From Neil Morton, former Sports Editor, Independent on Sunday
Andrew Longmore’s six years as chief sports writer for the Independent On Sunday from 1996 marked a period all who worked with him still regard as a golden age. He was too modest to acknowledge it but he was the burnished one, our glittering prize.
As a writer of flair and authority, elegance and economy, on such a wide range of sports, he had few equals. He covered horseracing, tennis, football (Portsmouth’s yo-yo fortunes notwithstanding), rowing, cycling, athletics, sailing, countless Olympic and winter disciplines and was a champion of women’s sport. His cruelly early death at 65 will have touched many.
I was honoured to be his sports editor at the Sindy where he was loved for his generous nature as well as his verve and versatility. Unusually for a journalist, he seemed to lack cynicism. He admired the minnows of sport as much as the giants, and competitors and coaches highly respected his knowledge, sensitivity and appreciation of the nuances.
Unusually for a journalist, he seemed to lack cynicism. He admired the minnows of sport as much as the giants, and competitors and coaches highly respected his knowledge, sensitivity and appreciation of the nuances
He was a sports editor’s and sub-editor’s dream. Copy arrived on time, exquisitely written, cliché-free, and not a semi-colon misplaced. He always sounded as though he had arrived at a distant location by the seat of his pants, which he invariably had, but his cheerful, positive telephone manner was reassuring on those manic Saturdays.
Andrew was genuinely thrilled when the Sports Journalists’ Association presented him with the Olympic/Paralympic reporter of the year award after the Sydney 2000 Games. To beat the big beasts, whom he would later join, was a joy for us all. It was typical that he should praise the office for its ‘Gold man river’ headline rather than dwell on his own outstanding tribute to Steve Redgrave.
When he eventually moved to the Sunday Times, where he continued to write brilliantly for a bigger audience on a bewildering array of sports, our hearts were heavy. The announcement came not in the office, by phone or email, but over a cup of tea at my house. Class. He valued loyalty, friendship, the emotional pull peculiar to small teams. We knew how much his family meant to him because of the exemplary way he balanced work and personal demands, and we were made to feel like extended family.
Before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 Andrew asked me to help him with a book commission, a coffee table, picture-led tome to be presented to members of the Olympic Committee on the eve of the Games. Not as an illicit gift, honestly. He wrote the eloquent essays, I had fun with the extended captions. The weighty volume, wrapped ornately in gold satin, was published but I’m not sure it ever reached its target audience never mind the public at large. But at least it sat on our coffee tables, and we were proud. We called it our gold ingot.
It is desperately sad that the retirement Andrew embarked on last year should have ended so soon. I had persuaded him to write a blog for my own retirement project, a music website entitled Here Comes The Song, which he did – about two upbeat songs of the American band Fountains Of Wayne. He dedicated the piece to a fallen friend of his who had compiled a CD of 20 tracks ‘for the long-suffering journo on the road’.
Andrew’s wife Jane told me how much he was enjoying life, with time to dote on his grandchildren, and how he had been building a Spotify playlist of his own favourite songs. A new top-five entry was heralded: Van Morrison’s Bright Side Of The Road. Andrew’s optimistic approach to life is beautifully captured by the lyric…
Let’s enjoy it while we can
Won’t you help me share my load
From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road
Into this life we’re born
Baby sometimes, sometimes we don’t know why
And time seems to go by so fast
In the twinkling of an eye