Gay Firth, Ex-letters editor on The Financial Times

Gay Firth, who died on 9 January was a writer, editor and Financial Times’ journalist much loved by her colleagues. She was 68.

After
a short period as a history teacher, she plunged into freelance feature
writing before becoming a speech writer at the Equal Opportunities
Commission. She also reviewed fiction for The Times . But it was the
FT, which she joined in 1979 and where she remained for 15 years, that
was her true journalistic home. She believed fervently in everything
the FT stood for: honesty, independence, accuracy. She worked as an
editor and writer on the Weekend FT and as a sub-editor in its surveys
section.

But it was as letters editor that she had her biggest
impact: broadening the range of subjects, talking to correspondents and
brightening the section with her quirky wit. To the discomfort of FT
traditionalists, she printed a succession of readers’ letters on what
happened to the odd socks that disappeared during every wash – one
correspondent’s answer: they turned into wire hangers.

She was an unfailingly loyal soulmate to colleagues on the FT and further afield.

She
was a natural egalitarian. Her friends ranged from the great and good,
of whom she knew an inordinate number, to the most junior member of FT
staff. Foreign Secretary or foreign desk secretary all received the
same treatment: the gasp of delight at seeing you, the unfeigned
interest in your life, the shoulder to cry on, or – on the rare
occasions it was deemed necessary – the firm word that suggested it was
time to pull yourself together.

After her retirement from the FT, she worked for Prospect magazine.

Spending
much of the past year in the Royal Marsden Hospital, for which she had
the highest praise, she continued to read the FT assiduously and was
delighted when her letter on MI6’s ability to guard its secrets (“May
we hope that a significant proportion of its current data has already
been consigned to safety in, say, a couple of run-down lock-ups on the
Balls Pond Road?”) was published in her old section.

Michael Skapinker

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