Toasting Mark Frankland
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th May, 2012
The loggia at the Chelsea Arts Club was heated by the beating sun and the chatter of predominantly Observer hacks, past and present, at a celebratory lunch today to remember the life. work and personality of Mark Frankland, the man who played the role of Honorary Elder Brother in my life. Sue Arnold — for long one of my favourite columnists — had arranged the venue and Robert Chesshyre compered the speeches, but it was Mark’s humanity, even beyond death, that galvanised such a good turout. Former Observer Editor Donald Trelford, who flew over from his home in Mallorca specially for the event, gave a witty but chivalrous account of Mark’s time with the paper (as well as with MI6), notably remembered for his spells in Vietnam and the Soviet Union. Neal Ascherson gave insights into Marks central and eastern European links and David Hindmarsh recounted intriguingly how a very young Mark had helped smuggle a young Pole out of his Communist homeland at the height of the Cold War. Bob Chesshyre then suggested that following the example of Quaker gatherings, other people present might feel moved to stand up and say a few words. Several did, including Martin Woollacott, formerly of the Guardian, an organ that was held in bad odour by many on the Observer for a while after the two’s merger. I said nothing, as I felt I had expressed what I wanted about my own relationship with Mark in the Guardian several weeks ago. Though he hated fuss and large gatherings, I think secretly he would have been rather pleased to know that he had been remembered, not a some vainglorious memorial service at St Brides or elsewhere, but a rather boozy, rather nice lunch of former colleagues at the Chelsea Arts Club.