The INQUIRER’s Dave Neal passes away

Dave, who lived in Tunbridge Wells with his wife Charlotte and beloved dog Poppy (who had her own blog for several years), was diagnosed with Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma, a rare form of cancer that accounts for just three per cent of thyroid cancer sufferers, at the age of just 31. 

Dave documented his struggles with this terminal illness in a personal blog.

He could have buried his head in the sand, but Dave remained ever positive, using the blog to document his much-loved trips with his Dad where they had chips with “thankfully no horse in them”, his beer and oyster nights with Charlotte and his brother, and, with the same level of humour that he’s shown on the INQUIRER for all of these years, his increasing number of trips to the toilet.

Dave, who also worked as News Editor at Computer Shopper magazine, was admitted to Hospice in the Weald (if you have a spare couple of quid, please donate) late last year after his condition worsened. He passed away peacefully last Wednesday aged 43. Our deepest condolences go out to Dave’s family. 

Dave, affectionally known as our ‘crisps and dinkles correspondent’, was a man with an unmatched level of wit, a passion for online privacy advocacy and who counted John McAfee among his many fans, will leave a lasting impression on the INQUIRER, where will miss him terribly. 

Below are some words from past and present Incisive Media colleagues.

Chris Merriman

When I arrived at The INQUIRER back in 2013, Dave had already been told he was on borrowed time. But he carried on with a tenacity and good humour that inspired all of us. In fact, he worked with me to fight against my own health crises and inspired me with his attitude of defiance to his own – a mark of the sheer generosity of spirit of the man.

As a colleague, he was a mentor, able to inject just the right amount of humour into a story, in just the right way. He understood how the industry works. Or more often doesn’t. He was encouraging on those days when the fuzz of writer’s block descends and everything you write reads like an unedited Katie Price novel.

Lover of hip-hop, lover of crisps, lover of random half-forgotten tv and film, Dave was never short of a sardonic quip, and a more often than not, a YouTube clip or mp3 that you’d never have found in a million years.

Again and again he beat his life expectancy until we almost forgot that one day he wouldn’t be around. All the time, he was far more interested on how you were than talking about his own discomfort. He was kind and generous, often to a fault. He wouldn’t just try and give you more than he had, he’d quite often force it on you, such was his determination to make the people around him happy.

When the end came, it came quicker than we could have ever imagined, with pain both emotional and physical, but in the end peaceful. But don’t remember the end. Remember him as a brilliant journalist, a wit and raconteur, and most of all, as a friend. He was my friend, and I will always be grateful for that.

Carly Page

Dave was much more than a colleague to me. He was an inspiration, a mentor and, most importantly, a friend.

When I first started back in INQ almost six years ago, Dave was the first person I was introduced to and we instantly bonded over our shared love for hip-hop, confectionary and crap TV. While at first I felt intimidated editing the words of a journalist with such talent and enviable levels of wit, Dave always gave confidence and helped me to become the journalist that I am today.

I will remember Dave with a smile on my face. I will remember the time Dave picked me in Secret Santa and showered me with personalised gifts (despite our stingy £10 budget), I’ll remember our trip to the sweet shop, I’ll remember always receiving a birthday card from you, and I’ll remember crying with laughter at our Skype conversations on a daily basis. Thank-you Dave, for everything. I’ll miss you so much.

Madeline Bennett

I first met Dave in August 2000. It was my first day working on a technology magazine as editorial assistant and I was thrown in at the deep end with writing some network NIBs. Neither of those words meant anything to me at the time, but Dave – as has been his way for the near-two decades we’ve been friends and colleagues – stepped in straightaway to help me out. His support from day one was a large part of the reason I stayed in the job, as he continued to take the time to explain all the technical jargon so beloved of our industry. I was also wowed by his ability to translate those press releases and conference sessions full of corporate messaging and marketing spiel into something not only useful for IT pros and business people, but also entertaining.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Dave ever since that day. Although the publications and our roles changed, the constant was the support and friendship I had from Dave. He was the rare kind of person who, if you asked for a hand with something or to take on extra work, always said yes. Even when he was going through the most gruelling treatment, he always made a point of getting everything done beforehand and worrying about leaving others in the lurch. And still managing to write entertaining, inspired articles.

Dave truly was one of a kind. He was an inspiration to me, both in his career as a technology journalist and in his long, brave battle with cancer. I do and will continue to miss him deeply.

Dan Worth

Dave was a genuinely great bloke and a fantastic writer and the world is the poorer for his passing. He had that rare gift for not only seeing the madness in much of life but being able to convey it in words with a wit that could range between caustic and biting to silly and surreal.

Indeed, most days in the office involved someone saying, ‘have you read Dave’s latest piece on The INQUIRER, it’s hilarious’, before the entire team would stop what they were doing and invariable burst into laughter. I will always remember Dave for this talent as well as being a thoroughly decent chap – most definitely one of the good guys – and I feel honoured to have been able to work alongside him. Cheers Dave.

Mark Samuels

Dave was a great chap. We both started out in journalism around the turn of the millennium, when we worked on separate magazines at Incisive. I used to hang about at the coffee machine, looking for people to muck around with and Dave was always a willing participant. We bonded over our love of music and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

He was a brilliant journalist and had one crucial component to his armoury that many writers lack – comedy. Some people are naturally funny and Dave had that gift. Rarer still, he could write amusing copy. Even more uniquely, he could write gag-laden copy about enterprise technology and his own very personal struggles with cancer.

Most importantly, Dave was a great friend. He was warm, thoughtful and terrific company. He grabbed life, but life, unfortunately, chose not to grab him back. He’s left us far too early, yet I feel honoured to have been part of his world. I’ll always look back on our time together and smile. Rest easy, matey.

James Murray

It is hard to write about Dave, even in the saddest of circumstances, without smiling a little.

I was lucky enough to work with Dave at VNU and then Incisive Media from 2005 until he became a freelancer. He was everything you would wish for in a colleague and a friend: considerate, kind, and generous with his time and advice, even when working with a young journalist just starting out in the industry.

And he was funny, he was just so funny. Funny in print, funny online, and funny in person. Laugh out loud funny, thoughtfully funny, acerbically funny, and, inevitably given what he had to face over the past decade, darkly funny.

I can still remember jokes and stories Dave told over a decade ago. There are not many people you can say that about.

I have a huge amount to thank Dave for. He played a part in many happy, slightly hedonistic memories, from the mid-noughties, before the financial crash put paid to the journalistic glory days of the early finish and the PR party circuit. He was always on hand with sage advice, be it personal or career-focused. He taught me how to be a better writer, mainly through his unerring ability to combine genuinely funny lines with serious, astute analysis. And his music recommendations still bear a sizeable imprint on my collection.

Like all the best journalists – and Dave was one of the best – he was curious, engaged with the world, and searingly honest. His blog on the cancer he was forced to live with for over a decade was all those things and more. It was obviously heart-breakingly sad, but it still buzzed with Dave’s immense humanity. And yes, it was funny.

I DMd him last month to apologise for not being in touch more in recent years, and even when facing such a difficult time he came back with a reply that was kind, generous, and which I will long treasure.

Dave’s Twitter bio read: “Of Mice, Memory & Chemotherapy. Freelance IT journalist. News Editor. Sick to death of Ruddy Thyroid Cancer. Hit me on my beeper”. It takes not a little wit and a hell of a lot of courage to write a line simultaneously that clever, that sad, and yes, that funny. I like to think Dave would want us to remember that wit and courage, and smile a little.

Phil Muncaster

I first met Dave when I joined IT Week back in 2005 and he stood out from the rest of the team immediately — mainly because his arm was in a cast after an unexpected turn of events at a five-a-side game. Over the next few years, I learned much more than the house style from Dave. I learned that you should never take yourself, your work, or your life too seriously — that humour and kindness can get you as far as you’ll ever need to go. The rest is gloriously unprintable. We had a blast. I’ll miss you pal.

Roland Moore-Colyer

Dave was a hero.

Despite everything he faced with cancer Dave still managed to knock out amusing yet informative news stories and articles on all manner of subjects, which never failed to raise a wry grin with me and many others.

When I first started writing for the INQUIRER, Dave offered a suite of support as well as snappy witticisms to help extract humour from my own writing beyond my tortured puns. He was also great fun in the Skype channel, always the first to offer support and comical observations without letting his fight against cancer interfere unless he was causally mocking it.

To echo Dan Worth’s comments, there was barely a day that when by without someone praising one of Dave’s articles. Or there’d suddenly be a ripple of laughter, which when I asked what was so funny, I’d simply get “Dave” as a response.

But aside from his sense of humour, Dave’s doggedness in doing what he loved in spite of everything serves as an example to us all. And as a still relatively new journalist, he remains an inspiration to me and no doubt a cohort of others.

Truly, he will be greatly missed. Farewell Mr Neal, so long and thanks for all the wit.