Tribute to a fine reporter – Patrick McGowan

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Tuesday 21st February 2012

Sitting on the Oxford Tube on the way home from London last night, I flicked idly through the Evening Standard. There, on page five, was a single column paying tribute to one of the most outstanding reporters on the paper – Patrick McGowan, who died last week at the age of 60.

Pat was a straight-talking Yorkshireman, who joined the Standard in 1978 and for nearly 30 years covered all the major stories of the day. He was a brilliant newsman, able to turn his hand to anything the news desk threw at him without any fuss.

During my first months at the paper I was a bit nervous of him. He was so calm and unruffled about reporting, even five minutes before the edition deadline, when the atmosphere was tense and everyone’s nerves were on edge. But he was kind and funny, with a dry wit that got right to the heart of things.

I didn’t realise until I read the Standard tribute (written by friend and longstanding colleague Paul Cheston) that it was Pat who coined the famous phrase “the wrong kind of snow.” The saying caught the imagination of thousands of fed-up commuters when London train services were completely disrupted in the winter of 1991 and went down in history. Every time I hear it now I’ll think of Pat, one of Fleet Street’s finest. RIP Pat.

10 comments so far

  • How fortunate that you opened the paper at that page and so have been able to bring to more people’s attention the fact that he’s died. He sounds an amazing man.

    Liz X

  • Nice piece, Emma. Such a sad week. Like so many of us, I am stunned by Marie Colvin’s death. It was probably inevitable but I think we thought she was invincible. We have lost two fine members of our family and, in Marie, the finest foreign correspondent of our generation.

  • Hi Wendy. I heard the news of Marie Colvin’s death as I drove south tonight. Totally shocked by it. She really was the finest war correspondent of our generation.

  • Nice tribute Emma. Patrick was indeed a fine reporter and an all round good bloke. We covered the Lockerbie inquiry together and his practical bent – rare among hacks – frequently brought him sniffing around my desk for the latest Air Accident Investigation Branch reports, which were his idea of leisure reading. We kept in touch after we both left the Standard. I bunped into him from time to time at my local station, heading off to drive trains b ut I didn’t manage to buy him a last drink. Sad news indeed.

  • Hi Roger. It’s lovely to hear from you, though in very sad circumstances. A fine reporter and all round good bloke – I think you pretty much sum Pat up. I lost touch ages ago but I do remember a lovely day in the Lake District a few years after I left the Standard, when Pat and Margaret were on holiday and we joined them for a walk. Fond memories of years past.

  • I was a colleague of Patricks at Wimbledon Park Depot southwest trains and attended his funeral yesterday Emma.
    It was a lovely tribute to him with many of his friends giving the whole congregation a real insight into Patricks private and professional life. It is clear now to us, his train driving colleagues that he was an extremely modest man. As other than the “wrong type of snow” phrase which we found hilarious giving that he drove trains for the last 6 years, we knew very little about his previous career as a journalist!
    Some of the cases that he worked on were amazing namely the;
    Piper alpha disaster,IRA coach bombing,Yorkshire Ripper case, Harold Shipman case,Ian Huntley case were just a few that came to light yesterday. I would be interested to see a list of all the history making cases that Patrick worked on.
    Finally it was clearly evident by the tributes paid to him that Patrick lived a very full and varied and happy life albeit far too short, and he will be very sadly missed by Margaret his daughters and many friends and colleagues.It was a priviledge to have known Patrick McGowan.

  • Thank you so much for your comment, Mark. It’s lovely to hear from one of Pat’s rail colleagues and I agree, it was a privilege to have known him.

  • Hi Emma
    Only heard about Pat’s very sad death this week from Stan Slaughter. Absolutely awful, I feel so much for Margaret and the family. Pat and I spent two weeks back in the day covering the Helen Smith inquest in Leeds (now all but forgotten), and we always got on well. He was a fine reporter and a great bloke. RIP

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