Mr Smith goes to . . . see Ted off

In the church car park, several mourners were heard to remark that it looked more like a Mafia funeral than the obsequies of a television cameraman attended by his peers. There was the same tableau of men in unaccustomed suits, greeting each other with gruff delight. Like mobsters, cameramen are seldom glimpsed in each other's company. There are only three known ways of getting them together. The first is that they all go to the same big story. The second is that they await despatching in the crew room, which is to ITN, my employer, what the boot room is to Liverpool Football Club: a senior common room in the University of Life. To the best of my knowledge, no outsider has ever been allowed inside the crew room. In the mind's eye, it's an oil-streaked den with a tousled stash of tabloids. But I also cling to the view that poetry is appreciated there, and rubbers of backgammon loudly but sportingly disputed.

The final situation in which cameramen occur en masse is at their Christmas lunch at a Greek restaurant in London. Although this, too, is shrouded in near-Masonic secrecy, I gather that it culminates in traditional fashion, with a volley of crockery and a senior cameraman stark naked on the dessert trolley.

Ted Henley was guest of honour at last year's lunch, although he was already gravely ill by then. Even in this context, it's hard to bracket Ted with anything grave. As his friends and family were tantalisingly informed, he was "famous" at the hotel in Belfast where ITN habitually put up during the Troubles. I didn't believe that anyone could really fall asleep in his food until I met Ted in his pomp, but this was merely the cameraman's knack of snatching forty winks in the least promising of circumstances. It was over dinner, during the football match-fixing trial some years later, that Ted confessed an unexpected passion for painting.

He covered all the big stories, including the Falklands and the Gulf war, and was once wounded in Beirut. On royal tours, when photo-ops were pooled, or shared, between ITN, BBC and Sky, everyone asked for Ted. If he had been in front of the camera instead of behind it, he would have been recognised by the obituarists as the outstanding newsman he was.

Even though he hadn't known Ted long, the priest described him as one of the most sensitive people he'd met. As a favour to one of the nurses who cared for him, Ted composed an essay for her child, who was stuck on an assignment about migration in Europe. Ted, who had filmed refugees for mile after mile, came top of the class - or, rather, the pupil did.

Did I say three ways of bringing cameramen together? Now there's a fourth. Two of Ted's cronies didn't get back from the wake until the following day. In support of the usual impertinences about what the dear departed would have wanted, there's hard evidence that Ted went into that proverbial good night after sharing a large one with his sons and best friend.

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