Pat Ferguson, a mainstay of The Observer’s foreign coverage for nearly 20 years, has died aged 73. Foreign news editor before he left the paper in 1986 (for the newly formed Independent), Pat was renowned for his far-ranging knowledge of the world and his careful cherishing of far-flung correspondents. He arrived at The Observer in 1969 from the Yorkshire Post (via the Associated Press) to work on the Foreign News Service, which syndicated articles to English language newspapers. After his move to the main paper, he eventually assumed control of foreign news coverage. Observer writers and ‘stringers’ (overseas correspondents) remember Pat with great affection.
Among the tributes was this from writer Neal Ascherson: ‘I came to find him a sturdy friend to the foreign correspondent, protecting us from the cuts and interferences from above. His care for good journalism, his encyclopaedic knowledge of world politics and his patience with excitable, sometimes self-obsessed colleagues was a guarantee of quality. He also possessed – though often kept out of sight – a mischievous sense of humour, expressed in wise but satirised asides about our superiors. Pat held together the quality of the newspapers he worked for, and cleverly managed the strange menagerie of characters who contributed to them from all over the world. He was too modest about how indispensable he became.”
Robin Lustig, later with the BBC, wrote: ‘I have so many memories of him as one of the main pillars of the news desk during my Obs years, especially while I was in the Middle East.’ Sunanda Datta-Ray, wrote from Calcutta: ‘I have the happiest memories of Pat. He will be missed by hundreds of Observer correspondents round the world.’
Pat completed his career with the Financial Times. He lived in recent years near Hampton Court Palace and in retirement became an official guide – joking that he often drank with ‘Henry VIII’ when both their stints were completed. He met his wife, Lynne, while both were students at Leeds University: Pat appeared on University Challenge and in later years was much sought after as a member of quiz teams. Lynne, professionally a teacher, was a talented amateur actor and director: she died in 2012. The Fergusons had three children: James and twins, Tom and Polly.
The funeral will be on Friday June 16th ,10.30am, at St. Francis de Sales Church, 16 Wellington Road, Hampton Hill, Middlesex, TW12 1JR, and afterwards at the Red Lion, 164 Stanley Road, TW11 8UD for drinks and lunch.