Katharine Whitehorn


Trailblazing journalist Katharine Whitehorn has met her final deadline, dying aged 92. Whitehorn had been sub-editor for Womans Own, before she moved to The Picture Post (where she met husband Gavin Lyall the crime novelist), The Spectator and The Observer. She started her Observer column in 1963, becoming the first British female journalist to have her own newspaper column. Her articles, always somewhat tongue in cheek, formed the basis of a series of books called How to Survive. These stretched everything from the Kitchen to Kids! In 1982 she became the first female rector of St Andrews (or indeed, any Scottish university), worked with the BBC advisory group, and, when once asked why she had taken a non-executive directorship, stated honestly it was because they’d given her a free car!

She was retired by The Observer in 1996, but unretired by them in 2011 leading to six more years of regular columns on aging, Brexit and life, and her memoirs. Not bad for someone whose first fiancé wanted her to drop out of Cambridge and become a receptionist instead. They disappeared from the narrative soon after, has anyone checked the local marshes?

In recent years she had been suffering from Alzheimer’s, and her family had to auction off most of her possessions, including her prized writing desk, to raise funds for Dementia UK. Which of course is needed as a charity ecause you can’t expect the government to deal with social care after folk have paid into the system all their lives. Whitehorn had covid at time of her death, although as she herself wrote of the pain of living with advancing dementia, who knows which is the lesser evil there . She was a unique pick for People I Think Might Die In 2021 United, which she has.

Katharine Whitehorn
2 March 1928 – 8 January 2021