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'Amazing' former editor Gerry Isaaman, who served Ham&High for nearly 40 years, dies at age of 85

PUBLISHED: 13:48 01 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:51 01 May 2019

Lifelines at Burgh House with Gerry Isaaman, former editor of the Ham&High
. Left to right, three editors: Matthew Lewin, Gerry Isaaman and Geoff Martin. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Lifelines at Burgh House with Gerry Isaaman, former editor of the Ham&High . Left to right, three editors: Matthew Lewin, Gerry Isaaman and Geoff Martin. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Former Ham&High editor Gerald Isaaman OBE has died aged 85.

Gerry Isaaman celebrates 25 years as editor of the Ham&High at Burgh House in 1993. Picture: Nigel SuttonGerry Isaaman celebrates 25 years as editor of the Ham&High at Burgh House in 1993. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Gerry, who was editor of this paper from 1968 to 1994, started off life as a journalist on the Stoke Newington and Hackney Observer in 1950.

Five years later, he joined the Ham&High, based at the time in Perrins Court, as a trainee reporter, rising to chief reporter and eventually editor.

He died on Monday morning.

His successor, Matthew Lewin, who joined the paper as a reporter under his leadership in 1973, remembers a jovial man.

Gerry Isaaman, former editor of the Ham&High, at Burgh House in 2003. Picture: Nigel SuttonGerry Isaaman, former editor of the Ham&High, at Burgh House in 2003. Picture: Nigel Sutton

“He was amazing,” he told us. “He made the Ham&High what it became, and had this unique vision of producing news of fantastic quality and at the same time reporting on what he called the 'good things in life' – arts, the theatre and culture. It was quite extraordinary the stable of book reviewers he had.

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“He was a fantastic mentor. When I started, I thought I knew what journalism was and I didn't. He really did show me what it could mean.”

Often regarded as “Mr Hampstead,” he was well known around the village. He played a key role in saving Burgh House, and was also a trustee of Camden Art Centre. He was also the editor who created the paper's diary column, Heathman.

Gerry Isaaman, former editor of the Ham&High, with the Prince of Wales at the reopening of Hampstead Town Hall in 2000. Picture: Nigel SuttonGerry Isaaman, former editor of the Ham&High, with the Prince of Wales at the reopening of Hampstead Town Hall in 2000. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Veteran photographer Nigel Sutton, who met him in 1966, recalls: “He got half his stories from sitting on a stool in the Flask and talking to people. In fact, some of the entries started 'as he told me from a stool in The Flask'.

“He was the Ham&High. He knew everybody in Hampstead, was very tough but fantastic with his staff, and really looked after them.”

Matthew agreed: “He was brilliant with people. He knew everybody. At council meetings he would float around the outside, and come back with about 16 stories on the back of an envelope.

“I remember his walking tours of Hampstead, where he would know everyone and everything about the area. He was interested in everybody, and interviewed everyone he ever met.”

Peggy Jay with former editor of the Ham&High Gerry Isaaman. Picture: Nigel SuttonPeggy Jay with former editor of the Ham&High Gerry Isaaman. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Gerry, who lived in Lyndhurst Road and West End Lane, is survived by wife Delphine, son Dan and a grandchild. A date for his cremation is yet to be arranged.

This story broke as we went to press. Pick up next week's edition for a fuller tribute – and send your memories of Gerry to
 letters@hamhigh.co.uk.

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