Way to Live! A Raconteur’s Long Life is Over

Today’s Washington Post included this story about the passing of classic foreign correspondent Ross Mark.

“The quintessential foreign correspondent, dashing and with an engaging Aussie accent, he much preferred globe-hopping as a reporter to staying in one place and climbing the career ladder as a London editor. According to William Lowther, a friend and fellow journalist, he shared the dictum often expressed by former Baltimore Sun foreign correspondent Gilbert Lewthwaite: “Happiness is measured by the number of miles from the head office.”

Mr. Mark did enjoy his creature comforts. When he left Washington in 1959 to report from Moscow, Mr. Mark had just bought a “Cotswold blue” Jaguar, Lowther recalled. He loved the car and wangled permission from Sir Max Aitken, owner of the Daily Express, to ship the car to Moscow at the newspaper’s expense.

When the car’s battery fell victim to Moscow’s punishing cold and the Soviet office overseeing foreign correspondents couldn’t get him another one, he threatened to write a story saying the Soviet Union was so hapless it couldn’t even provide a simple battery. The next day, two men arrived to install a huge tank battery under the hood.

When he was made chief Africa correspondent in 1962, the car went along, again at Daily Express expense. He eventually wrecked his beloved Jag while following a road race near Nairobi.

Ross Folkard Mark was born in a small town near Sydney called Dorrigo and grew up on the family dairy farm. That period of his life provided him with a seemingly endless supply of cocktail- and dinner-party tales about felling timber with his Uncle Bill and dragging the logs down the mountain with a team of 10 bullocks. He never forgot the creatures’ names.

With his cache of colorful tales, he was a legend at the National Press Club. His recipe for “Australian Roo Stew,” a red-hot chili, was a Press Club contest winner.

“Ross Mark was a man of words,” Lowther said. “He loved poetry and had yards and yards of Wordsworth and Keats and Shakespeare by heart and ready to recite.” His favorite was “The Man From Snowy River,” the long story-poem by Australian Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson.” In Africa, he covered wars in the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi before returning to the United States in 1976. In addition to presidential races, he covered most of the major space launches from Cape Canaveral and twice reported from Vietnam.