Harry was born on March 4th, 1942 in Fulmer, Buckinghamshire – the same day as his RAF officer father was buried, having been killed on active service with Bomber Command in the Second World War. This had a profound effect on his life.
During his early life he lived with family in Newport, Pembrokeshire; Chedworth, Gloucestershire; and North Taunton, Devon; before becoming a boarder at Ruddle House in 1954, leaving in 1960 as Captain of House. Throughout his school life he participated enthusiastically – representing the school both in rugby and cricket, and taking lead roles in drama productions. He frequently entertained his family with amusing stories of his life at Shebbear.
While there, his inspiration was headmaster Jack Morris – for his strength of character, wisdom, knowledge and values – and Harry aspired to these throughout his life. He always held great affection for Shebbear and kept very close links with his peers and the OSA.
He regularly attended OSA committee meetings and annual reunion dinners in London and would return to Shebbear as part of the Careers Advice Panel, supporting pupils in careers guidance.
Harry edited the OSA section of the school magazine until recent years and enjoyed researching the lives of notable pupils for inclusion in these articles. He continued to express admiration that ‘this funny little school, tucked away in a corner of North Devon’ had produced so many remarkable and interesting individuals, who went on to make memorable contributions to society.
He was honoured to hold the position of President of the OSA during the millennium year 2000 and was guest speaker at Speech Day 1998.
After leaving school in 1960, Harry started on his path to becoming a leading journalist by taking a role as a trainee reporter on the Pontypridd Observer. It was here that he met his wife Christine and they were married in 1969. From 1961-1964 he was Chief Reporter for the Herts Advertiser, moving in 1965 to become Chief Reporter for Southern News Service, a freelance news agency serving all national newspapers, radio and television. He ran his own freelance news agency between 1967 and 1969, again serving national newspapers, television and working as a special correspondent.
Fleet Street beckoned, and he joined the Press Association (PA) in 1969 as a sub-editor. During his thirty years of service with the PA he held roles of increasing responsibility, including Weekend Editor, Chief Picture Editor, Chief News Editor, Managing Editor and finally Executive Editor before taking early retirement in 1999. Throughout his career at the PA, Harry was at the centre of all the national long running stories, including the problems in Northern Ireland. In fact, all the Aspey family were injured in the 1983 IRA bomb blast at Harrods — Harry’s first-hand account was written and transmitted to the PA while he and the family were in A&E being treated for their injuries. This appeared on the front pages of the national press the following day — always the journalist!
During his editorial tenure, he was responsible for coordinating the coverage of the Charles and Diana saga, the Hillsborough, Bradford and Kings Cross fires and many other disasters, the Falklands War and all the major royal, political and industrial issues. He mingled with the leading political figures, royalty and the movers and shakers of the time. However, he was extremely modest about his achievements.
He wrote and commissioned PA travel features, was a media consultant to the Commerce and Industry Group of the Law Society, and occasional lecturer to foreign journalists at the BBC World Service.
For ten years he was on the judging panels for all major UK Press awards – text and pictures – and then of course after many hours and days of analysing the entries and conferring with the other judges, would enjoy the gala celebrations at the awards ceremonies in London.
Harry took early retirement from the PA in 1999, but total retirement did not last long, and he became a media training consultant for the Thomson Foundation, whose purpose is to train journalists in developing countries. He saw it as an opportunity to pass on his skills to a new generation and give something back to the profession he dearly loved.
These assignments took him to China (living in Beijing for four months at a time on two occasions), Siena Leone twice, Iran, Beirut, Malawi (where he was made an honorary tribal chief returning home with the complete attire!), Botswana, Chana, Montenegro and Slovenia. After twelve years of this professional travel, he settled back at the family home at Bray Lake, Berkshire, continuing to enjoy holidays to far flung corners of the world with Christine.
When not travelling, he enjoyed tending his garden, collecting antiques and watercolours, walking his dog, and the wildlife on the lake — at one time he had a pet swan named Albert who would join him in the garden and even wander into the house.
Harry was a master of communication, a loyal friend, and had a great sense of fun coupled with witty humour. The many tributes from all over the world concluded that he was one of life’s great characters and one of a kind.
Harry died at the Thames Valley Hospice, Windsor, on March 22nd, 2017 after a brief but gallant fight against cancer.
Harry leaves his wife Christine, son Charles (at Shebbear 1988 – 1992), daughter Camilla, and three beloved grandchildren. He will be much missed by a wide circle of family, friends and colleagues.