TRIBUTE: Former colleagues pay tribute to Pat Ashberry - ‘one of the best - a very special journalist’

Pat Ashberry on assignment.
Pat Ashberry on assignment.

Here Pat Ashberry’s former colleagues pay tribute to the former Standard journalist.

Stephen Stray,

Standard editor

As the current editor of The Standard, I can recall first meeting Pat while completing work experience at the paper. I can remember how excited I was to meet ‘real-life reporters’. This, of course, included Pat, who I shadowed on a number of assignments including trips to court, going out to meet people in their homes and a trek around May Fair, all of which ended with her taking me to Oldrids for a bottle of pop!

What struck me then, and remains with me to this day, was her ability to ask any question of anyone and get an answer. I just wish she had still been there when I joined the paper as a trainee, but then again I am not sure the gift she had was something which could be taught.

I will now leave it to her former colleagues, those who really knew Pat, to lead the tributes.

George Wheatman,

former Standard editor

“I was a junior reporter when Pat joined us in the mid-1950s. I think she was 17 and I was in awe of her skills from the start. In those early days she and I often worked together, covering council meetings.

“We are often accused of being cynical but Pat had true feelings and when she interviewed people, they felt they had been talking to a friend. I have often seen her come back in tears because she had been so affected by someone’s story.

“On occasions her reporting led to campaigns in the newspaper, like the one with Lyn Ellis which led to the setting up of a fund which raised many thousands of pounds for hospital equipment.

“Away from work her raison d’être was her family. She was a very sound reporter, a lovely lady and I shall remember her with fondness.”

Pam Browne,

former Standard deputy 
editor and news editor

“When I became a junior reporter in the late 1960s, Pat was a very friendly and professional senior journalist, ready to lend a newcomer a guiding hand. I was always impressed by how smartly and fashionably dressed she was and by her deep love of writing and of the English language. Over the years her standards never slipped.

“Later, as her boss, I was grateful for the versatility and enthusiasm she showed, her ability to cover any and every aspect of newsroom work.

“The Standard also gave Pat a free hand on a weekly page of her own, The Ashberry Angle, in which she revealed her own take on Boston life and family matters. It endeared her more than ever to her army of readers.”

Ian Mitchell,

former Standard editor

“Pat Ashberry was a proper journalist.

“She could turn her hand to all types of reporting jobs, but excelled at covering ‘people stories’.

“She loved writing features about interesting readers in the Boston area. And because people felt at ease talking to her, she came away from difficult meetings with families who had suffered losses without leaving them feeling The Standard was intruding into their grief.

“She was a much-appreciated ‘mother hen’ to many timid school-leavers taking their first steps towards a career in journalism. She took newcomers under her wing, and introduced them to magistrates’ courts, inquests, borough council committees, as well as the reporting of weddings and obituaries.

“Pat was a kind reviewer of am-dram and operatics at Blackfriars - and a regular visitor to Oldrids for morning coffee, cake and a chat while lesser mortals had to make do with a teabag in a mug at their desks.

“She was the ideal person to send out to ‘posh’ events as a representative of the newspaper. ‘Reliable all-rounder’ doesn’t begin to do her justice. Mrs Ashberry was…...Mrs Ashberry, The Standard’s best-known face for decades.”

Geoff O’Neil,

former Standard editor

“Pat Ashberry was one of the best writers I have ever worked with.

“Her Woman’s View page was one of the best-read areas of the paper and I well remember receiving phone calls from disappointed readers whenever the page was missing because Pat was away on holiday.

“She was a very special journalist.”

Tim Hartley,

former Standard editor

“I was the editor who had that horrible chat with Pat… the one I knew was coming but I hoped wouldn’t… the one where she told me she was going to retire.

“How exactly do you replace the irreplaceable? Truth be told, we couldn’t. That end desk WAS (and perhaps 17 years on, still is) Pat’s, even after she decided to spend more time being a gran and enjoying her well-earned retirement with her husband Jeff.

“But thing is, we simply hadn’t wanted her to go. Although Pat was the matriarch – one raise of the eyebrow could bring juvenile banter to silence – she was also great fun, and one ‘innocent’ comment from Pat could and would have us all in stitches, and she would feign innocence with the best of them… Boston Playgoers’ experience helping there!

“I’d met Pat on my first day as a reporter in Boston, on a different newspaper, and she immediately took me under her wing, made sure I knew where to sit in council meetings and courtrooms, had enough spare pens…

“When I later returned to the town and became Pat’s boss, she made it a fantastic experience. She was a team player in a very strong team, and I’d like to think that the final few years of work saw her produce some of her very best writing.

“I’ve thought long and hard for words to describe Pat – a lady, a professional, a writer, a great journalist, a friend, office ‘mum’, ‘Auntie Pat’… but I keep coming back to ‘communicator’. Pat wasn’t just a writer… she was a listener.

“Modest and self-deprecating about her own talents, she had the ability and wisdom to know when to ask questions, and when to simply be quiet and really hear what was being said… and then communicate the essence of that into good, strong writing, understood by all.

“Her adoptive town will miss her… her family were very lucky to have had Pat in their lives.”

Lynne Harrison,

former Standard news editor and current journalist

“In many ways, and for many years, Pat Ashberry was The Standard.

“Readers often stopped her in the street to tell her their news.

“Pat was a brilliant and versatile writer who seamlessly switched from warm-hearted people stories to hard-hitting news, and was equally at home chatting to a golden wedding couple in their front room or sitting on the press bench in court.

“Pat championed fellow Boston legends Lyn Ellis and Carmella Riddell, and played no small part in making their charities, DOCATEF and the Jalchatra Project, the successes they were.

“Pat’s gift as a wordsmith never shone brighter than in her foreword to Lyn’s book, ‘I Didn’t Have Cancer for Nothing’. Pat handed me a draft with the typically unassuming question: “Is it all right?” All right? It was sheer perfection.

“In the office, Pat Ashberry was Auntie Pat or Ashers, the ‘glue’ that held us together ... and a second mum.”

Scott Dalton,

former Standard reporter

“When I first started as a trainee reporter on The Standard I regularly used to go out with Pat on jobs to shadow her and learn the trade.

“She was always warm, friendly and chatty when interviewing people which got the best out of them and resulted in some cracking pieces in The Standard.

“Her Ashberry Angle weekly feature column was like a Standard institution.

“If ever you went out with Pat, though, you always had to leave a bit of extra time – she always insisted on taking you for coffee at her favourite haunt, the Oldrids restaurant!

“When reporting, she was extremely thorough and a stickler for getting all the facts right with a huge attention to detail.

“Pat was a pleasure to work with and will rightly go down as a Boston Standard legend.”