicians from Harold Wilson down.

He was also first choice to "gut" complicated official documents, and always
took the note of the Budget speech in the days before the press were
supplied with a text to check against delivery.

The accuracy of his reporting was unquestioned; when Emmanuel Shinwell
attempted to sue the Telegraph for libel over a statement he had reportedly
made, Travers's shorthand note was accepted in court as conclusive evidence
of the words used.

Himself a staunch Conservative, Travers built personal friendships with
politicians of all parties, notably Iain Macleod and Jeremy Thorpe. During
the 1983 election campaign, he manned the Conservative Party's press office
along with nine former colleagues from the Lobby.

Travers was a stickler for the correct use of words. In the early 1980s he
clashed with the columnist Honor Tracy over perceived failings in her
literary style, and took issue in print with the Telegraph's Northern
Ireland correspondent over the Gaelic origins of the word "Belfast". Yet he
was unfailingly helpful to younger colleagues.

Arthur James Travers was born in Dublin on November 26 1911, the son of
James Travers, an NCO in the Army, and his wife Elizabeth. The family moved
to Kilkenny when his father was posted there; he went to school there and at
18 joined the Kilkenny Journal for a few shillings a week.

He grew to love the surrounding countryside as he criss-crossed it on his
bicycle in search of news.

In 1935 he moved to England, determined to break into national journalism,
and settled at Chelmsford, his home for the rest of his life. It was tough
to begin with, and he spent the war years as production control manager at
the Hoffman ball bearing company.

In 1945 he joined the Essex Chronicle, and after two years was recruited by
the Press Association.

His shorthand, exceptional even in those days, led to his being sent to
cover major trials at the Old Bailey. In November 1949 he crossed the street
to join The Daily Telegraph; its newsroom would be his professional home for
the next quarter of a century.

It was not always the most congenial place to work. John Armstrong, the
paper's estates correspondent, who had lost both hands in the war, took to
baiting him after a liquid lunch.

Eventually Travers snapped and, although half Armstrong's size, pinned his
head to the desk. The hooks flew off both Armstrong's arms in the ensuing
mle, before two colleagues managed to drag Travers off.

Over the years Travers acquired a near-monopoly of by-election coverage. He
managed to inject interest into even the dullest campaign, though always -
as the paper would then have wished - giving the Conservative candidate the
fullest coverage.

He covered his first when Churchill was prime minister - always recording in
full his message to the Tory candidate - and his last, culminating in
Labour's loss of Liverpool Edge Hill to the Liberals, days after the fall of
James Callaghan's government.

The arrangement was formalised in 1974 when Travers moved to Westminster to
join the paper's political staff under HB Boyne, and subsequently David

He "retired" two years later, being presented with a replica of The Book of
Kells, but immediately returned to work for The Sunday Telegraph, for which
he had undertaken Saturday shifts since the paper's inception in 1961.

He remained there until his final retirement in 1986.

Paddy Travers married Margaret Murphy, whom he had known in Ireland, in
1938. She predeceased him, and he is survived by their two daughters, both

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