Friends and family pay respects at funeral of writer and journalist Corinna Ascherson

Corinna Ascherson
Isobel and Neal Ascherson outside El Vino’s on Friday

Pictured, top, is Corinna Ascherson, and, above, Isobel and Neal Ascherson outside El Vino’s on Friday
Published: 29 March 2012

THE family of a respected writer who died in a fire at her Kentish Town flat celebrated her life on Friday.

Around 60 mourners were at St Bride’s Church in Fleet Street for the funeral service of former Guardian and New Statesman journalist, Corinna Ascherson.

It was the same church where Corinna had married writer and journalist Neal Ascherson in 1958.

“Back then I remember her walking out of this same church with me arm in arm,” said Mr Ascherson, 79.

“I was walking out with her as my wife. Now, I’m walking out of the same place decades later behind her coffin.

"On our wedding day, that thought would never have occurred to me.”

Corinna died in a blaze at her home in Rhyl Street three weeks ago.

Paul Johnson, who  was editor of the New Statesman from 1965 to 1970, remembered Corinna fondly as he spoke to the congregation.

“Corinna’s first rule of journalism?” he joked. “Make it up, then exaggerate it.”

One of her daughters, Isobel Ascherson, 47, a criminal case barrister, recalled her mother making “hot, salty chips in paper cones for anyone passing by” and her legendary meals of  spaghetti bolognese, roast lamb and curries.

She said: “Everybody loved her. When I speak to old suitors of hers at Cambridge now, they still go quite misty-eyed when they remember their pursuit of her.”

A choir and the congregation sang the hymns Abide With Me and Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.

A musical extract of The Tale of the Crow was played – a piece Corinna had written with friend Graham Sheen.

A drinks reception was held at El Vino’s in Fleet Street, one of Corinna’s favourite haunts.

Journalist Pat Hall, who worked for The Guardian and The Evening Standard, remembered Corinna as “someone I always admired. I had the deepest respect for her”.

Her husband Ron Hall, a co-founder of the Sunday Times Insight team, was unable to attend due to ill health, but said on the phone they had been “dear friends”.

Abstract painter Frank Bowling, whose work can be seen in the permanent collections at the Tate Britain, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, said: “She was a beautiful woman and she would’ve loved this.

“The music, the way that her friends and family are here, and that she mattered to the people around Camden, that would have been so important to Corinna.”

The cause of the fire is still being investigated but one line of inquiry is the possibility that it was started by a lit cigarette.

Eight fire crews fought the flames but were unable to save Corinna.


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