"HE was not an outwardly religious person, but it was there inside him," said Group Captain Leonard Cheshire this week of his friend and biographer, Andrew Boyle, who died on Tuesday morning. "He was a deep thinking person and we had many conversations on the faith after my conversion at Christmas of 1948. He would put me right and show me a different slant."
Andrew Boyle spent his teenage years at Blairs College, then a junior seminary in Aberdeen diocese, where contemporaries remember him as quiet and retiring but an outstanding scholar. The former vicar-general of Galloway diocese and contemporary of Boyle's, Mgr Francis Duffy, "can still recall his reposeful face. He was a wee bit different from the rest, but perhaps we helped make him that way. At the lime he was the only nonScot at Blairs since I think his parents were living in the Midlands."
II was after deciding against a vocation to the priesthood that Boyle travelled the continent, finally escaping from France as the Germans advanced in June 1940. He began work at the Catholic Herald and its Scottish sister paper, the Glasgow Observer (now the Scottish Catholic Observer) later that year. One of his colleagues, Bill Igoe, recalls that it was the editorship of Michael de la Bedoyere and his vision of the church that inspired the young Andrew Boyle to take the job. "Like many of us young Catholics at the time, he was drawn to Michael de la Beduyere and what he was doing".
His time at the paper was brought to an end by a call-up For wartime service. "But he had no intention of remaining in the Catholic press," Bill Igoe recalls. His ambitions as a writer were broader. "He was the best reporter I ever met," Igoe judges.
Andrew Boyle's two years in military intelligence in the far east (1944-45) were a foretaste of a field that was to shape much of his working life.
When the war ended he joined the BBC, but increasingly his attention was drawn to hooks. His first two biographies were of military figures. His 1955 account of Leonard Cheshire, No Passing Glory, was the result of a growing friendship between the two which began when Boyle visited the second home established by Cheshire in Cornwall in 1950. "His book on me set him on his writing career and prepared the way for his next biography (of Viscount Trenchard, head of the RAF during the war). People saw that he'd written honestly and hadn't hesitated to criticise".
Further biographies followed — of Montagu Norman (1967), governor of the Bank of England; of Lord Reith of the BBC (1972); and of Brendan Bracken (1974), Churchill's right hand man. This won him the Whitbread Award for biography that same year, and led to a lengthy and ultimately successful battle with the Inland Revenue over their attempts to tax literary prizes.
Lord Longford, another longtime friend of Boyle, feels that it was the writer's integrity that made his books so successful. "In all his books, he pursued the truth remorselessly, sometimes exposing faults in the subject of his biographies that were not welcome to everyone".
Running in parallel with his writing career was Andrew Boyle's work at the BBC, transforming its current affairs coverage and leaving a mark that is still very much in evidence today. He founded the
long-running radio news programmes The World At One, P11 and The World This Weekend — all still on Radio 4 — and in 1976 became had of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland.
It was in 1979 though that his name became a household word when his book, The Climate of Treason, exposed Sir Anthony Blunt, Keeper of the Queen's pictures and a distinguished art historian, as the "fourth man" in the Burgess/Philby/Maclean spy ring.
"It took tremendous courage to tell the truth as he saw it," Lord Longford remembers. "1 can only guess at the pressure to which he was subjected before and afterwards".
In recent years Andrew Boyle suffered the loss of his wife, Christina, whom he had met during his time at the Catholic Herald when she was the editor's secretary. They had two children, Edmund (now, like his father, at the BBC) and Diana. In 1986 he married Eleanor Ransome.
A stroke left him less active, but he continued to write fur newspapers and journals, revising his book on Blunt and in 1986 publishing a life of Robert Parsons, a Jesuit involved in spying around the time of Elizabeth I. At the lime of his death he was working on what was proving to be a controversial project to write a biography of Dick White, head of intelligence services. There had been talk that the government would try to halt publication.
Lord Longford speaks for many of Andrew Boyle's friends and admirers in emphasising his charm and the respect he inspired in others. "He was above all a man of honour, and a wonderful Catholic".