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    Janet Murray. An obituary for my friend and tutor

    An obituary of the journalist and lecturer Janet (Jan) Murray who dies at the Marie Curie Hospice in London on the 1st of July 2016


     Janet (Jan) Murray was our tutor on a journalism course at Birkbeck College and later a friend and mentor. But she always seemed like a force of nature – big and tall and a bit loud and a bit larger than life. It is hard to believe she has gone from the world. She died on the first of July 2016, after being diagnosed with cancer just twelve weeks before. All too quick to take in.

    I came late to journalism after a long career in social work. I wanted to learn how to write about the social issues I had grappled with in my working life, some kind of end of career closure I guess, some kind of reflection on all the sad stories and injustices I had witnessed. I enrolled on a course at Birkbeck College London and met Jan from the back of a draughty evening lecture hall that smelt of left over lunches and the BO of daytime undergraduates.

    But in Jan I found something unexpected: a real journalist. She had an eye and an ear for a story. What would grab the attention? What was provocative? What would interest the man or woman in the street? Always looking for the angle. She was the real deal.

    I enjoyed her sometimes rambling and sometimes self indulgent anecdotal lectures: a glimpse into the hard bitten world of reporting and journalism, where a woman had to work three times as hard as a man to find a voice. I also caught the passion of someone who promoted black and ethnic minority art and dance. I was very used to the lip service world of politically correct UK social work antidiscriminatoryspeak and had all the jargon – but in Jan I could hear an authentic voice of opportunity and equality – someone who cared.

    Jan spent her last days at Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead, nursed by its very kind staff. She ‘held court’ they said: but they did not mind. They sort of guessed that she was someone to be respected, someone for whom the glass was more than half full, someone who had done important things.

    Jan’s was a life well lived. I will miss her. As I write this I can hear her voice telling me I have used too many words and put too much of myself into this piece, but what the hell. This is my tribute to an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life.


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