Posted: October 12th, 2004
Tony Boram, our Life President sadly died on 12th October 2004. He was at home and died in his sleep. Tony Boram’s wife, Sylvia, also died rececently, on 18th September following a brief stay at St Helena Hospice.
Here are three appreciations of Tony. The first is by Geoffrey Goodman, the second by Ken Hudgell,our Life Vice President, followed by George Thaw:
Geoffrey Goodman gave the following moving tribute to Tony Boram at his funeral on 26th October 2004
FLEET STREET IS NOT RENOWNED FOR ITS CIVILIZING INFLUENCES. IT IS OFTEN TOO BUSY TRYING TO SPELL THE WORD CORRECTLY.
BUT THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS. NOT TOO MANY MIND YOU. BUT THEY HAVE EXISTED, ONE OR TWO ARE STILL THERE, IN WHEREVER FLEET STREET IS SITUATED THESE DAYS.
I START WITH THE THEME OF ‘CIVILIZED VALUES’ BECAUSE WE ARE HERE TODAY TO CELEBRATE THE LIFE AND MOURN THE PASSING OF AN OUTSTANDING MAN WHO PERSONIFIED THOSE VALUES.
ANTONY JOHN BORAM……
AND IT IS MY PRIVILEGE, TODAY, TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO OFFER THIS SALUTE AND IT IS A PRIVILEGE TO DO SO. A PRIVILEGE INDEED TO SALUTE THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF A MAN WHO IN MY VIEW, AND I WOULD SUGGEST IN THE OPINION OF ALL OF US HERE TODAY, WAS A PROFOUND EXAMPLE OF A CIVILIZING INFLUENCE IN OUR TRADE. A MAN WHO STANDS INDELIBLY CARVED IN OUR MINDS AS A SUPREME EXAMPLE OF THAT RARE BREED AND INCIDENTALLY NOT MERELY AN EXEMPLAR FOR OUR TRADE OF NEWSPAPERS AND JOURNALISM BUT INDEED FOR THE WIDER WORLD.
I FIRST MET TONY BORAM WHEN HE WAS NIGHT EDITOR OF THE DAILY HERALD. WHEN ,AMONG HIS OTHER TASKS HE HAD THE JOB OF TRYING TO CIVILIZE TWO OF HIS PRINCIPAL PARTNERS ON THE HERALD BACK BENCH.ERNIE BURRINGTON AND BERNARD VICKERS. NO EASY TASK TO CIVILIZE THOSE TWO I MUST ADD, BUT TONY MANAGED IT WITH THAT CALM, CAREFUL, SHREWD, DECEPTIVELY MILD MANNER OF HIS, SOMETIMES BLINKING AS HE MADE HIS POINT BUT MAKING IT NONE THE LESS WITH A CERTAIN AUTHORITY AND DIGNITY THAT WOULD TAME EVEN THOSE TIGERS ON THAT HERALD BACK BENCH. AND LET ME ADD EVEN SOOTH THE DISTURBED EGOS OF REPORTERS SUCH AS MYSELF.
MOREOVER THERE WAS SOMETHING ELSE IN THIS MAN’S RANGE OF QUALITIES. WE KNEW WE WERE DEALING WITH A PROFESSIONAL.
TOO MUCH OF THE FLEET STREET WE KNEW [AND STILL KNOW] DEPENDS ON WHAT WE MIGHT USEFULLY DESCRIBE AS ‘BULLSHIT’. . TONY BORAM WAS NOT A MEMBER OF THAT BRIGADE. FROM TONY YOU GOT IT STRAIGHT, YOU GOT IT HONESTLYAND YOU GOT IT WITH PROFESSIONAL UNDERSTANDING AS WELL AS WITH A HUMANITY THAT SO OFTEN IS ABSENT FROM EDITORIAL FLOORS. AND I SAY THIS NOT IN A CARPINGLY CRITICAL WAY BUT BECAUSE OF THE NATURE OF OUR TRADE WHERE BECAUSE WE HAVE TO PRODUCE A COMPLETELY NEW AND FRESH PRODUCT EVERY 24 HOURS. IT IS NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE, CERTAINLY NOT EASY, TO BEHAVE IN A CIVILIZED MANNER.
THAT IS WHY THOSE OF US WHO HAVE KNOWN TONY, AS I HAVE FOR OVER FORTY YEARS CAN USE THE LABEL CIVILIZED WITHOUT ANY QUALIFICATION OR DEMUR. HE ALWAYS SEEMED TO BE ABLE TO OVERCOME THE INHERANT DIFFICULTIES OF THE BUSINESS WITH ITS NOTORIOUS BUILT- ININSENSITIVITIES, ITSBRUSQUENESS……IMPATIENCE….AND OFTIMES ITS SHALLOWNESS…….NONE OF THOSE DEFECTS CAME WITH TONY BORAM….
THERE IS A CHARACTERISTIC STORY ABOUT HIS QUALITIES WHICH BRIAN BASS TELLS WHEN ….BACK IN 1959 BRIAN WAS A SUB ON A WEEKLY PAPER BEING INTERVIEWED FOR A JOB BY TONY BORAM ON THE DAILY HERALD. TONY TURNED DOWN BRIAN’S APPLICATION. TWENTY YEARS LATER TONY BORAM MET BRIAN BASS AGAIN …..WHEN BRIAN WAS THEN FEATURES EDITOR OF THE DAILY MIRROR…..HE REMEMBERED HAVING REJECTED BRIAN ….TONY SMILED BENEVOLENTLY….ANOTHER OF HIS TRADE MARKS…..AND TOLD BRIAN; ‘CONGRATULATIONS BRIAN..…. SURE I MADE A BAD JUDGEMENT BACK THEN…DIDN’T I? WE CAN’T BE RIGHT ALL THE TIME…’
A SIMPLE PROSAIC STORY, MAYBE….BUT AN EXAMPLE OF A CHARACTERISTIC ALL TOO RARE IN OUR TRADE…
OF COURSE THE OBITUARIES OF THIS SPECIALLY DECENT MAN HAVE TENDED, UNDERSTANDABLY, TO CONCENTRATE ON THE FACT THAT HE WAS THE MAN WHO FIRST BLEW THE WHISTLE ON CAP’N BOB [I LIKE THAT PHRASE….BLEW THE WHISTLE…IT WAS GEORGE THAW’S INTRO TO HIS OBIT FOR THE GUARDIAN …… [STILL UNPUBLISHED?] .
THAT MOMENT BROUGHT ALL OF US FACE TO FACE WITH ANOTHER EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY IN TONY BORAM…..HIS COURAGE. YES WE HAD KNOWN ABOUT HIS PHYSICAL COURAGE IN COPING WITH TERRIBLE EYE PROBLEMS …. FOR SO LONG ALMOST LIVING AT MOORFIELDS HOSPITAL….AND WITH SUCH UNCOMPLAINING PATIENCE….AND BRAVERY.
DESPITE ALL THIS……WE KNEW HOW HE HANDLED THE SPEED AND COMPLEXITIES OF NIGHT EDITING ….THEN HIS LATER ROLE AS DEPUTY EDITOR OF BOTH THE HERALD AND THE ODHAMS ‘SUN’…WHERE HE HAD TO DEAL WITH DICK DINSDALE , JOHN BEAVAN [LORD ARDWICK] AND SYDNEY JACOBSON….. A TRIO REQUIRING GREAT TACT…..AND QUITE A BIT OF COURAGE. WE KNEW ABOUT THAT….BUT ABOVE ALL IT WAS HIS MORAL COURAGE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST MAXWELL ….HIS SELF-LESS STAND IN THE FACE OF REAL PERSONAL DANGER TO HIMSELF AND TO HIS WIFE SYLVIA…THAT STAMPED HIM OUT AS …. TRULY A VERY SPECIAL MAN OF MORAL COURAGE.
HE WAS A PIONEER IN THAT MINEFIELD ZONE OF FIGHTING MAXWELL DEMANDING A SPECIAL KIND OF BRAVERY UNDER FIRE…….FACING UP TO THE BULLY MAXWELL IN THE VERY AREA WHERE THAT DEMON WAS AT HIS STRONGEST….AND MOST MENACING … ..FINANCE AND LITIGATION.
OF COURSE CAP’N BOB WAS A LIAR AND CHEAT….WE KNEW THAT….BUT TACKLING HIM AS TONY BORAM DID …..INVOLVED EVEN MORE THAN A COMMANDO OPERATION.
I DO NOT NEED TO GO INTO DETAIL WITH THIS ASSEMBLY ABOUT WHAT TONY….AND ALWAYS SUPPORTED BY HIS DEVOTED SYLVIA….DID FOR ALL HIS MIRROR COLLEAGUES. [YOU HAVE ALL READ THE OBIT BY TERRY LANCASTER IN THE TIMES]
MANY OF US HERE TODAY ARE LIVING BENEFICIARIES OF TONY BORAM”S COURAGE.
BUT JUST TO REFRESH YOUR COLLECTIVE MEMORY ON A FEW BRIEF DETAILS OR TWO. AT FIRST SINGLE HANDED AND THEN SUPPORTED BY PEOPLE LIKE KEN HUDGELL, DON WOOD, AND OTHERS HERE TODAY….HE ACTUALLY IDENTIFIED MAXWELL’S PENSION FRAUD LONG BEFORE CAP’N BOB DECIDED —-OR OTHERS DECIDED FOR HIM—-THAT HIS TIME WAS UP.
HAVING IDENTIFIED THAT MAXWELL WAS MISUSING PENSION FUND ASSETS TONY BORAM, WHO HAD BEEN A MAIN BOARD DIRECTOR OF MGN BEFORE HIS EARLY RETIREMENT FOR HEALTH REASONS. TONY TOOK LEGAL ADVICE ABOUT THAT DISCOVERY AND QUICKLY REALISED THAT TO CHALLENGE MAXWELL WOULD INVOLVE HUGE PERSONAL FINANCIAL RISKS. MAXWELL THREATENED HIM WITH ALL KINDS OF MENACING WARNINGS……NO SURPRISE THERE.
EVEN SO TONY DID NOT YIELD BEFORE MAXWELL’S THREATS…..THOUGH HE WAS ADVISED BY HELPFUL LEGAL HANDS THAT TO ACHIEVE ANY SUCCESS IN THE COURTS THE MIRROR PENSIONERS WOULD NEED TO BAND TOGETHER.
SO IN 1990—A YEAR BEFORE MAXWELL’S DEATH-HE FORMED THE ASSOC. OF MIRROR PENSIONERS [AMP] AND BECAME ITS FIRST CHAIRMAN. IT WAS A HELL OF A RISKY ADVENTURE….BUT STILL MORE….IN ORDER TO PROTECT OTHER MEMBERS OF THE AMP FROM ANY LEGAL LIABILITY FOR COSTS IN CHALLENGING MAXWELL TONY BORAM INSISTED THAT HE WOULD BE THE SOLE PLAINTIFF……DESPITE AL THE GRIM WARNINGS FROM HIS LAWYERS THAT THE FINANCIAL RISKS INVOLVED COULD BE RUINOUS FOR HIM…… AND SYLVIA.
IT WAS AN EXCEPTIONAL…..CAN I SAY UNIQUE….ACT OF COURAGE BEYOND THE CALL OF PROFESSIONAL DUTY ……AND EVEN ALLOWING FOR THE MORAL PRINCIPAL FOR WHICH HE WAS FIGHTING…..BUT HE DID IT.
WE ALL KNOW THE RESULTS…OF THAT REMARKABLE STAND…..
ALL OF US FROM THE MIRROR STABLE OWE AN IMMENSE DEBT TO TONY….AND TO SYLVIA….FOR THAT QUITE REMARKABLE SELF-SACRIFICING ACT OF COURAGE. I HAVE LITTLE DOUBT THAT WITHOUT HIM THE ENTIRE MIRROR PENSION SITUATION MIGHT NEVER HAVE REACHED THE MODESTLY SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME WE NOW ENJOY.
AND, BY THE WAY, IT IS NOT WIDELY REALISED THAT HIS ACTION IN LEADING THE FIGHT OVER THE MIRROR PENSION FRAUD ACTUALLY HELPED PENSIONERS IN OTHER COMPANIES SIMILARLY THREATENED…..
BY THEIR EXAMPLE WE SHALL KNOW THE QUALITY OF MEN….
EDMUND BURKE SAID THAT….’EXAMPLE IS THE SCHOOL OF MANKIND AND THEY WILL LEARN AT NO OTHER’
.BY GOD, THERE HAS RARELY BEEN A MORE STRIKING DEMONSTRATION OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THAT TRUISM THAN IN THE ACTIONS AND QUALITIES OF ANTONY JOHN BORAM…….
WE SALUTE HIS MEMORY….EVEN IF, AS FALLIBLE PEOPLE, WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO EMULATE HIS EXAMPLE….
SO AS WE SALUTE HIM ….. WE ALSO KNOW THAT WE SHALL NEVER FORGET HIM.
TUESDAY OCTOBER 26 2004.
With the death of Tony Boram on 12 October at the age of 77, members of Mirror pension schemes have lost a courageous man who has done so much to protect their pensions. He fought ill-health and, in particular, failing eye-sight for very many years but finally succumbed to near total blindness and cancer.
The death of his wife Sylvia less than one month ago, again after a long illness, was just too much for Tony and he quietly died in his sleep.
Tony was a highly regarded journalist mainly with the Daily Herald where he held a number a senior posts, and subsequently as a main board director of Mirror Group Newspapers until his enforced ill-health retirement in June 1984. Within weeks Robert Maxwell acquired Mirror Group and was instrumental in causing Tony to start his second career as a legal antagonist against a man known for his ruthless pursuit, by whatever means, to achieve his egotistical ambitions.
It gradually became known that Maxwell was using pension scheme assets of MGN (and other Maxwell-controlled companies) to feed his insatiable creation of personal wealth. Pension scheme assets should be in the safe hands of trustees, but Maxwell either dominated the then trustees or simply by-passed them. A group of pensioners had grave concerns about the situation but were reluctant to challenge a man with apparent unlimited financial resources and a reputation for litigation.
Luckily one man stepped forward, namely Tony Boram, who made vigorous representations to Maxwell who immediately responded, as expected, with threats that any slander or libel would be dealt with in the courts.
Lawyers advised that to achieve any success in a legal action the pensioners should band together. This advice was heeded and the Association of Mirror Pensioners (AMP) was formed in 1990 with Tony as chairman. Much effort was expended raising funds to finance legal action. AMP was legally prevented from access to names and addresses of pensioners, so making pensioners aware of the of the proposed
action was difficult to say the least.
The next step was one which many would hesitate to take, but not Tony. He insisted that to protect the members of AMP against any liability for costs he would be the sole Plaintiff. His lawyer and counsel warned him in no uncertain terms of the financial consequences he personally risked. In the event that Tony was unsuccessful he would face a vengeful Maxwell who would without doubt pursue every avenue to recover costs, and inevitably Tony – and it must be remembered, Sylvia who fully
supported him – would in all probability lose their home and any other assets they owned.
The legal action was set in motion and as a first step Tony ensured the press at large were kept informed. The BBC’s Panorama made a programme which infuriated Maxwell to such an extent that he published in the Sunday Mirror issue of 22 September, 1991 a vicious attack headed “Jackals of the BBC” and, as usual, threatened legal action. This caused the BBC to withdraw the programme at short notice. Tony was relishing the forthcoming legal battle but Maxwell died in well documented and mysterious circumstances. In the event, Tony did not face the possibility of financial disaster. The legal action was aborted but within days of Maxwell’s death, his plundering
of pension schemes began to emerge.
Tony’s next major role was engaging with others in the formation of a new trustee company (with completely new trustees). Tony again took legal action to ensure the new company drafted Articles of Association which met with Court approval. These effectively gave equal representation to management and democratically-elected
employee/pensioner representatives, with an independent chairman appointed with the approval of all concerned. The new administration rules safeguarded scheme funds. Subsequently Tony led a delegation to give evidence before the House of Commons Select Committee on Pensions chaired by Frank Field MP, presented evidence to the DTI enquiry into Maxwell’s affairs, and presented a submission to the
Goode Committee on pensions. He also lodged a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman over his claim that AMP should have access to certain actuarial information, which he won.
As is well known to AMP members, Tony has chaired the AGM of the association each year until September 2003 when it became clear that his health, and that of Sylvia’s, had reached the stage where he just could not carry on and he reluctantly tendered his resignation.
Those that have known him over the years will miss him more that
words can convey. We, the pensioners, owe so much to him. We could
not have had a more dedicated first chairman of AMP.
Long may the foundations he laid continue to protect our future.
Tony Boram was once described as The Man Who Blew The Whistle on Robert Maxwell. And it was true.
As group editorial director of Mirror Group Newspapers he had resigned rather than work for Maxwell. Then, when he began to notice irregularities in the management of Mirror Pension funds he personally challenged Maxwell over the failure of pension payments to increase in line with rising investment returns. He also sought explanations for the transfer of management of the pension funds.
When he failed to get satisfactory answers, Boram established the Association of Mirror Pensioners. His suspicions were proved justified when Maxwell’s mysterious death in 1991 revealed a huge hole in the pension funds.
Some 5,000 people were faced with potential financial ruin. The association was able to supply information and practical assistance to financial administrators as well as to worried staff and pensioners not only in the Mirror Group but in many other Maxwell companies.
Tony Boram twice gave evidence to the House of Commons Social Security Select Committee and worked closely with lawyers to track down money taken from the pension funds.
Throughout the crisis, he personally produced a newsletter to keep his members aware of developments.
He was a – perhaps the- the leading figure in pressing for Parliamentary action on such pension scandals and in taking action to recover what monies could be found. Without his initiative many people would have been left in great financial difficulty.
Antony John Boram was born in 1930 at Moreton, near Ongar in Essex. He left school at 14 and the wages from his first job-collecting rents on Requisitioned property-paid the fine imposed for his early school departure. He then worked at the Windmill Theatre and for Ambrose and his Orchestra before National Service. Selected for officer training he was invalided out after injury on an exercise.
He joined the Romford Times sports desk before joining the Daily Express as a sports sub-editor. He joined the Daily Herald as sports editor and later Deputy Editor. In the early 1970s he was appointed to the board of Mirror Group Newspapers as Group Editorial director. Over the next few years he also became Chairman of Mirror Books and Chief Executive of The Sporting Life and Mirror Syndication International.
Despite poor health-he was blind in one eye and had severely impaired vision in the other for most of his career-Tony Boram was a talented and enthusiastic gardener. The gardens he created with his wife Sylvia were regular opened for charity events.
He was for 14 years an Independent member of Babergh District Council in Suffolk.
He had recently undergone treatment for throat cancer and died four weeks after his wife, Sylvia.
St Bride’s packed for farewell to Tony Boram
by AMP Chairman David Thompson
St Brides ChurchFour hundred friends and old colleagues packed St Bride¹s, Fleet Street, London for the Memorial Service for the life and work of Tony Boram on Wednesday, 18 January.
Rarely had St Bride¹s been so full for such an occasion. Nine members of Tony Boram¹s family were present. Many of the congregation had travelled hundreds of miles, including some from Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. Six ex-editors were among those present. Trinity Mirror was officially represented.The service was organised by the Association of Mirror Pensioners as a tribute to the man who blew the whistle on Maxwell, created the Association of Mirror Pensioners and put his house at risk as the sole plaintiff in a fight to save the group¹s pensions.
Tony Boram was remembered as an outstanding and civilised journalist working in Fleet Street on the Daily Herald and the Cudlipp Sun before joining the Mirror as a director.
The main address was by Geoffrey Goodman, Daily Mirror former industrial editor.
Tony was also remembered for his work as a local councillor with a reading from Sue Wigglesworth, chairman of Babergh District Council, in Suffolk and by his nephew Kevin who gave the first address.
The first address by Kevin Boram:
Anthony John Boram was born on 23 June 1927 at Moreton just outside Ongar in Essex to Dennis and Grace at the home of Tony”s maternal grandfather J G Jones. Tony was the eldest brother of Deidre and Robin. Tony”s grandfather worked in Fleet Street as a journalist and editor for many well known magazines and an author. He went totally blind in his forties, but continued to write by dictatation. No one could have foreseen how closely Tony”s life would follow his grandfather”s.
In 1941 Tony left school at 14 to work for Ongar Council. It was not long before the lure of London caught his attention. One of his first jobs in London was back stage at the Windmill Theatre. This particular career finished when his father heard about it. He also organised broadcasts and bookings for Ambrose and his Orchestra.
At 18 Tony was called up for National Service and was selected for officer training. His abilities to understand and communicate with people were clearly being recognised even in his teens. It was during officer training that he suffered a back injury which lead to him being invalided out. Many years latter this injury would be diagnosed as Anklosing Spondylitis. This was just one of many physical difficulties, including blindness, which Tony ignored whilst pursuing a successful career and in helping so many other people.
After leaving the army Tony joined the “Romford Times” as a trainee journalist and was promoted to Sports Editor. During this time he met his beloved Sylvia and her son Peter. Tony and Sylvia created a wonderful partnership that we all enjoyed so much.
Many of you here can far better recollect Tony”s days in Fleet Street far better than I can. But I would like to share with you something Sylvia told me that reflects how much people respected him at the Mirror. After an unsuccessful eye operation at Moorfield”s Hospital, the directors of the Mirror visited Tony to cheer him up and give him some support. Upset by the jokes and banter Sylvia left the room and was found sitting on the stairs crying. When asked why she was upset, she replied that Tony could not possibly work in Fleet Street now that he was virtually blind. Back came the reply “don”t be daft, we want his mind not his sight”. In return, Tony loved Fleet Street and the people who worked in it.
Retirement should have brought Tony a peaceful time to spend with his family and friends. As we all know it was nothing further from the truth. During this period all of Tony”s personal qualities and his belief in justice were tested to the full. A pensioner, taking on the might of a huge organisation with a fearful reputation, single handed so as not to put at risk other pensioners” assets, takes some conviction. It also takes quite a wife to support that decision. The first Christmas after the action had commenced found Tony with over £0.75m of legal fees in his name. Truly a brave man. As a result of Tony”s actions many thousands of Mirror pensioner”s incomes were safeguarded and many millions of people in the UK now benefit from improved pension laws.
Although Tony worked long hours in Fleet Street, he found time to be a valued member of the community and his family. In the community Tony was, among other things, a school governor, an independent District Councillor and sat on Levenheath Parish Council. He cared passionately for the Essex/Suffolk borders. He not only wanted to preserve all that he considered precious but was concerned that the community should be relevant for the young.
Only his failing health and that of Sylvia with Motor Neurone Disease forced him to give up these activities.
As for his family, Tony was a much loved and respected member, always available for advice and support no matter what difficulties he was facing.
A typical act of Tony”s was to help his father to purchase the council house that he and his wife had lived in since the Second World War. This gave new energy to Dennis who continued in his nineties to lovingly care for the house and garden of over half an acre, consisting of hard Ongar clay. This love of gardening was passed to Tony.
Tony had remarkable skills and a strong belief that everyone, no matter what their position in society, has the same rights and opportunities. This was matched with a wonderful sense of humour. I am sure we can all remember times when something would catch his attention, his face lighting up and his eyes twinkling behind those black rimmed glasses.
I am well aware that I have failed to mention all of this much missed and loved man”s qualities and achievements and that you have your favourite and cherished memories of him.
He had many different titles, but I believe only one is necessary to describe him.
Ladies and gentlemen , Tony Boram.
The second address by Geoffrey Goodman, former Industrial Editor, Daily Mirror:
On Tuesday 26th October last year many of us present today in this church, a church so special to journalists and our trade, paid our farewell tributes to Tony Boram.
We were gathered then, in the wonderful village church of St. James in Nayland, Essex where Tony and his devoted wife Sylvia had spent so many soothing hours, sheltering in the face of their long struggle with ill-health, never complaining about the injustices of life and its relentless imposition of ill-health.
It was there in Nayland, where together they had their final hours, with Sylvia expiring only a short time before Tony; a poignant climax to a truly gifted relationship, and in both instances a climax of two special lives.
On that October day it was my honour to be asked to offer the tribute to Tony, and indeed Sylvia in St. James’ Church Nayland. Again today I am doubly honoured and humbled in being asked to offer this further tribute and salute to a special colleague, a dear friend and wonderful man.
In this extraordinary street of Myth and Majesty; a street as we all know, with an unusually high and ambitious mix of vain glory and notoriety. Genuine, simple heroes are a rare breed but I have no hesitation in claiming Antony John Boram as one of them.
So to use the old phase of journalism. Let me explain.
To be sure Tony Boram was a man of Fleet Street, but he was more than that; Tony was a rarity in our trade, he was a newspaperman who will always be remembered, in our flawed trade as someone who did not flinch when it meant putting his consideration for fellow journalists ahead of, not merely personal ambition but his own private financial security.
No doubt all of you, well, most of you will be familiar with the point I am making here. Even so it is a story worth retelling.
It is of course, the real story behind the fight to win justice for the Mirror Group pensioners after the Maxwell disaster.
A battle in which the name of Tony Boram will always be remembered in the history of Fleet Street Miracles.. At first almost single handed and then aided by a few people like Ken Hudgell, Don Wood and a number of others here today Tony Boram actually identified Maxwell’s pension fraud long before Cap’n Bob decided- or maybe others decided for him- that his time was up.
Having identified that Maxwell was misusing pension fund assets of the Mirror, Tony Boram, who had been a main board director of MGN before his retirement for health reasons, Tony actually identified the problem – long before it became a public sensation.
Yet it was still unclear and complex. So he sought legal advice about his discovery and was quickly informed that to challenge Maxwell in the courts would involve huge personal financial risks.
Indeed from the outset when Maxwell got wind of what Boram was doing he threatened Tony with all kinds of menacing warnings. No surprise there to be sure. Yet despite his own precarious financial situation Boram did not yield before the Bully Boy Bob.
Again he was warned about the risks by the legal advisers. But, by then, convinced of his objective, instead of yielding to Maxwell’s threats Tony formed the Association of Mirror Pensioners. That was in 1990, a year before Maxwell’s death.
Boram became its first Chairman, which was another considerable personal risk and gamble, but still more, in order to protect other members of the AMP from any legal liability for costs in the process of challenging Maxwell, Boram insisted that he would be the sole plaintiff.
Once more the lawyers repeated their warnings; again they made it quite clear that his action though an exceptional act of courage, could lead to financial ruin for him and Sylvia. In short- total bankruptcy.
No matter. He and Sylvia, took the risk.
It was of course, a unique act of courage well beyond the call of any professional duty. Perhaps even beyond the moral principles for which he was fighting. But he did it.
Today, all of us, in this church of Fleet Street know and appreciate the results of Tony Boram’s remarkable stand.
All of us from the Mirror stable owe to him an immense debt of gratitude for the pensions we are now able to enjoy- however limited they may be. The fact that they probably wouldn’t exist at all but for Tony Boram and the risks he and Sylvia took on our behalf.
And by the way, even if it is not so widely recognised, it was that action in leading the fight for the Mirror Pensioners and against the Maxwell fraud which has helped pensioners in other companies similarly threatened across the country. Indeed the impact of all this is still influencing the shape of future pension legislation.
What a record. And here was a man whom I recall from our earliest meetings, when he was on the back bench of the Daily Herald-at a time when he had already been made aware that he was facing the future possibly of total blindness- as his eyes deteriorated.
Knowing all that, Tony would blink with that well known Boram Blink at this bleak prospect and carry on good humoured, diffident, his calm mannerisms, always ready to cope with the disturbed egos of reporters like myself. Such was A.J. Boram, ever the true and fine journalist even after he boarded the managerial train at Holborn Circus.
Mind you I never regarded Tony as a Management Person…whatever that may be.
That is why, today, we offer this special tribute of Fleet Street to a man, this newspaperman, of true moral and professional quality.
We all know the true value of this man even if it is not as widely recognised in the outside world as we would wish.
Indeed, it would have appropriate in my opinion, for Tony to have received one of those gongs that are handed to prominent people of our trade.
In fact it almost happened three times to my knowledge. Tony was nominated by friends and peers for such a distinction. Twice he was passed over and then the third time, some months before he died, he was nominated again. This time with still greater force and influence.
My guess is that,this third time, he would have been recognised and had that transpired, no journalist in our time would have been more deserving. Alas, it didn’t happen.
Yet perhaps this story is of small consequence. Far more important is the salute; the tribute, the far more significant honour we, his own colleagues pay to Tony Boram here today, you, all of us here now.
From the first time I met Tony, right through the years of the Odhams Sun and finally the Daily Mirror I grew to know this man as someone of exceptional personal honour, as a man of true quality and civilized values; a combination not all that common to this street, out there.
Now, we also salute him as a man of special courage, a courage of which many of us here today are grateful beneficiaries.
Last October in that Nayland church I offered a quote from Edmund Burke. I wish to repeat it:
‘Example is the school of mankind’ Burke wrote ‘and they will learn at no other.’
Indeed. There can be have been few more remarkable demonstrations of that truism than in the character of Antony John Boram.
We salute his memory, even if as fallible colleagues, we may not be able to emulate his example.
We shall not, we cannot, forget you Tony. And even if fate denied you that official honour you know you have your colleagues Badge of Honour.
After the service Kevin Boram sent the following message to AMP members:
The church service was wonderful. Tony died within three weeks of Sylvia’s death so my family was in a shock at Tony’s funeral and could not really appreciate everyone’s kindness and support. The memorial service gave us all a chance to reflect on and appreciate the lives of these two wonderful people. The service really did reflect their lives. Tony and Sylvia would have loved every minute of it. They would also have joined, with great energy, the session in El Vino’s afterwards.
I would like to thank all those of the AMP that assisted in organising the service.
Ray Weaver adds: the collection at Memorial Service raised £703.26 for Cancer Research UK. A big thanks to everybody who contributed.
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