David Spaull


In the 25th year of his career at BBC World Service News, David Spaull achieved the goal that just about everyone in the newsroom had wished for him: he became the editor.

Only 18 months later, he was forced into medical retirement, to spend the next 12 years courageously defying a succession of cruel and debilitating illnesses. Sadly, the struggle ended on 16 October when he died in his sleep, aged 70.

David was a big man – in height and build – with a big, outgoing personality, a big laugh which was triggered by the quirky and the ridiculous, and a big bass voice that could be heard form several rooms away when it was raised.

He joined the World Service in 1964 after five years with the Croydon Advertiser Group and eight years with PA. With a wife, two small children and a mortgage to pay, he took the gamble of going to Bush House as a temporary sub on a three-month contract.

He never looked back. As a complete professional with an unquestioned integrity and a passionate regard for accuracy, he soon made his mark.

He rose steadily to higher levels of responsibility for news bulletins and programmes and in 1975 became one of the two senior editors in charge of the entire newsroom output.

He was known to have a rather short fuse and young subs were apt to quake at his approach. But the eruptions were only to ensure that the standards of the output were equal to his own. They were almost invariably followed by a deep chuckle at some odd piece of news. He was liked, admired and respected by all who came into contact with him.

Then, cruelly, David was diagnosed with acromegaly, a non-malignant tumor in the pituitary gland which affects many different parts of the body. And so he was attacked by one gradually worsening condition after another, affecting his heart, spine, legs and breathing.

Typically, he did not give in, but fought back with remarkable equanimity, determined to lead as active a life as possible.

He never lost his sense of humour. Even being in a wheelchair became a new adventure. He wrote comically and delightedly about the "whole new world down there" among the children and dogs.

For all his many friends there is a great sense of loss, coupled with deep sympathy for June – to whom he had been happily married for more than 40 years – his three children and the three granddaughters on whom he doted.

Mike Holmberg

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