Heath Old Boys Association


Obituaries


Courtnay James William Tordoff: [Heath 1959–1961]

Courtenay James William Tordoff was born in Halifax on and educated at Holy Trinity School, Heath Grammar School and Fulneck Boys School, Leeds. At 18, he joined the Evening Courier as a trainee reporter. He won a national award for journalists which resulted in a trip to the USA to write about the space programme. He became a sub-editor on the Evening Courier and also met his wife, Sheila, whom he married in 1969, there.

In 1970 he moved to the BBC in Leeds where he worked as a news producer on Look North, moving in 1974 to the national newsroom at Television Centre where he was a news organiser on the Home desk, before becoming deputy Foreign news editor in 1982.

Perhaps his most famous moment came in 1982 at the Vatican, when he seized the moment to grab an unscheduled and virtually unprecedented interview with with Pope John Paul II, a BBC exclusive shown round the world. Courtenay later said that, when the Pope put his hand on his shoulder, it felt like a lightning bolt going through his body.

However he claimed the most professionally satisfying moment was two years afterwards when he deployed Southern Africa correspondent Michael Buerk, and Reuters cameraman Mo Amin, to Ethiopia to reveal to the world the worst famine of our time.

In 1988 he became senior producer, BBC Special Events, responsible for news coverage at four Olympic Games and three World Cups, among a host of major stories on virtually every continent.

His unflappable nature and dedication to the job endeared him to management and colleagues alike. John Simpson said he lacked the ego of the correspondent but was the ‘sheet anchor’ of the small newsgathering team, with no interest to defend except the final product.

At home he was a private yet active man who kept his health issues very much to himself. A big Wycombe Wanderers fan, he loved Dad’s Army and collecting Eddie Stobart models. In retirement (2003, after 33 years) he kept a daily ritual of an afternoon visit to his local for a glass of white wine and, until recently, he had a villa in Spain. He was involved with Age Concern locally and was a BBC Pensions Visitor in the Reading area, as well as having a series of local part-time jobs.

He is survived by Eve Peters, his partner of 24 years, and children Emma, Helen and Benjamin from his marriage to Sheila.

Read the obituary written by Courtenay’s friend and colleague Bob Prabhu from which much of this information has been gleaned.