Journalist Jane Walker dies at age of 69


THE JOURNALIST Jane Walker (69) has died at her home in Madrid following a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. A regular contributor to The Irish Timeson Spanish affairs, she had been living in Spain since the 1960s. She died on Wednesday.

Born in 1942 in Congleton, England, she first went to Madrid as editorial assistant for the Guardiannewspaper and soon formed part of that hard core of international journalists that lived in the Spanish capital.

The biggest story she reported on was the transition of Spain from dictatorship to democracy. She did so for Timemagazine, as well as English publications and this newspaper.

Her office at the Calle del Marqués de Cubas became a focus for foreign correspondents arriving in Madrid or resident in that city. In the 1980s she became official correspondent there for the Efe news agency.

She had been married to Bill Cemlyn Jones, GuardianSpanish correspondent until his death in 1986. Twenty years before then, the couple were the first to report on the accidental fall of US radioactive plutonium on the Spanish village of Palomares in 1966. The accident occurred when two US aircraft collided over the Almerian village.

At the scene an American soldier warned the couple not to eat a tomato picked from the ground because it was “hot” (radioactive).

Writing in the Spanish daily El Paísyesterday, former Spain correspondent for the New York Timesand Wall Street JournalAna Westley said that “as well as being a great journalist, Jane was a fine cook and was famous among the foreign press corps for her lunches and dinners.

“Anyone who was later to be anyone in democratic Spain passed through her house.”

She also recalled that “no Irish ambassador came to Madrid without tasting her hospitality. But the Walker/Cemlyn Jones couple was very welcoming of all new correspondents and particularly newcomers in journalism. They shared contacts and showed us the way.”

She said “Jane was a happy person, with a great smile . . .”