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A. A. Gill

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A. A. Gill
Gill in a 2011 interview
Gill in a 2011 interview
BornAdrian Anthony Gill
(1954-06-28)28 June 1954
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died10 December 2016(2016-12-10) (aged 62)
London, England
OccupationColumnist, author
  • (m. 1982; div. 1983)
  • (m. 1990; div. 1995)
PartnerNicola Formby (1995–2016; his death)

Adrian Anthony Gill (28 June 1954 – 10 December 2016) was a Scottish journalist, critic, and author. Best known for his food and travel writing, he was also a television critic, was restaurant reviewer of The Sunday Times, wrote for Vanity Fair, GQ, and Esquire, and published numerous books.

After failing to establish himself as an artist, Gill wrote his first piece for Tatler in 1991 and joined The Sunday Times in 1993.[1][2]

Known for his sharp wit, and often controversial style, Gill was widely read and won numerous awards for his writing. On his death he was described by one editor as "a giant among journalists." His articles were the subject of numerous complaints to the Press Complaints Commission.

Early life and education[edit]

Gill was born in Edinburgh to an English father, Michael Gill, a television producer and director, and a Scottish mother, Yvonne Gilan, an actress. He had a brother, Nicholas.[3][4] The family moved back to the south of England when he was one year old.[5] In 1964, he appeared briefly in his parents' film The Peaches as a chess player.[6]

Gill was educated at the independent St Christopher School, Letchworth, Hertfordshire, and later recalled his experiences at the school in his book The Angry Island. After St Christopher's, he moved to London to study at the Saint Martin's School of Art[7][8] and the Slade School of Art, nurturing ambitions to be an artist. Following art school, Gill spent six years "signing on, trying to paint, until one day he realised he wasn't any good".[9] At the age of 30, having abandoned his ambitions in art, he spent several years working in restaurants and teaching cookery.[10]


Gill began his writing career in his thirties, writing "art reviews for little magazines". His first piece for Tatler, in 1991, was an account of being in a detox clinic, written under the pseudonym Blair Baillie.[9] In 1993, he moved to The Sunday Times where, according to Lynn Barber, "he quickly established himself as their shiniest star".[9] He continued to write for The Sunday Times until shortly before his death in 2016.

Gill was also a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and GQ.[11] He wrote a series of columns for GQ, on fatherhood and other subjects.[12] He also wrote for Esquire, where he served as an agony uncle, "Uncle Dysfunctional".[13]

Collections of his travel writing were published as AA Gill is Away (2002), Previous Convictions (2006) and AA Gill is Further Away (2011), his Tatler and Sunday Times food writing as Table Talk (2007) and his TV columns as Paper View (2008).[14] He wrote several books on individual restaurants and their cuisine – Ivy (1997), Le Caprice (1999), Breakfast at the Wolseley (2008) and Brasserie Zedel (2016).

He also wrote two novels which were generally poorly reviewed – Sap Rising (1996) and Starcrossed (1999). Starcrossed was given the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award.[15] He wrote books studying England – The Angry Island (2005), and the United States – The Golden Door (2012).

In 2014, Gill won an Amnesty International Media Award, and a Women on the Move award for a series of Sunday Times Magazine articles on refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jordan and Lampedusa.[16][17] In 2014, he also won the "Hatchet Job of the Year Award" for his scathing review of Morrisey's Autobiography.[18] In 2015 he published a memoir, Pour Me.[19]

On his death, The Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens described Gill as "the heart and soul of the paper" and "a giant among journalists".[20]


Gill's acerbic style led to several controversies and complaints from public figures during his career.


In 1997, in The Sunday Times, Gill described the Welsh as "loquacious dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls". His comments were reported to the Commission for Racial Equality[21] and used as an example of what was described as "persistent anti-Welsh racism in the UK media" in a motion in the National Assembly for Wales.[22] The CRE declined to prosecute, saying that Gill "had not meant to stir up racial hatred."[22] Gill's comments led him to become the subject of the song "Little Trolls" by Welsh alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers, the B-side to their 2001 single "Ocean Spray". In the song, Manics' lyricist Nicky Wire reflects Gill's comments on the Welsh back at him, referring to him as a "Spiteful twisted unforgiven, sad and inverted and stunted, retarded ugly balding old man".

Isle of Man[edit]

Gill's feud with the Isle of Man began in 2006 with a review of Ciappelli's restaurant in Douglas. Gill wrote that the island:

managed to slip through a crack in the space-time continuum […] fallen off the back of the history lorry to lie amnesiac in the road to progress […] its main industry is money (laundering, pressing, altering and mending) […] everyone you actually see is Benny from Crossroads or Benny in drag…. The weather's foul, the food's medieval, it's covered in suicidal motorists and folk who believe in fairies.[23]

The review was attacked in the Tynwald, the Manx parliament, with House of Keys member David Cannan demanding an apology for the "unacceptable and scurrilous attack".[24]

Gill made further comments regarding the Isle of Man in his Sunday Times column on 23 May 2010,[25] when he described its citizens as falling into two types: "hopeless, inbred mouth-breathers known as Bennies" and "retired, small arms dealers and accountants who deal in rainforest futures". His comments were made in the aftermath of Mick Jagger's suggestion that drugs should be legalised in the Isle of Man.[26] Gill added that "If ... they become a hopelessly addicted, criminal cesspit, who'd care? Indeed, who could tell the difference?"[27]


In February 2011, Gill described the county of Norfolk as "the hernia on the end of England".[28] In December 2013, his column just before New Year's Eve, was the result of a night on the beat in Grimsby and Cleethorpes and was heavily critical of both towns where Grimsby is "on the road to nowhere" and Cleethorpes is full of "hunched and grubby semi-detached homes".[29] Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Grove described Gill as "A tweed-suited, Mayfair-based writer, whose only experience of the North of England was his visit to Cleethorpes and his regular trips salmon fishing in Scotland".[30]

Killing of a baboon[edit]

Gill reported in his Sunday Times column in October 2009 that he shot a baboon dead, prompting outrage from animal rights groups.[31][32] "I know perfectly well there is absolutely no excuse for this", he wrote, and that he killed the animal to "get a sense of what it might be like to kill someone, a stranger". He went on to state, "[T]hey die hard, baboons. But not this one. A soft-nosed .357 blew his lungs out".[31][32]

Clare Balding[edit]

In his review of Clare Balding's 2010 Britain by Bike TV programme, Gill referred to the presenter as "a big lesbian" and "a dyke on a bike".[33][34][35] Gill's Sunday Times editor, John Witherow, responded to Balding's complaint: "In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society. Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes. A person's sexuality should not give them a protected status".[33] Dissatisfied with the response, Balding's subsequent complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) was upheld: they considered use of the word "dyke" to have been "pejorative" and "used in a demeaning and gratuitous way".[33][36] The PCC considered publication of Gill's piece to be "an editorial lapse" for which "the newspaper should have apologised at the first possible opportunity".[36] In his defence, The Sunday Times pointed out that in the five years prior to Balding's, the PCC had received 62 complaints involving Gill but none had been upheld.[37]

Mary Beard[edit]

Reviewing Mary Beard's BBC television series Meet the Romans in April 2012, Gill wrote that the academic "should be kept away from cameras altogether".[38] Beard in response accused him of being "frightened of smart women" and suggested "maybe it's precisely because he did not go to university that he never quite learned the rigour of intellectual argument and he thinks that he can pass off insults as wit."[39]

Personal life[edit]

Gill had severe dyslexia and consequently dictated all of his writing.[40]

Gill was a recovering alcoholic who stopped drinking at the age of 29.[5] On 1 April 1984, after consuming two bottles of vintage champagne with his father on the train to Wiltshire, he checked himself into the Clouds House addiction treatment centre in East Knoyle. He followed an Alcoholics Anonymous "12-step plan" to recovery and, in tribute to the organisation, began using the name "A. A." Gill professionally.[10] In a 2014 article in The Times, Gill said that he had "continued to smoke about 60 a day" until the age of 48."[41]

From 1982 to 1983, Gill was married to the author Cressida Connolly.[10] From 1990 to 1995,[9] he was married to Amber Rudd, a financial journalist who later became Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.[42] The couple had two children.[43] He then had a long-term relationship with Nicola Formby, editor-at-large of Tatler, for whom he left Rudd in 1995,[9] and who appeared in his column as "The Blonde".[44] They had twins born in 2007.[43]

Gill's younger brother Nick, a Michelin-starred chef, disappeared in 1998, telling Gill: "I'm going away now . . . I'm not coming back." Gill spoke of his sadness at not knowing what happened to Nick, and wrote that he looked for him whenever he visited a new city.[45]


On 20 November 2016, Gill wrote in his Sunday Times column of his engagement to Formby, and also disclosed that he was suffering from "the full English" of cancer.[46] In his final article in the Sunday Times Magazine, published on 11 December 2016, he disclosed that he had a primary lung tumour with metastases to his neck and pancreas, and detailed the medical treatment that he was receiving, with a commentary on his experiences as a terminal cancer patient in the National Health Service.[47] Gill died in London on the morning of 10 December 2016, at the age of 62.[8][48]


  • Sap Rising (1996), Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-552-99679-2
  • The Ivy: The Restaurant and Its Recipes (1999) with Mark Hix ISBN 978-0-340-69312-4
  • Le Caprice (1999) with Mark Hix ISBN 978-0-340-73838-2
  • Starcrossed (1999) ISBN 978-0552778619
  • AA Gill is Away (2003) collection of travel writing. ISBN 978-0-7538-1681-3
  • The Angry Island: Hunting the English (2005) a book about England and the English. ISBN 978-0-297-84318-4
  • Previous Convictions: Writing with Intent (2006) assignments from here and there. ISBN 978-0-297-85162-2
  • Table Talk: Sweet And Sour, Salt and Bitter (2007) Selection of Gill's writing about food, taken from his Sunday Times and Tatler columns. ISBN 978-0753824412
  • Breakfast at the Wolseley (2008) ISBN 978-1-84400-444-7
  • Paper View: The Best of The Sunday Times Television Columns (2008) ISBN 978-0-7538-1768-1
  • AA Gill is Further Away (2011). Assorted travel writing. ISBN 978-0297863809
  • The Golden Door: Letters to America (Published in the US as To America With Love) (2012) ISBN 978-0753829165
  • — (31 March 2013). "Long day's journey into night". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  • Pour Me (2015). Reminiscences about alcoholism. ISBN 978-0297870821
  • Uncle Dysfunctional (2017). Esquire Agony Uncle advice. ISBN 978-1786891839
  • Lines in the Sand (2017). Collected journalism.§ ISBN 978-1-47460515-1
  • — (December 2012). "The parenting trap". Vanity Fair. 628: 110, 112. Retrieved 2 October 2015.


  1. ^ Silver, James (7 May 2007). "'My opinion is worth more than others'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  2. ^ Murguía, Verónica (26 February 2017). "Memorias de Adrian" [Memoirs of Adrian]. La Jornada (Semanal Arte y Pensamiento las Rayas de la Cebra) (in Spanish). Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Yvonne Gilan obituary". The Times. 5 September 2018. Retrieved 13 July 2022.
  4. ^ "Michael Gill". The Times. 25 October 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2022.
  5. ^ a b Durrant, Sabine (15 December 2005). "A is for Adrian". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  6. ^ Grigor, Murray (28 October 2005). "Michael Gill". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  7. ^ St. Martin's School records
  8. ^ a b "AA Gill: Sunday Times critic dies after cancer diagnosis". BBC News. 10 December 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e Barber, Lynn (6 January 2004). "The secret diary of Adrian Gill, aged 45". The Observer. London.
  10. ^ a b c Jeffries, Stuart (10 December 2016). "AA Gill obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  11. ^ Silver, James (7 May 2007). "My opinion is worth more than others". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "AA Gill News and Features". British GQ.
  13. ^ "AA Gill On... Feminism". 20 July 2013.
  14. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (10 December 2016). "AA Gill obituary". The Guardian.
  15. ^ Kennedy, Maev (25 November 1999). "Literary pretensions and cigar help peerless AA Gill scoop Bad Sex Prize". The Guardian.
  16. ^ "Media Awards: Amnesty announces its 2014 winners". www.amnesty.org.uk.
  17. ^ "Women on the Move Awards Ceremony 2014". Women on the Move Awards. Archived from the original on 6 April 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  18. ^ Flood, Alison (11 February 2014). "Hatchet Job of the Year goes to AA Gill for Morrissey broadside". The Guardian.
  19. ^ Adams, Tim (15 November 2015). "Pour Me: A Life by AA Gill review – from drunk to doyen of Fleet Street". The Guardian.
  20. ^ "Sunday Times columnist AA Gill dies aged 62". Independent.co.uk. 10 December 2016. Archived from the original on 10 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Writer reported over "ugly little trolls" Welsh jibe". BBC News.
  22. ^ a b "'Anti-Welsh racism' protest". BBC News.
  23. ^ Gill, A A (22 January 2006). "Ciappelli". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  24. ^ Caine, Howard (17 February 2006). "Gill by mouth". BBC News. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  25. ^ Gill, AA (23 May 2010). "Our couch potato Olympic mascots". The Times. London.
  26. ^ "Jagger 'legalise drugs' Manx call". BBC News. 20 May 2010.
  27. ^ "Anger after Times writer blasts Isle of Man as 'in-bred'". Isle of Man Today. 26 May 2010. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  28. ^ "Video: Norfolk residents hit back at restaurant critic AA Gill". Norwich Evening News.
  29. ^ "Locals hit back at Sunday Times columnist AA Gill's assessment of 'dull' Grimsby and 'horror-film empty' Cleethorpes". Grimsby Telegraph. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.
  30. ^ "Locals hit back at Sunday Times columnist AA Gill's assessment of 'dull' Grimsby and 'horror-film empty' Cleethorpes". Grimsby Telegraph. 31 December 2013. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  31. ^ a b Gill, A. A. (25 October 2009). "AA Gill reviews The Luxe". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016. (subscription required)
  32. ^ a b Booth, Robert (26 October 2009). "AA Gill shot baboon 'to see what it would be like to kill someone'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
  33. ^ a b c Davies, Caroline (30 July 2010). "Clare Balding complains to press watchdog over 'dyke' jibe". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  34. ^ "Clare Balding complaint over sexuality is upheld". BBC News. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  35. ^ Gill, A. A (25 July 2010). "Humping in tents: a great British tradition". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2016. (subscription required)
  36. ^ a b "Complainant Name: Clare Balding". Press Complaints Commission. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  37. ^ Plunkett, John (17 September 2010). "Clare Balding complaint over AA Gill column upheld". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  38. ^ John-Paul Ford Rojas "Mary Beard hits back at AA Gill after he brands her 'too ugly for television'", Daily Telegraph;, 24 April 2012
  39. ^ "Mary Beard hits back at AA Gill after he brands her 'too ugly for television'". The Telegraph. 24 April 2012.
  40. ^ Barber, Lynn (25 May 2008). "Let him eat cake". The Observer. London. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  41. ^ "Life at 60". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 13 August 2015.
  42. ^ "Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, The Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP". UK Government website. London. 2016. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  43. ^ a b Barber, Lynn (25 May 2008). "Let him eat cake". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 November 2008.
  44. ^ Gill, AA (21 August 2005). "Tugga". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  45. ^ "I look for my lost brother in every city, says AA Gill". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  46. ^ Appleyard, Bryan (20 November 2016). "AA Gill: I'm elated to get married – oh, and I'm ill". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 20 November 2016. (subscription required)
  47. ^ Radowitz, John von; UK, Press Association Science Correspondent PA for HuffPost (13 December 2016). "New Trial Shows Drug Similar To One Denied AA Gill Can Help Lung Cancer Patients". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  48. ^ "A. A. Gill, Who Gleefully Skewered Britain's Restaurants, Dies at 62". The New York Times. 13 December 2016.

Further reading[edit]