Just as the magazine was going to press, we learnt about the passing away of one of our, and indeed Gibraltar’s, stalwarts of journalism, Peter Schirmer.
I was lucky enough to be a friend of Peter’s, seeing him for “coffee” or lunch about every two weeks. I was lucky in two ways: firstly because I got the pleasure of his company, which was always entertaining, but also lucky as I knew what it meant for Peter not to like you. His journalist’s pen could possess a very sharp point.
I always forgot Peter’s age, sometimes out of choice, sometime because I knew he was mentioned in the Bible and I could always look it up there. However I didn’t forget his birthdays, although in the latter years I always gave him his present early, advising him that, as they were bought specifically for him and would serve no other purpose, he might as well be given them and make use of them as soon as possible. I have a present which was ready for him when he was due to get out of hospital. Sadly my timing was out on this occasion.
The last one I did get to him was an old copy of the Simple Subs Book, a grammar bible for sub editors. He had told me that his only copy had been lent to a journalist colleague whilst he was working in South Africa, who had never returned it. Peter was a stickler for correct grammar, indeed as a write this I cringe at what he would have thought of my use of it on this occasion. Nevertheless, he was a believer in the Oxford comma, which rose to recent prominence in respect of the Brexit 50p coin.
His writing output was as varied as it was prodigious. It ranged from doggerel poetry, through insightful articles on matters of finance, to wry observations from the “Gods on Mount Olympus”. In 2018 he won a prize for his poetry in a Gibraltar competition. The prize turned out to be a pen. His reaction on what they could do with it was unprintable. Fortunately, last year he won the main prize and was genuinely overjoyed and slightly emotional at being given the award.
He was sanguine about the illnesses and medical problems brought about by old age, seeing them as going with the territory, though he was irritated by the fact they sometimes stopped or delayed his full enjoyment of life. Fortunately, they rarely prevented our lunches where he never ceased to fascinate with the stories of his varied and event-filled life, including his dismissal from the Times following an altercation with the then Governor of the Bank of England about Peter’s lack of a hat.
Peter, I will miss you, and this Oxford comma (as well as the one in the first paragraph) is just for you.