The Daily Telegraph’s Don Higgs, who has died aged 56, was one of Fleet Street’s "all-rounders", and a man whose distinctive strand of wry humour won him many friends.
He spent 30 years in Fleet Street as reporter, sub-editor, motoring columnist, features editor and foreign stringer. His breadth of experience served him well when he joined the Telegraph in 1987 as one of the founders of Telegraph Report, the nightly syndication wire, selecting and editing Telegraph copy for papers around the world.
Donald Anthony Higgs was born in Harrow, the son of a police inspector. His background poved useful in following up crime leads in his early career at the Harrow Observer, Eric Sly’s court reporting agency and at Cassidy and Leigh in Guildford.
He spent a decade as a sub-editor with the Press Association, before going to the Daily Express for two years. He was to join Sir James Goldsmith’s Now! as a writer, but by the time he got to the office to sign the contract Now! had become then.
Don was a fertile "ideas man", which led to a spell as a features editor at IPC, followed by a thriving freelance career, contributing to the Sunday magazines, stringing for The Straits Times of Singapore and Germany’s Spotlight magazine.
He had an eye for the overlooked and offbeat. Typical of his output were features on: Heathrow – the lost village; a man in Somerset who converted 2CVs into stretch limos; a drive on the River Severn; and "Serving suggestions", a column prompted by an illustration on a packet of mashed potato.
Cars were a lifelong fascination,and his portfolio of motoring columns for Man About Town and Midweek drew the envy of tyre-kicking colleagues, who were occasionally treated to hair-raising drives sitting at exhaust-pipe level in sports cars that were impossible to get into or out of until deposited feeling green on some London pavement.
Don’s hero was Matt, the Telegraph cartoonist. By coincidence, his doppelgÅ nger frequently appears in Matt’s cartoons – the balding man in the check shirt listening to the Roberts radio and smiting his brow in mock exasperation at the conspiracies of the world against the ordinary Englishman.
He took exaggerated pride in living in Teddington and in latter years rarely left the borough overnight, citing the Fleet Street publican who never left the capital because going away always made him ill.
Don maintained his fortitude and humour through an 18-month struggle with cancer. In this he was unswervingly supported by his wife, the journalist Gill Martin, to whom he was deeply devoted, and by their sons, Nick and Jamie.
His funeral is on Monday, 11 March at Mortlake Crematorium at 3pm. Family flowers only but donations to the Princess Alice Hospice, West End Lane, Esher kt10 8na would be welcome.
John Eifion Jones