Telegraph's 'giant in stature and print'

Colleagues of The Daily Telegraph’s late Rome correspondent Bruce Johnston have gathered to remember a "giant in stature and print".

At a memorial service in St Bride’s, Fleet Street, Telegraph foreign editor Alan Philps said: "Experienced journalists can make a story out of one fact and two quotes. Bruce was not like that.

"Whenever journalists huddled in Rome — around a lawyer outside the courts for example — the ‘professionals’

would ask a few questions, look at their notebooks, nod and move away.

"Bruce was always there, prodding away to get that extra quote which would illuminate the story."

Philps said that, as Johnston was being wheeled in for heart surgery in Italy, the nurse told him that his surgeon knew him.

"Bruce replied: ‘How is that possible?

I never met a heart surgeon.’ The nurse replied: ‘He trained in Cardiff. He says he always read the articles in the paper of Signor Johnston.’"

Philps added: "The surgeon explained later why he had taken on Bruce: he was a ‘Swarovsky case’.

"I thought I hadn’t heard correctly. Then it clicked: Swarovsky, the maker of crystal and those tiny glass animals.

"He meant that Bruce was so delicate and fragile, and his case so complicated, that he felt he had to take the challenge.

He did, and gave Bruce a few extra weeks. That is the best way to remember Bruce. A Swarovsky journalist — a rare combination of gentleman and passionate pursuer of the truth. Let us hope that newspapers will always find space for glittering ornaments."

After 14 years as the Telegraph’s Rome correspondent, Johnston died of a heart attack last October, aged 53.

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