Former Daily Mail, People and Express sub-editor Ian Levack has died, aged 73. The son of a Port of London docker, he grew up in Alperton, West London and realised journalism was in his blood early on.
It was a passion for words and ‘twinkle in the eye’headlines that would see him spend half a century on the national press.
Ian’s love affair with words began when he ran a newspaper stall at Hanger Lane station, selling the old Evening News, while looking for a break submitting short stories to Titbits magazine. Eventually he landed a job at Women’s Mirror where he worked alongside close friend Brian Checkley and soon became known for his natural headline writing talent.
Never afraid to speak his mind, he got away with it because of a natural charm and ability to make and take banter with quick, sometimes Goon-like humour. His career took him to the London Standards, the launch of the Daily Sketch and from there to The Sun, before joining the Daily Mail, where he spent his longest time under the editor he called the greatest, David English.
He then moved on to the People, The Sun again, Star and Sunday Express as a permanent casual working alongside and counting among his friends legends including Ray Mills, John Smith and the ‘best writer I ever met’Ian Wooldridge.
His son Jim, news editor at the Birmingham Mail, said: ‘He always talked about the Street and its many characters with misty-eyed reverence. I always knew he was popular, but only on hearing the memories of his closest friends can I appreciate how much a part of the fabric of what made the place so special, he was.”
Ian, who died of a heart attack while playing tennis, had a reputation as a mimic and brought newsrooms to life with his professionalism and wit. But those closest to him knew him as a hugely principled big softie with a generous human touch.
Former colleague Viv Watts said: ‘Ian gave me my first job at the Mail. I walked in and it was like a bear pit, but he really looked after me and made sure I got on. I’ll never forget that kindness.”
Ian was also a man of great loyalty, standing by his wife through a lengthy illness, never failing to keep in touch with old pals – even supporting Brentford FC avidly until his death.
His charming cheek and his enthusiasm for newspapers and catchy headlines was infectious.
Jim said: ‘From the first time I saw him skip down the sweeping marble steps of the Sunday Express, shirt sleeves rolled up to show me the magical kingdom upstairs, I knew what I wanted to do. He was an inspiration to me as a journalist, he was a devoted family man, but most importantly he was my best mate.”
He leaves son, Jim, daughter-in-law Catherine and three grandchildren, Nick (14), Alex (12) and Jess (seven), whom he doted on to the end.
His funeral was at Mortlake Crematorium in South West London on 14 December. Donations can be sent for the British Heart Foundation c/o Patrick Ryan and Daughter Undertakers, 6 South Ealing Road, Ealing, London W5 4QA.