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Tributes paid to journalist Barclay

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Alex Barclay

Journalist Alexandra Barclay O’Reilly died on Sunday after a brief illness.

She was 43 years old.

Her family and colleagues recalled yesterday how she fearlessly tackled a wide range of issues and was driven to find a place for the stories that confronted Bermuda’s most disadvantaged people.

She had worked at both the now defunct Mid-Ocean News and The Bermuda Sun.

Her father, Charles Barclay, who was a former editor of The Mid-Ocean News, paid a heartfelt tribute to his daughter yesterday.

“The dedication and diligence that showed itself in Alex’s work reflected her mother Jenny’s strong values,” he said.

“Alex came from a family of wordsmiths. Her grandfather Guy Deghy was an accomplished novelist as well as a film actor. Her uncle, Patrick Barclay, has been chief football correspondent of the Telegraph, Guardian and The Times of London and I was a journalist and editor, too.

“She grew up around journalist friends of her parents, and as soon as she got the chance — when she graduated from the Bermuda High School for Girls — she applied to then Bermuda Broadcasting Company chief Quinton Edness for a job in the ZBM newsroom. Even in her teens, she was comfortable interviewing top politicians on-air with disarmingly direct questions.

“She then switched to print journalism at The Royal Gazette and the Mid-Ocean News with later spells at The Bermuda Sun and the Bermuda Media group of publications.

“Motherhood changed her focus from hard news to reporting on the plight of those left behind by the boom-time Bermuda of the 1990s. She bemoaned the dearth of journalists with real experience in the community, and worked hard to find a place in the papers for people with pressing issues like soaring rents, increased violence and lowered educational standards.”

Mr Barclay recalled that his daughter and her family decided on a fresh start on the wild west coast of Ireland where, he said, “she was able to indulge her love for non-competitive running and horse riding along endless beaches. But her true calling was being a mother to Claudia, now 20, and Lily, 10”.

He added: “Alex had mixed feelings about Bermuda which led to the Irish period, but she returned here for good a few years later with a deeper appreciation of the Island and its qualities, if not its politics, which were not sufficiently egalitarian in her mind.

“Alex was educated at Gilbert Institute and Warwick Academy — where she was one of the first children to be taught under the auspices of the Menuhin Foundation — before her spell at BHS.”

He said she and her mother Jenny shared a deep appreciation for classical music.

“She was in a hurry to start earning a pay cheque, but later regretted that her parents hadn’t pressured her into tertiary education. As such, she was intensely proud when Claudia won a place at the world-renowned Trinity College Dublin.”

Former editor of the Mid-Ocean News and family friend, Amanda Outerbridge, said: “I loved Alex dearly and knew her since she was a baby.

“She was a delightful and bright child, who grew into a lively, curious and untidy teenager!

“Alex matured to become a talented writer and astute, insightful journalist. It was a pleasure to be in her company — her thoughtfulness, sparkling wit and edgy observations made her always interesting and fun. Alex adored her daughters, Claudia and Lily; it’s heartbreaking that they have lost her.”

Tony McWilliam, editor-in-chief of The Bermuda Sun where Ms Barclay had worked as a reporter, said she had “numerous scoops” to her name, which included an in-depth interview with lawyer and Progressive Labour Party icon Julian Hall, who he said “had not spoken to the media for a decade”.

He said: “The paper quickly sold out that day and a framed copy of her front-page exclusive graced our newsroom for years. Alex had two successful spells as a senior reporter at the Bermuda Sun; in all, she was with us for approximately 18 months, between December 1998 and April 2003. She brought lots of original stories into the office and wrote with flair and authority.

“More recently, Alex temporarily joined the Sun team to cover the 2012 General Election. She was a solid, reliable reporter and a good listener, so people liked to talk to her. More important, Alex was a very dear friend. She was smart and charismatic and gentle. No words can match the sadness of her passing and she will never be forgotten.”

Carla Zuill, founder of the online news website Today in Bermuda, called the journalist a “perfectionist with a vision”.

She said: “When Alex came on-board as a freelancer, she offered a depth of wisdom and knowledge on angles of stories that some would not imagine.

“I’m so sad to hear of her passing.”

Former colleague Jonathan Bell, a reporter with The Royal Gazette, remembered her as a journalist who could report on a wide range of topics. He said: “I worked alongside Alex back in 1996 when I was a summer student at The Mid-Ocean News and still very new to the trade.

“Alex was helpful and welcoming to me, always somebody I could count on for help with a topic I was unsure of.

“She was also a diligent reporter who seemed capable of covering any topic, whether business, features, art or hard news. Alex was lively, personable and could be very funny indeed, and I was grateful for her help in the newsroom.

“I’m deeply saddened to hear of her passing,” he said, while a close family friend added: “I have known Alex since she was a little girl. I watched as she grew into a beautiful woman and one thing never changed ... she always had a smile on her face and a wonderful sense of humour. “

Ms Barclay died peacefully in King Edward VII Memorial Hospital on Sunday after a brief illness.

Her family will be holding a short service today and there will be a celebration of her life at a later date. In addition to Claudia and Lily, she is survived by her siblings Katherine Summerville, Benjamin Barclay and Luisa Barclay; her parents Jennifer Barclay and Charles Barclay, and her grandmother Tess Hutley.

Journalist Alexandra Barclay O’Reilly, riding along a beach on the western coast of Ireland