Gordon Campbell - Former father of the Parliamentary gallery

It was a memorable moment.

There he was, a young reporter,
poised to report Parliament, with pen and plenty of ink. The snag was
the pen wouldn’t write. He shook the pen, only to watch, with horror,
as ink drops splattered onto the MP seated in the chamber below his
seat in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. The MP, glanced up, none too
pleased. It was Sir Winston Churchill.

The death of veteran
journalist Gordon Campbell, 77, not only severs a link with Churchill,
but with an era which retained a reminder of the days when Charles
Dickens reported Parliament.

The link with Churchill also led to
Campbell delivering a severe rebuke to the Press Association’s
legendary Chris Moncrieff after he was caught sneaking a preview of the
preparations for the lying in state of Churchill’s body in Westminster
Hill in 1965. Lord Cholmondley, the Lord Great Chamberlain, was
incensed, and the reprimand, delivered to appease him, probably saved
Moncrieff from being expelled from the Press Gallery.

Campbell, arrived at the Commons on 4 November, 1951, as a holiday relief reporter for the Exchange Telegraph news agency.

He
remained for 53 years, working subsequently for the Scottish Daily
Express until 1979, and thereafter for IRN Scotland until he retired
last September.

As honorary secretary of the Gallery for 15 years
he bequeathed at least two legacies. Robert Maxwell had been chairman
of the Commons Catering Committee and Campbell persuaded him to install
the current Press Bar, which was opened by Harold Wilson.

His
other legacy came after journalists were angered at the long delay in
getting medical attention after Arnold “Topsy” Turvey, Parliamentary
reporter for the London Evening News, collapsed and died in the Gallery
cafeteria.

Thanks to Campbell’s campaign a nurse is now on duty
at the Commons should any one need her services. It was Campbell’s
courage which most impressed colleagues.

He gave an early
demonstration of this when as a boy seamen he served on minesweepers in
the North Sea during World War Two. He also boxed for the Navy,
becoming featherweight champion.

In later years his remarkable
courage helped him to cope with illness. Even the loss of a leg did not
stop him from turning up to work, always immaculately dressed. Though
he did not seek help, his colleagues secured a chair lift to enable him
to travel from his room to the studio where he did voice pieces for
Radio Clyde.

Campbell’s death came just a few weeks before the
Parliamentary Press Gallery was due to mark the retirement of the
Father of the Gallery by presenting him with a floor tile from the
Commons. It will be passed instead to Campbell’s family, where his
grandchildren will have a unique memento of his unique journalistic
career.

David Rose

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