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Lady Jodi Cudlipp

Posted: August 23rd, 2017

LADY JODI CUDLIPP, widow of the late Lord Hugh Cudlipp, former Mirror Group editor, editorial director and chairman, died on August 9 (2017) at her Chichester home. She was 97.

A talented and respected former journalist in her own right – she edited Women’s Mirror, among other publications – Jodi became a fierce defender of her late husband’s memory after he died in 1998.

Jodi and Hugh are pictured at Heathrow Airport on 18th March 1963 – on their honeymoon. Photo kindly supplied and copyright of Mirrorpix.

Jodi was also for many years a judge and presenter of the British Journalism Review’s annual Hugh Cudlipp Award,  presented annually as part of the Press Awards, and a member of the organising committee of the annual Hugh Cudlipp Lecture.

Here is Roy Greenslade’s full obituary:

Jodi Cudlipp, Lady Cudlipp, who has died aged 97, spent the last 20 years of her life burnishing the memory of her late husband, Hugh, the architect of the Daily Mirror’s rise to Fleet Street pre-eminence in the 1950s. Following his death in 1998 she sought to ensure that his name and status would suffer no reverse at the hands of revisionist newspaper historians.

To that end, she founded the trust that runs the annual Hugh Cudlipp memorial lecture and student journalism award, created the Cudlipp archive for Cardiff University and wrote pithy letters admonishing people she regarded as overly critical of “him”, as she liked to refer to her husband.

Some years before he died I visited the couple’s home in Chichester to interview Hugh for a Radio 4 media programme. An attentive Jodi hovered to see whether the questions were suitably reverential and was then obliged to remove their noisy parrot, Bobby. She had coached it to squawk “Publish and be damned”, the title of Hugh’s book about his Mirror exploits.

Jodi had enjoyed a fine career as a journalist in her own right before meeting Hugh. She was born Joan Latimer Hyland at Rawdon, West Yorkshire, and the family moved three years later to Palm Beach, Florida. Her father, Jack, was a civil engineer; her mother, Irene, known as Fling, was said to be a great beauty. Jodi was 12 when her father died, evidently of wounds sustained in the first world war, and returned to Britain with her mother to live in Southport, Lancashire (now Merseyside).

On leaving school, Jodi landed a reporting job on the local weekly, the Southport Visiter, and was then given a column. At the outbreak of the second world war, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service and later served at Bletchley Park as a member of the unit that monitored German army and airforce communications.

After the war, she moved to London and was appointed chief feature writer on Woman’s Own magazine. She later spent two years in Sydney, Australia, as a reporter before returning to London and a trio of successive editorships, beginning with Debutante, then Girl and finally Woman.

It was in 1959 that she met Hugh Cudlipp and his second wife, Eileen Ascroft, at a party. Cudlipp, then editorial director of the Daily Mirror, which had recently acquired a large magazine publisher, Amalgamated Press, invited Jodi to lunch and offered her the editorship of Woman’s Illustrated. Its closure in 1960, with sales at a peak of 800,000, heralded the launch of Woman’s Mirror with Jodi in the chair, where she became recognised as a talent-spotter.

A former staffer, Tony Peagam, recalled that “you knew when she was in the office because her small dog – some sort of pug – wandered around peeing until taken walkies by her chauffeur”. It was, in fact, Hugh’s chauffeur.

Eileen had died in 1962 and he married Jodi the following year. Thereafter, Jodi managed that most difficult of tricks: acting as a handmaiden to an egocentric husband while retaining a sense of self-worth. As her friend Jane Kilby observed, Jodi was a passionate personality “not to be crossed”. She was, by turns, charming and prickly. And she was witty too. Aware of her husband’s roving eye, she was quick to spot danger. If he appeared to be taking too great an interest in a woman, Jodi would whisper: “Drop that bone, Cudlipp.”

Hugh was knighted in 1973 and then offered a life peerage. When he asked Jodi whether he should accept it, she replied: “Your decision. I’m already Lady Cudlipp.” He accepted.

After his death, Jodi became fiercely protective of his reputation. She was acutely aware of the anger generated by his having sold off the Sun to Rupert Murdoch in the misguided belief that the Australian incomer would fail.

Jodi’s only book, published in 2010, was a biography of the entrepreneur Johnny Inkster. Hugh had referred to him as The Sawdust Millionaire – Inkster had hit on the marvellous idea of being paid to take sawdust away from sawmills, and then selling it (to butchers and pubs, for instance) – which she used as the book’s title.

  • Jodi Cudlipp, Lady Cudlipp, journalist, born 22 June 1920; died 9 August 2017


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