Belfast Telegraph

Chris Moncrieff: 'Consummate professional' journalist dies aged 88

By Eimear McGovern

The former political editor for the Press Association Chris Moncrieff has been described as a "bustling character" who would always help his fellow journalist, following his death at the age of 88.

Born in 1931, the veteran reporter covered Westminster for more than 50 years and was later awarded a CBE by Margaret Thatcher in 1989.

He was considered a tireless workhorse and often was in Northern Ireland to cover political events.

After retiring as PA's political editor in 1994, he went on to write a political column for newspapers including the Belfast Telegraph.

He was remembered by Ian Graham, the association's former Northern Ireland chief correspondent.

"When I was PA's Northern Ireland chief correspondent we worked together on many occasions. I think he's been described as the consummate professional and of course it's true, he was always willing to help the younger generation," he said.

"One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was that I needed to improve my shorthand. He was brilliant and I just learned from the master."

Mr Moncrieff was said to frequently work every day of the week and often encouraged politicians to call him any hour of the day or night.

"I suspect he never slept," Mr Graham said.

The House of Commons press bar was named after Mr Moncrieff following his many years covering events at Westminster.

"For much of his life he was a great lover of Guinness," said Mr Graham.

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Moncrieff kept his own political views close to his chest (Clara Molden/PA)

A group of MPs presented him with a framed share in the Dublin company to acknowledge his contribution to its profitability.

However, in 1983 and after a party conference, he gave up drinking.

"He was covering a party conference at the seaside and one morning he wandered down the pier and went to a clairvoyant.

"She took one look at him and said if you carry on drinking you won't live much longer. And he never touched a drop again for the last 30 or 35 years of his life," said Mr Graham.

"He came over to Northern Ireland on an election campaign for a Labour candidate and we split up engagements, working together.

"He stayed in the Stormont hotel and had 10 pints of Guinness lined up for himself and 10 gin and tonics lined up for me on the bar. He got through his Guinness a lot quicker than I got through my gin and tonics.

"I don't think I finished them."

Following Mr Moncrieff's retirement, he never lost his passion for politics - all of which was "right up his street," Mr Graham said.

He dedicated his later work to profiles and analysis of the movement in the political world.

Mr Graham added: "He retired at PA retirement age of 63 and started working again the next day doing background work and columns. He gave up the political editor's job because he had to, but he carried on as normal the next day."

"He was just a lovely guy to sit and chat to. He was a bustling character who always had newspapers and notebooks under his arm and was always scurrying around the place. All the politicians sought him out."

He is survived by his four children.

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