OBITUARY: David Haworth, veteran Brussels correspondent

by John Cooney

David Haworth, the veteran English-born journalist and long-time member of the Association of European Journalists, (AEJ), who has died in his adopted city of Brussels, aged 82, had two causes which he valiantly championed: Finland and Ireland.

He also thundered regularly against two bêtes noir – Boris Johnson for spreading fake news during the Brexit referendum and Frenchman Jacques Delors as an over-vaulting EU-Federalist.

Addressing the Humbert Summer School in August 1992 in Ballina, Co Mayo, on “Post-Maastricht Europe without borders,” David shocked his mainly pro-EU audience by declaring that “the very name Delors brings to mind the aplomb of a taxi driver nervously watching in the rear mirror a passenger he already knows will not pay his fare.”

Born on January 17, 1941 in the Lancastrian town of Blackburn, David’s Belfast-born mother Sallie’s maiden name was Stewart.  Her  father the Reverend Dr David Stewart,was  a distinguished genealogist and historian of Northern Ireland’s largest Protestant denomination. His weekly pulpit was Cregach Presbyterian Church in east Belfast.

Recalls David’s daughter Harriet: “David Stewart was over 90 when he died and some of  my dad’s earliest memories were of holidays spent with his grandparents in Ireland after the Second World War.”

In a classic instance of a mixed marriage within Protestantism, the young Sallie converted to the established Anglican Church after she married Jim Haworth and reared their two sons, David and Patrick, as Anglicans.

However, David’s many friends, who gathered last Friday at the crematorium in the Uccle district of the EU’s capital city were unaware of his tangled religious inheritance. Mourners heard Geoff Meade MBE, retired Brussels Press Association Editor, quote Tony Blair – that “the hand of history” had borne-down on James David Haworth.

Geoff revealed that in his dying days the doyen of the Brussels press corps when under the obligatory age of 21 ran away with his bride-to-be to Gretna Green, on the Scottish-English border after Sallie and Jim refused to approve the marriage.

Watching TV from his hospital bed with Geoff during the recent coronation of King Charles III David pointed to the stall in Westminster Abbey, where he sat demurely as a choir-boy.

Furthermore, David wanted to become an actor, but instead studied law at University College London in deference to Sallie and Jim’s wishes. Thus, England lost a budding Rumpole of the Bailey when David defected to the Fourth Estate.

David’s career stretched back to the Daily Sketch and he worked with Bernard Ingham on the industrial desk of the London Observer before moving to Brussels when the UK and Ireland joined the then EEC.  He filed news copy from there to the Observer, The International Herald Tribune and The Irish Independent, but in the 1980s he spent time as European Commission spokesman in Washington under the late Andy Mulligan, the Irish rugby player, also from Belfast.

There he befriended “the beloved publisher” Llewellyn Kingwho admires David “as unique, acerbic, kind and supremely generous — generous in ways that are not common: he shared his friends and his institutions.”

David introduced Llewellyn to Finland and Ireland, where he addressed the annual Humbert Summer School in Co Mayo along with his wife Linda Gasparello for over two decades.  In addition, David inducted them into the AEJ.

Edward Steen described “David as “an unusual fellow, witty and mischievous, with great patience and, intriguingly, not without sadness in his life. Above all, he had a poet’s sense of what really matters – wine, laughter and the love of friends.”

David’s favourite Italian restaurant in Rue Archimède  Brussels was La Fiorentina and his favourite Viennese café was, Alt Wien, preferably with his lovely Austrian partner Ulli Braun, whom he met in 1996 after Austria joined the EU.

Since early 1990 David had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes but characteristically did not let this deter his joie de vivre. AEJ’s honorary president, Otmar Lahodynsky, on   learning at Bangkok Airport of David’s passing, climbed up 3000 metres above sea-level to the rock monastery Tiger’s Nest, in Buhtan  where he recited prayers for the dead with a Buddhist monk who told him David had already reached eternity.

Pat Humphreys with whom David authored an amusing guide to Helsinki and Finland, will oversee his wish to have his ashes scattered over Lake Saimaa in Finland’s south-eastern Lakeland next month.

Returning to David’s funeral service in the Anglican rite, a Boris Johnson story was mistold. As I was the only witness, it needs to be told accurately.

On a Friday evening in Kitty O’Shea’s Bar in December 1990 I was enjoying a few libations with David when he spotted an old friend enter the crowded premises.  It was the legendary Bill Deedes, immortalised in Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Scoop.

David invited Bill to join us and introduced me as the press secretary of Ray McSharry, Commissioner for Agriculture.  Bill informed us he would shortly be joined by his staff correspondent, Boris Johnson.

We enjoyed Bill’s company for some time, as Boris failed to arrive on time. When he did arrive, eventually, flustered and full of apologies for his tardiness, Bill bought him a drink and they moved to the privacy of the table next to us. Needless to say, Bill’s glass soon stood empty and  forlorn.

“Boris, buy Bill a drink”, mouthed David as  Boris yapped on with his own glass hardly touched, while his senior colleague stared at his long consumed glass.

“Yes, buy Bill a drink”, I chimed in, reminding Boris in my most menacing Scottish accent that it was his round. This intervention startled Boris, who embarrassingly whispered back, “I’ve no money”.

After David’s funeral his friends gathered in the Brasserie Prince d’Orange, where David in days past loved to sing and dance to the music of Foster and Allan. He was no ordinary grandson of the Manse.

* Scot John Cooney is Director of the Humbert International Summer School in Ballina Co Mayo and a former European correspondent of the Irish Times.

Top of page picture is of David Haworth (left), Liguori Cooney and Bill Heaney, press aid to David Martin, Vice President of the European Parliament.

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