Geoffrey Battison obituary


My friend and former colleague Geoffrey Battison, who has died aged 98, was a magazine journalist and editor who worked in Fleet Street in its heyday. He was also a jazz buff and drummer.

Born in Harrow, north-west London, he was the son of William Battison and his wife, Gertrude (nee Hills). His father was a sales manager for United Glass Bottle Manufacturers. Geoffrey attended John Lyon school in Harrow on the Hill, where he helped to form the first school jazz band, playing the drums.

He left school aged 16 and got his first job working for an import/export company in Fenchurch Street, central London, and joined a nine-piece swing band.

When the second world war broke out, Geoffrey was unable to serve in the forces because of asthma, but he joined the Heavy Rescue Squad, based at the Tower of London, helping people affected by the Blitz. Injured by a falling wall, he then worked as a farm labourer in Devon.

After the war Geoffrey joined Walter King, a small magazine publisher in Fleet Street, where his career flourished and he was made magazine editor and later editor-in-chief. At this time, he met Joyce (nee Mitchell); they married in 1947 and had two children, Susan and Andrew.

When Walter King was taken over by the Thomson Organisation, Geoffrey was appointed managing director of the Walter King group of magazines. He went on to join the Benn Group, which was then the largest magazine publisher in Europe.

I met Geoffrey when I joined Benn Publications in 1979 and he was editor-in-chief of the Gas World group, a handful of magazines serving the then nationalised industry. He chronicled it until privatisation in 1986, writing informed and entertaining copy while travelling all over the country, visiting the different regions of British Gas and winning the respect of many. We remained friends for the rest of his life.

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Geoffrey belonged to the era when Fleet Street was blooming, when lunches were long and often liquid, and he survived many years of happy retirement to tell the tale.

He had a lifelong love of jazz and his record collection contained more than 8,000 tracks.

His other passion was art. Early in his career, he had earned occasional extra income by selling cartoons to Punch. After his retirement in 1992, when he moved to Somerset, where he painted watercolours of local scenes to order. He was a man of immense charm, talent and humour.

Joyce and his children predeceased him.



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