BBC newsreader and presenter Fiona Bruce has paid tribute to her colleague and friend, George Alagiah, who passed away on Monday (24), aged 67.
“He is the man who set the gold standard for how to do this job with integrity, with humour and kindness. I’ll miss his friendship so very much,” Bruce wrote in The Telegraph.
She said that to the young journalists at the BBC, Alagiah was a ‘wise mentor’ and A ‘brilliant broadcaster who loved a good piece of newsroom gossip’.
In her detailed tribute, Bruce mentioned about her friendship with the Sri Lanka-born journalist over decades.
“The first time I met George, in a restaurant in 1999 somewhere in central London, we were both in a state of shock. That day, we had separately been informed that alongside Huw Edwards, we were to be the new faces of BBC News,” she wrote. “We were both aware that our lives were about to change.”
The veteran journalist revealed that Alagiah was one of the few people she could ‘absolutely trust’.
“If ever I had any problem, whether it was a scuffle with management over something or other, or if I was just feeling a little worn down by the odd business of being in the public eye, George was one of the few people I knew I could absolutely trust,” she said.
“It was just a given that he would hold anything I said gently and with respect. When you’re in that position, you choose your friends carefully and George was absolutely one of those friends for me. I suspect, in fact, that George was that person for many.”
Bruce said that Alagiah was utterly devoid of ego and was always so mindful of and grateful for the work people did.
According to her,his love for family was at the centre of everything and his cancer diagnosis brought a kind of clarity to that.
“I went to see George after he was diagnosed and he was remarkably candid about his feelings and utterly un-self-pitying. His diagnosis was terrible – that he survived as long as he did is almost miraculous and a testament to the determination of his doctors and his strength of spirit and his will to live for Frances (Alagiah’s wife) and the boys,” she said.
Bruce said that the periods when Alagiah was back in the newsroom, working between treatments, were happy ones.
She added, “One of my happiest memories of George will forever be his 60th birthday party. All his sisters were there and Fran and their very handsome boys. It was the people that meant a lot to him, gathered in one place, to celebrate an incredibly important moment – a moment he didn’t necessarily think he would live to see.
“George made a speech, as did the boys, and it was incredibly moving and life affirming all at the same time.”