Tony Boram, Daily Herald journalist and MirrorGroup pensions campaigner

This cartoon of Tony Boram was created by the celebrated cartoonist, Belsky. It was one that he particularly cherished and we have been asked to use it in preference to a standard photograph.

With the death of Tony Boram on 11 October at the age of 77, members of Mirror pension schemes have lost a courageous man who has done so much to protect their pensions. He fought ill-health and failing eyesight for many years but finally succumbed to near total blindness and cancer.

The death of his wife Sylvia less than one month ago, again after a long illness, was just too much for Tony and he quietly died in his sleep.

Tony was a highly regarded journalist, mainly with the Daily Herald, where he held a number a senior posts, and subsequently as a main board director of Mirror Group Newspapers until his enforced illhealth retirement in June 1984.

Within weeks, Robert Maxwell acquired Mirror Group and was instrumental in causing Tony to start his second career as a legal antagonist against a man known for his ruthless pursuit of egotistical ambitions.

It gradually became known that Maxwell was using pension scheme assets of MGN (and other Maxwell controlled companies) to feed his insatiable creation of personal wealth. Pension scheme assets should be in the safe hands of trustees, but Maxwell either dominated the then trustees or simply bypassed them.

A group of pensioners had grave concerns about the situation but were reluctant to challenge a man with apparent unlimited financial resources and a reputation for litigation.

Luckily, one man stepped forward, namely Tony Boram. He made vigorous representations to Maxwell, who immediately responded with threats that any slander or libel would be dealt with in the courts.

Lawyers advised that to achieve any success in a legal action the pensioners should band together. This advice was heeded and the Association of Mirror Pensioners (AMP) was formed in 1990, with Tony as chairman. Much effort was expended raising funds to finance legal action. AMP was legally prevented from access to names and addresses of pensioners, so making pensioners aware of the of the proposed action was difficult.

The next step was one which many would hesitate to take, but not Tony.

He insisted that to protect the members of AMP against any liability for costs he would be the sole Plaintiff.

His lawyer and counsel warned him in no uncertain terms of the financial consequences he personally risked.

In the event that Tony was unsuccessful, he would face a vengeful Maxwell. Tony and, it must be remembered, Sylvia, who fully supported him, would in all probability lose their home and any other assets they owned.

The legal action was set in motion and as a first step, Tony ensured the press at large were kept informed.

The BBC’s Panorama made a programme which infuriated Maxwell to such an extent that he published in the Sunday Mirror a vicious attack headed “Jackals of the BBC” and, as usual, threatened legal action. This caused the BBC to withdraw the programme at short notice.

Tony was relishing the forthcoming legal battle but Maxwell died in well documented and mysterious circumstances.

In the event, Tony did not face financial disaster. The legal action was aborted but within days of Maxwell’s death, his plundering of pension schemes began to emerge.

Tony’s next major role was engaging with others in the formation of a new trustee company (with completely new trustees). Tony again took legal action to ensure the new company drafted Articles of Association which met with Court approval. These effectively gave equal representation to management and democratically elected employee/pensioner representatives, with an independent chairman appointed with the approval of all concerned. The new administration rules safeguarded scheme funds.

Subsequently, Tony led a delegation to give evidence before the House of Commons Select Committee on Pensions, presented evidence to the DTI enquiry into Maxwell’s affairs and presented a submission to the Goode Committee on pensions.

He also lodged – and won – a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman over his claim that AMP should have access to certain actuarial information.

Tony chaired AMP’s annual meeting each year until September 2003 when it became clear that his health, and Sylvia’s, had reached the stage where he could not carry on and he reluctantly tendered his resignation.

Those that have known him over the years will miss him more that words can convey. We, the pensioners, owe so much to him. We could not have had a more dedicated first chairman of AMP. Long may the foundations he laid continue to protect our future.

Ken Hudgell

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