Thursday, April 29, 2021

Michael Meadowcroft's Guardian obituary of Jonathan Fryer

The former Liberal MP Michael Meadowcroft has written an obituary of Jonathan Fryer for the Guardian:

Jonathan Fryer, who has died aged 70 of a brain tumour, was a foreign correspondent and writer whose broadcasts from a total of 162 countries made his a familiar voice on BBC Radio. 

He also wrote about history and lectured on international politics, and spent more than half a century as a Liberal and later Liberal Democrat activist and candidate.

But the obituary is more than a list of achievements:

Jonathan was adopted at the age of 18 months by Rosemary and Harold Fryer. He had an exceptionally difficult childhood – his father, a Manchester businessman, sexually abused him. 

At primary school he fared badly, and his regimented early years at Manchester grammar school, studying subjects that he found uncongenial, led to failed examinations until one teacher fostered his interest in literature, geography and languages. He then won an open exhibition to St Edmund Hall, Oxford University, to study geography.

Forcing himself to be independent before he went to Oxford, Jonathan fulfilled his determination to get away from his father by travelling overland to Vietnam during the war there, partly funding his journey and stay by persuading Brian Redhead, then editor of the Manchester Evening News, to pay him for articles sent back to the paper. 

His experiences led him to switch to Oriental studies with Chinese and Japanese when he finally arrived at university.

Jonathan Fryer published an account of his childhood, Eccles Cakes: An Odd Tale of Survival, in 2016.

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