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CULTURE | 27-07-2019 10:49

Andrew Graham-Yooll: Memories of an absent friend

Argentine Embassy in London and Anglo-Argentine Society remember late writer and journalist with two events in British capital.

Andrew GrahamYooll’s life and work were commemorated at two special events in London this week, both held at the Argentine Ambassador’s Residence in Belgrave Square. In sweltering heat, reminiscent of a Buenos Aires January, memories were shared over Malbec and empanadas.

The first event, on Monday, was a memorial ‘service’, set to the gentle strains of tango. A diverse blend gathered: Embassy staff, family members, journalists, friends and representatives of the Anglo-Argentine (and Argentines abroad) communities – each an example of paths walked and lives touched.

The many obituaries and tributes that have been written in the wake of Graham-Yooll’s death have outlined his life in great and varying detail, as do his own memoires.

Monday’s event, however, was personal: praise for his work, yes, but also glimpses of who he was, how he lived, what he meant to people. It was far from sad, more celebratory than solemn.

As such, it was fitting that those that spoke represented a broad range of those whose lives he had touched. The host, Argentina’s Ambassador to London, Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, mentioned how GrahamYooll’s writing had helped him understand more about how his own country was perceived, and paid tribute to his lifelong contribution to truth and justice.

Jimmy Burns’ eulogy covered Andrew’s time at the Buenos Aires Herald, but also how he came to terms with his life as an exile in the UK. Index on Censorship, which GrahamYooll edited from 1989 to 1994, was represented by current editor Rachel Jolley and former editor (and lifelong friend) Judith Vidal Hall, who reminded the audience of his courage in holding Argentina’s military juntas to account, even in exile.

The most personal aspects were delivered at the end by Graham-Yooll’s children Isabel and Luis; the former reading a poetic ode (written by a 28-yearold Andrew) to his jostling Anglo and Argentine personalities, followed by a toast given by his son – containing the interesting fatherly advice of ‘never get a tattoo, in case you’re wanted by the police.’

‘PÂTÉ, BRANDY AND BOMBS’

On the following evening, the Anglo-Argentine Society held its 25th Jorge Luis Borges Lecture, which Andrew had been expecting to give. Instead, it was delivered by the late journalist’s daughter, Inés.

Ambassador Sersale welcomed those gathered with Borges’ famous work “Juan López and John Ward” – a prose poem about the futility of war and the importance of what unites Argentines and Brits, despite differences – before paying tribute once again to the late journalist.

“One year ago I met Andrew – the man, and the legend. Today we want to make a pledge, and a commitment to you, to keep his legacy alive. This conference is an opportunity to celebrate the talent of his literary oeuvre. It also serves as a tribute to his courage, to his contribution to truth, justice and democracy in Argentina, and the links between the history of the ScottishAnglo-Argentine communities,” the Argentine diplomat said.

The speech itself, titled ‘A little history of the Buenos Aires Herald: Pate, Brandy and Bombs’, had been written as a chronology of the history of the newspaper, interspersed with personal recollections of Andrew’s time(s) as editor.

However, the speech had yet to be finished, and was delivered in two parts: chronology followed by memories. As such, the audience gained an unexpected and unique insight into how his mind worked.

The chronology of the paper was excellent and comprehensive: from the Herald’s birth in 1866, through the years in which its international fame were cemented and to its sad decline, closing in 2017 a year after its 140th anniversary.

The recollections, on the other hand, revealed yet more details about Andrew GrahamYooll, the person: the boy who turned to journalism after trying meat-packing and English teaching; the editor who at all times stuck to his principles, regardless of the outcome; the troublemaker, who commented on the everyday violence he saw, whose life was directly threatened three times and (with his young family) was forced into exile; the fear, the bravery – and, above all else, the little details.

In a week in which people gathered to commemorate his life and work, it seemed fitting that we all, once again, were the beneficiaries of his razor-sharp mind, and his lasting memories.

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Archibald Whitworth

Archibald Whitworth

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