The sadness of hearing about Lord (Jack) Ashley’s death the other day was tempered by happy memories of that extraordinary man.  I was privileged to know him well in his years as a producer with the BBC and then Member of Parliament (sitting on the cross benches, though he was the most ardent of Labor Party stalwarts, so that he could read the lips of speakers on either side of the house, many of whom – including Prime Ministers – would turn in his direction to help him do so.).  But I haven’t read many tributes to the most remarkable woman who helped him through the really bad times after his hearing loss became total – his wife Pauline, who died nine years ago.  She devoted herself to getting him through the trauma in the most extraordinary way, staying at his side all day long.  I could phone him at home and he would answer with a cheery “Jack Ashley”.  I’d tell him my name and he’d instantly respond:  “Hello, Mike, how are you?”.  It seemed impossible as he was stone deaf – and it could only happen because Pauline would be on the other side of the telephone desk and would lift the other phone simultaneously, mouthing my name and our succeeding conversation.  Eventually he became so adept at lip-reading that I conducted a live tv interview with him – the first he ever did.  It was a great gamble which typically this extraordinary man was happy to take.  What an inspiration he was – he and Pauline together.

About Michael Barratt

Broadcaster and writer. Former presenter, "Nationwide" BBC1 Husband of Dilys Morgan
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