Monday, October 23, 2006

A tribute to Duncan from Reuters

Duncan stayed afloat in Budapest by teaching English and stringing for The Daily Mail. He was a co-founder of the Hungarian International Press Association (HIPA), and that led him to Reuters. When then-Budapest chief correspondent Mitya New asked HIPA to recommend someone to work for Reuters, Duncan reflected for about half a second before nominating himself.

Duncan found an outlet for his lifelong wanderlust by offering his services to the Reuters Foundation for training that took him around the world. As recently as July he led a workshop in Nairobi with former Reuters Africa editorial chief Nick Kotch. Even then, his physical deterioration was apparent, Kotch writes, but he was struck by Duncan’s “strong spirit and his great professionalism”.

It was typical of Duncan that he circulated in several worlds at once and was involved in a variety of film and book projects over the years. The crowning achievement of his life, published in French this month, is a book on the Rajk brothers who played an influential role in Hungarian politics before, during and after World War II – from opposite sides of the political spectrum.
The last image many of his admirers will have of Duncan is his participation, in a wheelchair and on a drip, less than two weeks before he died in a roundtable at the Barbican where the actress Susannah Yorke read excerpts from his book.

“Duncan only had a little rented flat, a cellphone and a rucksack,” one of his friends from Budapest told Duncan’s older brother Andrew. “Duncan didn’t have any possessions, he went through his life collecting friends,” the friend added.

Duncan leaves his brother in Kingston Upon Thames and his mother, Clarice, who lives in Derby. A date for the funeral will be announced later.

by Michael Roddy


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