Ian Jack, Guardian columnist and former editor of Granta, dies aged 77 | The Guardian
Ian Jack, Guardian columnist and former editor of Granta and the Independent on Sunday, has died aged 77 after a short illness.
Jack was a gifted writer, a brilliant and imaginative editor, and a mentor to young journalists. His last article for the Guardian, published a week ago, marked the centenary of the BBC, “one of the great cultural projects of the world”. He wrote: “It seems unlikely that Britain will again invent something so admired and influential; we were lucky to have him.
Katharine Viner, editor of the Guardian, said: “Ian Jack was one of the finest journalists of his generation. He was an incredible journalist, full of curiosity and observation, and he was also a wonderful writer. Our readers loved it; there was no one like him.
Jack fell ill on the Isle of Bute, where he spent part of every year, and died in Paisley on Friday morning.
He was born in Lancashire, but his Scottish parents moved back to North Queensferry when he was seven. He started working as a trainee journalist at the Glasgow Herald in 1965.
In 1970 he moved to London to join the Sunday Times, then in its heyday under the legendary Harold Evans. He was a column editor and then a foreign correspondent, a specialist in India.
He went on to write for the Observer and Vanity Fair before joining the team that created the Independent on Sunday, which he edited from 1991 to 1995. From there he served as editor of Granta , the literary magazine, where he remained until 2007.
For the past 15 years, Jack has been a columnist for the Guardian.
Alan Rusbridger, the former Guardian editor who resigned in 2015, tweeted“Ian Jack was one of the best. A beautiful prose stylist who loved the job of reporter. A stranger with an incurable curiosity about how places, institutions, and people functioned. A lively and mischievous intellect. A nostalgic who lived in the present. A warm and generous man.
Andrew Marr, former editor of the Independent, said Jack was “one of the great and wise originals of British journalism, with strong roots in the Scottish working class – unlike most professions these days – and with a deep understanding and love of industrial work class culture”.
Writer Neal Ascherson said: “We have lost one of our great journalists, a writer with an enchanting imagination and at the same time a journalist rigorously scrupulous in his insistence on the facts.
“In Scotland, Bengal and industrial England, he mourned the slow loss of faith in the value of work, skill and community. He honored the certainty of a piston forged in Glasgow driving the wheel of a steam locomotive across the Indian plains, and of the father of a family returning from the factory to a secure profession with a living wage.
Lynn Barber, journalist and interviewer, said Jack was a “magnificent editor”, adding, “I owe him so much.” Jack hired Barber from the Sunday Express to join the new Independent on Sunday when it launched in 1990 – one of many emerging talents he spotted as editor.
Music writer Richard Williams tweeted“Shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Ian Jack, one of the most admired journalists of my generation. It was a privilege to work with and for him, and to be able to call me his friend.
Indian historian Ramachandra Guha said Jack combined professional distinction with “rare personal decency – he was one of the kindest human beings I have known”.
In addition to his journalistic output, Jack has written, commissioned and edited a number of books. In the foreword to a collection of essays and unpublished writings, The Country Formerly Known as Great Britain, published in 2009, Jack wrote of “the memory of a different country, one that shaped my identity both British and Scottish, and also possibly as a Londoner with a part-time life in Scotland”.
His last major writing was a 17,000-word article for the London Review of Books about the Scottish Government’s mismanagement of the much-needed refurbishment and resupply of ferries between the Scottish west coast and the islands in the context of a history of shipbuilding on the Clyde. .
Jack’s first marriage to Aparna Bagchi ended in 1992. He then married Lindy Sharpe, a food and waste activist, with whom he had two children.