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David Twiston Davies, formerly chief obituary writer at the Daily Telegraph, gave a brilliant talk about his onetime trade at the Joy of Death Festival 2012. Here’s a snippet

Whatever the truth, everybody wants to know why somebody has died. Unfortunately the reasons given immediately after a death are often proved to be wrong. Max Hastings used to harry the Telegraph obits about this until a particular incident occurred. I was away that day, but there was a jazz trumpeter, whose name I have forgotten. Hastings had just sent a memo demanding we obey his instruction. So Hugh Massingberd, the obits editor, obediently wrote about the unfortunate fellow who, in those pre-Viagra days, had been operated on to restore the strength between his legs, only for the stitches to come apart in an explosion. We didn’t hear so much about giving reasons after that.

Read the whole of his talk here.


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