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Deborah Orr

Deborah Orr
Deborah Jane Orr

(1962-09-23)23 September 1962
Motherwell, Scotland
Died19 October 2019(2019-10-19) (aged 57)
Years active1980s–2018
Spouse(s)Will Self (1997–2019)

Deborah Jane Orr (23 September 1962 – 19 October 2019)[1] was a Scottish journalist who worked for The Guardian, The Independent and other publications.[2]

Early life and education

Orr was born on 23 September 1962[3] and raised in Motherwell, Scotland,[4] to Winifred "Win" and John Orr.[5] She had a brother, who was living as of 2013.[5]


Orr worked as deputy editor for City Limits magazine, a workers' cooperative. Orr said later that she found the structure frustrating and requiring more listening.[6]

Until 1990, Orr was a contributor to New Statesman.[1] In 1990, she began writing for The Guardian regularly.[2]. From 1993 to 1998, Orr was editor of the Guardian Weekend magazine.[1] From 1998 until her death, Orr worked as a freelance journalist.[1] Orr was also a columnist for The Independent.[1]

In January 2018, Orr's regular column for The Guardian ended when the newspaper relaunched in a tabloid format.[7] In February 2018, Orr joined the i newspaper as a regular columnist.[8]

In January 2020, Orr's memoir, Motherwell: A Girlhood, will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.[9]


Orr has written, "Homeless people are stuck in the streets once again. The services of food banks have never been more in demand. People with mental and physical illnesses or disabilities are dying for want of care, or even heat. The National Health Service has been plunged into a financial and staffing crisis, yet still has to soothe the dented ego of Richard Branson by making a payout to Virgin Care. The teaching profession is struggling once more with a rejigged exam system, and is bracing itself for a further squeeze on budgets. Our prison service is a series of riots waiting to happen."[10]

On 19 October 2011, an article by Orr stated that the trade for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners "tacitly acknowledges what so many Zionists believe—that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours."[11] This statement, viewed by many as anti-Semitic, was the subject of criticism.[12] Orr apologised for words which she described as "badly chosen and poorly used".[13] Her apology, too, was the subject of criticism.[14][15][16]

Personal life

In 1997, Orr married English author, journalist, political commentator and television personality Will Self. They had two sons and lived in Stockwell;[17] they separated in 2017.[18]

In 2010 she discovered she had breast cancer and was treated for it — including a mastectomy.[19][20] In October 2019, she died from the disease, aged 57.[2]

In 2017, Orr wrote about her struggles with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.[21]

Selected works and publications


  • Orr, Deborah (2020). Motherwell: A Girlhood. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-1-474-61145-9. OCLC 1044867732. – forthcoming, January 2020

Selected articles


  • Orr, Deborah (co-creator) (2012). Enquirer.[22][23]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Ms Deborah Orr's Biography". Debrett's People of Today. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Brooks, Libby (20 October 2019). "Award-winning columnist Deborah Orr dies aged 57". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Brown, Maggie (21 October 2019). "Deborah Orr obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  4. ^ Cowdrey, Katherine (28 June 2018). "'Unflinching' Deborah Orr memoir to W&N". The Bookseller.
  5. ^ a b Orr, Deborah (14 June 2013). "A week ago, my mother died. The feeling of loss is unbearably intense". The Guardian.
  6. ^ Orr, Deborah (30 March 2012). "Listening is fantastically powerful and soothing – we need more of it". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Wilby, Peter (18 January 2018). "Black and white and not red all over: the incredible shrinking Guardian". New Statesman.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Orr, Deborah (2020). Motherwell: A Girlhood. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-1-474-61145-9. OCLC 1044867732.
  10. ^ Orr, Deborah (1 December 2017). "The Damian Green fiasco exposes Theresa May as a trapped and wounded leader". The Guardian.
  11. ^ Orr, Deborah (19 October 2011). "Is an Israeli life really more important than a Palestinian's?". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Diaspora - Jewish diaspora". The Jerusalem Post.
  13. ^ Orr, Deborah (26 October 2011). "Why it's right to weigh your words carefully". The Guardian.
  14. ^ Levick, Adam (10 November 2011). "They just don't get it - tolerance of Jew-hate set to live on". The Jewish Chronicle.
  15. ^ Lipman, Jennifer (10 November 2011). "Guardian: 'reputation tarnished'". The Jewish Chronicle.
  16. ^ Elliott, Chris (6 November 2011). "The readers' editor on… averting accusations of antisemitism". The Guardian.
  17. ^ Donaldson, Brian (15 July 2010). "Will Self at the Edinburgh International Book Festival". Edinburgh International Book Festival.
  18. ^ Appleyard, Bryan (21 May 2017). "Calling the modern world to account". The Sunday Times. (subscription required)
  19. ^ Orr, Deborah (2 September 2010). "My breast cancer journey is more of a staycation". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  20. ^ Orr, Deborah (19 October 2012). "For a moment I really thought my husband had won the Booker. But no!". The Guardian. He was already deeply involved in it when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
  21. ^ Orr, Deborah (4 January 2017). "Carrie Fisher showed the way. I want to acknowledge my own mental struggles". The Guardian.
  22. ^ "Enquirer (26/04/2012-04/11/2012)". National Theatre Scotland. 2012.
  23. ^ McLean, Pauline (30 April 2012). "National Enquirer". BBC.

External links

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