Ellis Kopel

Ellis Kopel, a founder of the NUJ’s Press & PR branch and a former Press Association parliamentary correspondent, has died, aged 77. following a short period of poor health.

He escaped the holocaust in 1939 via the Kindertransport from Eastern Europe to the UK and had a variety of jobs – in the RAF, farming and catering – before getting his break on magazines and local newspapers in the early Fifties. Ellis worked for PA in the House of Commons press gallery for five years before founding Ellis Kopel Public Relations in the City. When he reached 65, he sold his firm and set up a small office in Islington where he could offer his skills to trade union clients.

I first met him at a Press & PR branch meeting where I was proposing a new member. First impressions can be deceptive. Anyone who thought that Ellis was a curmudgeonly so-and-so was usually quickly disappointed as he had a sharp eye for detail which most City desks on Fleet Street would have been proud to employ.

Ellis was also unafraid of challenging common assumptions. This is why he could be expected to go through the accounts at most ADM’s and ask any awkward questions that needed to be be asked (when I first went into the NEC I thought the then president, Francis Beckett, was joking when he warned me against going on the finance committee).

This is what made Ellis special, both at work and on union business. None of the groupings on the NEC could rely on his vote because he preferred to think through each issue and look at the merits of all the arguments.

He was a committed trade unionist all his life. It was rare not to see him at a meeting of the Press and PR branch, or of any committee to which he had been elected to serve. Ellis was not afraid to encourage younger members to participate in unions affairs and to help them carry on the work as older members retired.

Much of the work Ellis did for the NUJ wasn’t headline-grabbing but vital nevertheless. This was particularly so for the old Widows & Orphans Fund and the newer Members in Need Fund. He was one of the main movers behind the change of name of the former to the Provident Fund.

His wife of 51 years, Dora, has asked that there should be no flowers at his funeral – and donations should be sent to the NUJ Members in Need Fund, 308 Gray’s Inn Road, London, wc1x 8dp.

Chris Youett

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