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CHRONIC INVESTOR BLOG

Our light-hearted take on the world of investing

Memories of Gerard Tallack

By Jonathan Eley , 11 November 2011

I only met Gerard Tallack, who died last week at the age of 92, on a couple of occasions. By the time I started at the publication, he was already in his eighties and his freelance stints here were becoming fewer and farther between. I remember a tall man, whose vaguely aristocratic bearing was let down by his somewhat dishevelled attire. He spoke clearly and well, with a deep voice. I could have imagined him reading the BBC news in times gone by. And it was pretty clear that he knew his way around a balance sheet.

However, others here have clearer and longer memories than I, and two in particular have contributed these reminisences.

Robert Ansted, statistics editor, writes:

Gerard was certainly quite a character. As Jonathan noted, his dress sense certainly left a lot to be desired! Looking good fell way down his list of priorities. Many will remember Gerard for his hoarding. Like many of his generation, he could not stand waste, and found it very difficult to throw anything away. At one stage his desk was piled high with papers, reports, envelopes and sundry other artefacts; the junk mountain almost touched the ceiling.

So he devised an unusual filing system. He found an abandoned shopping trolley in the alleyway outside the office. To this day, I don’t know to this day how he managed to manhandle it up the stairs to his desk, but he did. This became a useful receptacle to squirrel away all kinds of paraphernalia he came across on his travels around the City.

There was no 'elf and safety in those days, but eventually the managing director insisted that I should be the one to point out to Gerard that this was something of a fire hazard and should be cleared away as soon as possible. It was heartbreaking to watch Gerard go through everything, finally disposing of some of his treasured items.

But he had one last trick up his sleeve. He phoned up Sainsbury's, asking them to come and collect their property, and even demanded a reward for 'finding' it. He got one, too!

Gerard also disliked wasting time. His telephone calls were as brief as possible, and he would often end his conversation with the words: "If that is all then, time is money, Goodbye". He could not abide tittle-tattle or office politics, and if colleagues started to gossip, he would steer them away, saying "there are so many more interesting things in the world to discuss”, or distract them with one of his anecdotes, which were second to none. I never ever heard him swear.

Gerard's eccentricity was what made him unique. But we should not forget that he was an intelligent and caring man, too. He was fanatical about detail, and if he didn't understand something, he would find a book, read it and become the expert. This was how he mastered that new-fangled device, the computer.

Nigel Bolitho, small-caps writer:

When I first joined IC, editors had offices and the hoi polloi had cubicles. Gerard's was next to mine, along a corridor. He covered investment trusts, and was a fierce warrior when quizzing hapless chairman and chief executives. I am sure that the former chairman of El Oro and St Lawrence trust can still remember Gerard's forensic examination of their accounts!

Like Robert, I can well remember Gerard's incessant hoarding. At one point, he accumulated a pile of old FTs so tall that I planted some flags on the top as a joke. They remained there for several days until the dreaded Health and Safety brigade took them down.

In those days, printing was a very manual process. We had to go to the print works at Dunstable every Wednesday and read the page proofs on big tables. There was usually time to eat a slap up steak lunch at a pub close by, and then we got Thursdays off, too! (Ed's note: don't get any ideas!) Gerard and I were keen fans of Dunstable for a number of years, until the advent of Acorn computers and new printing processes put paid to such jollies.

Gerard had an exceptional brain, but he never bragged about it. He took intellectual revenge on the management of companies and particularly investment trusts. In those days, there were far fewer companies listed so we had a lot more time to investigate. We worked long hours in smoky, tatty offices, but I always found him gracious, whatever the circumstances.

Other Gerard snippets:

See the Evening Standard's City Spy column mentioning him.

If you knew Gerard, you can add your own memories below.

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Jonathan Eley

Jonathan joined Investors Chronicle in 2000 as a specialist in resources stocks. He launched our website in his previous role as Online Editor before becoming Editor between 2009-2012. Jonathan now edits FT Money.

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