Drone archive to April 2021

Vinnie Samuels

Like his father before him, Vinnie presides over an international sports promotion empire from a blue-washed mansion/office overlooking the M25 in Essex. 

Fast-talking, quick-thinking Vinnie is known as a smart operator, equally at home at the Crucible, Sheffield or Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Not much happens in the world of prize snooker or international boxing without him knowing. He also keeps a canny eye on darts and poker. 

Here he talks to Drone Sport:

I love my boys, I do, knowwhamean? Whether they’re in a fancy wescoat or a championship belt they’re mine somehow. I feels responsible for ‘em. Like their dad, I suppose, although I’m only 39. 

Sometimes I have to keep em in line, swelp me. Steve Davis. Grannies love him but, although he’s made 33 million quid from the game he can still kick off, you know. One word from me, though, knowhamean? 

And that Lenny Livid. When he’s outa line I looks him straight in the belly button (only havin a giraffe: I’m not that short-arsed) and gives him a free character reading. 

But although I love the bantz with the boys, it’s the deals which really ring my old dingdong. Emails at 3am, tough talking on Zoom, tying up a contract on one of my iPhone 14s while taking the kids to school. Squillions! Magic!



195 YEARS ON ...
The first picture

WE have seen a few grainy pictures in our time but this one must surely take first prize.

In fact you might not think that this blurry image is a photo at all, but it is considered to be the oldest surviving photograph in existence. 

It was made by French photography pioneer Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. It’s what you get when you remove the areas of a non-hardened asphalt from a pewter plate exposed to sunlight for eight hours. No wonder he didn't take selfies.


Crazy night Fleet Street's great rivals gatecrashed Prince Philip’s stag party

MADELINE CLARKE, the daughter of former Daily Mail journalist Harry Procter, has recounted the night her father and a group of other Fleet Street journalists managed to gatecrash Prince Philip’s stag night.

The cutting pictured above is from World’s Press News and  dated 27 November 1947.



Newspaper cuts are nothing new

WHEN MONEY WAS NO OBJECT: A bearded Terry Manners, centre, chats to Dan McDonald in the Daily Express Fleet Street offices in the 1970s. In the foreground are, from left, Dougie Mann, a rear view of foreign sub Jack Atkinson and Chris Williams, who later became editor

Sir — Reading with some nostalgia the story about yet more new cost cutting on the incredible shrinking world of the Daily Express, takes me and others back with fondness to all those years of cost-slashing we grew up with in the Black Lubyanka.

An empire that once stretched from offices and apartments in Moscow and New York to the cellars of El Vino's was always the envy and irritation of proprietors and accountants who never understood the workings and soul of the Editorial and its bits and Bobs. 

They were always experimenting with some new wheeze to stop paying for the words that fill the spaces around the ads. Now Covid and Zoom have opened the Pandora's box of working from home, freeing more space for the accountants to rent out valuable accommodation, perhaps for more accountants to work out more valuable cost-cutting.

I remember with fondness, when running Scotland, I was summoned down to London as part of yet another new drive to cut the Express budgets. The wonderful Felicity Green (always her fan), was at a loose end in the Features Department and had been given the task of solving the money crisis on lineage for the titles North and South.

Preliminaries and chuckles out of the way we got down to business in her office.

 "Now Terry, how much is your Features Budget?”


 "Thousand?" she replied and began to write £30,000 down.

 "No, thirty!" I said.

  "Thirty what?"

  "Thirty quid."

  "What? A feature?"

  "No, a week!"

Needless to say the talks were brought to a swift end and a shocked Felicity pledged to sort out "this ridiculous situation". She had no inkling of how things were. I never heard another word...

Until a few months later, when a new golden boy accountant came up to do a time and motion study of Glasgow. He admitted he knew nothing about how an editorial worked ... but everything about buying up old houses, doing them up and selling them on. Hours of interesting stuff. Learned a lot. 

Yours always,


An illustration of how newspaper graphics are much better now

I permit myself a wry smile when I see the intricate, sophisticated graphics that grace newspapers these days, writes Daily Drone Chief Sub LP BREVMIN

The Mail’s Prince Philip double page funeral illustration is a brilliant example. 

Imagine getting something like that produced on the old Daily Express, even if you could persuade Moreno to break off from churning out yet another Millionaires Club blurb.

You just know that, as deadline approached, two things would happen: you’d spot that the Duke’s coffin had been placed on the ‘cafatalque' and that Advertising had just ‘sold’ a 25x4 on the right hand page.





DODGY ALBA-BET: Alex Salmond and chums get their election show on the road to nowhere


I once ate a watch. It was time consuming.


For once, the Drone fears the answer to this headline could be a resounding Yes

THE DRONE SAYS: Stand by for an avalanche of complaints, the magazine has exceeded the bounds of good taste

When subbing goes wrong

The Times Diary

Our exasperating newspapers: Prince Philip’s view in 1967

VIC WATERS has unearthed a fascinating piece written by the Duke of Edinburgh in a foreword to a book published by the Press Club in London in 1967.

Prince Philip always had a strained relationship with the Press during his long life — he famously called the Express ‘a bloody awful newspaper’ — but he takes a reasonably conciliatory view in this piece.



Lookalike (up to a point)

                   HILLS                                   DOWDEN

Heaven forfend that these two should appear in an interview situation on the telly. Which is which, puzzled viewers would wail. One is flaxen-haired, excitable Joel Hills, Business Editor at ITV News; the other is flaxen-haired, excitable Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Both, it must be conceded, have a Pictish look.

Hills, a Business Administration grad, formerly worked at Sky and is known as a good, hardworking operator. He caused a Twitter flurry last year when he appeared on News at 10 wearing, ahem, grey nail varnish. Asked whether he was victim of bored kids at home, he replied: Rumbled! 

Dowden, a former David Cameron henchman, is a state-educated Cambridge law graduate. His career as ‘Minister of Fun’ received an early setback. Appointed in February, 2020, he has presided over a year of lockdowns and restrictions which haven’t been fun at all. 

Now, though, he is urging people to get out and enjoy ‘a great British summer of sport’. But with the R rate said to be nudging 1 again, we’ll see.

AN R.R. (t)
Picture research Reckless Rambleshanks, intern. (You’re fired — Ed)


After that sex survey Reach title helps you find a dogging spot (with a helpful illustration ...)

From Somerset Live
Meanwhile back at HQ

Barmy bosses want to know workers' sexual preferences

THE Daily Drone’s spies have unearthed an extraordinary document sent to staff by the management of Reach, publisher of the Express and Mirror titles.

The survey, which asks employees details of their sexual preferences, was sent to us by an informer who writes under a pseudonym …

 Sir — I now have categorical proof that the ludicrously named Reach — and the world in general — has finally gone mad. Oooh, I’ve come over all Alan Duncan ...

This is a survey sent by Reach to all (few remaining) employees earlier this year. Apart from the obvious question Why, who knows what all these definitions mean? 

Is biromantic really bi-romantic or does it signify an imaginative use of a Bic? Best of all is Other, what Other? Surely there are no further options. 

In our day on the Express you were either gagging for it or, to quote Bogbrush, ‘You fuckin shirt lifter.’

For the record, I am Dronosexual.

Little Todger,



Pip pip, Pip

THE GAFFER: Prince Philip, who has died aged 99

THE nation is in mourning following the death of  the man who once called the Daily Express a “bloody awful newspaper”.

The paper wore the badge with pride and put Prince Philip's 1962 quote on its front page the following day.

Former foreign editor DAVID RICHARDSON reports: Unless my memory fails me, the DX was the only national that did not carry the Duke of Edinburgh’s “slitty eyes” Chinese gaffe.

Royal reporter Ashley Walton, in Beijing, had filed the story along with every other member of the hack pack.

But ... Bernard Shrimsley was acting editor that day and said he didn’t believe a word of it even when I explained it had been overheard by many and others were using the story.

He refused to be swayed and our first edition certainly did not carry it while it was the splash in our rivals.

Ashley threatened to resign that day. I can’t remember if he did.

ASHLEY WALTON responds: Bernard Shrimsley did it to me again later over an incident during the annual Royal skiing jaunt to Klosters. The Duchess of York and the Princess of Wales playfully tried to push each other over in the snow as they posed for photos. 

It made nice copy, but again Bernard decided it wasn't true. He had to rapidly change his mind when he saw the incident on TV at 6 and Page One and Three had to be redesigned.  

Bernard apologised to me when I returned to the office the following week. I never considered resigning over either incident as it was Bernard who had looked foolish. I could never have threatened to resign from China where the only communication to the Foreign Desk was by Telex.  Phone calls were impossible from China in those days and I can't envisage me sending an angry "I quit!" tape through the Chinese post service.

God knows what went on in Bernard's mind if he thought that Royal reporters just simply made things up.


A trip to Turkey that changed Fleet Street  veteran George’s life

GEORGE DEARSLEY, veteran of the Parish of Fleet Street, was one of  three Oxford graduates who embarked on a trip round the world in 1972. 

Their tour took in Turkey and the experience changed his life. After a series of holidays there George and his wife Carolyn decided they liked it so much they moved there permanently.

The result is a very readable memoir which details the crazy incidents which kept drawing them back. They include being arrested as a spy, watching a man swallow a snake, judging a beauty contest, being given a front row seat at a circumcision and seeing Turkey’s most famous criminal crash his sea plane.

George has worked as a staff reporter for Daily Mail, Daily Star and Sunday Times and for all the others as a freelance.

His book Twelve Camels For Your Wife: An Englishman's Lifelong Love Affair With Turkey is availble on Amazon.



Low, the great wartime cartoonist whose work   enraged hated dictators

All Behind You, Winston

Evening Standard, 14 May 1940

Pen, ink & black crayon on board

This cartoon was drawn shortly after the resignation of Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister when the war was going badly for the Allies. It shows newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill leading the new War Cabinet, who have all taken off their jackets and rolled up their sleeves to get down to the job of winning the war.

Born in New Zealand, David Low worked in his native country before migrating to Sydney in 1911, and ultimately to London (1919), where he made his career and earned fame for his Colonel Blimp depictions and his merciless satirising of the personalities and policies of German dictator Adolf Hitler, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and other leaders of his times. 

His stinging depictions of Hitler and Mussolini led to his work being banned in Italy and Germany, and his being named in The Black Book.

Sir David Low died in 1963 aged 72.

Source: The Cartoon Museum



A young Katherine Whitehorn arrives at London’s Waterloo Station for her first day's work as a staff journalist in the capital.

Whitehorn would have been 28 when this classic picture by Bert Hardy was taken in around 1956. 

After graduation from Cambridge, she worked as a freelance in London, before moving to Finland to teach English and undertaking postgraduate studies at Cornell University.

Whitehorn’s first staff job was as a sub-editor on Woman’s Own magazine but she spent most of her career on The Observer where she found fame as a columnist.

She died aged 92 at a North London care home on 8 January 2021 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.


Memory of reporter Phil lives on — in a quilt of his bow ties

IF there is some part of a foreign bedroom that is for ever Philip Finn … then this is it.

Phil, for many years the doyen of the Daily Express bureau in New York, was instantly recognisable by his bow ties. And this quilt is made up of dozens of them.

Former Express foreign editor David Richardson, who supplied the quilt pic, reported from his bolthole in the south of France:  "Sadly, like many others, Phil, pictured, was discarded by the DX long before his sell by date.

"On retirement he and his wife Annemarie moved to Aiken in South Carolina where golf and their dogs was their passion.

"Their home also became a mecca for Fleet Street golf hacks attending The Masters, about 30 miles down the road in Augusta.

"Cancer caught up with Phil a few years ago and Annemarie was left with memories and a  stash of bow ties. A friend has turned them into his remarkable quilt.

"Miss you Phil Finn Junior as he always announced himself. I never met Phil Finn Senior.”

Philip Finn died in 2015 aged 79.





Dear Aunt Marje 

(still a trainee and still in dentures)

Aunt Marje (with apologies to that weird cross-dressing potter whose name we forget)

You’ve been framed

Dear Aunt Marje

I hope you can help me because I’m in a bit of a panic to be honest. You see, I find I’m in agreement with Labour’s Baroness Chakrabarti over vaccination passports. Is there a cure? Will I be all right?

Single Jab

Dear SJ, 

Oh, that sounds nasty. So much so that I consulted the Daily Drone medic, Dr Frame. Apparently, this is more common than you’d think, especially in some parts of North London. Calm down, take a deep breath and put your head between your knees.You should feel better soon. Dr Frame says that, normally, he would prescribe a vigorous rub down with a moist barmaid but you’ll have to wait for a vaccine passport to have that, won’t you?



Poor Porky’s now a shadow of himself

FORMER Daily Express news editor Mike Parry is at a loose end these days. 

He once had a (semi) glittering career on the radio but he made enemies, principally his old chum Mike Graham who hosts the mid-morning show on TalkRADIO. He now makes occasional appearances on Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine show.

Consequently Porky has time on his hands and is reduced to publishing this on Twitter:

"OK FOLKS .. how about this .. an image of MOI .. Porkmeister .. relayed on to my Italian carpets made from the back-drop of the beautiful light of Stockbroker-Belt Surrey streaming into my working office at Porkmeister Towers .. 👍😁🍸"

Can no-one save poor Porky’s bacon?


Anyone speak Newt?
(It helps to be as pissed as one)


Look the business withyour stylish Daily Drone


Escape lockdown looking swell! The Daily Drone has teamed up, by royal appointment, with H&M Fashions, of Montecito, California, to bring you their exclusive menswear range designed for the Alpha Male who combines style and panache. 

Embrace spring and summer as we leave COVID restrictions behind in these natty outfits for the office and the beach and check out these endorsements:

‘Wow! So stylish’ — T. Manners (Lincoln). ‘Just the thing for cathedral evensong’ — A. Walton (St. Albans). ‘Let me at ‘em’ —J. King (Chiswick).


History in Moments


Some stories don’t always fit the bill

THIS looks like sensational news on these bills from South Africa … but all is not what it seems.

RICK McNEILL uncovered these jolly posters from his time as tabloid guru on South Africa’s top-selling black newspaper the Daily Sun.

Rick said: ‘They were happy days spent tapping skills honed on the Daily Express. 

"The POPE referred to, you’ll be relieved to know, was not the prominent Vatican religious personage, but the rather better known local rap artist. 

"The MUM was denouncing evil spirits who had wronged her. What other possible wording? Great fun, of which there isn’t much around any more. You’re the last bastion of insouciance, m’lord.

Lord Drone commented last night: I once tried stopping my inbred insouciance but I really couldn’t be arsed.


Part 6. MacKenzie stirs the shit 

Ciao! Now that’s what I call music! Bijou little Frame Hampton’s comin’ out of lockdown, perkin’ up and suckin’ diesel, fella (as they say on Line of Duty). The kids are back at school (only they’re on holiday at the moment!) and it’s so lovely here in the heart of rural Wiltshire. 

The other day we sashayed over to Brierley Fulbright and wandered along the escarpment and through the woods by a sparkling stream to Potterne Parva. Just divine! The perennial Burnet Saxifrages were peeping through and I have high hopes for the Common Cat’s Ears later in the year. Back home, our lawn has burst into life: just as well we treated ourselves to a Hayter Harrier motor mower. That’s goodbye to the best part of £700 but Himself, who’s garnering funds quite nicely, thanks, insisted. And Lenny at B&Q says it’s money well spent. We’ll see.

The other morning a terrible pong hung over the village. For fuck’s sake, what is that, asks His Tedship in a bit of a tizz. A spot of sleuthing (Miss Marple’s got nothing on me) reveals it’s a MacKenzie Mark II Muckraker distributing something called slurry over Farmer McDonald’s big meadow the other side of the Mineards Memorial Scout hut. Ugggh!

One bonus of the improved weather and Boris’s Covid roadmap is that we’re able to see more of our neighbours (and bollocks to little Mattie Hancock, I say!) Next door, for example, is the Major, a genial old buffer with a fascinating back story (as Teddy likes to call it). He’s one of the Fortescue Pirbrights and an old ‘Africa hand’. 

As far as I can gather, he served in a weird special forces outfit called the Selous Scouts in UDI Rhodesia. Says that when ‘Johnnie Mugabe’ took power he decamped across the Limpopo to join the South African Defence Force but came home after ‘the De Klerk surrender’. Fascinating old cove, prone to dark hints about manoeuvres with the lads in Hereford. Not sure I believe him, though.

In other news, we saw the ecclesiastical gays, the Rev Prune and her ‘companion’, burly, moustachioed Sally the Sexton, on their tandem riding up Badger’s Mount. We’ve no time for them so, naturally, we blanked them. Useless fucking Herberts. Better news is that Farisha, daughter of the darling Sikhs at the village shop, has been accepted to read medicine at Oxford. Such a sweet child. Deserves to do well.


More from the Country Boys


Death of the newsroom

Actress Halle Berry visiting the Daily Express newsroom in 1986

CHRIS BLACKHURST, a former deputy editor of the Daily Express, has written a perceptive piece for the website Reaction on the demise of the newsroom.

Reach, publisher of the Express, Star and Mirror titles, has already announced that most staff will now work remotely from home and many newsrooms will close. This, says Blackhurst, marks another dip in the downward path of the newspaper.

And it marks the end of journalism as we know it.



What can the Express learn from Karl Marx, ask crazy consultants

THE lunatics really have taken over at the Daily Express madhouse.

As we have already reported, Reach, the renamed Trinity Mirror group which now owns the Express, is holding a “brand review” of the Express conducted by a consulting company. 

Now events have taken an even more bizarre turn.

The Guido Fawkes website reports that there has been a second round of consultations with a selected group including most of the senior staff of the Express.

The Exercise 7 consultancy company asked bemused Express hacks to evaluate a series of figures and brands with the questions:

What can we learn from these brands/leaders?

What is each one fighting for and against?

How can that apply to The Express?

One of the brands/leaders was Karl Marx. Perhaps they plan to replace the Crusader with Karl?

THE DRONE SAYS: Do these so-called experts know what the Express stands for? Answers on a postcard to the nearest wastepaper bin.



         BAMBER                 GRAINGER                CHURCHILL

So … It’s back by popular clamour, the Daily Drone Triplelike! This trio are separated by more than 70 years but are united by their fame and beauty. 

Holliday Grainger and Ellie Bamber seem never to be off our TV screens: Holliday made her name playing Lucrezia Borgia in Prime’s box set Popeathon, The Borgias and private eye Cormoran Strike’s girl friday. 

Ellie, most recently seen in the BBC1 Sunday night series The Serpent, starred as Cosette in the Beeb’s non musical version of Les Miserables and as Mandy Rice Davies (well she would, wouldn’t she?) in The Trial of Christine Keeler. Bonnie bints both, avers Proddie, inelegantly.

That’s as may be but neither, as yet, compares with the lustre of the third beauty. Pictured before the Second World War, she was known as Pamela Churchill (yes, them). Her stormy marriage to Winston’s dissolute son, Randolph, produced another Winston who, though an MP, spent most of his life trying to live up to the family name.

Our Pamela, who was born in Surrey, moved on and was always looking up. Indeed, she became, according to Max Hastings ‘a world expert on rich men’s bedroom ceilings’. She went to the States, took citizenship and became heavily involved with politics, marrying Democrat eminence grise, Averell Harriman. Not content with that, she made her own way in the party and eventually became Clinton’s ambassador to France. Formidable, indeed.

AN R.R. (t)

Picture research: Reckless Rambleshanks (intern)


Most Express and Mirror staff will now operate from home

LIFE as we knew it on the Express, Star and Mirror titles is well and truly over.

Bosses have told employees that 75 per cent of employees will work from home in the future.

The Times reported yesterday that the papers’ owner Reach is closing dozens of newspaper offices.

The company plans to reduce floor space at its headquarters in Canary Wharf, London, and shut newsrooms and offices throughout the country.

It has told staff they will not return to the office full time after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Only a quarter of its 4,000 employees will go to work every day. The remainder will split their time between home and the office or work remotely for good.

Reach, whose stable also includes the Daily Record, Manchester Evening News and OK! magazine, will retain 14 regional offices in cities such as Bristol, Leeds and Belfast.

A company spokesman said: “We carried out a survey of all colleagues that showed a majority found home working suited their needs.”


History in moments

1957: All aboard! Come on, now, move down inside please. And make sure you’re on the right bus because your eyes aren’t playing tricks: this is the London to Calcutta service. 

The inaugural trip started on April 15 and the bus rolled into Calcutta 50 days and 20,300 miles later after travelling through Belgium, West Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and West Pakistan. Topically, it was delayed a couple of days when a border was closed because of the Asian Flu pandemic that year.

The service, also known as the Hippie Trail, wasn’t cheap at £85, seven times the average weekly wage. Mind you, all meals, bunks, fan heaters and music (presumably Ravi Shankar’s greatest hits) were provided. 

And it wasn’t all breakneck dashing between countries: shopping trips were scheduled in places such as Vienna, Istanbul and (yikes!) Kabul. Passengers overnighted in hotels, where there were any, or slept on the bus. Twenty people booked on the first trip and seven made the return journey at £65. Such fun, no?

AN RR (t)

Rosalie, dear, are you sure you haven’t made this up and stunted a photograph on PiccieFake? I’ll run it, though, and see if we get any letters — Ed


You couldn’t make it up! Woke fools want to ditch the Crusader

CALL for the men in white coats! The new woke owners of the Daily and Sunday Express want to #cancel the Crusader.

Reach, the renamed Trinity Mirror group which owns the Express, is holding a “brand review” of the title conducted by a consulting company. 

Express employees have been interviewed in pairs about their views on the paper and website. On a few occasions the interviewer announced himself as a North London Guardian reader, according to the Guido Fawkes website.

In a lot of the consultations employees were asked about the famous Crusader symbol and whether it should go. 

It’s not been a secret that the woke management of Reach hate the symbol almost as much as they hate the politics of the Express. It is an old management trick to get consultants in to blame for recommending a change you wanted to make anyway. It appears the Crusader could be axed from the title piece after 92 years.

This is part of a culture war in Reach and a war of attrition on the Express internally since it was bought up after the then Trinity Mirror assured then Culture Secretary Matt Hancock that they would not interfere in the politics of the Express.

So far they have launched a Guardian style green editorial campaign, quite a change in tone from the paper that started the mainstreaming of Brexit. According to an internal source they “initially stopped us from attacking BLM protests and statues being pulled down. Although after about a month we were allowed to”.

A senior figure tried to stop an online poll being published which showed about 80 per cent of Express readers supported Trump. The papers has softened its line on immigration and apologised to Muslim campaign groups for some headlines. Then there was the campaign to raise income tax by one penny.

A disgruntled source said: “The chief executive Jim Mullen sends round a weekly newsletter telling us how we need to support issues like BLM. He always praises the Mirror and Star but always ignores the Express unless we have done something very woke.

Mullen wrote during the BLM protests: “I’m hugely proud of the part our publications (and every single one of you) play in not only highlighting injustice and holding those in power to account, but also in celebrating our differences as well as our common humanity. Thank you to our teams for serving our communities by bringing them the news they want and need to hear about, and making it known that we stand with those speaking up and fighting injustice. Black lives matter and saying it matters.”

After this message the Express changed its editorial line on BLM to be nearly the same as the Mirror’s. 

History of the Crusader
The symbol was introduced to the Express by Lord Beaverbrook
. When he bought the paper in 1916, the titlepiece included the royal coat of arms. It remained until 1929 when Beaverbrook launched a campaign for free trade within the British Empire.

On 11 July 1929 Beaverbrook wrote the Express splash himself. "I have combined with the Daily Express," he declared, "to launch the Imperial Crusade.”

His motive was partly a wish to protect his native Canada from being annexed, in trade terms, by the United States and partly to push Stanley Baldwin out of the Tory leadership. The Crusader followed shortly afterwards.

In 1951, when Churchill had returned to power but given up on the Empire, Beaverbrook put the Crusader in chains.

Bob Edwards, Express editor from 1961, said he thought the Crusader was put in chains again when Britain was invited to join the Common Market.

*The Crusader was depicted holding a sword for decades. That changed when Richard Addis was appointed editor of the Express in the 1990s. Addis, a former monk, never liked the Crusader and considered changing it back to the coat of arms. In the end he changed the Crusader’s trusty sword to a spear apparently because it looked less aggressive. Not a lot of people know that — Ed.


Partner’s shock over Do Not Resuscitate order on Daily Express sub Nigel Griffiths

ORDEAL: Sue Reid with Nigel Griffiths

Sue Reid has written a moving account in the Daily Mail about the death of her partner Nigel Griffiths.

A former feature writer on the Daily Express, Sue tells of her shock when she discovered that the man she loved had been the subject of a Do Not Resucitate without her knowledge.

Nigel, a lovely man, spent much of his career on the Evening Standard where he rose to be assistant editor. He took early retirement in 2004 and later joined the Express. He died in May 2020 four months after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 68.

The Mail has the story (the picture caption wrongly names Nigel as ‘Richard’)

Press Gazette tribute to Nigel


Old Express hands will recognise the words in this headline. They were uttered nightly by middle-bencher par excellence David Laws when he was dishing out stories to recalcitrant subs. 

And guess who sent this in? Why no other but David himself who now writes novels rather than disturbing subs from the night time reveries.



Who’s the girl? Who’s the chap hiding behind the pile of paper? For that matter, who’s the artist?



Lord Drone cheered as he arrives at Cup Final, 1936

Er … Picture Desk, sorry chaps, but I’m not sure you've cropped this pic correctly — Ed


Is this the best pic we can find to illustrate this story? — Ed


Oprah Winfrey has been turned down for the role of history’s most feared and cruel inquisitor … because she is too tough.

The American TV legend, whose forensic and brutal questioning of Meghan and Harry has been viewed by more than 500 million worldwide, was in line to play Tomasina Torquemada in the all-female film Inquisition.

But producers feared the blockbuster would attract an 18 certificate hitting box office takings.

A studio spokesmen said: ‘The trouble with Oprah is that she’s just too scary. We’re hoping for a PG rating and she would frighten the kids.’

It is understood that the role is now between Allan Carr and Julian Clary.


Piers got ITV bullet after telling boss to fuck off


There's been speculation this week that Piers Morgan's big flounce on Good Morning Britain was actually a staged publicity stunt. 

While it's true that he's been telling friends for months he's had an offer from GB News (albeit one he's apparently reluctant to accept, as he's in talks to do a show he'd prefer elsewhere) his implosion was off-the-cuff enough to have caught quite a few people at ITV on the hop. 

Some of the channel's other flagship shows received instructions this week to remove Morgan from any upcoming VT packages he features in – including one that had been lined up for the weekend. 

Sources at ITV tell us that the unusually swift decision to let him go might have been slightly influenced by one of his bosses at ITV being told to fuck off.

*One person who'll be hoping Piers steers clear of GB News is Dan Wootton, former executive editor of The Sun. Dan was already known as "Poundland Piers" at NewsUK; a nickname he'll never shake off if Piers also ends up splitting his time between GB News and MailOnline.


Media Hits & Myths

An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Q. The late Sunday Express editor Sir John Junor regularly used the phrase ‘Pass the sickbag, Alice’ in his columns. What is its derivation? 

A. You don’t know but I think you should be told. Hah! Hah! Seriously, there are many fanciful theories such as it was the nasty disease Christopher Robin went down with. But, according to a note in the Grauniad in the mid 90s, written by someone called Roger Watkins, Alice was a real person, whom many at the Fleet Street Express will remember.

She was a small, bird-like grandmother with unconvincing blonde tresses who worked in what was laughingly called The Grill Room of the canteen. On Saturdays the Sunday Express hacks moved down to the Daily newsroom and had their one night living on the journalistic edge (Deadline Midnight, Hold the Front Page etc).

Naturally, they considered themselves far too important and vital cogs in the machine to be able to leave the office for such luxuries as lunch. So Alice was summoned to serve them Grill Room fare at their desks. Junor, who knew he really was an important and vital cog, suffered no such constraints, of course, and habitually sloped off to the Savoy or the Salieri in The Strand. 

But on seeing the eggs and chips or gurgleburgers on toasted buns being delivered to his staff he would oft utter the immortal phrase: ‘Och. Pass the sickbag, Alice.’

Watkins, ever the gentleman, sometimes used to take Alice home in the office ‘limo’ to her semi in Hutton, Essex, near where he lived, to save her a train journey in the early hours.

I woke him up so he could recall: “I’d be waiting with John, the office driver, in the Front Hall and Alice would burst out of the lift laden down with heavy carrier bags which she never let me help her with. Except on one occasion when I grabbed one which was so laden with contraband (allegedly) that I could hardly lift it.”

RICK McNEILL remembers: One afternoon in the Fleet Street newsroom, Managing Editor Eric Raybould, in his customary shirt sleeves and braces — and as usual, sucking on an unlit cigar — was sitting alone on the Back Bench reading the paper. Unnoticed by him, a wide-eyed group of members of the public appeared on one of the guided tours that were popular at the time. In hushed, almost reverential, tones, the management guide told them: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is the beating heart of the world’s greatest newspaper!”

At that moment Raybould spied Alice on the other side of the room and barked: “Alice! Where’s my fucking chips?”


Hickey reporter Geddes’ death is a tragedy none of us will forget but one of our own, Roy Greenslade, now says he supported the killings

VICTIM: Philip Geddes pictured at St Edmund Hall in 1981

ONE of Fleet Street’s big names, Roy Greenslade, has caused outrage by confessing that he supported Irish Republican killings.

Those murders hit home at the Daily Express on December 17 1983 when the IRA detonated a bomb at Harrods in London killing six including William Hickey diary reporter Philip Geddes. He was just 24.

Now Chris Blackhurst, a former deputy editor of the Daily Express, has written a moving tribute to his old schoolfriend in the Daily Telegraph.

My friend was murdered by my boss’s mates in the IRA

The legacy of Philip Geddes, by Alan Frame


Press awards? I’ve never heard of 'em storms Lord Drone


Lord Drone was late last night forced to deny that any of his online newspaper journalists had been nominated for prestigious Society of Editors awards.

A spokesman roared: ‘This is nothing but outrageous rumour, scuttlebut and the ultimate in fake news emanating from drink-fuelled Fleet Street keyboard warriors and Back Bar WhatsApp gossip mongers.'

He was forced to deny that the Daily Drone’s Editor had to scrap a special edition celebrating the nominations of chief sub LP Brevmin, chief reporter Spike Diver, fashion team Pearl Nonpareil and Reynard Rambleshanks plus star columnist Rosalie Rambleshanks.

The spokesman said: ‘I woke him up and he confirmed that no special edition had been planned for the simple reason that no one on the staff had been up for any awards.

‘Our professional team now just wants to get on producing the World’s Greatest Online Newspaper in peace.’

BLOB* Last autumn Ms Rambleshanks was nominated for two Press Gazette awards but failed to win either. 

(Memo to CS: Can you start the final par with a blob: I’ve forgotten how to do it. - IRO)

*Will this do? — CS


Bob Satchwell dies at 73

His many friends in the newspaper industry will be saddened to hear of  the death of Bob Satchwell, founding executive director of the Society of Editors. He was 73.

Bob died in a hospice after spending a few weeks in hospital suffering from pneumonia and Covid-19.

He served as assistant editor of the News of the World before returning to regional newspapers as editor of the Cambridge Evening News in 1984.

Society of Editors tribute




"Hi Ashley, come in. Max Clifford wants me to fire you!" Sir Nicholas Lloyd in his Express office overlooking Fleet Street was laughing! "You certainly seem to have upset him."

The odious Max Clifford, a PR who was one of the most influential men in  Britain, and holding more sway than most politicians and the celebrities he represented, was livid about what I had written.

Clifford said that my page three piece on O.J. Simpson's arrival in the UK was a pack of lies. Ironic coming from the man who made up "Freddie ate my hamster" and "Mellor in a Chelsea shirt".

 Clifford was masterminding O.J. Simpson's brief visit to the UK to talk to the Oxford Union. 

The previous day he had invited the Express and the Mirror to meet Simpson on a Surrey golf course believing he had total control over the May 1996 PR stunt. 

I was representing the Express and the late, legendary Don Mackay was there for the Mirror.

 Don, never a man to mince his words, beat me to the obvious question that the US media had failed to ask: "How does it feel to get away with murder Mr. Simpson?"

Simpson, stunned,  failed to answer, but the day made great copy. Clifford's reaction was to bring the so called exclusive to a sudden halt.

Clifford made the same sacking demand about Don to his editor and when both  failed he told Sir Nicholas that he was withdrawing Express accreditation for the Oxford Union talk.

"I'm sure that won't bother you," said Sir Nicholas. 

So I went to Oxford minus the suit and in a pullover and scarf and walked straight in.

I made sure Clifford saw me and I had the satisfaction of giving him a merry wave. 

The first class Channel 4 documentary, the Fall of a Tabloid King, this week showed what power Clifford had in the tabloids.

 Editors would always answer his call.  Don and I kept our jobs, there was never any danger of losing them, but Clifford did phone us both, using some very colourful threats and a promise that we would never be allowed to work with him again. I laughed which seemed to annoy him even more while Don told Clifford his fortune.

As far as I know neither of us did work with Clifford again.

In  2014 Clifford was found guilty of eight counts of sexual assault and jailed for eight years.  He died in prison in December 2017.


Glamorous, chic, vibrant … do they really mean me?

BEYOND OUR KEN: Anneliese Dodds


Who’d be a Mail Online hack? On a slow Sunday.

So sympathy (not much — Ed) for Harriet Johnstone and Monica Greep for an excruciating piece on a new star of the silver screen.

They gushed over her ‘elegant figure as she showcased a chic new hairstyle and a glamorous vibrant blue coat’.

Apparently, ‘she appeared fresh faced, sporting a light contour with a touch of highlighter and soft pink blush.’

This paragon, who ‘donned a floral face covering’ also cunningly ‘accessorised with a pair of sparkling stud earrings and snake-skin kitten heels’

Once in the studio she ‘revealed a chic, monochrome ensemble of a smart cropped jacket with a curved hem with a simple black mini dress.’

Ah, I hear you say, it was the Golden Globes. Surely they were referring to one of the Brit nominees.

Alas, to the shame of Johnstone and Greep, it was, in fact, that raven-haired temptress Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds on the Andrew Marr show.



Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected and is frequently humorous. Winston Churchill loved them. The word comes from the Greek "παρά", meaning "against" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation". 

1. Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you — but it's still on my list.

3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up ... we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right, only who is left.

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

9. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

10. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

11. I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

12. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

13. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

14. You're never too old to learn something stupid.

15. I'm supposed to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder for me to find one now.


If you're going to make 
a mistake, you might as well make it a big one

Daily Mail, 5 December, 2000


And while we’re on the subject of Mail errors ...

The word "exclusive" has pretty much lost all meaning in the tabloid world these days, but the MailOnline certainly got a story that no other paper did with this one: "EXCLUSIVE: Victoria Beckham's beauty range defies the odds amid the pandemic with 'an incredible profit timeline’." 

As Posh's financial paperwork suggests her beauty range is responsible for a loss of about £4.7million (while her fashion line has lost around £11.8million) that's a very different line from the one most of the other coverage has gone with. 

Wonder who's been promised the next big interview?


Sarah Sands reflects on the fact that George Osborne, who  succeeded her as Editor of the Evening Standard, was not a journalist: ‘There are other people who can always put a page together … hacks can do that.’ — The Times Magazine.

How do these people get to positions of power? Remember Felicity Green and her ‘People Like Us and and People Like Them’ quote? — Ed


Mike Parry puts his trotter in it and loses radio show

SPLIT: Parry, right with his nemesis Mike Graham

By PEARL MINION (She’s such a nice type)

Former Daily Express news editor Mike "Porky" Parry started the week with a big announcement on Twitter that he was going to be taking over the TalkRADIO's weekend lunchtime show. 

Four days later, there's suddenly no mention of him anywhere on the upcoming schedule – neither in his old slot, nor in the new one. 

What happened? Sadly, it seems Porky is the latest victim of #cancel culture. 

All he did was repeatedly publicly insinuate that his former Express and TalkRADIO colleague Mike Graham was a cocaine-addicted drunk and that some of the station's other talent were forgettable nobodies. 

Now he looks to have been de-platformed, simply for holding these differing opinions. 

Still, at least it gives him some more time to practise his cinnamon swallowing…



Art Attack

by ROSALIE WHATSERNAM etc, etc (t)

Mrs Cassatt Reading: Mary Cassatt

‘Oh, no! We’ll have to slip this. Who the fuck subbed the Page 7 lead?’



How a foodie evening with Clement Freud became a dog’s dinner

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you 
Carl Jung

Inspired by this quote from the Daily Drone VICTOR WATERS remembers bumping into food writer and panel game regular Sir Clement Freud in the 1960s.

Freud was an amiable bloke and I met him at the UK Gastronomic Festival, where I was taking pics for the Gas Council, sponsor of the show.

It was a wild weekend, but that story really is for ever sealed. 

We drove down in my open-top car and had to leave the place a couple of days later, under cover of darkness, after I tried to thump an arrogant Yank. But that turned out all right, because I heard later he was conman who had actually stitched up the manager of the Imperial for a few quid.

Anyway, Clement Freud.

He was there to judge the groaning display of food. 

This eventually began to smell very high, as it was displayed in a glass pavilion and the weather was unreasonably warm for an English summer. On the opening night he was introduced to us all by the Lord Mayor, whose oratorical style was honed in a boxing ring, by the sound of him.

You know — 'on my right, in the blue corner' — etc.

So he warmed up the mob before bellowing, 

"Now, on my right, may I introduce our honoured guest, Mr Clement FROOD."

Freud’s face was a picture. We addressed him as Mr Frood for the rest of the night.

He told us later that he had been sitting next to the Mayoress until called on to speak.

"She asked me haughtily if I had any children," he said.

“Yees, I have three, I replied." (Freud had a very distinctive mode of speech.)

"Oh, she said, I have one married daughter — and she looked at me like I was a sex-mad pervert.

Victor Waters’ book Pirates of Fleet Street is available here



                    BLUNT                                     HEWSON

So … here are two identikit thesps at the top of their game. Memphis Eve Sunny Day Hewson understandably took the stage name Eve Hewson when she launched her career. 

Award-winning Emily Blunt, slightly older, is already the go-to girl for many casting directors on both sides of the pond. Her latest movie, Disney’s Jungle Cruise, is set for a summer release. Hewson is currently starring in the Netflix psychological thriller series Behind Her Eyes.

Both have interesting fathers. Memphis etc is the daughter of Bono, lead singer of the iconic group U2. He once started a set by slowly clapping his hands together. ‘Each time I do this,’ he told the audience ‘a child dies in Africa’, to which a bloke in the front row replied: ‘Well, stop fucking clapping.’ 

Emily’s papa is the legal superstar Oliver Simon Peter Blunt, QC. He’s a tour de force in the Temple and the Central Criminal Court. One of his recent high profile cases was the defence of journalists caught up in the Operation Elvedon cash for info witch-hunt initiated by the then DPP Sir Keir (There really is less to me than meets the eye) Starmer. On acquittal, at least one journo was charmed to receive a congratulatory phone call from the lovely Emily.

AN R.R. (t)




          PIERCE                  SCHMIDT                   OWEN

So … today the Daily Drone breaks new ground by presenting … the Triplelike! 

Two of our three doppelgängers are well known in the world of journalism and television. The stranger is currently ‘starring’ at the Grenfell Tower inquiry: he is Claude Schmidt, boss of the French cladding company Arconic, who has bowed to pressure to give evidence to the virtual hearings. 

Doesn’t he look like TV presenter Nick Owen and the Daily Mail’s consultant editor, Andrew Pierce? 

Avuncular Nick, a breakfast TV pioneer, currently presents Midlands Today. A classics scholar and print journalist, he is a former chairman of Luton Town FC and president of Derbyshire CCC. 

Openly gay Pierce, acknowledged as a good Fleet Street operator, brings authority and wit to his paper. He is well known for his late night Sky TV jousting with the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire who, some would argue, doesn’t.

AN RR (t)



It looks as if it has been taken in a London fog but if you squint carefully at this picture you may be able to discern a few familiar faces.

Yes chums, it’s the serried ranks of Express Sport taken in the early 1990s in the Blackfriars Lubyanka. 

Lined up are, foreground from left: Mike Sinclair, Charlie Sale, Jeff Ives, Chris Gill, Richard Lewis, Peter Tozer, Clive Goozee. In the background are: David Harrison, Peter Boyle, Martin Booth, Cora Weston, casual sub Pat Mooney, Barry Flatman, David Prole and John Phillips. 


How my football chum John came a cropper 


On February 19, 1955, two friends and I travelled to Wolverhampton to see our team, Charlton Athletic, play Wolves in the FA Cup 5th round.

  As we — and hundreds of other Charlton fans — came out of the station, a photographer came up to us and asked if he could take our a picture. One of my friends, who was always a difficult cuss at the best of times, didn't want to know, but the other one, John, and I, who were never shy of cameras, willingly posed.

After the game we were walking back to the station, sad that Charlton had been trounced 4-1, when John saw a copy of the Wolverhampton Express and Star in the gutter. He gleefully picked it up, hoping to see his photo, and was gutted to see he'd been cropped out. He sulked all the way back to Euston.




Sports subs of the Daily and Sunday Express long ago will recall having to fit the decorative, esoteric prose of equestrian correspondent Julia Longland into its allotted slot, phrases such "double oxer" in elongated sentences sometimes puzzling the uninitiated. Julia, a life-long keen and highly competent horsewoman, has recently given up her role as master of the South Down and Eridge Hunt after 24 years whipping 'em in. 

Originally employed at the Express in the 60s as secretary to famed columnist Bob Pitman, she has always possessed a style of her own, both in writing and verbally. 

An agitated sports news editor, with an eye on edition time, once gently chided her for late copy. "I'm sorry, but I had a dreadful copy-taker," Julia replied. "He couldn't even spell Moët et Chandon."

At the time Julia was teetotal and remained so for 44 years. Former colleagues will be surprised to learn that in her golden years she takes a splash of ginger wine in her regular tipple of ginger beer. 



Grieving widow speaks out after hospital A&E tragedy

Former Daily Express photographer Barry Gomer has died of a blood clot while waiting for treatment in a hospital A&E. He was 71.

Now his grieving wife Marthe has accused doctors of failing to save his life by failing to give him the drug he desperately needed.

Barry waited for nine hours without food before dying. And Marthe wants questions answered.



The hippy trail that led to Fleet Street


In 1973 as a 21-year-old babe-in-the-woods I hitch-hiked through a universe that good timing, luck and the pure innocence of being a turnip prevented me from experiencing war, a cyclone and a serial killer. I kept a diary of my nine-month journey from which I blew the dust during this lockdown, before editing it and publishing it.

I went through Iran, now a country where you run the risk as a UK citizen of being held by the state as a spy. I went through Afghanistan, now a country where the Taliban bomb at will. I went through Pakistan where Osama Bin Laden was hiding when he was assassinated by US Navy Seals.

By the time I got to Bangkok the serial hippie killer, featured on BBC TV’s The Serpent, was just warming up.

The title comes from an old adage I recall that bumpkins went round the world a turnip and returned a turnip: that was me.

When I got back to the UK, the recession had dried up the work I then did as a diver on projects like the Brighton Marina, so I asked my father for the air fare back to Australia to continue my global wanderlust. He agreed on condition that I first applied for a job as an editorial assistant in the Fetter Lane office of D.C. Thomson’s Sunday Post. I got the job and instead a new journey into Fleet Street began.

Now you can share my youthful wanderlust by reading Turnip Road, Beyond the Hippie Trail, from Southend to Sydney, available from Amazon Books or Kindle.


*Dick Durham worked casual shifts on the Daily Mirror, The Sun, Daily Mail, Evening Standard and The Daily Star before landing a staff job on the Daily Star in June 1980 where he remained until 1998.


Media hits and myths
An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

NAUGHTY: Lucy Verasamy

Q. Is weather forecasting really just showbiz? 

A.You could be forgiven for thinking so. Especially after the weekend’s confected White Hell That Wasn’t drama. The winking, gurning show-offs who are now our TV weather boys and girls are certainly different from Michael ‘I’ve got a touch of wind’ Fish, Ian MacAskill and Bill Giles of yesteryear.

They seem to be selected for Weather Studio stardom as much for their looks and ‘personality’ as for their degrees in meteorology.

Take foxy redhead Isobel Lang. She appears on Sky where the weather ladies are shown full length wearing smart, pencil skirts. Who’s to say she wasn’t poached from the Beeb because of her pretty pins? 

Then there’s ITV’s gushing, pouting, simpering siren of the small screen, luscious Lucy Verasamy who, even (especially) during lockdown, looks as if she’ll be going on to do something naughty in a subterranean nightclub after News at Ten.

The Beeb’s Tomasz (The Finger) Shafernaker (crazy name, crazy guy etc), who got his kit off to grace the cover of a gay mag, is a heartthrob. However, the pandemic has seen him morph from being a blond boy band lookalike into a rather sinister, dark-haired society crimper.

A favourite is school marm Helen Willetts. This wholesome former badminton international just loves forecasting inclement weather. Watch her wriggle and shiver, almost orgasmically, when the latest Beast from the East is nigh.

The BBC team’s lust to be centre stage is played out each Sunday during Countryfile when the duty forecaster has a live slot inserted into the recorded programme. Because it’s all about mangel wurzels (crops and people), the presenter feels obliged to change out of his suit into jeans and check shirt like a member of a Dolly Parton tribute act. And then change back again for the 10 O’Clock News.

Have you noticed as well the game weather presenters play? They seem incapable of saying things like ‘the showers will reach London, too’ or ‘will also reach London’. It’s always got to be ‘reach London as well’. It’s as if they compete to see who can use this lazy phrase the most during a two-minute bulletin.

Still, turned out nice again, hasn’t it?


Specs and drugs and sausage rolls


One columnist’s view of the Daily Express in 1965

From the Spectator, January 15, 1965

The Press


ON Monday morning a new man started work at the Daily Express as associate editor. His name is Harold Keeble — his mission, to refurbish the fastest-fading myth in Fleet Street.

For forty years. while the Express rode high, one nagging question always remained: 'What will happen when Beaverbrook dies?' At last the answer is becoming plain for all to see. On Tuesday, as the Daily Mirror announced a gala ball to celebrate its circulation passing the five-million mark, Bcaverbrook's squabbling heirs faced rumours that they might soon have to break to advertisers the news that the Express was below the magic four million.

Signs that the Express had lost its flair were already increasing with Beaverbrook's senility.

Executive changes at the top of the paper started to become a running joke. The paper's proud boast that 'it always lived up to the big occasion' was finally shattered by the amateurishly woebegone edition which greeted its proprietor's death — hardly an event that could be said to have been unanticipated in the Express office. 

But in the past six months things have gone from bad to worse. Without the continual threat of that Canadian rasp down any Expressman's telephone, the paper has become flaccid, dull, no longer the first one turns to on a bleak morning, but a paper which spends as much time picking up other people's ideas and stories as finding its own. When even the World's Press News can say 'it appeared to be living on past glory' the Express has come to a sorry pass.

Meanwhile, in the paper itself, bitterness, temper, even wild accusations of 'megalomania' abound. Staff changes continue. Recently, amid internecine shouts, deputy editor Peter Baker —intermittently a longtime Beaverbrook white hope — left his post. Bright young men, such as the political correspondent Ian Aitken and defence correspondent Charles Douglas-Home —who, in ancient times, might well have made their lives with Beaverbrook — find happier pastures elsewhere. 

Things have happened which six months ago could never have been imagined — such as the sub-contracting out of chunks of the paper to the staff of the Queen, the virtually unreadable Leisurescope feature on Saturdays. Not to say, of course, the ludicrous reversal of old Express policy on newspaper participation in ITV— coupled with the buying of shares in ATV and the appearance of sycophantic features on the artistic good taste of Mr. Lew Grade.

All this was the challenge which on Monday faced Harold Keeble, a fifty-two-year-old North Countryman who has been with the Express before — for twenty-three years. His speciality is 'projection' and layout — it was his flair that was a considerable behind-the-scenes ingredient in making up the public legend of Arthur Christiansen. 

In the four years since he left the Express, Keeble has twice been caller-in to perform facelifting operations on ailing or stultifying news- papers — on the Sketch and the Mirror. He has won much admiration. But the problem that faces him on the Express today is one defying mere tricks of 'projection'; it is to find the paper a new personality. It is hard to imagine that a man who grew up in the shadow of Lord Beaverbrook will find it easy.

Another rescue-attempt is under way on the Observer's Colour Magazine — the BBC-2 of journalism — where it seems that Editor Michael Davy is shortly to be moved back to the deputy editorship of the main paper, to be replaced by Anthony Sampson. 

A crop of rumours earlier this week that Mark Boxer is also to move, wafted upwards in the Thomson group on the tide of Sunday Times Magazine profits, is strictly untrue — although this is not preventing him from laying the foundations for at least one new Thomson magazine venture for later in the year. 

Rumours that the Weekend Telegraph is to be moved to Sunday after all — to pick up the suffering Sunday Telegraph —are still being denied.


Sir – Christopher Booker’s coruscating assessment of the Daily Express back in 1965 is notable, reading it today, for its prescience. As a junior news sub at the time, I was only dimly aware of the machinations going on behind the scenes as the paper struggled to find its way after Beaverbrook’s death. One does clearly remember, however, DX80, the truly dreadful Jocelyn Stevens-inspired project to take the paper into the 1980s but which succeeded only in plunging what was still a stylish broadsheet into characterless mediocrity. The relaunch as a tabloid, too, which began promisingly as a game-changer in 1977, was quickly hobbled to accommodate the birth of the Daily Star.

A grim succession of editors and proprietors are also part of the story, of course. For me the signal event was when Sir Max Aitken refused to give the editorship to David English, the natural man for the job. The aggrieved English quit to take his undoubted talents to edit the Daily Sketch, then the ailing Daily Mail in 1971, which he transformed into what became, in effect, the Bouverie Street Express. 

But we’ve all passed a lot of water since then.

Rick McNeill
Night Editor 1977-79
Cape Town


Aunt’s sad letter to Daily Express writer Judith that proved John Lennon planned to return to UK

LAST PHONE CALL: Lennon with his Aunt Mimi

Two years after her death at 93 in 2018, veteran Daily Express showbusiness writer and Beatles confidante Judith Simons is still making the news with a John Lennon story.

A letter to Judith sent on  January 24, 1981, has revealed that the night before the former Beatle was assassinated in New York by Mark Chapman on December 8, 1980, he had phoned his aunt Mimi Smith about his plans to return to Britain soon.

Mimi, who had raised Lennon from infancy, wrote the letter in response to Judith’s condolences about the musician's shocking murder. 

The letter read: ‘Dear Judith, Thank you for your letter, kind thoughts. I’m trying to accept this terrible thing which has happened, but finding it very hard. He had such faith himself, I’m trying to do the same. He phoned the night before, witty, funny, bubbling over with excitement, coming over very soon. Couldn’t wait to see me. So I’m glad of that.' 

Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, who interviewed Judith, pictured above, about the Beatles for his biography, believes that the letter from Mimi is proof that Lennon was not only planning to return to Britain but also to perform. ’There are other indications that he was considering a concert tour, and this letter supports that,’ he says.

The letter from Mimi formed part of Judith's estate and was recently discovered by Tracks Ltd, which gives free valuations of music memorabilia at we-buy-beatles.com

Judith had gained unique access to the Beatles through contacts that included their manager Brian Epstein’s mother, a distant relative of Judy’s; she became good friends with Mimi, to whom Lennon remained close all his life despite relocating to Manhattan with his second wife Yoko Ono.  


Nimmo’s last lunch at the Daily Express

THIS happy gathering at the Daily Express offices in London’s Blackfriars proved to be actor Derek Nimmo’s final beano.

A few hours after this photo was taken, Nimmo suffered a fall which culminated in his death a few weeks later.

The picture, taken on 2 December 1998 at the National Treasures celebrity lunch in the boardroom, was posted online by Daily Mail diarist John McEntee.

It shows, from left, Express editor Rosie Boycott, TV sports presenter Dickie Davies, writer Melvyn Bragg, novelist Beryl Bainbridge, Nimmo, actress Joan Collins, racing correspondent Peter O’Sullevan and broadcaster Sue MacGregor.

Nimmo had recently returned from a Middle East tour of Run For Your Wife and was in sparkling form during the lunch. 

After the meal he asked to be driven to the Garrick Club for further refreshment, and then returned to his home in Lexham Gardens, Kensington. He and his wife later went out to dinner. 

On their return, Nimmo was checking an external alarm when he lost his footing and fell down a stone staircase into the basement. He suffered head injuries and was taken to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where he remained in a coma until the end of December. 

While still recovering in hospital, Nimmo contracted pneumonia and died on 24 February 1999. He was 68.


Night Bunny Laws was all ears for Lloyd Turner

Here’s a blast from the past, a scene from the Daily Express newsroom in the late 1970s. On the left late chief sub David ‘Bunny’ Laws is discussing third edition changes with night editor Lloyd Turner.

Lloyd had a habit of ripping the first edition to pieces and David had a reputation for calling people back from the pub to assist him in his earnest endeavours.

David, a superb and professional operator, now writes novels. He worked for the Sunday Express for decades until being furloughed in the Covid crisis. He finally got his redundancy cheque last October. His service on Express Newspapers spanned 54 years which must be a record.



By POPBITCH, Gossip Editor

After having publicly shamed a long list of Covid rule-benders, it was pretty rich of The Sun to throw an in-person Christmas party in their office in late December – just days after London was placed in Tier 3.

True to form, there hasn't been much of a rush to bring any disciplinary proceedings against the lecherous 50-something boss who, after several bottles were sunk, was seen fingering a drunken PA 30 years his junior in a glass-fronted office. HR has been too busy summoning the minimum-wage graduate trainees who witnessed the incident – and threatening to sack them if they dared repeat what they saw.

It's no surprise things are on high alert there though. Throughout the festive season, one of The Sun's former star reporters was taking to Facebook late at night, threatening to spill everything he knows about the paper's inner workings, before deleting them shortly after. NewsUK has always worried he'd be the one to go rogue, even after they arranged a book deal for him to keep him sweet. Seems to have only bought his silence for so long…

UPDATE: As more details of The Sun's finger-heavy Christmas party continue to emerge, how long can they keep the implicated Senior Exec in  position? Especially now that more and more women are swapping stories between themselves about his seedy use of Google Messages?

NOW he's had his second dose of the vaccine in the UK, Rupert Murdoch is preparing to make his way to NYC to oversee the difficult post-Trump positioning for Fox News. Should be fun.



Perry QC gets it in the neck from his learned chums

EMINENT QC David Perry, a former night lawyer on the Daily Express, has got himself into a bit of a scrape.

He has attracted the ire of his fellow learned friends by agreeing to act for the Hong Kong government in its efforts to convict Jimmy Lai and eight other pro-democracy activists accused of taking part in an illegal assembly in 2019.

Now, after pressure from within the profession, Mr Perry has pulled out of the case.

Hong Kong’s justice departmnent noted “growing pessure and criticism” of the QC for taking the case. Mr Perry had “concerns about such pressures and the exemption of quarantine” and "indicated that the trial should proceed without him".

Many of us who worked on the Daily Express in the 1970s and 80s remember David as a charming and knowledgable lawyer with a light-touch approach to newspaper law. 

He advised us what we could get away with rather what we couldn’t say. One of his few equals on this was the late, great Geoffrey ‘Called to the Bar’ Conlin, another fine and convivial fellow who was a delightful companion in the pubs and clubs of old Fleet Street.

David, one of the country’s most respected and formidable criminal lawyers and a part-time High Court judge, found himself at the centre of controversy over his Hong Kong appointment.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the shadow attorney-general and former lord chancellor, said: “He must withdraw as he cannot continue in that role and remain consistent with the values of the UK. He is prosecuting some of the most well-known democracy campaigners.”

Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, chairwoman of the International Bar Association’s human rights institute, told The Times: “I cannot fathom why any reputable British barrister would provide a veneer of respectability to actions which are contrary to democracy and the rule of law. This decision will become a source of shame.”

David has refused to comment on the controversy but in his defence we would point out that it is nothing new for lawyers to be asked to act for people whose views they find reprehensible.

The “cab rank” rule is the standard justification. Horace Rumpole sums it up thus: “I’m a taxi plying for hire. I’m bound to accept anyone, however repulsive, who waves me down and asks for a lift.”

In other words, lawyers must accept any case that comes their way. That is nothing new.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, the Daily Drone  wishes the excellent Mr Perry well.

CLIVE GOOZEE remembers: Mention of the late great Geoffrey Conlin took me back to an evening in the Black Lubyanka when he walked into the sports department to query a story, just as another late great, John Lloyd, carrying a tray of teas and rock cakes, arrived for his shift, late as usual. That’s why he bought the warm beverages. 

On seeing Geoffrey, John said: "Allo Allo Mr Lawyer, how’s the soliciting business?" The subs thought it was funny, but a very affronted Geoffrey didn’t appreciate the laughter, said loudly: "I wouldn’t know,” and walked out.


After P.E. Dant’s list of banned winter clichés, the Flying Fuck Back Bar What’sApp group would like to know if the following are still allowed:

Winter Wonderland!

It’s Snow Joke!

Brrritain! Brrrighton! Brrridlington! (I get it — Ed)

More on way, warn Met men (archetypal sub deck used on any weather story)

Ice Work If You Can Get It! (Skating rink attendant pictured with girls sliding around in short skirts)

Freezer Jolly Good Fellow! (Good Samaritan aids trapped motorists)

Ski’s A Jolly Good Fellow! (Good Samaritan skis to aid trapped motorists)

Tree’s A Jolly Good Fellow! (This is getting silly now-Ed)

Winter Of Our Disco Tent! (DJ defies Lockdown to stage rave under canvas)

That’s it! Stop this right now — Ed


The atmospheric photo that landed Katherine  Whitehorn her first job 

(and why she couldn’t bin her husband’s underpants)
This great Bert Hardy picture of Katharine Whitehorn resulted in the celebrated columnist getting hired as a journalist.

A Times obituary of Whitehorn, who has died at the age 0f 92, describes how she landed a job in 1956 as a reporter on Picture Post, off Fleet Street, under the editor Lionel “Bobby” Birch, in whose office she quickly made friends and, in her words, “attracted a good deal of male attention”. 

The job (“which I wanted more than heaven,” she telegraphed her parents) was hers after the great photographer Bert Hardy pictured her in an iconic pose: sitting in a circular skirt on the floor by a gas fire, surrounded by milk bottles and laundry, for a feature entitled “Lonely in London”.

The obituary adds that she once told how she had tried to bin a pair of her husband Gavin Lyall’s faded, ragged underpants, whereupon he snatched them back, protesting: “But they were my father’s!”

Whitehorn spent most of her career on The Observer where she was associate editor from 1980 to 1988. Lyall, a noted thriller writer, died in 2003 aged 70.


History in Moments

(Our awards-nominated trainee)

1920s. So...a different view of bustling Fleet Street. We’re all accustomed to the shot taken from roughly opposite the Tip looking up to St Paul’s with the Telegraph, the King and Keys and the Black Lubyanka on the left. And if there’s a London, Chatham and Dover train chugging out of Ludgate Hill Station across the viaduct, before it was demolished in 1990 to make way for what is now City Thameslink station, then so much the better.

Here we’re looking West, though. In the distance on the right is the clock outside the gothic Royal Courts of Justice. The church tower of St Dunstan-in-the-West is closer, almost next door to the offices of the Bristol Times and Mirror. This newspaper, now long gone, was once part of a thriving press in the West Country port city whose merchant venturers were always anxious for any news that might affect their businesses. 

Now the city is home to just two newspapers, both owned by what Proddie describes as ‘fucking Retch: they really make me sick’. The Bristol Post (né Evening Post), known as ‘the newspaper all Bristol asked for and helped to create’, limps on. The morning, the Western Daily Press has also seen better days, notably when sometime Express subs Eric Price and Terry Manners worked there as Editor and Roger Watkins as Night Editor. Let’s not forget two other Bristol staffers, Sir Terry Pratchett and Sir Tom Stoppard. They didn’t do too badly, either.

AN RR (t)


Canary Wharf, 50 years apart

Looking north from Greenwich, these two pictures reveal how Canary Wharf, home of the Express, Star and Mirror titles, has grown from a dockyard to a huge commercial centre with towering skyscrapers.

From 1802 to the late 1980s, what would become the Canary Wharf Estate was a part of the Isle of Dogs and was one of the busiest docks in the world. After the 1960s, the port industry began to decline, leading to all the docks being closed by 1980.

The area in East London was then developed to become what it is today — a city of skyscrapers, 300 shops and luxury flats. Thanks to Covid it is a bit quiet at the moment.

Happily, the Old Royal Naval College, now part of the University of Greenwich, on the south of the Thames has remained more or less unchanged.


Legends in their lunchtime

ANOTHER day, another booze-up — we did rather a lot of that back in the day.

 This 1990 line-up was snapped at a Daily Express lunch for the new England football manager Graham Taylor and his assistant, Lawrie McMenemy, in the Blackfriars Lubyanka.

Pictured from left: Clive Goozee (who provided this pic),  chief football writer Steve Curry, Lawrie, deputy editor Paul Potts, Graham, and head of sport David Emery. 

Taylor, the son of a provincial sports editor, succeeded Bobby Robson who had steered England to a World Cup third-place play-off at Italia '90. He is remembered for the expression “Do I not like that,” featured in a TV documentary about his time as England boss.



History in Moments

1982. So...before my time, of course, but Proddie, my self appointed ‘guide and mentor’, recalls fondly the moment that a well-upholstered lass called Erika Roe ran on to the pitch at Twickenham, flaunting her magnificent embonpoint to a baying crowd. 

‘Talk about swing low sweet chariot,’ he chuckles. The ultimate streak played well on telly, as you’d imagine, but still pictures were rather ruined by the little chap in top hat and tails who insisted on covering Ms Roe’s 40ins attractions with the union flag he was carrying. 

Typical of the late Ken Bailey, 71-year-old self-styled England cheerleader and mascot, a ubiquitous, jumped-up, show-off who was ever-present at sporting events at the time. 

Naturally, the January 2 rugby match between England and Australia was disrupted. England prop Colin Smart memorably said to his skipper, Bill Beaumont: ‘Don’t look now, Bill, a bird’s just run on with your arse tacked on to her chest.’ 

Erika, who later became a sweet potato farmer in Portugal (as you do), was unrepentant. Drink was blamed. 



BY POPBITCH, Gossip Editor

Prince Andrew is under the spotlight again now that Peter Nygard – another society figure he has ties to – has been arrested on sex trafficking charges. 

Some new questions are now being asked about Andrew's version of events, but no doubt HRH will simply consider this to be more of the same beastly treatment he has come to expect from the media. 

When Handsy Andy was a guest at a party at Cameron Diaz's house a few years ago, one poor soul who ended up stuck talking to him says the Prince spent the entire evening complaining about how the UK press liked to build people up, only to knock them back down again. 

Not only had it happened to him, he said, but also to his favourite band "The Radioheads”.


Q: Why does the Duke of York not sweat?
A: He uses Andy-perspirant



Reg Lancaster, one of the star photographers from the great days of the Daily Express, died on Sunday.

Reg photographed everything from sport and news to celebrity and film sets. He was on the staff of the paper for 44 years, joining in 1951. He spent time in London, Scotland and Paris. Reg was also a talented filmmaker and writer.



How Barbara pulled a fast one and got a lad in


Dame Barbara Windsor had many strong points, but subtlety was not one of them — as I discovered while ghosting her autobiography 20 years ago.

One of the experiences Barbara had to address in the book was falling love with the son of one of her old school friends, while married, a story she asked me to reveal exclusively in the News of the World.

On the morning the story broke, the tabloid Press besieged Barbara’s Marylebone home, eager to see and hear from the new man in her life, an actor, 26 years younger, named Scott Mitchell. 

The couple stayed indoors, with the phone off the hook, all that Sunday and most of Monday. But that afternoon Barbara had to leave for the theatre, where she was appearing in Aladdin – and, as she rushed to Scott’s waiting Mercedes, she fended off questions with: “Sorry, can’t stop – I’m appearing in panto.”

The next day, The Sun ran a photo, under the headline: “Sorry, must dash, I’ve got Aladin tonight” a witty line, for which Sun sub Fergus Shanahan must take the credit.     

When Barbara read how I’d written this episode for her book she shook her head. “No, darling, we’ve got to spell it out, otherwise my readers won’t get the joke.”

She wanted the line to read “: … I’ve got A-LAD-IN-TONIGHT.”

I explained that The Sun must have been convinced their millions of readers would understand the double-entendre and, after a while, Barbara gave in.

As far as I was concerned, that was the end of that but, weeks later, when I read the proofs, I discovered that crafty old Babs had persuaded the editor to put the dashes back. 


The mad gangster now singing at Platform 14

No, you’re not going barmy … this really is the benevolent Mad Frankie Fraser singing his heart out for charity with movie star Shirley-Anne Field.

The astonishing photo was taken in the early nineties by former Express sub-editor Robin McGibbon, who was ghosting the notorious gangster’s autobiography.

It came about when Fraser learned that Shirley-Anne wanted help in promoting a carol singing event on London’s Waterloo Station, in aid of Save the Children. 

The publicity-mad villain immediately offered his services, while admitting he couldn’t sing a note and his tuneless voicewas torture for anyone unfortunate enough to hear it.




LIFE OF LARRY: Steve Wood in Downing Street yesterday Picture by MARK THOMAS

THERE isn’t a lot happening in the world of politics so photographer Steve Wood wandered down to Downing Street to see what was occurring.

The answer was not a lot. But who should Steve encounter outside No10 but Larry the cat, looking worried about how the negotiations on the price of fish were progressing in Brussels.

Former Express star photographer Steve told the Drone: "Larry is worried about his supply of Greek sea bass. 

"I worry about the supply of halibut from Norway but I couldn't give a shit about the fish that the French want off  the Cornish coast — smelly awful tiny herrings — they can have them. 

"All of the fish in British waters is probably covered in oil. I don’t want any of it — I'll stick to Norwegian halibut and Larry will stick to Greek sea bass.”

Er, yes, quite … we told you it was a slow news day.



WHO’S this fresh-faced young man looking mightily pleased to meet Miss World?

Yes chums, it’s Expressman Clive Goozee pictured with Ann Sidney in 1964 when he was a reporter on the Marylebone and Paddington Mercury in London.  

Clive told the Drone; "We are in a branch of Sketchley the dry cleaners in Marylebone High Street. I was sent to interview Ann by the Mercury boss, Maurice Krais, whom I later encountered on Saturdays at The People where he was a news editor. 

"Ann was on a whistle-stop tour to thank the various people who looked after her during the contest. She comes from Bournemouth but I haven’t seen her since we moved here! 

"I think she’s the same age as me, 76. There’s a picture of her on a wall of celebrities at Chez Fred, our incredibly popular fish and chip restaurant in Westbourne. 

"I’ll take my photo with me the next time we go for a fish supper. Sonny’s Fish Bar, my childhood chippie in Lisson Grove, Marylebone, became the Sea Shell in the 60s. 

"It's around the corner from the street where I lived. It’s a favourite for showbiz people. We’ve seen a few, including the Drone’s jokester Barry Cryer.”

Ann’s still looking good, Clive. Here she is, pictured in 2017.


History in Moments

1943: So...even heroes have to chill, writes Awards Nominee Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee), skilfully avoiding the classic Calm Before The Storm cliché intro. 

A young man in uniform takes a breather in a poppy field as the Second World War rages. But this was no ordinary airman. Rather, it was the extraordinary Wing Commander Guy Gibson relaxing before the action that was to celebrate his name for ever: the Dambusters raid over the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial heartland, on May 16-17, 1943.

Gibson was a phenomenon. He flew more than 170 missions and was the most glittering bomber pilot of his day; so much so that his time as a fighter pilot tends to be overlooked. 

Promoted to senior rank very young, as the holder of the VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar, he was the most decorated serviceman of his day. Yet when he was killed in action in 1944 he was still only 26.

Like his school companion, Douglas Bader, he didn’t suffer fools at all. He was known as the Boy Emperor and the Arch Bastard. Said to be arrogant and bombastic, he had little time for ‘other ranks and colonials’. Yet one of his crew conceded: ‘I could see that he was a true leader although he never spoke to me or even acknowledged me.’

Gibson’s role in the bouncing bomb (mines, actually) raids has been immortalised in the classic and oft-screened 1955 film The Dam Busters. There’s a poignant and true account of the death of his black Labrador dog on the eve of the raid (who can forget the sight of Gibson throwing its lead into a waste paper basket?). Yet one of our insufferable, achingly woke TV stations (no ducks to be won for suggesting Channel 4) chose to cut this because the dog’s name was Nigger.

Gibson was excellently played in the film by another war hero, airborne forces veteran Richard Todd. But his part in the celebrated capture of the Pegasus Bridge in 1944 is, of course, another story, another History in Moments.


Legend Pattinson sums up his great Fleet Street life in 297 brilliant pages

ONE of old Fleet Street’s great characters Terry Pattinson has written a terrific autobiography.

Terry, pictured, spent much of his career on the Mirror and the Express and has received rave reviews for Scoop, A Life In Fleet Street.

The synopsis on Amazon reads: "Journalists live for exclusive stories, or ‘scoops’ as they are better known. Terry Pattinson is one of those reporters from the ‘golden era’ of Fleet Street. 

"Former Daily Mirror editor Mike Molloy called him a ‘great story finder.’ He was an industrial correspondent for 21 years – the final seven as Daily Mirror Industrial Editor. He was Reporter of the Year in the 1990 British Press Awards for his coverage of what became known as The Arthur Scargill Affair. He also won the London Press Club’s Scoop of the Year.

"Former Labour Cabinet Minister Alan Johnson described Terry as a 'Fleet Street legend' while former Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart said, 'Terry was my favourite journalist.'

"Terry’s coverage of the Russian spacecraft taking photographs of the moon’s surface led to a world exclusive for the Daily Express. One rival newspaper called it ‘The Scoop of the Century.’

"He was on the inside track of many major news events and relates hilarious background material that you couldn’t make up. Mirror Publisher Robert Maxwell, MC, admitted to Terry that he was wanted for war crimes and was an ‘agent of influence’ for Israel."

Terry’s book is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle and is warmly recommended. 




The editor of the Daily Drone, Mr Alastair McIntyre, normally hides his light under a bushel (whatever that is) and prefers anonymity but today he is the subject of our fascinating quiz.

Mr McIntyre, who prefers to masquerade under an aristocratic soubriquet, has been cunningly hidden in this photograph of him at a family celebration.

Can you spot him readers? Where is the Wally? Answers on a postcard to the nearest wagger pagger bagger (waste paper basket) as the old fool would put it.

Must go, he’s just staggering back from an extended slope.

I want the person who wrote this bilge to report to my office first thing in the afternoon — Ed
PS: The hat lights up, wiggles about and plays a tune.


Another great Daily Drone competition. Today it’s ...


Here’s a special Daily Drone picture puzzle to help you while away those long winter nights. We have cunningly hidden not one but two pictures of hunky Expressman Richard Dismore.

Can you spot them, readers? Answers on a postcard to the usual dustbin.

Picture research by T. MANNERS, who prefers to remain anonymous.

A reader writes: Dear Ed, I am another avid Drone reader not wishing to add to your ever-increasing photo gallery of Dick Dismore pictures because there is only so much handsomeness a fellow hack can take. 

But it struck me that following the exposé of Mr Dismore adopting the look of his idol — actor Peter Wyngarde in the 1970s — the similarity he shared with actor Omar Sharif in the next decade is amazing as the picture you featured with arm-punching and chip-sharing Kiwi Les Diver shows in the 1980s. 

Off now to look at my 90s photo file ...

Memory Lane
Dollis Hill.

Well done for omitting a snap of Saddam Hussein, but there’s always tomorrow — Ed



The American magazine Town and Country has revisited the great Daily Express scoop revealing Michael Fagan’s break-in at Buckingham Palace in 1982. 

The story was written by Norman Luck, who is sadly no longer with us, but Express royal correspondent Ashley Walton, who was also involved in the story, tells how his pulse was racing as he picked up the phone to talk to the Queen’s Press secretary.

Read the fascinating tale here


Steve Bell’s cartoon banned by the Graun

CARTOONIST Steve Bell was in even more trouble last night after this drawing from his If strip was rejected by editors.

Bell, one of our most gifted by controversial cartoonists, is already working out his notice with the paper.

London’s Political Cartoon Gallery tweeted: 'Spiked because it made someone at The Guardian "feel uncomfortable". This is the first time that a cartoon has been spiked by the paper because it didn't toe a particular editorial line. A sad day.'


My fabulous night with the Fab Four

Mention of The Beatles on the Daily Drone website inspired CLIVE GOOZEE to remember interviewing the group in 1963 and getting them to sign an album for his brother Steve.

A pleasing night with The Beatles



Life has never been easy producing the Daily Express at night so just imagine what it was like during the Second World War when the Germans were busy bombing London just outside the doors to the Fleet Street offices. 

The backbench was prepared for the onslaught as this picture, taken from editor Arthur Christiansen’s autobiography Headlines All My Life, shows.

The tin hats were not worn for long as Chris, seen here on the left, explained: “We were issued with steel helmets at the outbreak of war. Managing editor Herbert Gunn, Brian Chapman and myself posed for this picture — but feeling foolish, had them stored away.”

Forty years later, far sillier hats were worn at times in the Express newsroom as the editor of this publication can confirm.


Fleet St mourns another great talent as Paul Callan dies at 81

The world of journalism was in mourning last night for Paul Callan, who died on Saturday morning after a fall at his Wimbledon home aged 81.

Callan, a larger than life character in his bow tie and pinstripes, was a hugely gifted Fleet Street writer who made his name on the Daily Mirror and later on the Daily Express and LBC radio.

His wife Steffi wrote on Facebook: So sad to say my husband of over 40 years, Paul Callan passed away suddenly yesterday after a fall. 

"He had an incredible life and career and loved being the father of Jessica Callan Olsen and James Callan and the doting grandfather of Scarlett and Gabriel. You always knew when he was around — follow the laughter.’

His daughter Jessica wrote on Facebook: “I’m heartbroken to have to say that my father Paul Callan died today.

“He had been unwell for some time and was recently diagnosed with cancer which he wanted to keep quiet.

"So unlike him to want to keep anything quiet!

“But he had a fall in the early hours of today and passed away very quickly.

“He wanted a huge, great send-off at St Bride’s so we will arrange a memorial next year when we can all see each other.

“Raise a toast to him in the meantime, if you can.

"He would have loved that.”

Farewell to a Fleet Street great, by ALAN FRAME

Daily Telegraph obituary



From yesterday’s Daily Express, most of which has been lifted from the Daily Drone, which we take as a compliment


How top crime reporter Allison of the Express nabbed a naughty vicar

Picture taken from Scoops and Swindles, Memoirs of a Fleet Street Journalist by Alfred Draper, former Daily Express crime reporter

The Daily Express always prided itself in getting its man, think Ronnie Biggs ... but not perhaps Martin Bormann.

The story of the Rev Philip St John Ross, the Naughty Vicar of Woodford, Cheshire, was a classic tabloid tale in 1955.

Former Daily Express crime reporter Alfred Draper writes in his book Scoops and Swindles: "The story occupied the attention of Fleet Street for 18 months before it was brought to a conclusion by the brilliant work of Bill Allison, one of the Express’s most talented and tenacious reporters.

"Bill, a burly Scot with the build of a lock forward, employed tactics that were, to say the least, unorthodox. They may have met with the disapproval of the ‘quality’ papers but they made him the envy of the ‘populars’.

"It began in 1955 when the 52-year-old vicar was presumed dead after faking his own drowning whilst on holiday with his wife at Hell’s Mouth, Caernarvonshire.

“It was soon discovered, however, that he had gone away with Mrs Kathleen Ryall, a wealthy widow, and teams of reporters took up the hunt which led them to the South of France, the Italian Riviera, Switzerland and other holiday resorts of the well-to-do.

“Bill got the equivalent of the non-eating end of the pantomime horse … he became part of the furniture in the Red Lion in Bledow, Oxfordshire [which] had been the local of the runaway couple who had a love-nest cottage in a secluded wood nearby.”

He assiduously befriended the suspicious locals and eventually his  tenacity paid off and it led to Bill cornering the vicar in the Buckinghamshire Hills after a classic Fleet Street car chase also involving  Stanley Bonnet of the Daily Mail.

After giving Bonnet the slip with a swift U-turn, Allison and another Express car stopped the Rev Mr Ross’s car and got a key to the boot.

Draper adds: “But it would not open and in frustration he kicked it, knocking off the handle and leaving a hole. A reporter promptly started blowing cigarette smoke through it in the vain hope of smoking the vicar out.

“Guessing that he had been handed the wrong key, Bill demanded the right one and this time the boot opened to reveal the vicar lying down with his head on a briefcase.

“Bill had one regret, which was the way he pulled a fast one on Stanley Bonnet, an old friend.”

A few secondhand copies of Scoops and Swindles, written in 1988, are still available on Amazon for £3.28.


Your sparkling Daily Drone, the No1 choice for grainy old pictures

NOSES TO THE GRINDSTONE: This pic of the Daily Express London newsroom is so blurry that it’s a job to identify anyone. But the man holding up his hands is Jon Zackon who is probably trying to tell the Backbench that the short he is subbing should be the splash.

The chap on the Newsdesk on the left is Jim Watson. At the back of the pic are Wonky Wheeler, Terry Manners and Bob Haylett. 

The photo, from the 1980s, was taken from the Picture Desk which, a reader suggests, explains why it is fuzzy. The editor couldn’t possibly comment!

NOSES TO THE PINT POT: Terry Manners enjoys yet another lager in the Press Club during a well-earned break from the chief sub’s seat … and then goes back to the office, below, to join Brian ‘Clint’ Izzard


Deux amis sur Le Continong

(Gay Paree actuellement)

ENGLISHMEN ABROAD: Well, one is a Kiwi, but you get the idea. On the left, clutching his copy of The Sunday Times, is a youthful Daily Express backbencher Dick Dismore.  

His compagnon in the crumpled sports jacket is the late, lamented New Zealander Les Diver, copy taster par excellence and an expert on painful rabbit punches to the upper arm.

The picture was taken on the banks of the River Seine in Paris some time in the 1980s. Sleeping arrangements have not been recorded. Not publicly anyway.

Also on the jolly was M Roger de Watkins who, rummaging in his drawers, selected the photograph from his private collection exclusively for the Drone.


Sir — How odd to see one’s other self on the pages of the Daily Drone, the one from a different century, who didn’t creak or drink too much — no, strike that last part, Janet.

On the other hand, how nice to see my dear old friend Les Diver, an invaluable companion on the Backbench and a great bloke on a rugby jolly.

Les and I, along with M. de Watkins, somehow (don’t ask) got hold of tickets for an England match in Paris at the old Parc des Princes stadium. A lovely place to watch rugby — if you can find your seat.

Ours were at the top of a steeply-raked stand. But which one of the sheer staircases should we take? The tickets held few clues.

We puffed our way to the top of the first one where a steward examined our tickets and said: “Non!” And waved airily towards another staircase.

We raced back down and climbed that one too, got to the top again and found our path blocked by another jobsworth who insisted we were still in the wrong place.

I won’t lie, the third staircase was testing for three blokes who’d lunched well. We got to the summit and when the steward there started his teeth-sucking routine as a prelude to the bums’ rush, we formed a ruck and cleared him out as the jargon of the game goes these days.

Not having seats, or at least any we could find, we plonked ourselves down on the concrete steps and watched from there.

Can’t remember who won but it didn’t matter. Springtime in Paris, food, wine, rugby and great company — who could ask for more?

A word to the wise, Sir. If M. de Watkins has any more grainy snaps from that trip, I should show them to that chap Cocklecarrot before putting them in your organ.

As ever,


Funny you should say that Dick ...

Former Mirror and Expressman John Clarke writes:

Without having to burden your immense readership with yet another picture of Dick Dismore I feel obliged to append the following from the February 1971 edition of Splash, the East Midland Allied Press staff newspaper. It shows Mr Dismore during his Peter Wyngarde-lookalike phase when he was working on the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph at Kettering.

Modesty almost forbids me to say that immediately above it is a portrait of myself leaving the Bury Free Press en route to the Spalding Guardian with a young Peter Caney in the background.

Peter and I eventually ended up working alongside Dick at the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. I later worked with Peter at the Mirror and Dick at the Express.

More grainy pix have fallen into my hands and will be published in due course. Bribes to prevent publication will be gratefully received — Ed


Two pics from the 80s
to jog a few memories

HAIR RAISING: Our man Williams, left, forges ahead

PUFFY BUFFY: Roger Watkins

Rare pictures of Express athletes in action have been unearthed by the Daily Drone.

They show future editor Chris Williams and backbencher Roger Watkins taking part in a race around Battersea Park in the 80s.

The pair were members of the Daily Express Athletics Club (motto: You can run but you cannot hide) competing in a charity race involving City of London companies.

Watkins recalls: ‘People shouldn’t really be surprised: you don’t get bodies like ours without honing them. Our team was captained by Bill Wheeler who, between puffs on his pipe, was a decent athlete back then.

‘I knew things wouldn’t go well when I couldn’t keep up with him in the warm-up. During the race I still had a lap to go when I heard the winner cheered across the finishing line.’

ALAN HILL writes: I turned up for the great Battersea race with Roger Watkins. Suitably attired, superbly honed and physically tuned, we approached the starting line. With confidence.

Then we saw the overhead banners, which read: Five minute milers, six minute milers. They went on and on and on, in decreasing times.

Roger and I decided that we would replicate our roles as  backbencher and Chief City Sub and adopt the roles of “sweepers”. We would run at the back to mentor and encourage any stragglers.

We finished the race, still breathing...by which time Chris Williams was probably back in Fleet Street!

Happy times!


How an Expressman came face to face with Sutcliffe in Broadmoor

FRIENDS: Maureen Flanagan and Charlie Kray


The death of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe reminded me of the time I came face to face with him, in Broadmoor.

It was early in 1985, shortly after he’d been transferred from an Isle of Wight prison, and I was visiting the Berkshire psychiatric hospital — at Reggie Kray’s suggestion — to meet his twin brother, Ronnie, for the first time.

With me was Maureen Flanagan, a former Sun Page Three model, who’d become friends with the twins, and older brother Charlie, after being employed as their mother’s hairdresser.

Ronnie always liked to make a grand entrance into the visiting hall, and we were sitting waiting for him when Flan — as she insisted on being called — leaned towards me and whispered: “Don’t look now, but the Yorkshire Ripper’s at the next table.”

I waited a few moments, then, as casually as I could, looked across the aisle. And found myself staring into Sutcliffe’s face. All these years on, it’s hard to remember how I felt, but what I’ve never forgotten are his eyes: dark, cold, expressionless.

A minute or so later, Sutcliffe’s wife, Sonia, arrived, and embraced him, like any loving wife. The next time I stole a glance they were huddled close, cheek to cheek, reading the Bible together.

When Ronnie arrived, it was clear he had seen the Ripper because he immediately changed our seating arrangements, so that he, not Flan, was  in Sutcliffe’s line of vision. Always the gentleman, Ron!

My Kray connection to the Ripper doesn’t end there. 

Five years ago, a man I’d never met rang my home. He said he’d listened to the CD of my conversations with the Krays and wondered if I’d be interested in hearing his taped conversations with a notorious killer. 

Who is it? I wanted to know. When he wouldn’t tell me, I ended the call and thought no more about it. Two days later, he called back and admitted he’d lied about his name because he wanted to be sure I was trustworthy.  

“So, what is your real name?”

“Ray Kray,” he said.

“Yeah, right,” I said. “And mine’s Donald Duck.”

Astonishingly, it turned out his name was Ray Kray. And the conversations he had on tape – many, many hours of them over several years – were with Peter Sutcliffe, in Broadmoor, and prison.

I set up meetings with ITV, who were most interested in broadcasting the tapes, but Ray felt he would be betraying Sutcliffe, who had come to consider him a genuine friend. So, the tapes have never been aired.

I wonder whether Sutcliffe’s death has changed Ray’s mind.


Author Frame looks back to the future

Yesterday’s Belfast News Letter


It was not really a deja vu moment, more a strange combination of role reversal and time travel: I was interviewed by the paper on which I began my, ahem, career. The organ in question is the Belfast News Letter where I started as a spotty, innocent 18-year-old.

The reason was to find out more about my new book Toto and Coco: Spies, Seduction and the Fight for Survival with the angle, I suppose, along the lines of ‘former News Letter hack can actually write more than a few pars’ (take in PA)

When I told the feature writer, a good chap named Graeme Cousins, that I arrived at the paper in 1964 he helpfully explained that he had not been born then. Good start young Cousins! Anyway, he let me prattle on about interviewing an eclectic bunch ranging from the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Ian Paisley and the bravest of the Northern Ireland prime ministers, Terence O’Neill, and seemed to be impressed. Looking back, so am I...

We compared the very first time our by-lines appeared on Page One and then he told me that the News Letter, one of Belfast’s two morning papers (and the oldest continually published paper in the British Isles I’ll have you know) now employs just 14 staff, I felt very depressed, not just for my old home but for the state of our industry generally. In my time there we fielded more than that number at any one time in the pub, the Duke of York, a splendid place presided over by a young barman, one Gerry Adams, who went on to other activities.

So it really was a trawl through All Our Yesterdays. And at my age, that was quite a treat.

Now I’m hoping Lord Drone will dispatch Rosalie Rambleshanks (t) to give me a thorough grilling. It would be the highlight of my career. It’s the least he should do – on Sunday when interviewed about the book I gave the  World’s Greatest Website a whopping great plug. *

*Miss Rambleshanks views this request as a problem as can be discerned from her letter to Aunt Marje, below.



Steve Bott’s World

Former Daily Star football reporter and sub STEVE BOTT has written his memoir — and you can read it only in the Daily Drone.
Start reading From Wigan to the West Indies and Beyond HERE

Part 2

Part 3




Former Mirror and Expressman John Clarke dug out this gem from 1991 to remind us all of the villainy of pensions robber Robert Maxwell who died within 10 months of writing this newsletter warning of ‘major changes'



Great pictures of Daily and Sunday Express in the 80s

The Daily Drone is now in proud possession of 148 pictures of the Daily Express taken by photographer PATRICK ROWLEY in the 1980s.

This picture shows the Daily Express Backbench, from left, Norman Cox, Hickey sub; Dougie Mann, news sub (obscured); Pat Pilton; Craig Orr; John Jinks, news desk; Ray Cave, art desk; and Terry Manners








Who’s that with Sue?

Comedian Bobby Ball, who has died, moved in the best of circles. Here he is with Sue McGibbon, wife of Robin, and Kenny Lynch. The picture was taken at the opening of a club (possibly Xanadu) in Regent Street, London in 1986

How to be sensible

You know how it is, you are having a drink with friends in  a pub garden after a round of golf and it starts raining. Silly people head indoors to the pub but former Expressman Roger Watkins just grabbed the nearest cushion and popped it on his head. 

That, chums, is how to be sensible — it is a proud Daily Express tradition.

Mr Richard Dismore, of this parish, said: 'This pic invokes the spirit of Bingo and Bertie c.1985. It recalls the Press Club jape of wearing the club’s lampshades as hats, to the displeasure of the hapless Yorkshireman who ran it. Good drill, Rog!’


Sir — What on earth’s going on at the Drone?

I refer to your incessant pandering to the narcissism of former Fleet Street executives definitely in the ‘has been’ or ‘never was’ category. 

I’ve no problem with that bearded bloke from features peddling his latest book. The story of Tonto and Coypu looks a good read. 

No, it’s the photograph of that prat with the white hair (ash blond, surely — Ed), obviously in drink, posing in a pub car park with a cushion on his head. I ask you!

Why not use this wasted space for interesting snippets from supermarkets or, better still, a nostalgic, evocative series called, say, Last Train to Adlestrop?

It’s game raising time, Mac!



Mail reporters ordered to stop knocking off early and to get some actual news in the paper


Enjoy this proper old fashioned bollocking memo emailed to the hacks on the news team at the Mail on Sunday by James Mellor, the news editor.

He laments; the lack of actual news in the paper, hacks knocking off early, hacks spending time filing their expenses rather than producing news, lack of genuine scoops… well, read it for yourself:

From: James Mellor

Date: Monday, 19 October, 2020  

The quality and quantity of stories provided by the News department this week was unacceptable and frankly embarrassing. By my count, there were just five self-generated exclusives from News in the entire paper. With a couple of exceptions, we let ourselves down. I have apologised to the Editor for our lack of contribution.

To fill the paper, we were reduced to effectively cutting and pasting stories from Mail Online. Despite the desperate need for new material, one of you found time yesterday to file an expenses claim. Others decided to head home before the gaps were filled. 

They might consider apologising to their colleagues who at least had the decency to stay and help fill the paper. The News department has been crucial in making The Mail on Sunday the biggest selling Sunday newspaper — but we failed this week and have not been firing on all cylinders for some time. This needs to change.

With immediate effect, everyone — without exception — is required to send an email detailing their stories and ideas for the week ahead to me, Ronan and Jane by 10am each Tuesday at the latest. If you have no ideas or stories to offer, you should send an email stating that — and be seriously asking yourself why. 

Expect to be chased by the desk if you haven’t sent a note or at least called and spoken to one of us. I also want at least one properly fleshed out idea for an investigation from each of you by Tuesday, October 20. I don’t want a nebulous concept, but a thoughtful, researched proposal. Again, send that to me, Ronan and Jane.

As well as genuine scoops, we need more light and shade on the News List -glamourous, quirky and consumer stories featuring famous people as well as gritty stories. Copy needs to be well-written, accurate and filed earlier to prevent a logjam on Saturday. 

If your stories aren’t making, it’s because the Editor doesn’t rate them, so you need to find ones that he does. We failed badly to meet our usual high standards this week. Let’s ensure that it does not happen again.



Expressman Frame’s book lifts lid on newspaper peer’s  intriguing wartime affair

FORMER Expressman and Drone blogger ALAN FRAME has a cracking new book out which should be high on the reading lists of all old Fleet Street hands.

Toto & Coco: Spies, Seduction and the Fight for Survival tells the remarkable true story of one of the greatest, unknown (until now) heroines of World War 2, the Vogue model Toto Koopman and her one-time friend Coco Chanel. 

Frame told the Drone: "Toto, lover of Lord Beaverbrook AND his son Max Aitken (whoops!), became a British spy, fighting with the Italian Resistance, until she was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. 

"Chanel on the other hand became Nazi Agent Westminster. It was no camp for her, she stayed in the luxury of the Paris Ritz throughout the war, living with her Gestapo lover."

The book is available from Amazon or in the usual bookshops as a paperback, Kindle or Audio (Audio will be online from mid November.)

Frame added: "If you buy it through Amazon and like it, maybe you would be kind enough to write a review on Amazon (the usual fiver in the post!)

"I’ve been lucky enough to have had the help of the Aitken (Beaverbrook) family for this labour of love."

Toto & Coco: Spies, Seduction and the Fight for Survival is published on Saturday, October 24 by Kelvin House. 



The Daily Mail’s review of the book covered three pages __________

Hitch makes his crisps last as he flouts mask rules

COME OUT, WE KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE: Peter HItchens makes a point by wearing a wartime gas mask


After making a big song and dance about face coverings this summer, photographing himself multiple times in full WW2 gas mask get-up, it seems Peter Hitchens has settled on a new plan to flout the requirement to wear a face mask on public transport. 

On the train from London to Oxford this week, Hitchens ignored the many announcements and signs asking him to consider fellow passengers and wear a mask – instead getting himself a cup of tea and a packet of crisps so that he could remain maskless in order to consume them. 

He then proceeded to make the solitary packet of crisps last the entire journey, nibbling away at a rate of one crisp per 1.8 minutes. 

So if any starving schoolkids are looking for advice on how to make a meal out of not very much… 






SOMEONE LOVES US: Ben Macintyre has written an excellent piece in The Times on the role of the oft-criticised sub-editor. The headline, of course, has been written by a sub. We think it needs a larger audience outside the paywall. Lord Drone is paying.



Expressman Laws has another book out

YOU can’t keep a good man down, and Expressman David Laws is no exception.

Furloughed from his Sunday Express subbing shift, he has written another thriller, The Fuhrer’s Orphans.

The synopsis reads:

A ragged group of fugitive children are hiding out in a city wilderness in fear of their lives from Gestapo round-ups.

It’s 1940 and their parents have been taken to the concentration camps, but the children have managed to slip away and are sheltering – hungry and desperate – in a disused industrial site in Munich.

Two strangers come together to attempt Mission Impossible; bringing them all out of Germany in the midst of war.

One is a young teacher in the city, the other a British commando with orders to destroy an installation next to the children’s hiding place. He has to decide: follow orders or save the children.

The book is available as a 99p ebook from Amazon (free if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited) and as an £8.99 paperback.

Order from Amazon

Video trailer

Davids website


Rosalie Rambleshanks (t)
Polyhymnia, Muse of Eloquence: Charles Meynier

Social distancing, my arse. If I’d known it was going to be this bad I’d never have signed up for Strictly


By Kelvin MacKenzie as he clears the decks in bid to become BBC chairman (no sniggering at the back there)

OUR chum Kelvin MacKenzie has seen his chance for renewed fame after fellow journalist Charles Moore withdrew from the race to become BBC chairman.

Perhaps sensing that his notoriety may count against him, Kelvin has cleared the air by explaining why Rupert Murdoch sacked him from his Sun column and why he likened footballer Ross Barkley to a gorilla.

Laying out his stall, Kelvin said: ‘I will make the BBC great again by cleaning out all the Lefty and Wokey types.’

Kelvin Tweeted: Although tipped as the next BBC Chairman there are 4 reasons George Osborne  won't get it. 

1) He wouldn't get out of bed for the £160K pay. 

2) Boris wouldn't pick an ardent Remoaner like him.

3) His only media link was as a hopeless editor of the Evening Standard.

4) The job is mine.

Crikey! Lord Drone wishes Mr MacKenzie the best of luck in his mischievous bid for the BBC chair. He’s going to need it.


The following message has been passed to Lord Drone:

Rebecca Ryan, solicitor with Novum Law, is working on a potential claim for Mrs Downing on behalf of Mr John Downing. Rebecca is  trying to contact people who worked either with John or in the same building to ask a few questions about the building layout and details about John's work.  

She's on Direct Dial: 03330 102268/0117 338 2268. Mobile: 07557 273124; email: rryan@novumlaw.com .


Our trainee Rosalie joins the Gong Showin awards bonanza

Daily Drone trainee Rosalie Rambleshanks has been nominated for two prestigious journalism gongs.

The 22-year-old reporter has been shortlisted as Young Digital Journalist of the Year and as a One To Watch in the Emerging Talent category of the PressGazette British Journalism Awards 2020.

Rosalie has been a temporary intern in the Drone’s head office for a year. A former pupil of Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton, she graduated with a 2:2 in Media Studies from De Montfort University, Leicester and is the eldest daughter of motor dealer principal Reggie Rambleshanks and his wife, Lavinia, a British Wheel of Yoga teacher, from West Byfleet.

A spokesman for Lord Drone said: ‘So...we are delighted to hear that, er, Rosemary Rumplesheets (trainee) is in line for these awards. She is a credit to herself, the Daily Drone family and journalism itself.’

Rosalie said: ‘So...it’s been an emotional rollercoaster of a year. To be honest, I have only just got used to being mistaken for a crossdressing ceramicist in the street.

‘Although I could never presume to emulate the quality of past Drone series such as the haunting and iconic Last Train to Adlestrop, I am proud to have launched Art Attack and the popular Ask Gipsy Rosalie/Aunt Marge advice columns.’

Media commentator Alan Frame, a former Daily Express Executive Editor, said: ‘So...this is richly deserved. Rosalie has the knack, like all great columnists, of talking directly to the reader. It’s almost as if you know her.’

An awards spokesman said: ‘So...it is most unusual for a trainee to be nominated for any of these awards.’

The winners will be announced at a Virtual Ceremony on December 9.

Who’s written this shite? I’ll believe this when I see it — Ed


History in Moments

May 11, 1941: So...this is a scary moment during the Blitz when the whole wall of an office block collapsed spectacularly. The fantastic picture was taken by PC Fred Tibbs, of the City of London Police, the morning after another German bombing raid had weakened the building. 

Curiously, there is a dispute which address in Queen Victoria Street (not far from the Black Lubyanka) was affected. The Salvation Army claimed it was its HQ at No.101 (surely they wouldn’t fib); the fire brigade said it was 23 (surely they would know); a third report said it was No.147 (who knows?)

However, the nightmare of the Blitz, designed to bully the Home Front into surrender, had ended. Not before 3,000 people had been killed on the worst day since the terror campaign began the previous September. They were added to the terrible toll, not just in the capital but in other strategically important British cities, too.

A total of 32,000 were killed and 87,000 seriously injured. Two million properties (60 per cent of them in London) were destroyed. Yet the civilian population’s defiance forced Hitler to re-think: he moved his heavy bombers to the eastern front in preparation for the invasion of Russia.

Britain’s refusal to surrender during the Blitz, whatever the cost, proved a turning point. In a speech to the Canadian Parliament at the end of 1941 Winston Churchill referred to a sneering remark made by the collaborist Vichy government in France about our chances of surviving alone.

He said: ‘Their generals told their prime minister and his divided cabinet that in three weeks England would have her neck wrung like a chicken.

‘Some chicken. Some neck!’

R.R (t)


Don’t talk to me about
A series in which we talk about things
you’d prefer not to talk about, actually

No1: The Hogarth Roundabout

By IZZY K. BRUNEL-SHANKS Motoring Correspondent

This major traffic fuck-up has been bedevilling motorists in West London since the growth of the motor car after the last war.

Named after the painter William Hogarth, who lived nearby, it is at the junction of the A316 Great Chertsey Road, carrying traffic from the M3 and the A4 Great West Road in Chiswick.

There is usually ample opportunity for drivers to admire the façade of the Griffin Brewery of Fuller, Smith and Turner on the roundabout.

It is notable for its single lane flyover (see picture)(sic) built as a temporary measure  in 1971 to carry eastbound traffic. The hastily-assembled structure was intended to be part of the London Ringways project, eventually abandoned after years of wrangling. A recent major refurbishment has made it safe for the future (allegedly).

Picture research: Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

Editor’s note: Jam tarts, which were traditionally consumed at tea time on the Daily Express news subs desk in the 1970s and 80s, were known as Hogarths because they were filled with … well you get the idea. Not a lot of people know this.



Get safely pissed with our wonderful Merlot Mask,
it’s approved by doctors!

Worried about the safety of your Corona crisis tincture? Stay calm with Merlot Mask, another brainwave from the House of Drone to make YOUR life easier. 
As used by the medical profession — Bottoms up!

“It’s a lifesaver. Thanks so much, Lord Drone” — T Manners (Scunthorpe)

Get yours for a snortingly good price. Send a signed open cheque to the normal address.


Whatever happened to silver serpents in Daily Express foyer?

THE foyer of the Daily Express building was one of the wonders of London’s Fleet Street.

It is so important that it is the only part of the old building that still exists.

But a mystery surrounds the entrance hall: What happened to the art deco silver serpent balustrades that adorned the steps to the lifts?

The ones currently in the foyer are replicas which the developers had to make because the new owners said the serpents were 'lost’. That seems unlikely.

Very little is documented on the serpents but their value was huge. Has one of the chairmen got them in his hallway or in the basement? It all seems to be shrouded in silence.

Can anyone throw light on this mystery?

The much-admired entrance hall is a Grade II* listed building designed in 1932 by Robert Atkinson and is one of the most prominent examples of art deco/streamline moderne architecture in London.

The foyer is normally only accessible to employees of the building and invited guests.

A Daily Express reunion was held in the foyer in 2008, organised by the late Norman Luck.


Brilliant, yes ... but was Sir Harold Evans really 
the greatest editor ever?

Drone Media Commentator

We all acknowledge the brilliance of campaigning editor Sir Harold Evans who has just died aged 92. He was an extraordinarily talented journalist; certainly one of the best of the last 50 years.

But some excitable obituarists have scrambled to proclaim him The Greatest Editor Of All Time. Really? May I, in all humility, demur?

Evans made his name as the editor of a regional morning newspaper and was trail-blazing editor of the Sunday Times for 14 years (although people tend to forget that he was the shortest serving of the 23 editors of The Times).

Of course, he then went on to be a respected media guru both here and in the States. But the greatest?

We’re to forget the likes of Ben Bradlee, are we? Or a list of other valid candidates, four of whom I have worked with but won’t name?

Bow the knee to Sir Harold by all means. But, surely, the ultimate accolade must still belong to Arthur Christiansen who, for an astonishing 24 years, inspired the World’s Greatest Newspaper when it was the world’s greatest newspaper. And he was the greatest editor.

Additional research by Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee).


Farewell to Jimmy, great sub-editor and one of the good guys

LAST DAYS OF FLEET STREET: Jimmy working his Saturday evening shift on the Sunday Express, 1989 Picture: KEITH MARTIN

The Drone is saddened to announce the death of former Daily and Sunday Express sub-editor James ‘Jimmy' Humphrey. He was 73.

Jimmy, who had been ill for some time, died in an air ambulance in France on Monday night following a heart attack.

He had lived in the Dordogne village of Corgnac-sur-L’Isle for many years with his partner Leigh Andrews.

This picture of Jimmy, looking uncharacteristically grim, was taken from the TV last year when he appeared on BBC Breakfast discussing Brexit.

He said he was worried about continuing to receive free health care after undergoing three recent operations in France.

Lord Drone said last night: ‘Jim was a lovely man with a ready smile and winning giggle despite travelling regularly by the dreaded RyanAir from France for his regular Saturday shift.

‘He was one of the subbing greats and will be greatly missed.’

His friend and colleague Keith Martin said: 'Jimmy first moved to Fleet Street in his early twenties from the Coventry Evening Telegraph, joining the news subs on the Evening Standard, then based in Shoe Lane, in about 1973. 

'He quickly excelled in his favourite role of copy taster and later deputising as foreign editor.

'A heart condition prompted his early retirement from the Standard in the late 90s, where he had worked for more than 25 years, and he moved from Brighton to the Dordogne region of south-west France, a country he loved. 

'He carried on working as a staff casual at the Daily and Sunday Express, where he had done a regular Saturday shift for several years, changing his day a week to a week a month, commuting from France. He eventually retired five or six years ago.

'While living in Brighton, Jimmy served time as a Conservative councillor, but fell out with his fellow Tories over rail privatisation, leaving the party and, eventually, the council.

'In 2013 Jimmy married his long-term partner Leigh Andrews, shortly after same-sex marriages were legalised in France.

'A seasoned raconteur, full of stories about many of the larger-than-life characters he had worked with during his many years in Fleet Street, he will be greatly missed by all who knew him and by those who had the privilege of working with him.


Guttersnipe's Dick pens another novel

Another day, another book written by one of the big names of old Fleet Street.

This time the author is Dick Durham, pictured, who worked as a staff reporter on the Daily Star from 1980-1998 and as a casual on The Sun, Daily Mail, and Daily Mirror prior to that.

Dick told the Drone: 'On The Daily Star I covered the Seoul Olympics; Brixton Riots and Prince Charles and Diana's wedding among other stories, which are all mentioned in my memoir, Guttersnipe, A Tabloid Hack's Memoir of Fleet Street,which was aired in your august organ thanks to Mike Hellicar.'

Dick’s second novel, Dead Reckoning, is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle ebook.

Here’s the synopsis:

Duff Bundock tries to rebuild his fractured marriage with a sea voyage aboard his sailing boat. When his wife, Connie, is thrown overboard, as the boat loses control, the affair which caused their rift in the first place comes back to haunt the skipper. 

Was the accident really an accident? If it was an accident was it one which presented an opportunity for a new life? Is Duff convincing himself it was an accident in order to return to his mistress?

The book, written in the first person, is in two parts, the first from Duff’s point of view, the second from Connie’s. The pair explore faith, sexuality, marriage, and infidelity, discovering vice in the first three and virtue in the last.


One snapper and his dog Flossie record 
a town in lockdown

Award-winning photographer Bob Aylott has his two-year-old Cockerpoo, Flossie, to thank for helping him create a book about his home town during last Spring’s national lockdown.

Bob, who worked for the Daily Sketch, Mail and Star, in an illustrious 40-year Fleet Street career, used Flossie as a decoy to fool residents in Fareham, Hants, that he was  taking allowable daily exercise — not shooting thousands of photographs of the deserted town centre and neighbouring areas.

“I certainly couldn’t have got away with it without her,” Bob, 71, told the Drone. “We’d walk up to six miles a day and nobody took any notice. I was just this old pensioner getting his exercise. Flossie would warn me of people approaching, even before I saw them. And she seemed to sense when I wanted to capture a scene because she’d lay down, as though she was tired.”

Bob would have published his book months ago, had he not contracted Covid 19 and been kept in hospital for five weeks. Fortunately he’d taken more than 10,000 photographs before the virus struck. 

In 1968, Aylott won the News Picture of the Year award for his photo of a police officer being kicked in the face by an anti-Vietnam War protester, outside the U.S Embassy, in Mayfair. 

Lockdown Town, by Bob Aylott, with his dog, Flossie – Foreword by Fareham MP and Attorney General Suella Braverman QC – is published by Fareham Life in two editions: high quality hardcover and e-book


Ludgate Circus on a foggy night in November, 1922



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Picture research by R.R.(t)

FUDGE: This stereo plate was used for breaking news

Q. Was The Fudge a piece of confectionery provided by the management to keep the late sub awake? 

A. Sweet thought but No. The fudge is jargon for the more confusingly named Stop Press, a device by which a newspaper is able to print late news on the run without, er, stopping the press. On the Express, where it was used until the newspaper went tabloid in1977, it usually consisted of a very short short “printed” on a mini stereo plate (See picture. Rosalie, ahem, this is a fudge from the Evening Standard — Ed) which was inserted in a gap in the full-size Page 1 plate (do try to keep up!).

It was considered a bit of a sin to run with an empty Late News slot even though it was often completely inconsequential, and it was one of the duties of the Late Sub to fill the voracious maw that was the fudge box. 

Trying-to-be-helpful printers were also forever using (and, tiresomely, re-using) any old fudge plate they could find littering the stereo room floor regardless of how old it was.

Thus, a veteran Express hand recalls seeing the classic, all-purpose:

Forty killed as bus plunges into ravine near Lima, Peru on at least three occasions. 

Late Sub was not a popular shift. Downtable subs and the Express editorial management, although they didn’t appreciate it, were lucky that the paper’s fortunes in the hours after drinks had been taken were in the hands of the calm, gentlemanly, multi-skilled Bob Haylett for many years.

The shift ran from 9pm until 4am (no break) and could easily lull anyone into a sense of false security. Most of the time, of course, it was fairly quiet. Just the odd Lima Ravine Plunge. But after the Back Bench had buggered off for beer and bagels, all hell could be let loose. 

It is said that one stand-in Late Sub blames the first silver hairs in his thatch on one incident in the rapidly changing  Toxteth riots of July, 1981 at 2.15 on a Monday morning when he was very much alone. 

Simultaneously trying to copy-taste, redraw Page 1, sub a new splash, write a new head and stone it in while copy tasting another new splash (Cops Fire CS Gas For First Time On British Mainland) certainly kept him awake.

Alternatively, one could always while away the time by composing fantasy fudges for major historical events such as:

Gravity discovered as apple falls on boffin near Grantham, Lincs

Doomed monarch fails in bid to swap kingdom for horse at Bosworth near Leicester

Star-crossed lovers die in suicide pact after family feud in Verona, Italy

One-armed, one-eyed admiral killed as Navy routs French in battle off Cadiz, Spain

Next in Media Hits and Myths: Is it possible to grow your own rough ends of green pineapples in the UK climate and will Rosalie Rambleshanks ever graduate from being a trainee?

LATE SUB: Bob Haylett, left, on his normal Back Bench perch

Year the Express changed its title piece three times in as many days (well, there was a General Strike on)

May 8, 1926: An elegant light serif

May 11, 1926: Bold sans caps

May 13, 1926: Traditional Gothic

The General Strike lasted nine days, from 4 to 12 May, 1926. It was called by the TUC in an unsuccessful attempt to force the Government to act to prevent wage reductions and worsening conditions for 1.2 million locked-out coal miners. 

Some 1.7 million workers walked out, especially in transport and heavy industry and the printers joined them, reducing newspapers to single news sheets. 

The government was prepared, and enlisted middle class volunteers to maintain essential services. There was little violence and the TUC gave up in defeat.


Last night in Fleet Street on the Daily Express backbench

FINAL EDITION: The year is 1989 and Daily Express night editor Terry Manners speaks on the backbench telephone during the paper's last night at its iconic offices in Fleet Street, London. Also pictured are art supremo Tim Holder and backbencher Dick Dismore. The circulation manager is in the background.

This picture, along with six others, have been unearthed by former night news editor Terry Chinery.




8 Daily Express, September 24, 1938



CARLIN                                   PARRY

So … spooky or what? Not Mike Parry, although, to be honest, he can be a bit scary. No, I mean his resemblance to fellow journalist John Carlin. 

Both are in their mid-sixties, went to good schools and are university educated. 

Carlin, born to a Scottish father and Spanish mother, started in journalism on the Buenos Aires Herald writing about football, politics and film. He has enjoyed a successful career writing in both English and Spanish and has won many awards. 

He is best known for his work on The Times, Sunday Times, the Independent and the Toronto Star as well as broadcasting for, alphabetically, ABC, BBC and CBC. A book he wrote on Nelson Mandela formed the basis of the well received 2009 film Invictus.

Parry, more correctly Michael Alan Newton-Parry, is, by comparison, more of a journalistic grunt, although he enjoyed a respectable career in Fleet Street notably as an industrious news editor on the World’s Greatest Newspaper. 

For a time he was press officer for the Football Association and went on to make a name for himself on talkRADIO and, later, talkSPORT, forming amusing double acts with the likes of Alan Brazil and another former Express exec, Mike Graham. 

Indeed, he and Graham even toured the halls with their live Two Mikes show but later fell out and went their separate ways. Parry had serious health problems in 2004 but fought back admirably and resumed his radio and TV work. He left talkSPORT a year ago and now inhabits somewhere he calls Planet Porky. Nuff said. 
R.R. (t)


Express and Mirror subs ordered to work an extra night for no pay increase 

STAFF at Express and Mirror newspapers have been outraged by an order to work an extra night each fortnight for no increase in pay.

Sub-editors and other production workers have also been offerred the ‘opportunity’ to continue working from home. 

Express subs are already on a nine-night fortnight, but now the title's middle-benchers, who have been on four nights until now, have been asked to work the extra day. There will be no increase in hours actually worked.

Mirror subs have not been working the nine-night fortnight but are being told to now. Understandably there have been objections.  

These were answered by Lloyd Embley, editor-in-chief, who reportedly told a meeting that parent company Reach had just made extensive redundancies on the regional titles so those sacked workers would be willing to work on the national titles. But he said he did not want to do that.

This threat could reasonably be interpreted that the company is willing to draft in cheaper labour to replace experienced national newspaper journalists.


The mad world of Andy ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Carson

HERE’S a picture that sums up the fun of the national press in its heyday.

The print was found among the memorabilia at art genius Vic Giles’s flat in the Barbican, London, by his son-in-law Expressman Stephen Wood.

Dated October 1981, it is an intriguing snap from Vic’s time at the Daily Star in Manchester.

We can’t fill in all the spaces but pictured, from left, are: Bob Coole; unidentified; Jeff McGowan, Daily Star news editor; unidentified; Vic Giles and Ray Mills. Grovelling on the floor is Andy Carson. 

The caption on the back in Ray Mills’s handwriting reads: “Andy ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Carson in typical pose.”

Can anyone throw any light on the mystery men?



TWO elderly gents rest their weary bones by the riverside in Lincoln. Discerning folk may recognise them as former Expressmen Roger Watkins, left, and Terry Manners.

It was, we suspect a social visit, not that you would deduce that from the caption supplied by Mr Watkins: 'Former Express hacks during rehearsals in Lincoln for a socially-distanced production of Waiting for Godot (“Dire: do not bother” — Q Letts, Sunday Times) and, below, in their back bench days.'

Mr Manners put it differently: 'Observing social distancing with my grandad in Lincoln today.'


Massed ranks of Fleet Street’s finest, 1997

FORMER Daily Express photographer TOM STODDART posted this picture on Twitter to celebrate World Photography Day. It shows Fleet Street's photographers in action as newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives in Downing Street on 2nd May, 1997 after winning the General Election.

Rupert keeps it up

It's rare we feel much sympathy for any of the Murdoch family, but we had a slight pang of it in 2016 when we heard this story, remembers POPBITCH.

Wanting to check that her dear old dad was keeping fit, one of Rupert Murdoch's daughters bought him one of those wristbands that track your activity. 

She started wearing one too so that the pair of them could check each other's activity for the day – to keep each other motivated to stay healthy.

The daughter eventually decided to turn off the sharing function when Rupes got himself a new girlfriend though as she kept being reminded, at around 9pm each night, that his 'activity' would shoot right up*.

*Fnaar, fnaar — Ed



HAVE you worked it out yet? Yes chums it’s Mike Graham, formerly of this parish and now a celebrated radio broadcaster.

This picture was taken in New York in the 1980s where Mike ran a news agency.

He later joined the Daily Express where he rose through the ranks from reporter to assistant editor. After a spell as editor of the Scottish Daily Mirror he moved into radio in 2006.

Mike now hosts the mid-morning weekday show on TalkRADIO, taking over at 10am from his former Express colleague Julia Hartley-Brewer, who helped him celebrate his 60th birthday, below.




Daredevil Tom, forgotten hero of the Daily Express 

The extraordinary wartime exploits of Expressman Tom Dobney can be told today.

Tom became the youngest airman in the RAF when he lied about his age and signed up at the age of 14.

Thirty years later, when Sunday Express editor John Junor heard of the young pilot’s derring-do, he instructed his reporters to scour the country to track Tom down.

The investigators drew a blank … but in an amazing twist of events it turned out that the answer to their quest was on their doorstep.


History in Moments

1953: So … stop sniggering at the back there, you down-table subs. We’re about to embrace a serious topic, a first for the Daily Drone: lesbians. 

This rather sweet picture of some pretty girls dancing and drinking was taken at the Gateways Club, a haunt for ladies who batted for the other side in a dingy, windowless cellar-like room in Bramerton Street just off the Kings Road, Chelsea. 

The club, founded in the Thirties, flourished in the war and quickly became notorious for its edgy clientele. It even had a Green Door, said to have inspired the hit song of that name recorded by Frankie Vaughan and, later, Shakin’ Stevens. 

The club really became famous when it was the location for scenes, involving regulars as extras, for the 1968 film The Killing of Sister George, starring Beryl Reid, a youthful Susannah York and a sexy crop-haired Coral Browne. 

It was one of the first to explore lesbianism which, although never illegal like male homosexuality (it is said that Queen Victoria never believed it could happen and declined to sign off the proposed legislation), certainly was confined to the shadows of British life.

Gateways limped on until complaints about its loud music led to its closure in 1985. It was run for many years by Ted Ware, said to have won it in a poker game, and his Italian wife, Gina. They were joined (and I’m not making this up) by a woman, demobbed from the American Air Force, called Smithy.

The Drone’s resident former Express hack, Proddie, says she reminds him of the cast list of the celebrated BBC radio series Round the Horne which included, memorably: ‘burly, moustachioed former bomber pilot Betty Marsden’. Atta girl!

R.R. (t)

Shamefully omitted from the BBC documentary, Kelvin gives his side of Rupert Murdoch story

FORMER Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has come out fighting in defence of Rupert Murdoch following an extraordinary TV snub.

Inexplicably left out of the BBC’s three-part documentary on his old boss, he has written a brilliant article for The Spectator about his experiences working for Murdoch.

And, as you would expect, he has not held back, accusing the programme makers of peddling one-sided bile.

There's more ... Craig MacKenzie revealed yesterday that his brother is writing a book entitled Murdoch and Me and Other Madmen. 

"A movie is in the works — it’s going to get messy,” says Craig.

You have been warned.

Beat the paywall and read Kelvin’s Spectator article free of charge on the Drone. You’re welcome.

The real Rupert Murdoch



BEGUM                                    LOREN

So … OK, it’s a bit of a stretch but, come on, they do look alike, don’t they? One is the doyenne (o dovrei dire la decana?) of Italian cinema; the other a rather pathetic wannabe terrorist. 

Sophia Loren, nee Sofia Villani Scicolone, is pushing 86 now but is still a celebrated beauty, famous for her sultry roles in well regarded films: she won an Oscar for the iconic De Sica movie, Two Women.

This dramatic still is from The Black Orchid, currently in the Talking Pictures TV portfolio. Her love life was a bit tangled. After a notorious affair with Cary Grant she ‘married’ the director Carlo Ponti, 21 years her senior. Trouble was he hadn’t actually divorced his first wife. So he and Loren had to go through a rather messy annulment to avoid bigamy charges. They did eventually marry and, in classic romantic style, lived happily ever after.

There hasn’t been much happiness in Shamima Begum’s short life. Now 21, she fled the UK at 15 and became an Isis bride in various Syrian hellholes. She had three children all, tragically, now dead. She was back in the news this months when the Court of Appeal ruled that she should be allowed back here to appeal against being stripped of UK citizenship. This decision, too, is the subject of an appeal.

However it all turns out, you may be sure that her life will never be as fulfilled and satisfying as her illustrious lookalike.

R.R (t)

History in Moments


February 5, 1953: So...what are these little reprobates up to? Stuffing their faces with sugarlicious sweets: don’t they know it’s bad for their teeth? 

Actually, by the look of  'em this trio is too young to be used to sucking gobstoppers, sherbet lemons, liquorice comfits, dolly mixtures (Get on with it: we get the message — Ed) because for all their lives they had been rationed. 

But today wartime rationing on sweets has ended after 11 years so it’s a feeding frenzy. Toffee apples were the big sellers today along with nougat and liquorice strips. 

One London firm gave 800 kids 150lb of lollipops; another doled out sweets to allcomers. Even adults joined in with many men taking a box of choccies home for their wives, most for the first time. 

An attempt to de-ration sweets in 1949 failed because demand far exceeded supply and rationing was reimposed after just four months. But this time all went well and the sugar rush led to a £250 million boost to the confectionery industry in one year (today the UK spends £5billion annually).

Curiously, rationing of sugar itself continued for another seven months. Old Proddie, the former Express hack who hangs around the Drone newsroom (and, increasingly, over me as I type, I might add) recalls, as a tiny tot, being placed in a ration queue by his mother to keep her place while she did other shopping. Common practice, apparently. 

I asked Granny Rambleshanks if she ever did this. ‘No, dear,’ she said, we had maids for that sort of thing.’ Oh, Granny, those were the days! La dolce vita, indeed.

R.R. (t)


Guardian sacks cartoonist Steve amid allegations of racism and anti-semitism

CARTOONIST Steve Bell is to leave the Guardian next April after the paper confirmed his contract will not be renewed. 

Bell has caused significant controversy for the Grauniad, notably depicting Benjamin Netanyahu as a puppet master of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, and depicting Labour’s antisemitism crisis as a witch hunt. 

Many people view him as the Guardian’s most talented cartoonist but he was widely accused of racism after depicting Priti Patel, below, as a bull. 

The British Tamil Conservatives protested: “It’s anti-Hindu. It portrays the Home Secretary, of Hindu origin, as a cow. A sacred symbol for Hindus. It’s racist and misogynist. It’s plainly unacceptable. It may constitute a hate crime.”

Guardian editor Kath Viner announced that the paper was axing 180 jobs last week. But the decision not to renew Bell’s contract is said to be unrelated to the latest round of redundancies.

Bell first joined the Guardian in 1981 and he has frequently sparked controversy with his caricatures.

A cartoon showing the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as a puppeteer controlling British political leaders William Hague and Tony Blair, was criticised by the Community Security Trust’s Dave Rich as comparable to those featuring  in Nazi publications, the Jewish Chronicle reported last night.

Last July, Bell attacked his editors' refusal to run a cartoon featuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, suggesting it is due to "some mysterious editorial line" about antisemitism.

In the drawing, pictured below, Watson was  depicted as an "antisemite finder general" for being critical of Jew-hate in the party, said the JC.

He was shown to be  encountering the Israeli PM and calling him an "antisemitic trope".

Mr Netanyahu was playing with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson puppets and Mr Watson apologised, saying, "I thought you were members of the Labour Party”.

I’m stunned, says Steve Bell

An Expressman writes ...

From The Times, July 13



Big Gunn who ruled the old Daily Sketch

IT can be a tough job editing a national newspaper and very few succeed at the job. Ask anyone who worked on the Daily Express for more than a few months.

An exception is Bert Gunn, who edited the Daily Sketch from 1953 to 1959 during which time he doubled the paper’s circulation.

Gunn, who died in 1962 aged 58, started as a reporter for the Kent Messenger before moving to the Straits Times in Singapore. 

He returned to the UK to work at the Manchester Evening News, then the London Evening News and the Evening Standard. He had two sons: Thom Gunn, later a poet, and Ander Gunn, who became a photographer.

In 1936, Gunn became the first northern editor of the Daily Express, then in 1943 became managing editor. He wrote the headline "It's That Man Again", referring to Hitler, which later became the title of a popular radio show.

Gunn was appointed editor of the Evening Standard in 1944 but Lord Beaverbrook disagreed with his plans to adopt a more populist approach and he left in 1952. 

In 1959 Gunn left the Sketch to edit the Sunday Dispatch but this was merged with the Sunday Express in 1961. He resigned from Associated Newspapers in 1962.

The Daily Sketch survived until 1971 when it was merged with the Daily Mail.

Scroll down this page for more on the Sketch.


Would this Daily Express advert from 1987 tempt you to buy the paper?*

*Another in our series of headlines to which the answer is No. (But at least the ad must have been cheap to produce)

A virtual first for the Tuesday gang

THWARTED by their bid to meet again following the Covid crisis, the Daily Express First Tuesday Club held a virtual meeting on Zoom yesterday.

 Members had hoped to gather in The George in Fleet Street for the first time since lockdown, but their plans were wrecked by the fact that the pub was still closed. 

Pictured above are David and Lamar Eliades,  Tony Sapiano, Bill Orchard, Gill Martin and Jim Watson, Frank Thorne’s pic vanished into the ether.

Also joining in were Tom Brown in Scotland and Chris White in Belgium.

Wartime cartoon which spoke a thousand words

This Punch cartoon by Leslie Illingworth is regarded as one of the most famous of the Second World War. 

Entitled The Combat, it features an evil-looking Nazi wearing a gas mask and wings threatening an RAF fighter plane bearing the slogan Freedom.

Drawn in 1940 the cartoon prompted hundreds of heartfelt letters from readers of the magazine.

Illingworth, who died in 1979 aged 77, was chief cartoonist of Punch and also found fame with the Daily Mail.



HARD AT WORK: Bertie Brooks is in the foreground with the late Simon Crookshank behind him. Also pictured, standing from left, are Elaine Canham, Mike Graham, Chris Williams, editor Richard Addis and Wendy Fuller. Terry Evans, who is also no longer with us, can be seen in the background speaking on the picture desk phone                Picture: Getty

HONESTLY, the things one finds on the internet. While idly scrolling through Getty Images the Drone’s team of researchers  discovered this pic of the Daily Express Blackfriars newsroom the day after the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

And there in the foreground is a rare study of champion sloper John ‘Bertie’ Brooks at his workstation for once. 

Bertie, who died in 2005, was one of the great Fleet Street characters and a dear friend to many of us. The way he struggled to work while crippled with multiple sclerosis was an inspiration.

Another view of the newsroom is below with sub-editor Roy Povey in the foreground. 

MIDDLE MEN: Roy Povey, centre, and behind him on the middle bench are Rod Jones, Dave Morgan and Keith Ging


Solemn moment Daily Sketch staff learned the paper was folding

The faces are gloomy and not without reason — this historic picture was taken in 1971 as acting editor Lou Kirby told the staff of the Daily Sketch that the paper was closing.

Many of the staff found other jobs, including Kirby and Sketch editor David English who switched to their sister paper the Daily Mail. English became editor and Kirby deputy.

The only people we can identify in this picture are Alan Frame, rear centre, and Jon Zackon, far left, looking into the centre of the room. The proximity of the man in the white coat, who we think is a librarian, is purely incidental.

ALAN FRAME comments: "What a delight to see the picture of the Sketch staff hearing the news of its (and their) demise. And well spotted! It is Your Humble Servant posing languidly in the centre, probably because my great mentor David English had already told me I was to join him on the Mail. 

"In front of me is Harvey Mann who became picture editor of the Mail on Sunday's You magazine and to my immediate left is my brilliant pal Richard Shears, long-time Mail man in Sydney. Next to him is Jack Davies the night editor who I think retired. The chap with the Col Blimp moustache towards the front is Geoffrey someone-or-other who was a star snapper.

"Fashion Note: Didn’t we all look smart in our Burton suits and polyester ties?”

JIM DAVIES: "It was indeed a sad day — though I had left nine years earlier at the beginning of the Sixties and was already on the Express. I had two very happy years  there though and many talented colleagues were just thrown onto the street. The moustachioed snapper Alan mentioned was Geoff White.”


Gad Sir! How Low hit heights with his pompous Col Blimp  

DAVID LOW was one of the most famous cartoonists of the 20th century and his greatest creation was Colonel Blimp who first appeared in the London Evening Standard in 1934.

Blimp, pictured here in the deckchair, was a pompous, irascible, jingoistic, and stereotypically British character, identifiable by his walrus moustache and the interjection "Gad, Sir!"

Low developed the character after overhearing two military men in a Turkish bath declare that cavalry officers should be entitled to wear their spurs inside tanks. The character was named after the barrage balloon, which was known as a blimp.

While working for the Standard, Low earned fame for his merciless satirising of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin which led to his work being banned in Germany and Italy.

Born in New Zealand in 1891, he emigrated to London in 1919 after his work attracted the attention of Henry Cadbury, owner of The Star newspaper.

The Star sympathised with Low's moderately left-wing views but in 1927 he accepted an invitation from Lord Beaverbrook to join the conservative Evening Standard on the strict understanding that there would be no editorial interference with his output. 

There he produced his most famous work, chronicling the rise of fascism in the 1930s, the policy of Appeasement, and the conflict of World War II. 

Low was knighted in 1962 and died at his London home the following year aged 72.



My lament for iconic
Weekly News as it folds after 165 years

Sir — I think this may have slipped the radar in the midst of all the hullabaloo in the UK and worldwide but this was certainly an iconic and extremely sad occasion for many. 

Personally, I was absolutely devastated to hear that The Weekly News has closed after 165 years. The last edition (No. 8,600) went out on 30 May. I know for a fact that several former staff members of Express Newspapers (some quite famous) began their careers on the WM and will mourn the passing as much as I do.

I was 17 when I began work in the Chapel Street, Salford offices (now no more) and even after five decades miss it dreadfully. I was tutored by two legends of sporting journalism, Len Noad and Jimmy Arthur who must have helped hundreds of young journalists attempting to get on in the business. Len was what we know as 'a good operator' and first spotted the teenage Lee Sharpe and suggested to Alex Ferguson that he should sign him, which he did. 

As I remember it, the pay was £7 a week which somehow went a long way. Luxury! The difficulty, as on every other weekly, was finding a unique story and keeping it away from the dailies and nationals until Wednesday when it went to Press. 

I wrote a weekly column titled See Them on TV this Weekend which more or less speaks for itself. Most of the interviews were with wrestlers who all turned out to be the most charming of men and that included the so-called 'villains’. 

Like the Economist all writers on The Weekly News were anonymous. My moniker was Goggle Box. The most difficult interviewees, believe it or not, were cricketers who invariably expected a fee. 

As DC Thomson were based in Dundee this was a no brainer so the likes of Sir Geoffrey Boycott and the South African opener Eddie Barlow went unpaid. Boycott (and his mum) simply showed me the door, immune to the plea that I had spent half a day on the train from Manchester to Fitzwilliam and my sports editor (also Dundonian) was not going to be happy. 

Few people had phones in the early '60s so a lot of the newspaper work was all hit and hope.

Tonight I drink a glass to The Weekly News and all who sailed in it.




THIS atmospheric picture of London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, taken in 1954 by the Daily Mirror’s Monte Fresco and published in the Drone last week, has inspired former Expressman ROBIN McGIBBON to write a tribute to his old friend.

Fresco, who died in 2013 aged 77, was noted for humorous photographs of sporting events. He covered seven World Cups, many European Championships and more than 40 FA Cup Finals.

His uncle, Monty Fresco, was a sports photographer for the Daily Mail. His nephew, Michael Fresco, has carried on the family tradition as a Fleet Street sports photographer.

Monte is known on Fleet Street to this day for his sense of humour and for turning sports photography into a distinct discipline separate from news photography. 

He is said to have coined the terms ‘Smudgers' for photographers and 'Blunt Nibs' for writers.




The 75th meeting of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club, due to have been held at Joe Allen, 2 Burleigh Street, London, WC2, on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, has been postponed because of the Coronavirus restrictions. Principal guests were to have been Sarah, Duchess of York (the guest of A.Walton, Esq), the Lord Drone (the guest of A. McIntyre of that Ilk), Ms Amanda Redman, actress and presenter (the guest of P. Pilton, Esq),

Lorraine Chase, actress (the guest of T. Manners, Esq), Onllwyn Brace, rugby player (the guest of R.Watkins, Esq), Jess Conrad, singer (the guest of R.Dismore, Esq), Roy Hodgson, neighbour (the guest of D. Eliades, Esq) and Ms Rosalie Rambleshanks, journalist and ingénue (the guest of A. Frame, Esq).


Sir — I know that no one likes a smart arse and that it’s none of my business and that I’m not a club member and that Onllwyn is a pretty common name anyway, but are we sure that the Onllwyn Brace, rugby player, listed as a guest at the postponed 75th meeting of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club isn’t the talismanic Oxford University, Newport, Llanelli and Wales scrum half of the same name who passed on to the Great Communal Bath in the Sky seven years ago? Just askin’.

Much Shoving

Could be — Ed



Sir — That Emily Maitlis, you know the one with shiny legs off the telly, she’s a snippy, hard-faced little piece isn’t she? She often seems to be irritated or irritable but she’s always definitely irritating.

My other half reckons she suffers from a major chafing problem which comes to a head at the end of a long day on Newsnight.

But could it be that she’s pissed off because she always seems to have a cheap ballpoint super-glued to the fingers of her left hand? (See pictures) Just a thought.

Much Interrupting



History in Moments

1925: So...who’s this letting it all hang out on a helter-skelter at the Wembley Exhibition? Bertie Wooster? Lord Drone on dress-down day? 

No, in fact, it is the Duke of York, proving that, long before William Hague’s log flume baseball cap, prominent people could be persuaded by craven PR hacks to perform the most inappropriate tricks to prove they’re just like us really. 

The duke, who went on to star as Colin Firth in the well-received film The King’s Speech, was then a decent enough cove content to paddle the inconsequential backwaters of royal life.  Truth is, he was a bit of a wuss, said to be ‘easily frightened and prone to tears’. 

Eleven years later, as we all know, the abdication by his fancy dan elder brother, David (Edward VIII to you and me) thrust him and his family into the unforgiving spotlight of history where he performed very creditably as King George VI

His early death in 1952 ushered in the magnificent reign of his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, a constant, reassuring figure in all our lives, whose service is such a contrast to her dilettante uncle.

The Duke of Windsor, as he became, was a keen, if indulgent, golfer. He forever incurred the wrath  of my uncle, Bunny, who played off 10 on a good day, by hitting 3,000 balls into the Med off the deck of Britannia during his honeymoon with ‘that woman’. What a prat (although Bunny said far worse).



Who’s the masked man arriving at the Mail?

Scroll down this page and we’ll tell you




1944: So … here’s a classic case of keeping calm and carrying on as London again faced the might of the German war machine. That plume of smoke behind the law courts looking west up Fleet Street is the result of a deadly V1 rocket exploding after crashing into Drury Lane. 

Yet these young women ignore it and go about their business. Maybe they were two Daily Express news subs hurrying to work. Alas, no. An old Express hand, who has taken to hanging around the Drone newsroom, tells me it was another 40 years or so before the first woman was admitted, as staff, to that exclusive all-male club. Even now, those who worked with her remember genial New Zealander Maggie Thoms with affection. Yet, I’m told that, to their shame, some entrenched misogynist subs were less than welcoming to her but let’s not linger there.

Germany started its V1 onslaught in retaliation for D Day (the V stands for Vergeltungswaffen — vengeance weapons). Between June 13, 1944 and October when the last V1 launching site in range of Britain was captured by Allied troops, 9,521 of the early cruise missiles were fired at London and the southeast. More than 6,000 people were killed  and nearly 18,000 injured; thousand of homes were destroyed.

The V1s, also known as buzz bombs or doodlebugs, brought genuine terror to beleaguered Britons who thought the tide of war had turned. Survivors recall the chilling moment when a bomb ran out of fuel, the engines stopped and it glided to its unknown random target. The silence, like waiting for a clap of thunder after a flash of lightning, was agonising.

R.R (t)

Who’s the masked man?

WE asked who was the masked man arriving for work at Northcliffe House in London.

Yes chums, it’s former Expressman and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter ‘Bonkers’ Hitchens taking no chances with Coronavirus. How did you guess?

Peter was snapped by his colleague John McEntee, a former William Hickey editor who now writes the Ephraim Hardcastle column in the Daily Mail.

McEntee told his friends on Facebook: "Who should I encounter outside Northcliffe House today but my delightfully daft colleague Peter Hitchens en route to work wearing his Day of the Triffids mask.

"We couldn’t even raise a glass at the ham counter. Worse, security and nurse wouldn’t let me past the atrium. They couldn’t locate my filled-in health q&a. I felt like borrowing Peter’s mask and storming the third floor.”


Help, why on earth are there so many badly shaped headlines?
(and, for that matter, 
so many commas)

By L P BREVMIN, Chief Sub

The Sunday Times is a great newspaper: we can all acknowledge that. But sometimes it ignores the basic rules of good journalism. Often it exasperates sub-editors (but apparently not its own) with its disregard for headline shape and even the words that go in them.

Take this week’s offering (£2.90 to you, squire). This page lead head with a generous count would never have appeared in the World’s Greatest. Look at it for fuck’s sake. Imagine offering it to Lloyd, Kelvin or, especially, Pat. Piss-poor.

It took me five seconds to knock it into (a better) shape.

         Fifth of staff
         to stay home
         as schools
         open again
Then we were always told not to repeat words in headlines. Look at this sub-deck with more words than an average intro. ‘His’ three times. Fucking lazy.

Again a few seconds’ thought:

Boris Johnson was furious at his top aide
for flouting lockdown rules yet refusal
to sack him has divided the Tories and
flushed out rivals with leadership ambitions

And please don’t get me started on the ST subs’ bonkers obsession with inserting redundant commas into heads. Here are some mad examples from this week. Poor old Jeremy Clarkson, who can turn a phrase or two, suffers the indignity of being hit twice.

And what about splitting pork and pies?

Why not ...

Farmers tell pork pies
about US food quality

What’s going on? Who’s in charge of the clattering train?

I think, we should, be told.



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Q. Would you be inclined to say that unscheduled and unauthorised drinks breaks put Fleet Street on the slippery slope?

A. Dear me, No. Newspaper circulations have been on the slide for years, a situation exacerbated by the dawn of the digital age. In the early sixties the Express peaked at 4,328,000; before Coronavirus it was under 300,000; fewer now. Rest assured, comrades, it wasn’t all our fault.

No, Fleet Street and drink have always been sodden bedfellows. Any excuse. At the Express, morning conference, usually at 11, coincided with old-fashioned pub opening hours and signalled a mass exodus of reporters and other parched riffraff. Mind you, some star writers (Jon Akass comes to mind) would go straight to the pub to compose their offerings before actually reporting for work.

And as the senior execs filed into evening conference many subs would file out to the pubs where reporters would already be refuelling after a hard day’s toil. Trouble was, no one was filing or subbing any copy.

Popping out for a quick livener/heart starter/attitude adjuster became de rigeur throughout the evening all helped by the fact that the old Black Lubyanka had 13 different entrances and exits. (When we moved to Blackfriars there was only one: yikes!)

Subs being subs, they started competing: who took the most illicit breaks and how long they were away from the desk. Soon a trophy was put up: the curiously named Lopes Cup, pictured above. It took the Back Bench a full half hour (make that three seconds) to crack the fiendish, cunningly-devised, Enigma-like anagram.

Thus, sloping entered the lexicon.

You could always tell the dedicated sloper: he’d be the one in shirt sleeves crossing a wintry Fleet Street when the wind chill made it minus 11. He’d be the one who’d suddenly appear at his desk with fresh snow, like silver braid, melting on his shoulders.

Competition to carry off the gleaming (actually it’s pewter — Ed) trophy was intense. Once, a leading candidate, the much missed John “Bertie” Brooks, arranged for John, the office driver, to pick him up from the London hospital where he had been admitted for routine treatment, and convey him to the office clad in NHS jim-jams and dressing gown.

Alas, his bid for victory was snubbed by a shadowy Lopes Cup committee. It ruled that sloping to work was an oxymoron and he was sent back to matron. Bertie had form for this sort of thing. Once, outraged because he had been put on the stone, he turned up for his tussle with the Inkies in white tie and tails.

Senior boys on the Back Bench, who were allowed to stay up very late, rarely drank during normal licensing hours. They had to make do with ‘afters’ chez Jean at the Harrow or the soulless Press Club and the risk of long, perilous inquests on stalled careers with a recalcitrant, florid Scot.

Often in the early hours their drinking companions were very large City policemen in full uniform but Fleet Street superstar Richard Littlejohn, then on the Standard, recently shared with readers of his Mail column the reminiscence of how he was caught up in a police “befores” raid on the Cartoonist at 10.45 in the morning.

He recalls: ‘They proceeded to take names: who are you and what do you do? Shaw, Old Bailey correspondent, Evening Standard. Littlejohn, industrial correspondent. Leith, transport correspondent. Stevens, chief crime correspondent.

‘Turning to the other member of our school, the sarge said, sarcastically: “And I suppose you’re the religious affairs correspondent of the Evening Standard.”

‘“No. I’m the head of the Flying Squad. Now sod off!”’

Additional research: Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

Next in Media Hits and Myths: Should one be wary of ‘one size fits all’ rough ends of green pineapples? A physician writes.

HAPPY DAZE! Tom Brown’s Fleet Street pub crawl

History in Moments

1932: So...what’s going on here? Mass slope for charity by Express subs? M. Mouse, D. Duck et al queuing for extortionate dodgy “overtime” payments? Patriotic Brits waiting to laud famous aviatrix outside iconic Fleet Street newspaper office? 

Ah, that’s it. The lady in question, the fabulously glamorous Amy Johnson, had just set the air speed record for a solo flight from London to Cape Town in a De Havilland Puss Moth. She already held the record for the first solo flight by a woman to Australia and, despite competition from the new talkies stars of Thirties Hollywood, was one of the most famous women in the world. 

Capt W.E. Johns, of Biggles fame, even used her as the model for his series of war adventures featuring Flying Officer Joan Worralson in Worrals of the WAAF, who, according to my grandfather (AKA Randy Rambleshanks, Scapegrace of the Remove), was just the game gel to set a chap’s pulses racing between prep and lights out. 

Naturally, when war broke out the real life Worrals did her bit, ferrying RAF planes around the country as part of the Air Transport Auxiliary. 

Amy, pictured, died while flying an Airspeed Oxford from Prestwick to RAF Kidlington in Oxfordshire in January, 1941. Off course because of adverse weather, she ran out of fuel and bailed out as her plane crashed into the Thames estuary near Herne Bay. Naval vessels nearby tried to save her in heavy seas as snow continued to fall. Amy was briefly seen calling for help. Then she vanished beneath the waves. She was 39.

R R (t)


Rosalie’s Art Attack

By Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

The Ricotta Eaters: Vincenzo Campi

‘Pished? Course we’re pished: it’s the subs’ Christmas do for fuck’s sake. When we finish our puds we’ll go back and hide under the desks making duck noises until the Back Bench begs us to come out. Won’t we, Bings?’

(Dear Editor, any chance of a little piccie to illustrate this?)



Award-winning reporters return from embassy raid

IT’S 1980 and one day after the ending of the daring and dramatic SAS siege of the Iranian Embassy in London. 

Undaunted, the battle-weary Daily Express reporting team was back in the Fleet Street office.

But who are they and what were they up to?




Design genius dies at 92

DOING WHAT HE LOVED: Vic at the Express

NEWSPAPER design maestro Vic Giles, the genius behind the Murdoch Sun who later worked his magic on the Daily Express, died on May 24, 2020, in a care home nine weeks after the death of his wife June. He was 92 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

He leaves a daughter Jackie and grandson Christopher. His son-in-law Stephen Wood has written a heartfelt tribute exclusively for the Daily Drone.




Those old jokes were the best and so were yesterday's funny men

Another of our Friends in the North

Well done, Daily Drone for publishing my old mucker Ronnie Rawntenstall’s reminiscences about The Comedians. About time the World’s Greatest Online Newspaper became less South-east-centric and reached out to the North. 

Manning, Roper, Goodwin et al were, of course, only part of a fantastic comedic tradition in the region. 

Remember Arthur (Hello Playmates)I Won’t Take Me Coat Off, I’m Not Stopping)  Askey, Ken (Platt and Al (You’ll Be Lucky, I Say You’ll Be Lucky) Read who all enjoyed successful careers before The Comedians was first shown in, bizarrely, a casino in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1971. And, of course, we’re not forgetting Tarbie and Doddy. 

The “turns”, such as comics, earned their money in the traditional clubs which sprouted all over the north, parts of the Midlands and South Wales under the auspices of the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union.

They were usually owned and strictly organised by the members as a co-operative which is where the all-powerful committee comes in. Think the Phoenix run by Peter Kay (as good as, if not better than, any of them) in TV’s Phoenix Nights.

The best comedians went on to headline seaside shows or to appear at the northern super clubs such as the Golden Garter in Manchester or the Batley Variety Club in Yorkshire both long since closed.

Batley, dubbed the Las Vegas of the North, had 1,600 seats and attracted stars from around the world. Not Dean Martin, though. When he was offered £45,000 to top the bill his agent replied: “Dean wouldn’t get out of bed to have a piss for that.”

The Comedians’ house band, Shep’s Banjo Boys, were resident at the Garter, unglamorously sited in Wythenshawe, known as the largest council housing estate in Europe. More than 1,000 could sit down for a three-course meal (15s) before watching the international acts.

Which reminds me of the club secretary who announced: “The committee has decided to introduce chicken in a basket as well as th’ot pies. If you don’t like the chicken you can always eat the basket.” It’s the way I tell ‘em.

Scroll down for the gags


Have a laugh on us

the Drone’s Friend in the North

Heard the one about the TV comedy show which inspired a generation of stand-up club comics but wouldn’t get a screening today?

Too edgy, love. Not PC enough by half. Best not.

Yet The Comedians, a low budget Granada TV offering launched nearly 50 years ago, was just the tonic Britain needed then (after all, Ted Heath’s Tories were in power) and now.

The format was simple: a bunch of working class comics with dodgy suits and even dodgier haircuts leaning on mic stands telling jokes.

But, as it was the Seventies, the gags often featured words like “Paki” or “coon” and traded heavily on racial and social stereotypes.

The overnight stars mainly from the Northern club scene had, in fact, been plying their trade in front of tough audiences, replete with Federation Ale, for years.

Among the other regulars were the laconic George Roper, the manic Frank (“It’s the way I tell ‘em”) Carson, Charlie Williams, the black Yorkie who threatened to come to live next to you if you didn’t laugh, Stan Boardman and Mike Reid, later of EastEnders.

My favourite, though, was Ken Goodwin, so different from his self-assured, cocky contemporaries, with his zany, camp, gushing delivery. 

He always laughed uproariously at his own very funny jokes and would punctuate his set with: “We’re having a good time, aren’t we?” Or: “We’ll all have bellyache soon, won’t we?”

Bernard Manning, an overweight Mancunian from Ancoats, where the Northern Black Lubyanka still stands, was a regular. A former crooner who once appeared at the Ritz Hotel (London not Levenshulme), he ran the Embassy Club on the Rochdale Road. 

And some of his best humour was based on the “Notices” the club secretary had to give to members before the “turns” came on (a format which itself inspired The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club TV spin-off)

Here are some examples:

We’ve had complaints about t’accoustics in this club. Don’t worry, we’ve put down poison and set traps.

T’pies have arrived. A word of warning: some came on their own so make sure you use plenty of pepper.


Feller shouts after his best mate running down the road.

Oi, pal, what’s the hurry?

I’m going to the doctor: I don’t like the look of my wife.

I think I’ll join you: I can’t stand the sight of mine.


I’ve got a terrible headache. I was sprinkling toilet water on my hair and the seat fell down on me.


A feller knocked on our door and said he were collecting for t’local swimming pool. So I gave him a bucket of water.


‘My brother’s just joined the Army. Already he’s been made a Court Martial and he’s going away for six months to give Her Majesty pleasure.’


Building site foreman says to Irish labourers: The shovels have been delayed, lads. Can you lean on each other till they arrive?


I answered the door and there’s a fella there who says: Your dog’s just bitten my mother-in-law causing her great pain and distress. 

Sorry about that but it’s no use coming to me for compensation. 

I’m not: How much do you want for the dog?


So what about this fella who was off sick and went to the doctor. The quack says: Put your tongue out and walk over to that window. 

Will that make me feel any better, doc? 

No but I can’t stand that bloke opposite.


‘We were so poor  when I were a lad. I remember Mam sending me to butcher’s for a sheep’s head for us tea. Ask him to leave the legs on’

They’re so posh in Lytham St Anne’s they wear yachting caps when they eat their fish and chips.


I won’t say me dad was a drunk but when he blew on my birthday cake he lit all the candles.

The Daily Drone would like to thank its Friends in the North for their contributions during this challenging time of lockdown, distancing and furlough. Especially to Ronnie Rawntenstall and Charley Chorley for their histories of The Comedians and to Lenny Longsight for his amusing reminiscence of eating black balls in the Crown and Kettle. 

And not forgetting, in strictly alphabetic order: Andy Audenshaw, Barry Bury, Charlie Chadderton, Dougie Doffcocker, Eric Ellesmere, Frankie Frogbrook, Garry Grassington, Harry Hazlerigg , Irene Ince-in-Makerfield, Jimmy Jervaulx, Kelly Kirklees, Larry Levenshulme, Mal Monkwearmouth, Nellie Nuns Moor, Ollie Ormskirk, Peter Pendleton, Quentin Quelchtrossall, Richie Rossendale, Sonny Skelmerswick, Tommy Tadcaster, Vera Vimbottom, Wally Wombwell, Ernie Exwickthistle, Yolanda Yeadon, Zoe Zackonthwaite.

And members of the Accrington and District Weavers, Winders and Warpers Friendly Association too numerous to mention.



NOVELIST and former Daily Express William Hickey editor Christopher Wilson delighted his friends on Facebook with this charming study of himself back in the day. 

Wislon told the Drone: 'That pic was taken when I was a newly-arrived reporter on the Daily Mail, aged 23, when it was still a broadsheet. That they were employing people like me I think convinced David English it was time to make his pre-emptive strike in closing the Sketch and annexing the big paper.

'I and many others were turfed out in the Night of the Long Envelopes, and I ended up in a dusty cupboard at the Sunday Telegraph. 

'When I got there Perry Worsthorne, then dep ed, took me into his office: 'I hear you're from the Daily Mail. Well, you may find here that time hangs heavy on your hands. I suggest you start a book”.

'Me: Oh, I don't think I could be seen sitting round the office reading. Wouldn't it be better if I...

'PW (witheringly): "WRITE a book, Mr Wilson, write a book."

'I didn't stay long.'


All about Iris

BROLLY GOOD: Iris was still going strong in 1975 … but mention of sunny periods was definitely not allowed

MANY readers have been puzzled by the Iris Says weather line on the Daily Drone’s front page.

Grizzled old hacks will remember the young lady well. Back in the 1970s Iris was a feature of the Daily Express Weather Service. 

In those days most of the forecast was compiled by the news sub-editors and part of that task was to choose an Iris cartoon and write a suitable caption. 

And then, as a depression moved in from the executive suite, she got dumped. 

The Express had no shortage of editors who processed with regularity through the revolving doors. One editor, it could have been one of three or four, made it his first task to scrap the daily Iris. And still the circulation sunk like a setting sun.

Sadly, memory of the once-famous Iris has been lost in the shrouds of time but the Drone’s team of researchers are delving into the archive to see if they can find more evidence of the Daily Express weather girl.

Former Daily Express editor Chris Williams told the Drone: "Gazing as I do upon your proud organ, I was pleased to see that weather girl Iris is once more enjoying  her place in the sun.

"Iris was still in situ when I joined the Express in 1977. Her meteorological musings were usually the responsibility of the newest sub. 

"On my first day I was briefed by the legend that was Les Diver who told me: 'You can write anything you like, but just remember that Iris does NOT have periods. Not rainy, not sunny and definitely not heavy’."

Terry Manners writes: Nice to hear from our dear old mate Chris Williams on his days with Legendary Les and Iris, our weather girl. But putting the romantic memories of the 70s aside, let us not forget that doing the weather created a low depression across the subs table at the start of the mainstream 3.30 news shift.

Subs would keep their heads down against the prevailing wind and look busy as Les, pencil behind ear, would scour the room for his victim.

Then he would approach like a hurricane with the red or blue, hardcover, tatty foolscap book crammed with Moon and Sun times; tide tables and ski-resort temperatures for the unlucky sub who received a punch on the arm ... and then have to pour over the data before sending the boring details for to the Stone for setting, along with the Artwork No. for Iris ... smiling, in a raincoat, with a brolly or boots or with the wind blowing up her skirt. Ughh! What a chore.

Worse ... once every 12 months some unlucky victim would have to paste into the weather book all the tables, cartoons, facts and figures for the whole of the new year to come. Fond memories? Mmmmm. Only of Les.  



FORMER Daily Express reporter FRANK THORNE remembers his first meeting with photographer JOHN DOWNING on the sun-drenched Cote d’Azur as they hunted for the missing earl



DX art desk salutes festive season in traditional style

RIGHT-WING? US? They knew how to celebrate on the Daily Express art desk back in the day. Here Dave Marvin and clerk Dobby salute the camera as Fred Boyce gets on with his dinner some time in the 1980s.

For more over-exposed snaps, click HERE



Planning the edition at the Daily Express offices in Fleet Street in the mid-1980s are, from left: News Editor Philippa Kennedy, Deputy Editor Leith McGrandle, Editor Nick Lloyd, Deputy Night Editor Dick Dismore, Reporter (standing in as News Desk No.2 ) Bob McGowan, and Associate Editor Bernard Shrimsley. Health and safety might have something to say about the elctrical arrangements today


Hunk Rock Hudson’s secret bath nights at notorious gay haunt

SO HETERO: Rock Hudson and Yvonne de Carlo in London, August 1952. They were promoting the film Scarlet Angel


Once upon a time, in the heart of London's West End, there was an establishment which had a notorious reputation for being a magnet for the capital's homosexual intelligentsia.

The infamous, round-the-clock den of iniquity was the Savoy Turkish Baths, in Jermyn Street, and its marbled steam room and massage slabs, ice-cold plunge bath and quaintly-termed bachelor chambers attracted eminent musicians, playwrights, poets — and even a future British Prime Minister.

However, the Savoy's most egregious client was not one of the renowned glitterati of the day. Indeed, he was not even British: he was Rock Hudson, a handsome, charismatic, young American film star, destined to become an international heart-throb.

During Hollywood's Golden Age, the 6ft 4in hunk from Cook County, Illinois, was sold to millions of unsuspecting cinema-goers throughout the world as the epitome of masculinity. Women lusted after him; men wanted to be him.

Not surprisingly, Hudson became the movie industry's most popular leading man, starring in a series of blockbuster romantic comedies with Doris Day, as well as tough-guy Westerns with Kirk Douglas, John Wayne and James Stewart.

Behind this He-man facade, however, Hudson was a predatory gay who spent hours cruising Hollywood bars, looking for casual sex.

No wonder that when he came to London, in 1952, to promote Scarlet Angel, with Yvonne de Carlo, he didn't take long to find his way to 'poofs' paradise, a short stroll from Piccadilly Circus, and to spend nights there, prowling around, chatting up naked hunks.

Maybe it was because he was relatively unknown that made him take such a risk. Whatever it was rebounded on him because the management considered him a pest, and bad for business, and he was thrown out and banned for importuning.

The Daily Mirror got on to the story, but could not substantiate Hudson was homosexual, and the actor's Savoy shame was never exposed until the summer of 1985 when he was diagnosed with Aids and became the first A-List celebrity to admit to being gay,

Historical note: Before the Savoy closed, in 1975, Hunter Davies wrote, in New London Spy, a trendy guide to London: "Staff mostly turn a blind eye to much of the midnight prowling — if the activity is not too blatant.”


Former Standard night editor Henshall dies

FLASHBACK: David Henshall (second from right in specs) working in what would have been the chief sub's chair in Shoe Lane. Andrew Harvey is in the foreground. Charles Wintour, is back centre in white shirt behind a big phone system. Roy Wright is beside him in the Shoe Lane newsroom, London, 21 September 1971. 

Former Standard features secretary Pauline McGowan writes: I spotted another couple of faces, Stuart Kuttner, Mary Kenny showing quite a lot of leg and jolly nice boots and Marius Pope, also my boss and known to us females as Pope the Grope — and boy did he live up to his monikker. Such things now would have resulted in NDAs or promotion? Possibly. However, it was all part and parcel of being amongst that great group of talent that was the Evening Standard. Boy I miss that. 

Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

FORMER Evening Standard night editor David Henshall has died at the age of 90.

Henshall later became editor of the Ipswich Star in the 1990s.

Former Standard and Express sub Peter Steward told the Drone: 'David gave me my first job in Fleet Street if, like me, you count Charles Wintour's Evening Standard as Fleet Street. 

'He was managing editor in 1976 when he gave me my chance. At the Standard in those days managing editor was the equivalent of a daily paper's night editor. He  also worked on the Daily Mail  and eventually moved back to Suffolk.

His daughter Ruthie Henshall was to become a West End singing star.

A couple of years ago the Standard organised a reunion for people who worked on the paper prior to its move from Shoe Lane into the Black Lubyanka. I contacted David to see if he could make it and this is part of his reply.

'I am still writing the column I started in the East Anglian Daily Times 25 years ago and a bit of theatre which keeps the little grey cells working.

'I have lost one lobe of my lungs to cancer, six inches off my tailpipe to a similar growth and have a worrying aneurysm that is being watched. Apart from that and a bit asthma, I am reasonable fit creeping up on 88. On the plus side, I have gained two titanium hips that work a treat.’

East Anglian Daily Times obit


A poem what I wrote by RICHARD McNEILL

A Stiffener for Straitened Times

(to the tune of Bye Bye Blackbird).


Pack up all your social plans

Now’s the time to wash your hands

Bye Bye Covid

Sanitise the things you touch

Exercise (but not so much)

Bye Bye Covid

Lockdown is the way to save the nation

Everyone must practise separation


Shut that door and close that gate

Isolate! Isolate!

Covid Bye Bye


Verse 2 (for there is another)

 Keep your social distance, chum

That is now the rule of thumb

Bye Bye Covid


Hugs and handshakes are taboo

Bump the elbow, tap the shoe

Bye Bye Covid


When it ends we’ll party up at your house

Unless of course we end up in the Poor House


So cheer the heroes, raise a glass

Kick that virus up the arse

Covid Bye Bye

Wordsworth, eat your heart out — Ed


Jobs axed as working from home becomes new norm

Additional research by L.P. BREVMIN

The Drone’s piece highlighting the do-or-die challenges facing the Press because of Coronavirus was a warning to us all.

The medium we love and which has been part of our lives is no more. How it will change no one knows but one thing is clear: it will be less diverse and a lot smaller.

Tragic isn’t it? 

Yet maybe the gravy train had to pause, as if at Adelstrop, before it hit the buffers. 

Gravy train? you say. Not if you’d been a sub on the Express titles, for instance, where staff numbers have been dramatically reduced over the last 20 years.

But what about those twee, up-your-bum, glossy fashion and lifestyle magazines which slip out of the weekend heavies? Are they not heading for a fall?

Take, at random, last week’s Sunday Telegraph Stella mag, an “award-winner”, don’t you know?

Its staff cast list on Page 3 contains new fewer than 40 names ranging from the Editor-in-Chief (who appears to be subservient to the Editor), through two deputy editors and two assistant editors, two directors of photography and three senior fashion editors (presumably answerable to the head of fashion and style, the style director and the fashion news and features director).

What, you may ask, does the poor fashion editor (be sure there is one) do?

Let’s not forget the beauty director, the beauty editor-at-large, the food and interiors editors and sundry assistants.

By the way, there are just three with sub-editor in their titles.

Can you imagine the cats-in-a-bag editorial conferences at 111 Buckingham Palace Road, the lair of this particular coven?


Of course, pagination is down and I appreciate that Stella also has an on-line offering, but this lot last Sunday produced a magazine with just 40 editorial pages.

I say “produced” but, in fact, 15 more by-lined people assisted them including someone credited, I kid you not, with Food Styling.

Enjoy it while you can, gels, the tumbril is about to replace the gravy train.

Another huge change as a result of Coronavirus is the introduction of home working for all national newspapers.

Our mole at the Daily Mail reports that Northcliffe House is completely empty apart from one IT man who is there in splendid isolation. 

Everyone else works from home, all departments, not just editorial. Editor Geordie Greig holds morning conference from his no doubt bijou London home at 8.30 and off they go. 

Even the switchboard staff work from home. Even Dacre has to rage from one of his grand houses.

The same is happening at the Express and Mirror groups.

It raises the question: will this be the new way of working? It would certainly save a fortune in office rent, canteen and support staff. And chauffeurs!

Strange times indeed.



HAPPY DAYS: Photographer John Downing in Kiev, 1990, on Chernobyl assignment with Express reporter Kim Willsher and their interpreter Vitaly. Kim recalled: ‘The Soviets said drinking vodka stopped the effects of radiation — and, of course, we believed them'

LEGENDARY Daily Express photographer John Downing has died nine days before his 80th birthday after a long and brave battle with cancer.

The news was announced by his wife, the pianist Anita D’Attellis. She said: 'Sadly, John passed away at 12.40am this morning.  

'As you know, over the past few months he has put up a strong and brave fight against the cancer, but unfortunately he became very weak recently, deteriorated quickly and became bed-bound about a week ago (we had a hospital bed put up in the lounge).  

'His wish was to stay at home rather than go into a hospice, and I’m so glad that this was possible because of the amazing team of Sue Ryder nurses that came several times a day to care for him.

'The funeral arrangements will be limited to close family only because of the Covid-19 situation, but Bryn [John’s son] and I would like to have an event to celebrate John's life later in the year, when everyone can be invited.

'Please, please do not send flowers — I would much rather you give a donation to the Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub, who have supported John over the past few months. 

'The nurses do such a wonderful and important job and we have been overwhelmed by their kindnesses. Only yesterday I read about the charity's financial difficulties and I can’t bear the thought that they would cease to exist. 

Former Express reporter KIM WILLSHER, Paris correspondent for The Guardian, said: ‘I am utterly heartbroken to hear of the death of John Downing. Colleague, friend, fabulous photographer and thoroughly decent human being. We will not see his like again. RIP John.’

Fellow photographer TOM STODDART said: 'John was simply the best of his generation and the most generous of men who inspired and mentored so many young photographers.'

INP Media, which made a film of Downing (see below) said in a statement: 'John was a phenomenal photographer who risked his life on countless occasions to capture some truly iconic images, all of which will be remembered just as fondly as the man himself.










ITV 2019 documentary on John Downing. Runtime 23 minutes

Behind the Lens, a 2016 tribute. Runtime 34 minutes


History in Moments


1987: So … it could be anyone’s old nan, popping down the frog to Doggett’s for a nice pig’s or two in the rub-a-dub. Hang on a cock, though, this old nan sampling a pint she pulled herself in the Queen’s Head battle cruiser in Stepney, was more partial to the odd vera, gay and frisky or even a didn’t ought and sometimes, it must be said, became ever so slightly brahms. But never truly elephant’s.

S’welp me, guvnor (Rosalie, dear, you must be careful not to over-do the cockney sparrer trope - Ed) the Queen Mother was known to like the odd tincture or twain. 

Before the Abdication, when she was thrust into more limelight than she would have liked, Elizabeth was a bit of a party animal. She and Noel Coward were drinking buddies and she was patron of a posh drinking society, the Windsor Wets Club, motto: Aqua vitae, non aqua pura (spirits, not water). 

Her Maj was also notorious for her £7 million overdraft at Coutts (she once also bounced a £4million cheque) and getting that designer chappie, Hartnell, to run up a special gown for her to wear in the Palace air raid shelter. 

Even in widowhood, as the years advanced, she liked to maintain an imbibing routine: Dubonnet and gin at noon, red wine (heavy clarets preferred) with lunch. Then a couple of sturdy Martinis at 6 (the Magic Hour) and then some Veuve Clicquot with dinner. 

Yet she could be waspishly reproving over others’ drinking. When the Queen, no less, asked for a second glass of red at lunch, she said: “Is that wise, dear, you know you have to reign all afternoon.”

R.R. (t)


Circulations in freefall

REACH, parent company of the Daily Express, Daily Mirror and regional titles, has announced pay cuts and furloughs as the coronavirus pandemic hits income.

The news came as informed sources reported last night that the Daily Mirror sold just 300,000 copies a day last week, The Guardian 62,000 and The Sun 800,000.

All members of the Reach board and some of its most senior editorial and management team will take a 20 per cent reduction in salary. All company bonus schemes for 2020 have been halted.

There will also be 10 per cent pay cuts across the rest of the company, although this will not fall below the Living Wage, while 20 per cent of staff will be furloughed.

The Mail group, which includes the Metro, is taking a different and possibly fairer approach. 

Staff who earn more than £40,000 a year are being asked to take a pay cut of between 1 per cent, for the lowest earners, and 26 per cent, for the highest earners.

Those who agree will be offered a monthly grant of shares in DMG Media parent company DMGT to the same value as their pay sacrifice.

They can then sell these for cash at the end of the financial year, when they will take possession of all of the shares they have accrued, or keep them as an investment.

The share price offered will the market price on the day that the shares are issued, it is understood.

Should the share price be lower than when the shares were awarded when staff come to sell at a later date, the company said it will compensate them so they “will not have lost a penny”.

Reach, will  no longer propose a final dividend for the 2019 financial year.

The move follows JPIMedia, which produces a number of regional titles including The Scotsman, furloughing 350 employees and rolling out a 15 per cent pay cut for the rest of the company "after a significant reduction in advertising volumes".

Evening Standard owner ESI Media has also placed a number of staff on furlough and introduced a 20 per cent cut in salary for those earning at least £37,500. It has also paused publication of the ES magazine supplement



Why do young reporters ask such silly questions?

Sir — I, like others, am a fan of your mighty organ you tell us so much about, and currently bored hiding from the old people catchers at this time, so feel moved to write to you over a matter that disturbs me greatly.

I am incensed with the inane and rather silly questions asked by young reporters at the No.10 Coronovirus press conferences. I believe all grave dodgers must feel the same and long for the Resurrections of those mighty Reporters Bob McGowan; Norman Luck, Don Coolican and the like.

I have been so irritated that I was moved to publish this Tweet:

I hope you get the drift.

Fact is, in my view, young reporters today are highly intelligent and bristling with media degrees but have no real experience of life like they used to coming up the hard way. The pain and heartbreak of it all. They go straight to top papers from Academia

I remember the legendary Bernard Shrimsley of our Parish who once told me: “Trouble is that these graduates are good, highly qualified people but have no understanding of the troubles that life brings or how to comfort children when their rabbit dies. So they can’t reflect it with feeling in words or questions.”

There, got that off my chest. I won't continue about their tutors many of whom have only ever lived in Academia.

Yours truly

University of Life and other things.


Sir —  Your correspondent Mr T. Manners speaks on behalf on many of us with his excellent letter in today’s edition of your mighty organ.

I have now got to the stage where as soon as the nominated Minister ceases waffling I immediately reach for the OFF switch and the gin bottle in one well-practised movement.

It appears that appalling creature Peston puts the sound of his own voice and the erection it gives him as he pontificates instead of asking questions that matter to “the readers”. And that Jockinese bint from the BBC clearly thinks she, too, is a big name.

What a pity dear old Frank Howitt, or James (The-Prince-Of-Darkness) Nicholson as well as the other luminaries mentioned by Mr Manners are not around to give  lessons in asking questions.

Yours Sincerely,

In Isolation With A Large G&T

As the Coronavirus has put the kibosh on all forms of sport, commentator Nick Heath has decided to turn his talents to other more mundane matters


Break a leg! My crazy hilarious nights in Great Ancoats Street 

CLASSIC: The stylish reception hall of the Express building in Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, as it is today

THE stone sub who ruined the night editor’s evening by falling down the stairs and breaking his leg is the stuff of Daily Express legend.

JEREMY GREENAWAY was in the Manchester office that night and witnessed the incident. Better late than never, he has finally filed his report 50 or so years on. He also records how the Chief Sub disappeared and ended up in a Liverpool jail cell.

Later, when Greenaway moved to London, he witnessed a classic outburst by the legendary Ralph Mineards.



(Except for the chaps in this pic)

FORMER Daily Starman Tom Fullerton has submitted some great pics of the Express newsroom in Manchester from the good old days.

Lord Drone has struggled to put names to the photos but can do a reasonable job with this one, perhaps because it was probably taken in London. It shows four reporters and a photographer holding joint Reporter of the Year awards with editor Arthur Firth. The awards were for the paper’s coverage on the Iranian Embassy siege in London.

Pictured from left: Iain Black, Peter Hardy, Arthur Firth, Bob McGowan, Peter Mason and photographer John Downing.


From Ancoats to Fleet Street with Andy Carson

THERE are certain Fleet Street characters who are once seen and never forgotten. One of these was Andy Carson, a great Daily Express backbencher who spoke in a thick Port Glasgow accent.

Jeremy Greenaway had the pleasure of moving down to London from Manchester with Andy and has written a nostalgic account of his experience — which involved sharing a hotel room with Carson.

I was Andy Carson’s interpreter

History in Moments

1961: So...in one bound he was free. Or so he thought. East German border guard Konrad Schumann, 19, symbolised the defiance of most of his countrymen when he leaped over the barbed wire that was the start of the Berlin Wall and escaped to the West. Yet it wasn’t until the fall of the wall in November, 1989, that he was able to say: ‘It is only now that I really feel free.’  

Schumann’s escape, on the third day of the wall’s construction, was the first of 5,000 over the years; 95,000 failed and the death toll could have been as high as 200. In a classic piece of Communist Newspeak, the wall, a Cold War scar across the face of Europe, was known in the east as the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’.

Schumann moved to Bavaria and worked for the Audi car company for 30 years. Perhaps, despite marrying a local girl he never really settled. Even after the re-unification of Germany, he was reluctant to engage with his parents and siblings back in Saxony. He sank into depression and his wife, Kunigunde, found him hanging from a tree. He was 56.




Craig makes rock cakes and reveals brother Kelvin has produced a Victoria sponge

CURRANT BUNS: Craig reveals the news on Facebook


How news of the war got through the Blitz

FRANK BALDWIN’S grandparents ran three newsagents shops during the war. They had three because two were bombed in the London Blitz — yet still the news got through. His grandfather Charlie McCarthy is pictured outside the shop in Waterloo Road which bore his name and today Frank tells the family's story.




                     MATT                                      MATT

Sir – Judging by his front-page picture in Saturday's Daily Telegraph I think  the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, and the paper's cartoonist, Matt Pritchett, are one-and-the-same person. If so, I do wonder how he manages to cope with both jobs in these difficult times.
Petts Wood


History in Moments

1964: So...here’s a cosy scene: proud East End mum sharing tea and biccies with her famous son in the parlour of her Bermondsey home. 

I’ll bet Sir Michael Caine, as he became, was glad of a break: his career was just starting to take off big time. His breakthrough movie Zulu, in which he played, against type, an upper crust army officer, was a smash and he was just about to start filming the spy thriller the Ipcress File, start of a film franchise which was to confirm his potential. 

Now aged 87, he can look back on a 130-film career with justifiable pride. Make no mistake, Caine, born Maurice Micklewhite, is one of Britain’s greatest screen actors. The winner of two Oscars, he is only the second actor to have been nominated in six different decades, the other being Jack Nicholson.

It could have been all so different for Michael White, the stage name he adopted when he started in rep after National Service in the Royal Fusiliers, some of it in Korea. 

As he tried to make a breakthrough in London his agent told him he would have to change his name because there was already a Michael White in the profession. 

Michael, who received the news in a Leicester Square phone box, looked around for inspiration. Seeing a film poster for a big film of the time he chose the name Caine. As he said afterwards, if there hadn’t been a tree in the way he’d have been called Mickey Mutiny. 

We all have our favourite Caine movies. The two Oscar winners, Hannah And Her Sisters or The Cider House Rules.  The Italian Job, of course, Educating Rita and you can’t forget Alfie. 

But to many, the movie role that defines Caine is the eponymous hero Jack Carter in Get Carter! Despite appearing with a company of distinguished actors (even Alf Roberts did a decent turn), Caine dominated every scene. Top man.

Funnily enough, his stand-in on the film was called … Jack Carter. Not many people know that. (Sorry, boss, I know I promised but I couldn’t resist).

R.R. (t)


Carrying on regardless: Police closed Bondi Beach because young people were ignoring a ban on large gatherings

As Britain shuts all pubs, bars and restaurants, Australia is dealing with Coronavirus at a somewhat slower pace thanks to indecision by Prime Minister Scott ‘SlowMo’ Morrison, reports ROGER TAVENER from Sydney

Fever pitch? Not quite


History in Moments

1980: So … here’s an absolutely vivid moment in history: the exact time when police passed authority over the Iranian embassy siege to the Special Air Service. 

The hastily scribbled note from Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Dellow to Lt Col Michael Rose triggered the dramatic rescue of 21 hostages held by Arab terrorists in the embassy in Princes Gate. Covered live on prime time television, Operation Nimrod became a defining chapter in our island’s story and confirmed the SAS as the crème de la crème, the epitome of special forces prowess and excellence.

During the 17-minute raid all but one of the hostages were freed unharmed; five out of the six hostage-takers were killed. (Astonishingly and, some may think, shamefully, the soldiers were later accused of unnecessarily killing two of them but were cleared of any wrong-doing by an inquest jury.) 

The sixth terrorist was convicted and served 27 years in British prisons. After his release he was, surprise, surprise, allowed to stay in the UK and now lives in Peckham, south-east London, under an assumed name.

Of course, there were many acts of heroism that day. But one of the bravest was not a soldier but a policeman who was among the hostages. PC Trevor Lock, who tackled the leader of the gunmen as the raid took place, was awarded the George Medal. 

An SAS sergeant who shot a terrorist about to throw a grenade among the hostages received the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Three years later Sgt Tommy Palmer was killed in a road accident while on a covert operation in Northern Ireland. He was 31.

Hot ops such as Nimrod rarely go exactly to plan. One staff sergeant abseiling down the embassy roof became entangled in ropes and was badly burned when some curtains caught fire. He fell to the balcony but managed to rejoin the assault. He was later treated in hospital and eventually made a full recovery.

The best of the best, eh?

R.R (t)


Prince Philip is alive and not at all dead (and we have the pic to prove it)

The Duke of Edinburgh out on the town last night

REPORTS circulating on the internet that Prince Philip had died at the age 0f 98 were denied by Buckingham Palace last night.

The official statement was backed up by this exclusive picture taken by Lord Drone from his sedan chair on his Box Brownie camera.

Lurching unsteadily, His Lordship commented: ‘My mighty organ’s reporters may not always be first with the news but they’re always wrong. Am I making sense, Bings?’

A Royal retainer confided: 'Apart from the broomstick up the Duke’s back and elements of stiffness he is healthy in body and spirit. Will this do, Your Majesty?’

POPBITCH reports: WhatsApp has been ablaze with rumours this week that Prince Philip has carked it. While it's probably only a matter of time before that rumour finally comes good, we hear that Phil has been making every day count in the meantime. 

Whispers from the Royal grounds suggest that he has three regular lady callers, and gets started on the drinking shortly after waking.


The mysterious Hickey writer who turned out to be not all he seemed

FAREWELL HICKEY: Christopher Wilson, second from right in fetching top hat, flanked by Nigel Dempster, right, and Geoffrey Levy, attends the mock funeral in 1987

FORMER William Hickey editor CHRISTOPHER WILSONhas a fascinating tale to tell about a mysterious freelance reporter called Nigel who worked on the Daily Express diary for a few months.

His copy was impeccable, his stories extraordinary and he was always first at the bar to buy a round.

All fine then? Up to a point … years later Nigel turned up for Hickey’s mock funeral in Fleet Street and it turned out that he may not have been all that he seemed.

Was he a Fifth Columnist?


Tin hats on chaps, we'll not let JohnnyCovid get us down

RUNNERS wielding cleft sticks stormed Drone Towers last night with the following Letter to the Editor 

Sir, following your excellent Drone Guide to Coronaspeak, I thought it might be helpful to share my extensive world research on Covid-19 with you and the readers of your excellent and informative internet Wickedpedia of Fleet Street. 

Intelligentsia like yourself and other members of the World's Greatest Lunch Club might find it useful for analyses and intellectual discussion.

I have discovered that the English are feeling the pinch in relation to this virus and have therefore raised their threat level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, level may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” 

The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the Blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. 

The virus has been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to A Bloody Nuisance. The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

 The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let's Get the Bastard.” They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British Army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its alert level  to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” or in Paris "Keep your powder dry”. The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing”. Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides”.

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs”.  They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose”. 

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its alert level from “No worries” to “She'll be alright, Mate”. Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend” and “The barbie is cancelled”. So far, no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

Medical Correspondent (freelance). 


Drone staff told to work from home

EARLY DOZING DAY: The editor hard at work last night

And now, your wipe-clean Daily Drone brings you, at no extra expense ...

Our exclusive guide to virus speak

The global pandemic has given us some new words and expressions and has revived some old ones. Here is the indispensable Drone guide to Coronaspeak.

Self Isolation: What Matron used to warn against after lights out.

Social Distancing: Technically, the gap between you and a fart before it loses its impact.

Lockdown: City/country shut off from outside world.

Lock-Up: Where panic-bought goods, especially toilet rolls, are stored. 

Contextual Questioning: When a healthcare professional quizzes you on where you’ve been and what you have been doing to whom.

Epidemiological inexacitude: Healthcare professionals don’t know what the fuck’s going on.

Epidemiological breakthrough: They are forced to admit they haven’t a clue what to do next.

Epidemiological Action Plan: Proof of the above.

We’re working on a vaccine: Please don’t hold your breath: it’s very bad for you.

The over-70s are particularly vulnerable: Yikes! They mean me.

Underlying health condition: If Corona don’t get you summat else will.

Panic buying: Are we running out of toilet rolls again, luv?

We’re all in this together: When a politician resorts to this deathless phrase you are in the shit.

So let’s all unite to beat this menace: He’s self isolating — and social distancing — in his constituency. 

We’re in unchartered territory: I not only don’t know what the fuck’s going on but I can’t speak the Queen’s English either.

The World’s Greatest Lunch Club cancels next meeting: World Health Organisation announces we’re in the shit — official.

John Smith: Name of new WHO director-general after the International Federation of Newsreaders and Continuity Announcers votes to isolate Tedros Anhamon Ghebreyesus.

Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee): Fine example of thrusting post-Brexit Brit determined not to let “foreign” Coronavirus get her down.


A toast to Victor

Friends of the late Daily Express Showbusiness Editor Victor Davis raise a glass to his memory in a London pub.

With typical generosity, Victor left money in his will for friends and colleagues to have a drink on him.

ALAN FRAME was there to enjoy the fun and has filed this picture special 

Victor, Doyen of showbiz writers


We laugh in the face of virus crisis
(but not cough, obviously)

Transport Correspondent

A new luxury cruise liner has been launched to combat the Coronavirus crisis.

Fred. Olsen’s Four Towers was built in the Von Rambleshanks yard in Bremerhaven and is currently undergoing sea trials off Dogger Bank.

An Olsen spokesman told the Drone: ‘This an exciting new concept in ocean cruising. The four towers on our iconic new vessel are designed to complement established epodemiodic measures such as self isolation and social distancing.

‘Our guests will be confined to individual staterooms in the four towers enabling them to enjoy a minimum two-week cruise without fear of further risk of contamination or having to converse with riffraff from the North.

‘One bonus is the 360-degree ocean views they will be able to enjoy.’

The spokesman added that they were working on a method of feeding guests using an hydraulic dumb waiter in the centre of the towers but it was still in the early stages of development.

Next week in the Drone: Win a mystery cruise on the Four Towers (only genuine Coronavirus sufferers need apply) 



St Bride’s, the Wren masterpiece that defied the Nazi Blitz

1941: So...I’d be really, really upset if I didn’t know that this important building, severely damaged by the Luftwaffe, has since been carefully restored. 

It’s St Bride’s, of course, Fleet Street’s parish church, genuinely loved by even the most grizzled and atheistic journos. Not looking good here, admittedly, but we may be confident that some cliché-ridden hack subsequently wrote that it “rose phoenix-like from the ashes”. 

Wren’s 1672 masterpiece is the seventh church on the site and its 226ft spire inspired wedding cake design and not the other way around as most think.

The “journalists’ church” has always hosted some pretty impressive scribblers, Pepys, Milton and Dryden among them and the parents of Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in America, married there. 

It was in the churchyard that an Express executive famously deflowered (surely she had been “plucked” before — Ed) the actress Janet Munro during the making of The Day The Earth Caught Fire but, perhaps, we should hasten past.

Nowadays, memorial services for Fleet Street behemoths attract large congregations, although the world-famous choir and the promise of free drink may have something to do with it. 

Some still recall a gathering to celebrate the life of the Express’s Les Diver more than 30 years ago. It was notable for an original verse, The Traveller, by another poet, Terry Manners, and for the recollection that Mr Diver, in intensive care, could still joke: “I’m so full of pills I feel like a sub again.” (Pills-pils: geddit?)

And the professionally irreverent Sun Editor Kelvin MacKenzie, on spotting aging former Express Managing Editor Morris Benett, greeted him: “Oi, Morris, it’s hardly worth you going home is it?”

Oh, Mr MacKenzie!

R.R. (t)


They don’t write headlines like 
this any more ...

WE suspect the revise sub was hiding under his desk from the World War 2 flak when this headline slipped through the net.

The classic cock-up was uncovered by former Mirrorman Alex Collinson, who told the Drone: 'I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that I can top and tail (pun intended) the much misquoted WW2 headline concerning bottles and Germans. 

'The excellent Fritz Spiegl book, Keep Taking the Tabloids, has a facsimile, though the guilty newspaper is not named and shamed.

'For myself, when I was a young sub on the Daily Mail in the early Seventies, I was given a filler about a flamboyant French politician, Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, who proposed that busts should be made of Brigitte Bardot for display in public places throughout the land. 

'My headline, Gallic symbol, raised a laugh on the backbench but was judged too risqué and never saw the light of day.’

*Our Cape Town correspondent reports: Most parochial headline? After a visiting circus trapeze artist fell to his death, the local paper reported: 

*Used copies of Keep Taking the Tabloids are available from Amazon for £2.49


Life’s a brawl on the Mail

SHURELY shome mishtake? This snippet written by an anonymous sub about life on the Daily Mail appears on the Byline Times website.

The claim has been vigorously denied by many commenters on Twitter which, in the Drone’s experience, can only mean one thing…

Read the piece here


How Monty the Great saved me from the dole

JUST WED: Robin McGibbon and his bride Sue with Monty Levy in the front row, far right. Also in the picture is Jon Zackon, far left, third row up


How lovely to see Monty Levy's name in the Drone. He was the most friendly, affable gentleman one would wish to meet, and I have very good reason to remember him, because he threw me a financial lifeline when I was at my lowest ebb.

It happened one Friday night, in December, 1980, in the Printers Pie. Why I was there, I can't remember. Certainly I didn't have much cash to splash, because my publishing company had gone into liquidation and I was — once again! — on the dole.

I got talking to Craig Mackenzie, then News of the World Features Editor, and he asked how I was doing. I took my unemployment benefit slip out of my wallet and forced a smile. "Things could be better. Any chance of a shift?"

"Put that right back and wait here," Craig said and forced his way through to the crowded bar to talk to someone.

A few minutes later, he came back, grinning. "I've just spoken to Monty Levy (pictured right). He's happy for you to come in next Tuesday for an all-day shift. What happens after that is up to you."

I'm happy to say that the shift went well and I was given more — over the following couple of weeks and Christmas and New Year periods — which did much to ease my financial crisis.

I was so grateful to Monty that when I got married three years later, to Daily Express advertising sales rep Sue Tompsett, we invited him to our register office wedding, in Bromley, and the Reception. He was thrilled to accept, he said.

*Monty Levy died at his home in Surrey in January 2016 aged 88.



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

BRILLIANT: Monty Levy’s headline in the News of the World

Q. What is the greatest headline ever written? 

A. Apart from the last one you wrote this is almost impossible to answer because it depends so much on preference or context. Is it a witty head on a one-line short or the splash head on a unique event, the Daily Mirror’s Man Walks On The Moon for instance? 

Should it be the classic Subject-Verb-Object head (Elephant Stuck On Spiral Staircase) or something more whimsical or ethereal? Mind you, the New York Post’s classic Headless Body In Topless Bar is neither.

It’s tempting for old fogeys to think that the days of great heads have passed. Not true. One recent story about Nicola Sturgeon’s interminable efforts to stage another Indy referendum in Scotland was headed in The Times: If At First You Don’t Secede. 

And only last month the Mail headed a story about the issue of a set of stamps to mark Bond films: Lick And Let Dry.

In recent times Kelvin Mackenzie can lay claim to two of the most talked about heads. Even he knew Gotcha! was tacky and knee-jerk. It didn’t last the night. But his Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster was, justifiably, lauded.

My own favourite was written one floor down in Bouverie Street. The News of the World’s Monty Levy deserves a commemorative plaque for his Nudist Welfare Man’s Model Wife Fell For The Chinese Hypnotist From The Co-Op Bacon Factory.

Wow! They really don’t write ‘em like that any more.

Next in Media Hits and Myths: Do rough end of a green pineapple “intimate therapists” deserve their fat fees? 


Crazy night the head printer spiked my scoop on Lord Lucan


SOON after I joined the Daily Express in 1974 I was manning the news desk solo on the “dog watch” overnight. 

Two Met police detectives rang in from a phone box looking for an exclusive payment. 

They told me they were at a murder scene in Belgravia and that Lord Lucan was wanted for killing the family nanny. 

They added that Lucan had called his mother, the Dowager Lady Lucan, while police were with her but he had declined to speak to them, saying he would appear at the local police station the next day with his solicitor. Lucan was never seen again.

The late-night sub editor, Ray, climbed over the library shutter to get out Debrett’s Peerage, the reference guide to the United Kingdom’s titled families. 

When we looked up the Earl of Lucan, we learned that one of his great, great ancestors had ordered the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade. We had ourselves a genuine Fleet Street scoop.

However, fate turned out to be cruel — the boss of the print floor told Ray as he submitted my “stop the presses” plea at 2am: “Never heard of him, mate — I’m not stopping the presses for that.”

So my 15 minutes of fame had to wait for another day. Life in the rough and tumble of Fleet Street could be cruel back in the day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The printer had no authority to refuse to stop the presses. The situation should have been escalated to a higher authority rather than meekly give in.

*Lord “Lucky” Lucan, who would now be 85, disappeared after the murder of nanny Sandra Rivett at the family’s exclusive mews home in Belgravia, Central London, on November 7, 1974. He has never been found and has been officially declared dead. This story was originally posted on the Association of Mirror Pensioners website.


The one that got away

ESTEEMED former night editor of the Daily Express Pat Pilton looks happy in this snap from his time on Today newspaper. 

Maybe it was because he had escaped the hell of the Black Lubyanka. Pat is pictured here in the 1980s with Ron Morgans, seated at his terminal, as they take a break from staring blankly at the gobbledegook on the computer screen.


Rupert and the Wretched Replica Rip-off 

Oh dear, says Rupert, forgive me if I’m rude. 
I’ve got a nasty feeling I’ve been ever-so-slightly screwed

What promised to be a lovely weekend has been spoiled for Rupert. And he’s very angry. In fact, he’s growling. 

Rupert was just starting his breakfast porridge and honey when his father, who was reading the morning newspaper, snorted in indignation. 

‘What’s amiss, father?’ Rupert inquired. Mr Bear, his snout trembling in anger, showed him an advert in the Daily Mail’s Weekend Magazine. It showed a puppet-like depiction of a bear. 

With a chill in his stomach, Rupert realised this travesty, dressed in his familiar garb of red sweater and yellow check trousers and scarf, was supposed to be him! In those white plastic bootees?

Worse was to come. As he quickly scanned the glib advertising copy which accompanied the image, he learned that the doll had been manufactured to mark the centenary of Rupert Bear and that the chancers entrepreneurs responsible were charging gullible enthusiastic fans £225 for the privilege of owning one.

 ‘This is an outrage,’ fumed Rupert, ‘I wonder what my agent, Bill Badger will say.’ 




1900: So...is this spooky or what? Definitely not one of the London railway stations on the Monopoly board. The catchily named London Necropolis came into being in 1854 for one specific purpose: to transport coffins and mourners the 37 miles on the London and South Western Railway from Westminster Bridge Road to Brookwood cemetery — at 500 acres then the largest in the world — near Woking in Surrey. 

By the mid 19th century, London, with its rapidly expanding population, faced the problem of what to do with its dead. The limited cemeteries were already full. Graves were having to be used over and over again. The cholera outbreak in the 1840s proved the tipping point and the Brookwood option was adopted. 

Bizarrely, the station, with its state-of-the-art hydraulic lifts for coffins and its individual waiting rooms for grieving families, was used until as late as 1941 when it suffered bomb damage.

Granny Rambleshanks recalls that her mother, Octavia, made this last journey before the family moved from Ebury Street to West Byfleet between the wars. Only single tickets were required, she says. After all, it’s a dead end. Oh, Granny!


Drone readers have been contacting the Editor clamouring for a more cultured content in the World’s Greatest Website. 
Here, in an occasional series, Poetry Corner, is some verse which acknowledges its debt to Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona. 

Who is Rosalie? What is she

That all the Drones commend her?

Art, histories: wise is she;

The Editor such grace did lend her,

That she might admiréd be.

Are her Lookalikes as fair as she?

For beauty lives with kindness.

And doth Muldoon compare? With

Such facile supermarket musings

That, checked out, are, increasing, mindless?

Then to Rosalie let us sing,

That Rosalie is excelling;

Oh, Frame what matter who she be?

But to her, let us garlands bring!


Three picture editors hold a candle for John Downing

PICTURE POST: Photographer John Downing appears to have been presented with a candelabrum for one of his many achievements, quite what the award was for has been lost in the mists of time. Here he is, centre, with three of his admiring picture editors, from left, Ron Morgans, Andrew Harvey and John Mead.


The golden age of Fleet Street gossip

CHRISTOPHER WILSON, former editor of the William Hickey column in the Daily Express, has written a terrific account of his life on the paper in The Oldie magazine

Oh boy! An Express annual for 

BACK in the 1950s the Daily Express knew exactly what its readers wanted — it catered for everyone, including children.

The paper, then selling four million copies a day, started a comic for youngsters entitled Express Weekly, which later became TV Express.

Former Expressman John Clarke found this annual, clearly aimed at boys, in a charity shop.

He told the Drone: "I remember enjoying the comic as a young boy in the 50s. The front cover of this annual features among others Jet Morgan (a Dan Dare-type figure) and Texas Ranger Rex Keene, while the Express crusader does his bit on the back.

Inside there is Wulf the Briton plus a chubby chap called Jack of All Trades who explains how things like film cameras and oil rigs work. Comedy is supplied by Horace the Horror and Wee Sporty while Danny Blanchflower and Stuart Surridge provide sporting tips. All good clean fun. I imagine it dates from around 1959-60."


Porky’s spicey pig-out

Graham hits out at ‘drunk' Parry in angry Twitter clash over Caroline Flack's death

Cipriani’s original Tweet

How rugby player Cipriani started the row



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Q. Was there ever a letter in a newspaper signed Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells?

A. The Kent and Sussex Courier, based in the royal borough, is read avidly by, among others, choleretic colonels and/or disapproving dowagers who have encountered something nasty in the Pantiles; people described by E M Forster in Room With A View as having a “stuffy, reactionary image”.

They may well be disgusted but they are rarely shy about adding their names, titles and awards to their correspondence with the lively Courier Letters Pages.

There are many theories but the sign-off is said actually to have been invented by a rival newspaper envious of the Courier’s letters. The editor of the Tunbridge Wells Advertiser instructed his reporters to make up correspondence (it has been done!) on controversial topics and sign off with a pseudonym.

As it happened, a spoof letter in the Advertiser from Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells was spotted by actor and comedian Richard (Stinker) Murdoch on a visit to his parents who lived in the town.

He is said to have used it in his popular wireless programme Much Binding In The Marsh. 

The scriptwriter and raconteur Frank Muir (“What’s a homophone? I don’t know but it certainly has a gay ring to it”) later picked it up and used it on spoof letters in Take It From Here in the sixties.

Next in Media Hits and Myths: Is the rough end of a green pineapple really that uncomfortable?



And to hell with journalists who had their very modest
five per cent claim rejected

NO wonder Reach chief executive Jim Mullen is smiling — he’s been awarded nearly £1million in shares just four months after joining the company.

Tell that to the editorial staff of the company which publishes the Express, Mirror and Star titles whose request for a modest pay rise has been rejected by bosses.

Unions had asked for a five per cent pay rise over two years, which would cost the company less than £100,000. They were offered a little more than one per cent which they rejected.

A two per cent pay rise for this year has since been offered to Mirror group staff,  who will hold a ballot on the offer on Friday. 

The British Association of Journalists is the recognised union for Mirror staff. The National Union of Journalists, representing staff on the Express and Star, is still waiting for a new offer and has told management that it must improve upon two per cent, according to Press Gazette.

Jim Mullen, who previously worked at News International (now NewsUK) and betting firm Ladbroke Coral, was awarded £949,999 in ordinary shares in the company last December four months after taking over from Simon Fox as chief executive.

The shares are double his base salary for 2019. Each of the 972,364 shares is worth 97.7p.

City Editor TOM TROUSER DE-LOTT reports: The Reach share price has rocketed to 168p. They are going up nearly as fast as Tesla, apparently on the assumption that Reach is now a brilliant high-tech company, bugger the newspaper circulations.    

On the share chat lines, they are talking about the possibility of shares hitting £3 or more so the ‘greedy bugger’ angle could eventually be much greater.



(Up to a point, Lord Copper)

THE truth can now be told in your non-stop, soaraway Daily Drone about three of the world’s greatest mysteries.

We can report that Lord Lucan, Nazi Martin Bormann and the racehorse Shergar were found 35 years ago but the news was  somewhat under reported at the time.

But now the facts can be revealed. Well, sort of

Our story about Mirrorman Garth Gibbs’ unsuccessful search for the fugitive Lord Lucan stirred former Mail sub Tom McCarthy into action.

He revealed last night: "What is not generally known is that the fugitive peer was finally tracked down in 1985 by the Daily Splash, along with Martin Bormann and Shergar. It turned out all three were living together in peaceful semi-retirement in a rose-covered cottage in Ireland.

"Unfortunately, the paper  did not receive any accolades for its scoop because it was a one-off produced by Daily Mail staff in Manchester to raise money for charity.

"Old hands may remember that each of the nationals in Manchester took it in turn annually to make their own version of the Daily Splash. 

"Happy days.

"Long may your Mighty Organ, truly the World’s Greatest Website, thrive.


Old boiler lets off steam

2017: So … let’s salute the Golden Age of Steam, immortalised in the verse of Auden, Betjeman and Edward Thomas whose poem Adlestrop has inspired many a young writer (that train has left; it shall not return - Ed). 

Exactly a century after it was built, Charwelton, a Manning Wardle 0-6-0, has retired from huffing and puffing and snorting around the former marshalling yard now the home of Walton-on-Thames Railway Heritage Society because it developed boiler problems. 

For most of its life this classic Saddle Tank (28 tons; 7,810 lbs tractive effort; two cylinders 15in. dia x 22in stroke; 150 lbs boiler pressure) worked at the Park Gate Iron and Steel Co, of Charwelton, Northants and a quarry in Lincolnshire.

Now it is tended by loving heritage railway buffs (not the one I know - Ed) including Big Mac, pictured here. He likes to keep busy polishing the brassware and cleaning the thrust flues while going choo-choo and, occasionally, woo-hoo. Harmless, really.

R.R. (t)

I suppose you think that’s funny, Rosalie — Ed


Daring publicity stunt that could have cost foreign editor David English his job

THIS historic picture of the entire foreign staff of the Daily Express posed an enormous risk to the paper at the time.

It was taken by Terry Fincher in London in February 1965 at the instigation of foreign editor David English but it left the paper without any foreign coverage for three days.

The photograph features in reporter Andrew Fyall’s excellent autobiography First In, Last Out, Memoirs of an Expressman.

Pictured centre is English, flanked by René MacColl, left, and George Gale. Behind Gale on the far right is John Ellison who later became Foreign Editor of a much reduced department. Andrew Fyall is immediately behind MacColl.

The get-together, organised by the buccaneering and ambitious English, was a risky venture. Foreign correspondents were flown to London from all corners of the earth at enormous expense. Staff travelled first class, were met at the airport in chauffeur-driver limousines, and put up at five-star hotels.

Fyall, a foreign correspondent who spent much of his time in New York, explains in his book: “It was a huge gamble by English; one which would have cost him his job if anything had gone wrong, but his luck held. Nothing much happened in the world that weekend.”

The aim of the photograph, which was splashed across a page of the Express on a Monday morning, was to stun the paper’s rivals. It did that but it left the Express without a single man abroad for 72 hours.

Fyall calls it one of the greatest publicity stunts ever seen in Fleet Street.

English had badly wanted to become editor of the Express but the Mail group saw his potential first, making him editor of the Daily Sketch and then, famously, appointed him to the chair of the Daily Mail which consequently beat the Express in the circulation race.

The picture below, also taken from the book, shows the Express office in New York shortly after moving to the Herald Tribune building. Andrew Fyall is on the left talking to photographer Bill Lovelace. Bureau chief Henry Lowrie is in the background.

Fyall’s book is warmly recommended to anyone interested inthe history of the Express and Fleet Street in general. It covers in entertaining details major world events in the 1960s and 70s. 

Buy it on Amazon for £13.99 in paperback or £3.50 for the Kindle edition.


The night TV’s Alastair Stewart admitted being ‘pissed’ on air 
… and kept his job as a result

By POPBITCH Gossip Editor

It's become even more astonishing to us that ITN newscaster  Alastair Stewart had to step down over his "errors of judgment" on social media after the deluge of stories we've heard.

From the sounds of it, he's always been very capable of talking his way out of a sticky situation. 

Back in his big drinking days, Alastair was called into his boss's office to sit down and watch a clip of News at Ten that he had presented the night before. His boss demanded an explanation for it, saying: "If you say you were drunk during that bulletin, you're fired. What's your excuse?” 

Alastair calmly replied: “I was ... pissed.

It earned him a reprieve.

Even in the most debauched surroundings, Alastair still managed to keep his head and was able to extract himself – and others – from tricky situations. 

In 1992, ITN sent a delegation out to Brazil to cover the Earth Summit. While in Rio, one of the journalists' favoured bars in which to unwind of an evening was a place called Frankie's – famed for staging live sex shows. Alastair could often be found there, chatting animatedly to punters in between pukes. 

But when the landlord started getting heavy-handed with a fellow reporter, springing an unexpected $200 rum bill on him and threatening to call his brother-in-law (who he claimed was the local chief of police) if he didn't cough up, who should fix the situation but Alastair. 

He stepped straight in to smooth things over with the lairy owner, defused the situation like a pro and stumped up the necessary funds to get his colleague off the hook. 

Why Alastair had to go


Jollies with Ollie

Expressmen ROBIN McGIBBON, TERRY MANNERS, JAMES DAVIES and ALASTAIR McINTYRE remember fun meetings with the late, great, 
hell-raising and hard-drinking actor Oliver Reed


Fleet Street finally catches up with our story on changes at Sun and Times two weeks later

       PROMOTED: Newton              DEMOTED: Gallagher 

BIG editorial changes at NewsUK have been announced — TWO WEEKS after the story was first published by the Daily Drone.

The company finally confirmed that former Express graduate trainee Victoria Newton has been appointed editor of The Sun, replacing Tony Gallagher who moves to The Times as deputy editor.

Gallagher replaces Emma Tucker who becomes editor of The Sunday Times.

The only new fact is that Keith Poole, digital editor at The Sun, has been promoted to deputy editor. He and Newton will continue to have oversight of the Sun on Sunday, which Newton currently edits. It is not clear if a separate editor will be appointed to the Sunday title.

The changes take place next Monday.

Newton’s appointment means the UK’s two biggest-selling daily tabloids will be edited by women, with Alison Phillips at the Mirror. Roughly a third of paid-for national daily and Sunday newspapers in the UK are now edited by women.


 Emma Tucker is the new editor of The Sunday Times 

By POPBITCH Gossip Editor

FORMER Daily Express graduate trainee Victoria Newton is to take over as editor of The Sun, informed sources reported last night.

To complete the female coup, Emma Tucker, deputy editor of The Times, has been awarded the editorship of The Sunday Times.

So far the only official announcement has been the appointment of Emma Tucker, but the gossip is that it has set in train another game of media musical chairs at NewsUK.

As it stands, the reshuffle is thought to look a little like this: 

  • Emma Tucker displaces Martin Ivens, who is joining the board of NewsUK as a director.
  • Tony Gallagher will quit as editor of  The Sun to take up Tucker's vacant deputy seat at The Times.
  • Victoria Newton will be drafted from The Sun on Sunday to replace Gallagher as editor of The Sun.

If implemented, those changes would mean at least two of NewsUK's four papers will soon be edited by women, which is a great stride for equality. 

The male editor who remains in situ though is the one who – as we've reported before – has treated more than one female colleague to his infamous chat-up line "You have no idea how much I want to shove my cock into you.” 

So a slightly mixed bag.

Emma Tucker will not be the first female editor of The Sunday Times — that honour went to Rachel Beer, the aunt of war poet Siefried Sassoon, who held the post between 1893 and 1901.


Biker Steve takes the Road to Hell

Former Express photographer STEVE WOOD has been living in the dream in the Far East. 

Determined to throw off the shackles of his increasing years, Steve bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and set off on an epic journey from Bangkok to Vietnam with his companion Kornkanok on the pillion.

He calls this video his Road to Hell. It doesn’t look too bad to us Steve!


My part in Christine Keeler’s downfall, by snapper Larry Ellis

(As told to MAUREEN PATON)

Larry Ellis spent 18 months on just two stories

EVERY Expressman or Expresswoman of a certain age has a tale to tell about Christine Keeler’s role in the Profumo affair — and photographer Larry Ellis is no exception.

Feature writer Maureen Paton tracked Larry down and interviewed him about the 1963 scandal in which Christine had an affair with War Minister John Profumo.

The ensuing ructions led to Profumo’s resignation, the downfall of Harold Macmillan’s Tory Government and the jailing of Miss Keeler for perjury.

Maureen told the Drone: “I remember Larry talking about it many years ago in the Express showbiz office where he was one of our regular snappers.

“The other day I was writing a backgrounder piece for The Lady magazine; it was published with Larry’s quotes in the January 10 issue. He talked about how a tip-off led to a snatch shot of Christine Keeler emerging from the underground car park of her block of flats to avoid the ravening media hordes. 

“He maintains she gave him a two-finger salute in the shot but I think that’s a shocking allegation about such a nice young lady: she may have just been rearranging her hair. 

“Most impressive of all, I thought, was Larry’s revelation that he spent 18 months working flat-out on just two stories: Keeler and the Great Train Robbery. Eighteen months… 

“Larry now lives on the Isle of Wight and was the recent subject of a Fleet Street star snappers exhibition at its Dimbola Museum and Gallery, along with Mike Maloney, Bob Aylott, John Cleave and David L White."


Why TV hell-raiser Alastair had to go

DRUNK WITH FAME: Alastair Stewart

By POPBITCH, Gossip Editor

It's genuinely quite astonishing that a bad tweet may be the thing that ends up derailing Alastair Stewart's illustrious innings at ITV News — but not for the reasons that hysterical pundits are giving.

Until he drastically changed his lifestyle in 2004 (after a second drink-driving offence where he rammed his car into a telegraph pole on his way home with a Chinese takeaway) tales of Alastair's hell-raising were legendary in the industry.

At London Tonight in the 90s, it wasn't unheard of that he would have to be locked in his dressing room because he was too hammered to read the news at all, let alone on camera. 

And on one overseas trip, he got so wrecked at dinner he spent the entire journey back to his hotel vomiting. One of the crew with him was an old roadie who claimed he hadn't seen anyone that fucked since his days touring with Joe Cocker in the 60s "...and he had an arm full of heroin”.

My dad and Christine Keeler, by Frank Baldwin



ACCUSED: Christine Keeler arriving at Court with Frank Baldwin’s lawyer father Freddie in December 1963

The BBC TV series The Trial of Christine Keeler has again raised the profile of The Profumo Affair which continues to capture people’s imagination even though it happened nearly 6o years ago. 

Publisher and former Fleet Street journalist FRANK ‘SCOOP’ BALDWIN has a special interest in the scandal — as his father Freddie was Christine Keeler’s solicitor.

Freddie Baldwin also had to visit Christine’s London flat on occasions and often found her still in bed, which Frank's mum was NOT very happy about.

My Dad and Christine Keeler


The word in the Beaver is: 
We don’t want Meghan and Harry here in Canada

ROGER TAVENER reports the latest gossip from his favourite Toronto pub

I always found parts of Canada very fond of the Royal Family, particularly Diana. 

But my pals in Toronto's quaintly named, English-themed Queen and Beaver (yes, I know, but ’twas named when Meghan was but knee-high to a monarch) tell me the mood is turning with the Markle debacle, a reality soap the quiet quasi-Yanks would rather avoid.

I'd spend many a long night in the Beaver, playing darts, eating fine sausage and mash washed down with London Pride.

An old pal, former Globe and Mail sub Dave Downes, tells me: "Most Canadians don't want the attention, or security costs. We don't want Meghan's dirty washing hung out here."


Dramatic new look at site of Ludgate House

The site of the old Express building in London’s Blackfriars is to be transformed, as illustrated by this artist’s impression.

Ludgate House, formerly home to Daily and Sunday Express and the Daily Star titles, was demolished some time ago.

A huge skyscraper has already been built on the opposite side of Blackfriars Road and dominates the South Bank. Soon it will have a rival.



Private Eye snaffles Daily Drone story

PLAYING CATCH-UP: The Eye’s January 10 edition



FIRST WITH THE FUN: These Tweets were first published by the Drone last month. As Lord Drone once said (it was after luncheon): ‘We may not be first with the news but we’re always wrong’ A mishtake, shurely— Ed


History in moments

1945: Emaciated British troops, just liberated from the hell of an internment camp in Sumatra, catch up with the latest “war” news in the World’s Greatest Newspaper. 

Actually, as it is late August, the fighting against Japan had been over for more than a week following Emperor Hirohito’s surrender on the 15th. But the troops’ ordeal, and that of many civilians, continued. 

Few in those heady early days of freedom and longed-for peace realised how much the world had changed after Hiroshima and Nagasaki as reflected in the Express’s splash head: THE ATOMIC PLAGUE



All you need is Wigg

Wigg interviews John and Yoko Lennon in 1969

Interviews The Beatles gave to former Expressman David Wigg 50 years ago have resurfaced on Mail Online. Wigg spent many years on the Express before taking the well-trodden path to the Daily Mail but was working for the London Evening News at the time of the interviews which were given shortly before the group broke up. 





CHEESED OFF: Marc Veyrat’s restaurant has been downgraded

KIM WILLSHER has written a delightful story in The Guardian about a French chef who lost a Michelin star because he allegedly used Cheddar in his cheese soufflé 



Are they on the table or behind it?




Former Daily Express chief photographer JOHN DOWNING is the subject of a fascinating documentary shown recently on ITV Wales. Several familar faces can be spotted in the programme including Leon Symons, Gill Martin and Liz Gill, whose late husband Danny McGrory is also pictured. Run time is 23.20

Many thanks to Alex Collinson for sending the link. He reports that the programme came about "because of your item on the Daily Drone website. The producer Sarah Drew is my daughter-in-law”.

CHUMS: A still from the ITV programme, featuring John Downing, centre, with Liz Gill, Leon Symons, Gill Martin and Kim Willsher in the front row


Clive James chats to AlanCoren in the Daily Express  Fleet Street foyer, July 1991

Clive James, who has died at the age of 80, visited the Daily Express Fleet Street offices in this BBC Postcard From London recorded in July 1991 after the paper had moved to Blackfriars.

He chats about the old days in Fleet Street with his old friend Alan Coren in the famed foyer of the newspaper. The relevant part starts at 24.20 but if you want to watch the whole show it runs for 48 minutes.


Why can’t Geordie track down his old party pal Ghislaine?


Where in the world is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Since Prince Andrew’s excruciating interview, the Press has redoubled its efforts to track down the whereabouts of Jeffrey Epstein’s elusive “fixer" Ghislaine Maxwell.

So far, no dice — but it’s weird that Daily Mail editor Geordie Grieg hasn’t thought to put in a call.

He and Ghislaine were big pals when they were contemporaries at Oxford and have remained close in the intervening years.

In fact a quick image search through some of the better known picture agencies shows the two of them partying together as recently as 2013 (and in a very intimate looking clinch in 2003).

He knows there’s a £10,000 bounty going for this, right? That’s got to be worth a quick text, surely.

At the risk of attracting the attention of Inspector Knacker, we appear to have found a couple of  the aforementioned pics  — Ed


Farewell to the great Moncrieff

LEGEND: Chris Moncrieff in the corridors of power

THE world of journalism is mourning the loss of another great reporter — the legendary former political editor of the Press Association Chris Moncrieff.

Moncrieff, who was known for his hard working and his equally hard drinking, has died at the age of 88.

Such was his reputation around Parliament that the Commons Press Bar was renamed in his honour.

Former Expressman TERRY MANNERS, who went on to work for the PA, told the Drone: "Chris Moncrieff was one of the kindest, most likeable people you could meet … hard-working to the extreme, dedicated and trustworthy. 

"When Paul Potts asked me to work on the official book covering the history of the Press Association with Chris, I jumped at the chance, knowing I would have to keep pace with the scribe’s rapid work rate — especially as the doyen of the Commons no longer excelled in the excesses of the Commons Bar. 

(This was once the man who had a pint in hideaways all over Westminster ready for the long day and night ahead, especially debates — on a corner shelf; in a cupboard; behind a curtain). He could be assured of a drink anywhere he liked and at any time no matter where he was covering a political story.

In fact Chris’s work rate was so high all his life that he hated taking time off and would be in PA’s London office or the Commons before the day shift arrived – and still be there long into the evening. 

I remember a moment at a function, I think to celebrate his long-standing years of service with PA, which his good lady wife attended. In a pause in the conversation over gin and tonics and egg and watercress sandwiches, Paul and other Board members spoke highly of Chris’s talent, endless hard work, long hours and dedication to the company as Mrs Moncrieff smiled with pride. 

When the praise subsided she turned to Paul and said quietly: “Thank you and I know that you value Chris’s hard work but don’t you think, after all these years, he deserves to have more than one week’s annual holiday?”

Stunned silence.

Guardian obituary



READ ALL ABOUT IT: The cover of the lavish 400-page book

It seems like only yesterday that it launched but The Sun is now celebrating it’s 50th year.

The paper has marked the occasion with the publication of a lavish 400-page book which has been issued to all staff and contributors.

The Drone’s ROGER WATKINS has got his hands on a copy.

Read his comprehensive review, only in the Drone


Coulson airbrushed out of Sun’s 50th anniversary 

SUNRISE: The paper's first front page, November 17, 1969

As part of The Sun's recent 50th anniversary celebrations, Dan Wootton wrote a gushing tribute to the paper's Bizarre column, revisiting some of its best scoops from its various former editors. 

Most of the big names were there: Piers Morgan, Nick Ferrari, Gordon Smart, Dan himself. But there was one rather notable exception. 

Once again, there was absolutely no mention of Andy Coulson. 

Coulson edited Bizarre for four years in the 90s but — in much the same way he was airbrushed out of the Times' serialisation of David Cameron's recent memoirs — there was no trace to be found of him. 

It's a shame, because there's still plenty of good stories about Andy from those high, heady days to be told. The evening he chazbapped with Anna Friel, for example.

The golden age of newspapers

A fascinating look at architecture which built London’s Fleet Street


I have no recollection of meeting these men - Duke of Pork (sword)


By CLARENCE HOUSE, Royal Reporter

BUCKINGHAM Palace has issued a strong denial that the Duke of York has been involved in bizarre sexual practices involving hill marching.

It is reported that up to ten thousand men are alleged to have been involved in incidents involving the Duke.

One participant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “I and loads of other guys were offered money to dress up in early 19th century uniforms and then march to the top of a hill.

“When we got there we were greeted by an extremely ‘excited’ Prince Andrew. He was very giggly now I think about it.

“Then, just when we thought it was all over, he seemed keen to make us march all the way back down again.”

Another man, who also claims to have been involved, claimed: “He was quite firm about it, when we were up we were up and when we were down we were down.”

Denying the claims, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “All allegations in this matter are false, and records will clearly show these men were neither up nor down.”


Dear Sir

Your item about the Duke of York’s penchant for hill marching prompts me to inform you that it started at this school in the 16th century, not as a “bizarre sexual practice” but as a way of honing junior boys’ youthful bodies and hardening up their supple young thighs.

It was traditionally said of those lads who did not want to take part: “They don’t like it Uppingham!”

Yours etc


Downham House

Uppingham School



Night a mini-skirted Anne asked our man to bump-start her car

STEPPING OUT: Anne in her mini-skirt days

Former Express and Mirror man TERRY PATTINSON has regaled his friends on Facebook with the following memory

The late Daily Express photographer Harry Dempster and I pulled the short straw of having to watch Princess Anne and her latest boyfriend arrive at a restaurant on the Embankment at Chelsea. (It was in the 60s when she was still single).

We had to wait until they finished dinner, so it was a long vigil until they left.

When Harry finished snapping he put his cameras into the boot of his car.

We chatted on the street corner and plotted sneaking away for a pint or three before returning to the office.

Suddenly I felt a tap on my right shoulder (Yes, a funny place to have a tap — Chick Murray, Scots comedian.)

It was Princess Anne.

She said her boyfriend's car would not start and could we help? Obviously, she did not know who we were.

I informed her and her boyfriend how to 'bump start' using the gear and the clutch.

All three of us pushed the car while her boyfriend sat behind the wheel, Anne was wearing a mini-skirt, so the royal posterior was in the air as we pushed the car.

The car started and the white sport car roared off — Anne blew us a kiss..

After they disappeared we both realised that we had missed a great photo — it could have been the royal photograph of the year.

Harry said: "Please do not tell anybody about this until after I am dead."

And I never did.


Another fine mess, Stanley

YOU can’t keep a good man down … except when he goes under the knife. 

Former Daily Express reporter Peter ‘Stanley’ Mason was still smiling after spinal surgery at a hospital near his home in New South Wales.

He wrote on Facebook: “I’ve just sold my lower back and traded up to a new one.

“They call it a partial laminectomy with spinal fusion.

“It’s bloody painful but I had a top surgeon, brilliant and expensive but worth every penny. Should be back on the golf course by Christmas.”

The operation came after Peter and his wife Sheila were among 3,000 people who were forced to evacuate their homes in the Australian bush fire crisis. He has promised to write an account of the emergency when he is back on his feet.



Our witty new series is back despite hack’s plagiarism outburst


The Daily Drone is proud today to publish Part 3 of its popular Overheard in Waitrose series.

The column has not been without controversy as it led a grizzled Fleet Street hack to launch an extraordinary attack on the World’s Greatest Website.

It happened during an alcohol-fuelled lunch in a Covent Garden eaterie.

The journo, well known on national newspapers, clashed with the Drone Editor over the website’s popular series, Overheard in Waitrose.

A bystander said: “It was like something out of You’ve Been Framed: two white-haired old gits having a ruck. One seemed to be accusing the other of lifting or inventing stuff about a supermarket or something. You couldn’t make it up.”

A Daily Drone spokesman said: “We take very seriously any accusations about the probity of the website and its staff. Consequently, the matter was examined rigorously at an internal inquiry in which the editor, the HR director, the FOC and our trainee, S. Muldoon, the subject of the allegations, took part.

“None of the charges was proven and we deprecate this attempt to ankle-tap a fledgling journalist at the start of his career.”

Later the Editor issued a statement which said: “We strongly deny smears that this was a confected dispute designed to publicise a new feature in our witty and incisive Overheard in Waitrose series which is coming to the Daily Drone soon.

And a World’s Greatest Lunch Club spokesman denied that the club’s Christmas “Ladies’ Lunch” had been cancelled to “allow tempers to cool”.

PS: You’ll have to wait for the explanation about the jar of Butterworth and Sons chutney (a bargain at 2 shillings) — Ed

Today in your super soaraway Daily Drone


Overheard in Waitrose Part 3

(And find out the real story behind that bloody jar of two-bob chutney)


That doughty Miss Dimont rides again

Former Expressman Christopher Wilson has written a fourth book in his excellent Miss Dimont Mystery series. Dead and Gone to Devon can be ordered HERE.

Describing it as the best book in the series, Christopher announced on Facebook: “It’s 1959, and apart from a stiff lighthouse, there’s also a General Election (oh no, I hear you groan.

“They did things differently back then, however — including killing the candidate.

“From all good bookshops, etc.”


Old Expressmen never die, they lunch out at Simpson’s in the Strand

LUNCHING IN STYLE: JOHN McEntee with Charlie Sale, centre, and Peter Tozer

MAILMAN John McEntee was on the point of leaving a smart London restaurant when he spied two old colleagues from the Daily Express sport department.

John, who edits the Mail’s Ephraim Hardcastle column, wrote on Facebook: "Lurching out of Simpson's In the Strand after an Oldie literary lunch with Simons Heffner and Jenkins I came across Charlie Sale with his old friend Peter Tozer.

"Some old fogies had left a bottle of red on an adjoining table so I toasted Charlie’s return to health after illnesses. 

"Before both joining Dacre’s Mail we soldiered on the Express together when Lord Hollick sold to Richard Desmond. Charlie was furious when Hollick dispensed gifts of £40,000 at random to people on the paper. 

"I got £40k having met his lordship once at the theatre. I remember Charlie ranting in Stamford’s about the legitimate unfairness of his largesse.

"He was not consoled when I told him that I gave the £40,000 to my then wife Colette just before I bolted. I was left with a £12000 tax bill.”


HOW MANY?The Daily Express once had 169 staff writers and photographers
 (Tell that to the kids of today and they wouldn’t believe you)

SLIGHTLY FOXED: Tony Fowler’s memo from 1973


Statistical analysis by S. MULDOON (trainee)

How the mighty have fallen. Back in 1973 the late, lamented Tony Fowler, then Night Editor of the Daily Express in Manchester wrote a memo (see picture)  to “All Executives and Sub-editors” giving a list of staff writers and photographers in the London and Manchester offices who merited bylines.

Back then, the Express Northern News Editor Stanley Blenkinsop was nearly justified in, famously, routinely answering the phone: “News Desk. The world’s greatest newspaper.”

In truth though, the Express, despite then still selling more than three million copies a day, was on the slippery slope to obscurity.

As a former London Night Editor used to introduce himself to journalism students on the lecture circuit: “Between the time I joined the Express and when I left it had lost two million copies a day. Of course, I accept some responsibility but it’s not all my fault.” 

Now the Express, under the piss-poor ownership of something called Reach, is lucky if it sells 300,000 a day; the staff has dwindled to a fraction of what it was.

In March, 1973, the Express operated out of three “black Lubyankas” (although Scottish Daily Express production staff would soon move, reluctantly and truculently, to Manchester). Wee Ian McColl was halfway through his undistinguished reign as Editor, based in London. The mercurial (a euphemism for “usually pissed”) John McDonald, a far better journalist, reigned in Great Ancoats Street.

As Tony’s memo reveals,  the London and Manchester offices boasted comparatively huge staffs of scribes and snappers (forget about the poor bloody subs and desk men). A total of 169.

CHRISTOPHER WILSON commented: "Among the names of the great and good on Tony Fowler's list is that of the legendary Frank Goldsworthy, who in 1967 came to lecture us journalistic wannabes on block release at Harlow Technical College. 

"At the end of his slightly interesting peroration someone asked if he could give a simple word of advice to a young reporter.

'Always keep two fivers tucked in the back of your passport, and a change of clothes in a suitcase in the boot of your car. That way you're ready, 24 hours a day, to fly anywhere in the world.'

“It was a fascinating insight into why old FG had survived and prospered. And one which we — who rarely saw two fivers together, and who owned neither suitcase nor car, and struggled to find a change of clothes — absorbed in wonder.

At least most of us had the passport.

Here, for the record, is the list: 


Cyril AynsleyPaul Dacre, Norman DowdyLin EdgsonMichael Evans, Bernard Hall, John Hamshire, John Harrison, Frank Howitt, George HunterJill KingNorman Luck, Colin MacKenzie, David Richardson, John Sanderson, Brian Steel, Frank Thompson, George Webber, Alastair Wilson, Arnold Latcham, Frank Goldsworthy, Richard Wright, Jack Hill, John King, Colin Pratt, David Thurlow, Declan Cunningham.

Michael Charleston, John Christopher, Kingsley Squire, David Jack, Wilfred Sendall, Daniel McGeachie, Roy Blackman, George Lochhead, Walter Partington, Alexander Kenworthy, Keith Thompson, Percy Hoskins, Chapman Pincher, Bruce Kemble, Barrie Devney, Terry Pattinson, David Benson, Leslie Nichol, James Wilkinson, Frank Robson


Andrew Fyall, Peter Chambers, James Davies, Douglas Orgill, Adella Lithman, Bruce Kemble, James Murray, Alan Cass


Victor Davis, David Wigg, Judith Simons, Martin Jackson, Ian Christie, James Thomas


Herbert Kretzmer, Noel Goodwin


Sandy Fawkes, Sue Hayton


David Ash


Mary Collins, Jean Rook, Hugh McIlvanney, Sheila Hutchins


Charles Benson, John Santer, Steve Curry, Roy Ullyett, John Davies, Crawford White, Norman Dixon, Alan Williams, Pat Gibson, Jim Gould, 

Norman Giller, David Emery, Clive Graham, Desmond Hackett, Ronald Heager, Jim Hill, Philip Hodges, Sydney Hulls, John Lloyd, Pat Marshall, Derry Meade, John Morgan, Peter O’Sullevan, Frank Rostron, Mark Wilson


Victor Blackman, David Cairns, Harry Dempster, Terry Disney, John Downing, Ronald Dumont, William Jones, Jack Kay, William (Bill) Lovelace, Stanley Meagher, Michael McKeown, Hillaria McCarthy, Douglas Morrison, Norman Quicke, Robert Stiggins, Albert McCabe, George Stroud, Michael Stroud, Leonard Trievnor, Brian Laister, John Moran, Chris Wood, Reg Lancaster, Robert Chapman


John Alley, John Bell, Alan Bennett, Donald Blankly, Tony Brooks, Gerry Burke, Derek Hornby, Don Mackay, Carole Newton, James Price, Harry Pugh, Brian Ratcliff, Trevor Reynolds, Maurice Richards, Peter Welbourn, Robert Wilson, Frank Welsby, Philip Aris, Alan Baxter, Robert Brady, Peter Doyle, George Hill, Leonard Holliday, William Hunter, John Ley, Neil Moran, Leslie Poole, Peggie Robinson, Leslie Clare


Geoffrey Mather, Gerard Dempsey, Ray Purcell, Geoffrey Newson, Ron Boyle, Mary Duffy


George Birch, Leo Carter, James Dakin, John Dawes, Brian Duff, Peter Jackson, James Milne, Ernest McLintock, Alan Steele, John Wardaugh, Gordon Amory, William Gregory, Barry Henson, Stanley Pope, Robert Renton

Norman Giller reckons Tony Fowler missed some journalists out:


Bill Fryer, Alan Thompson, Derek Hodgson, Derek Potter, James Lawton. Mike Dempsey was sports editor.

Also omitted is Terry Willows, who served a year in Manchester and six in London.



The Daily Express was just seven years old when this picture was taken 112 years ago.

Note the steam engine crossing the bridge over Ludgate Hill. Many small alleys were swept away in the late 1860s to build Ludgate Hill railway station between Water Lane and New Bridge Street, a station of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. 

The station was closed in 1923. The railway bridge and viaduct between Holborn Viaduct and Blackfriars stations survived until it was demolished in 1990 to enable the construction of the City Thameslink railway station in a tunnel. This also involved the regrading of the slope of Ludgate Hill at the junction.

STILL RECOGNISABLE: The same scene today


Three Express amigos

NO wonder they’re smiling — these three former Expressmen managed to escape from the Black Lubjanka for the more journalist-friendly and lucrative Mail group.

Enjoying lunch at Wholefoods in London's Kensington are, from left, diarist Peter Mackay, who is now retired; John McEntee, editor of the Daily Mail’s Ephraim Hardcastle; and Peter Hitchens, who writes a column for the Mail on Sunday.

McEntee wrote on Facebook: My dear friend Peter [Mackay] worked with me on the Express when he shared an office with Peter Tory overlooking the Thames at Blackfriars. The pair watched the slow construction of what became the wobbly bridge from St Paul’s to Tate Modern.

When it was half finished the Queen walked out into the Thames on the incomplete structure. I recall going into the two Peters’ office and joining them and we stared at HM at the end of the half-finished edifice in the middle of the river.

None of us spoke. 


Zack gets em-rule back after 33 years

PICA RULES OK: Pat Pilton, left, presents Jon Zackon with the prized em-rule at Joe Allen yesterday

Back in the old days em-rules were prized possessions and locked away securely at the end of the night.

So you can imagine Jon Zackon’s dismay when his disappeared from the Fleet Street offices of the Daily Express back in 1986.

Later, the rule reappeared on Pat Pilton’s desk and the dispute over its ownership has been the subject of much light-hearted debate for the ensuing 33 years.

That was all settled at Joe Allen’s London restaurant when the World’s Greatest Lunch Club convened with Zack as it’s guest.

And there was a touch of the 1970s as he sat at the lunch table with the rule poking out of his jacket pocket.

LIKE THE OLD DAYS: Jon at the lunch table with his em-rule poking out of his pocket as Pat and Dick Dismore look on


How Hickey ed Wilson saved this Fleet Street sculpture from crusher

SAVED: The Three Printers sculpture in New Street Square 50 years ago, left, and in its present position in Goldsmiths Sunken Garden, London   Pictures by CHRISTOPHER WILSON

FORMER Hickey editor Christopher Wilson has revealed how he saved an important sculpture from being destroyed.

The work, Three Printers by Wilfred Dudeney, is a misnomer as it depicts an editor, a printer and a news boy. 

It originally stood in New Street Square outside the Westminster Press offices off Fleet Street but now graces the sunken Goldsmiths' Garden in Gresham Street.

Christopher wrote on Facebook: "This day 50 years ago I came to Fleet Street as a young reporter. In one of the back alleys I explored in the following weeks, I came across this sculpture by Wilfred Dudeney — as far as I know, the only public monument to us and our trade. 

"A dozen years ago, after the diaspora, it was in pieces in a builder's yard and destined for the crusher. I saved it, and since I never became an editor, I count it as my greatest journalistic achievement. 

“I wanted it to be re-sited in St Bride’s Churchyard but Goldsmiths' belatedly decided to claim ownership — even though until I said ‘ Oi!’ they were content to let it go to the crusher.

"They were the landlords of New Street Square but the sculpture was commissioned and paid for by Westminster Press [a now defunct local newspaper group].

“We compromised because Goldsmiths' offered to have it restored at considerable cost in return for it being placed in their garden.

“Anyway, like us, it’s still around!”

The Goldsmiths' Garden is on the site of the churchyard and medieval church of St John Zachary, which was damaged in the Great Fire. 

The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths had acquired land in 1339, and built the earliest recorded Livery Hall. After part of the Company's property was demolished in WWII, the site was first laid out as a garden in 1941, redesigned in later years. 

The former churchyard is to the west, a raised garden with a number of gravestones and trees. Steps lead down to the excavated site of the church, laid out as a sunken garden with lawn, hard surround and seating against the retaining wall. 

The Three Printers sculpture, dating from around 1957, relocated there in 2009.

Westminster Press was sold by parent company Pearson to Newsquest in 1996.


Slope off to the cinema, smoke a pipe … then make a story up

TAKING IT EASY: Evelyn Waugh had sage advice for reporters 

EXPRESSMAN Geoffrey Mather, writing on his website about Brideshead Revisited, recalled an amusing anecdote about the book’s author Evelyn Waugh.

Quoting Waugh’s biographer Philip Eade he wrote: "Waugh spent several weeks ‘working' at the Daily Express. Having been fired in 1927 he gave advice to budding reporters.

"When assigned a story, 'the correct procedure is to jump to your feet, seize your hat and umbrella, and dart out of the office with every appearance of haste to the nearest cinema'.

"At the cinema the probationer was advised to sit and smoke a pipe and imagine what any relevant witnesses might say.”

We on the Drone reckon this was an excellent policy which was followed 50 years later by eager Expressmen, although at that time pubs were more de rigueur than cinemas.

And the moral? Never take work too seriously.


His name was Hawkey, Raymond Hawkey and he had designs on Bond and the Daily Express ...

THRILLING THREE: Express design guru Raymond Hawkey, far right, with Len Deighton and Bond author Ian Fleming

RESEARCH by the Daily Drone has unearthed one of the forgotten stars of the Daily Express from the 1950s and 60s.

That man was Raymond Hawkey, design director of the paper from 1959 to 1964, who later designed acclaimed book jackets for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and Len Deighton’s thrillers.

Clive Irving wrote in The Guardian after Hawkey’s death aged 80 in 2010: "I was features editor of the Daily Express when Raymond Hawkey arrived at the paper, which was then at the height of its success in the late 1950s.

"It is hard to convey to those who work in the relatively sanitised newsrooms of the digital age the bawdy zoo that was the editorial floor of the Express. 

"Banks of cut-and-paste subeditors yelled commands to the copy runners, a single backbench of senior editors shouted at the subeditors, muscular reporters bargained for column inches, and in a far corner of the black glass building was a bear pit of competing claims for the severely rationed space in the ‘soft’ end of the paper.

"In this Fleet Street madhouse Hawkey, who was always impeccably barbered, confronted visual barbarians. His title of design director seemed optimistic, since there was a rigid template of typography and page layouts, imposed from on high, that nobody had the power to circumvent. 

"But Hawkey chose to work in discrete elements, combining feature headlines and simple, strong images in bold panels.

"His style, which later came to full expression in his wonderful book jackets, was the first and one of the most consequential if furtive steps in the long and too-slow advance of newspaper design that eventually culminated in the transformation of The Guardian in the late 1980s."

Hawkey was design director of the Daily Express from 1959 before he was appointed presentation director of The Observer in 1964 where he led the design of its colour magazine. He died in 2010 aged 80.

In 1962, Hawkey was chosen by Len Deighton to design the cover of his first novel The IPCRESS File, which some regard as the template for the covers of all subsequent airport novels. He went on to design covers for Deighton's books, including Horse Under Water, Funeral in Berlin and The Action Cookbook (where the IPCRESS revolver reappears, this time with a sprig of parsley in the barrel).

Hawkey designed covers for works by many other authors, including the Pan paperback editions of James Bond published from 1963-1969, which the Financial Times described as having "a stark elegance ... consistently menacing and memorable. Each has a single photographic image on a plain or textured background. Blurb is dispensed with. It's the visual equivalent of a cruel, sardonic smile.” 

A key element was Hawkey's bold use of lettering — the sans-serif James Bond wording is far larger than the book title or the author's name. 


Beaverbrook as you’ve never seen him 

THE Drone has uncovered an extraordinary home movie featuring Daily Express proprietor Lord Beaverbrook and the novelist H G Wells.

The silent film, filmed in 1924 at the peer’s home Cherkley, near Leatherhead, Surrey, takes the form of an amateur black comedy and also features the writer and feminist Rebecca West, who had a long affair with Wells and later reportedly with Beaverbrook. 

Beaverbrook, who died in 1964 and widowed in 1927, is pictured above wearing a top hat with some of the cast.

The film is fascinating also as a social document, revealing the mores of the time which are considered very politically incorrect today. 

You have been warned!

The film, entitled They Forgot to Read the Directions, runs for 20 minutes and there is no sound. 

Watch it here



Christiansen Chronicles

THE editor most revered by Express men and women is Arthur Christiansen, even though it is doubtful if anyone alive today worked for him.

He died in 1963 but his name is still spoken of in hushed tones by many.

Christiansen became editor of the Daily Express in October, 1933, a position he held for 24 years until 1957, a longevity in office that has never been beaten. 

During his editorship, sales peaked at two million in 1936, more than three million in 1944, and four million in 1949. 

Each day he wrote a bulletin. It was compulsory reading for members of editorial staff. 

Christiansen also expected them to read the Daily Express from start to finish daily and in addition, one other newspaper. Heads of department were expected to be familiar with the content of all morning newspapers by the time of first conference (around 11am). 

Only one editor since Christiansen has attempted to write a daily bulletin. That man was Christopher Ward (1981-83). His attempts were widely ridiculed by staff who risked their jobs by posting rival bulletins in the display box outside the editor’s office in Fleet Street.

These cod bulletins are in the possession of the Daily Drone (don’t ask!)

The World’s Greatest Website is proud to be able to print the best of the Christiansen bulletins when he was in charge of the World’s Greatest Newspaper.

There will be a new one every day.

Read them here

TERRY MANNERS writes: "Dear Lord Drone, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading the story of Editor Arthur Christiansen's famed bulletins. And examples too ... what  a magnificent piece of investigative Drone journalism. 

"I shall look at his original, cream bulletin case hanging in my study between the picture of Elvis and the Beatles with renewed fondness. I may even polish the glass. 

"Meanwhile, I rather think your public is also waiting to be entertained by extracts from the outstanding bulletins published in the box long after the great man's death. Will they ever be found? Get my drift?”

Drift received and understood — Ed

JEFF CONNOR writes: "You suggest that 'no-one who worked with him will still be alive'. Last I heard Michael Caine is still going strong and he appeared with Chris in the 1961 movie, The Day the Earth Caught Fire. 

"Chris played a hard-boiled national newspaper editor and the filming took place in the Express offices in Fleet Street. Michael was cast as 'Checkpoint Policeman (uncredited)' which is proof that everyone has to start somewhere! 

“Also, I know you were probably discussing the history of the Express, but in his spell at the Star Lloyd Turner also posted a daily bulletin, nominally a herogram but pretty unusual back then!”

Point taken! — Ed

*The 1961 movie The Day the Earth Caught Fire is available as a DVD on Amazon for £9.92. Details here

Christiansen playing ‘The Editor’ in The Day the Earth Caught Fire

RELIC: Christiansen’s bulletin board remained on the wall outside the editor’s office until the move to Blackfriars in 1989. It was rescued by Terry Manners and now adorns his study wall




HARD LABOUR: Gary Jones has toned down the racism

DAILY Express editor Gary Jones has proved himself to be part of a grand tradition — a square peg in a round hole.

He has confessed in an interview with The Guardian that he is a lifelong Socialist who believes that immigration has been good for Britain and that we should remain in the European Union.

In other words his personal beliefs do not match those of his newspaper. There is nothing new here — the Express has been edited by an eclectic assortment of characters.

Does that make Jones the wrong man to edit the Right-wing Brexit-supporting Express? Not a bit.

It has never been a requirement of the job for the editor to be a Tory. Bob Edwards, who edited the Express twice, certainly wasn’t and Lord Beaverbrook once hired Left-winger Michael Foot for the Evening Standard.

Lord Drone, before his ennoblement, spent 32 years on the Express and served under 12 editors. Only three of those were worth their salt — Lord Drone's old chum Chris Williams, Derek Jameson, who was the only one to actually increase circulation, and Sir Larry Lamb, who could have been even better if he had shown more enthusiasm.

The other nine editors are mostly too awful to mention.

So can Jones make a success of it? Who knows. But if things go on as they are with circulation tumbling (see below) he could be the last to hold the top job on this once-great newspaper.

Read the Guardian piece here



Industrial editor Barrie Devney at his desk in the Daily Express offices in Fleet Street on 9th March 1969

          Picture: Norman Quicke/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

DAVID THOMPSON, former Chief Parliamentary Correspondent of the Daily Mirror, has a great anecdote about his days as a trainee reporter on the Mansfield and Sutton-in-Ashfield Reporter with his friend and rival Barrie Devney, who worked for the opposition.

The most boring job they had to do was to collect the names of mourners at funerals but often the earnest young reporters were arrogantly waved away by the town’s bigwigs.

One day Barrie, who went on to become the respected Industrial Editor of the Daily Express, got his own back.

Devney’s revenge


Lament for the death of the gossip column

TEA FOR ONE: Writer David Lister contemplates another slice of cake at Cliveden,1999  Picture: ©The Independent

DAVID LISTER, a writer and columnist for The Independent, has written a masterly account of the slow demise of the Fleet Street diarist, including the death and resurrection of the William Hickey column in the Daily Express.

The rise and fall of the Fleet Street diarist


To Russia with booze and a spare bath plug

Despite the heavy drinking and partying (all strictly for professional reasons of course) ALAN FRAME manages to recall his heroic visits to Russia on service with Her Majesty’s Daily Express


Ian Benfield dies at 84

Lord Drone is personally greatly saddened to report the death of his good friend Ian ‘Bunter’ Benfield at the age of 84. 

Ian had been suffering from vascular dementia for two years, as as his son Guy reports below in The Journalist.

Bunter was a top news sub-editor on the Daily Express for many years where his agreeable nature and good humour made him a popular and valued member of staff. 

He was never happier than when he was drinking beer in the pub with his colleagues. 

Ian died last December but news of his death has only just reached Drone Towers. His funeral was in January.

DICK DISMORE remembers: 
Bunter, the man who subbed the Yorkshire Ripper trial single-handed — and the Printer didn’t bother setting the running copy. This was much to the consternation of the Night Editor, one K. MacKenzie, who monstered the culprit so badly he had to buy him a bottle of whisky to ensure publication of the next day’s paper.  

And Bunter just kept subbing and let it all wash over him. Happy days.

*Ian's brother, Derek Benfield, pictured above, was an actor, best known for his role as transport company foreman Bill Riley in the TV series The Brothers.


GREAT TIMES: The Observer has republished a fascinating piece about Fleet Street watering holes written at the time the paper left for new pastures in 1988. The picture shows the conviviality continuing despite a power cut.


Lower Thames Street 1905

As the Daily and Sunday Express news operation prepares to leave its Lower Thames Street offices in London for Canary Wharf here’s a pic of the road in 1905. 

Lower Thames Street is just as busy then as now as carts queue to collect fish from Billingsgate Market on the left. This scene looks west with the spire of St Magnus the Martyr Church, which still nestles next to London Bridge, visible in the distance.

Lower Thames Street today with the old Billingsgate Market building on the left. The Express building is the grey structure further up


Craig parties with FleetStreet royalty on his 70th

Just a few of Craig's editor pals: From left, Eve Pollard, Sir Nicholas Lloyd, Wendy Henry, Craig MacKenzie, his brother Kelvin, Judy McGuire and Piers Morgan  


Tabloid royalty turned out in force for Craig MacKenzie's 70th birthday bash.

Ex-editors and many others from across the newspaper spectrum descended on the party in Weybridge, Surrey.

Craig started as a sub on the Daily Express and went on to become deputy editor of the Daily and Sunday Express. He also edited titles for the Murdoch and Mirror groups.

He thanked guests who had made him welcome when he first arrived in Fleet Street.

Presenting him with a spoof Sun Page One, Piers Morgan paid tribute to his incredible loyalty. 

He said whenever he had problems, Craig would be in the trenches alongside him. 

Piers described him as "mad funny" and said he loved Craig's passion for life and work.

He added: "All the MacKenzies are like that. Everything at 100mph." 


Spot the Expressman

FOUND HIM YET? Look closely and you will see Terry Chinery hard at work on the Luton News back in the 1970s. Terry, first left, went on to greater things and became Night News Editor on the Daily Express. And yes, that dagger in the foreground is his, we are reliably informed.


Private Eye reports:

Veteran Daily Express hack John Chapman, who refers to himself as a “Fleet Street survivor” having stuck with the paper through its Desmond doldrums and on to the new Mirror-managed era, left last month with an old-school retirement party at El Vino.
He had an admirable valedictory message for his assembled colleagues: “I have witnessed the slow, sad decline of a once-great newspaper … but I was earning an old-style Fleet Street salary so I don’t give a fuck.”



Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend, left,  holds a riverside conference with deputy editor Dick Dismore, right, and Andy Hoban at the Lower Thames Street offices in London some time in the mid-Noughties.


Stamfords Wine Bar was the favoured watering hole for Daily Express journalists in the 1990s and early Noughties, mainly because it was but a short lurch from the Blackfriars offices. 

Pictured among an impressive array of empty beer and wine bottles are the usual suspects … picture editor Chris Djukanovic, editor Chris Williams, backbencher Nick Dalton and sub Sheila Molloy.


STAMMIES again in a snap provided by MIKE HUGHES, who is on the far left. Also pictured are Chris Williams, John Twomey, personal finance writer Jessica Bown, and Luke Felton, who is sadly no longer with us.



WHO'S that woman with Expressman Ashley Walton? And why does he have that devilish look on his face? 

We do not know … but we think we should be told.

This picture of Margaret Thatcher with the Drone’s chief reporter comes from the BBC TV programme Icons.   

Walton explained yesterday: 'The shot was taken somewhere in the UK during Mrs Thatcher's first election campaign in 1979 before she became Prime Minister. 

'I covered the whole three weeks of the campaign travelling the length of the UK and having a great time. It was certainly the most gruelling three weeks of my life. Where did all that hair come from? Mine not hers.'

He added: 'Now I know what it feels like to be a legend in my own lunchtime.’



Guess who trousered the redundo jackpot?

All three of them! 

This charming study of Daily Express features subs Norman ‘Normal' Cox, Dave ‘Squiffy’ Searby and Mike ‘Trouser’ Snaith shows them at a lunch to celebrate their redundancy in the 1980s.

Yes folks, thanks to excellent contracts, journalists once rejoiced in getting the sack, as JEFF BOYLE explains in the …

The Great Golden Wheelbarrow lunch


I had that Tim Shipman in the back of the cab ...

You know the feeling, you’ve had an enjoyably heavy lunch and then, in the cab back to the office, the news desk calls, jolting you back to reality.

This was Sunday Express politico Tim Shipman back in the day, trying to sound lucid after a liquid lunch at the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping, London. An amused Andy Hoban looks on.


Muldoon’s Lookalike

                     ESSEX                                     McINTYRE

By S MULDOON (trainee)

Can it be? Surely not. How is it that the world has only just noticed that the acting-singing heart-throb David Essex and our very own Drone clan chief Lord Bingo McIntyre of that Ilk bear more than a superficial passing resemblance? They’re not related of course: one’s quite high born, actually and the other is, at best, of artisan stock. 

Essex, OBE, a man of undistinguished looks, has made good through his showbiz talent. He almost became a professional footballer, though and was on West Ham’s books as a lad. He famously refused to answer a single question in his 11-plus so that he could attend a local secondary modern renowned for its footie prowess.

Lord B, the better looking of the two, comes from an ancient Highland clan (war cry: Flodden the bar!). The name McIntyre is from the Gaelic Mac an t-Saoir meaning son of the carpenter. The clan’s historic seat may have been Glen Noe in Argyll and Bute but it is now Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The chief is in pretty good form considering he has been on a slippery slope (geddit?) for years.

I’ll get you for this, Muldoon — Ed 



WHERE’S HE GONE? Jon Zackon tears his hair out as a thirsty Kipper Keeling slips out to the pub again

ONE of the great legends of the old Fleet Street Daily Express in the 1970s and 80s was Ted ‘Kipper’ Keeling who, although an excellent news sub-editor, was mostly noted for his ability to slope off to the pub in a cloud of cannabis fumes without the Chief Sub noticing.

Reading on the Drone of Kipper’s exploits, former sub Nick Pigott climbed into his loft to retrieve this sketch he drew at the time of Assistant Chief Sub Jon Zackon tearing his hair out as his nemesis slipped out to the pub.

The original story is here:

The Grey Ghost, Forgotten Hero of the Lopés Cup



Daily Express news subs 1960s

This snap, provided by David Eliades, shows the Express newsroom in London some time in the early 1960s. 

In the foreground is foreign sub Jack Atkinson and next to him in his customary white shirt is splash sub Peter Hedley. The man to Hedley’s left on the middle bench is Ted Hodgson who later became night editor.

Opposite Jack is Ken Macaulay and next to him is Ralph Mineards. 

The man seated under the pillar in the white shirt and dark tie, is Eric Price. This would date the pic as before 1962 as Price left the Express that year to join the Western Daily Press in Bristol.

The backbench is the long desk on the left, second left is Bob Edwards, (the only man to be made editor of the Express twice) next to him is Eric Raybould and Morris Benett.

Thanks to TONY BOULLEMIER  and ROGER WATKINSfor help with this caption.

RICK McNEILL reports:  I would date the picture pre-1965, before I joined. I recognise those you mention but others are unknown to me. 

I think the man in the far right background, on the telephone, is picture supremo Frank Spooner and the man seated looking up at him Jim Nicholl. I seem to recall the picture desk and foreign desk shared the same space around then. 

Facing Ted Hodgson is Welshman Harold Jones wearing his signature cardigan, look you. Apart from Morris and Raybould the Backbench is populated by strangers. I’d love to know who they are!

ALAN HILL, Chief City Sub from 1968 to 1996, who identified Bob Edwards, recalls: Bob gave me my job on the Express City staff. When I arrived, six weeks later, he had gone … again!

I believe he sacked Frank Spooner in the morning. Frank’s staff took him for a long lunch and when he returned to clear his desk … Bobbity had been sacked himself.  Frank continued as Picture Editor for years.

Click pic to enlarge


SIR — How nice to see a photograph of my late father, Ralph Mineards, deputy father of the Daily Express chapel, in your illustrious organ.

When he retired in 1979, getting the honor of being "banged out" by the printers, he estimated he had travelled more than a million miles commuting from his Northampton home to London Euston, whiling away his hour-long ride doing the Times crossword.

I always remember him telling me that when he sat on the committee that helped launch the Daily Star, its audience was considered "the Millwall supporter who rolls his own cigarettes”.

An extremely capable journalist and wonderful father.

I followed in his footsteps as an Express trainee on the Falmouth Packet, where my colleagues included Nick Coleridge, now the head of Conde Nast UK, before joining Paul Callan's Inside World on the Mirror and then moving to Nigel Dempster's Diary on the Mail, leaving for the U.S. as an editor on New York Magazine, eventually becoming an anchor for CBS and a commentator on ABC News.

I have now lived in Santa Barbara for 11 years, where I write a weekly column for the Montecito Journal.




They look glum but these Daily Express women were in fact putting on an act. They were actually having fun, mourning the death of the paper’s William Hickey gossip column. 

Back in 1987, the Express decided to replace the long-dead diarist with a real person in the shape of Ross Benson. Fleet Street gossip columnists led by the Daily Mail’s Nigel Dempster held a mock funeral for Hickey whose  name was revived following Benson’s death. 

This picture is supplied by Kim Willsher, second left, with Louise Court on her right.

The day they buried Hickey

The rise and fall of the Fleet Street diarist



SIR — On a flying visit to London recently I took my family for dinner at the new Joe Allen, fondly expecting to wallow nostalgically in its uniquely cool and quietly clubbable atmosphere.

Imagine my surprise (as they say) to find myself in a overcrowded characterless bistro full of shouting tourists off the street and an expensive menu with little to remind me of its bygone Exeter Street heyday. Even the signature cheesecake tasted like Tesco’s!

Perhaps you chaps have a different perspective at your regular get-togethers there. Probably it’s the company not the place? Maybe also night times are a no-no. Too close to the Strand.

You know what they say . . . never go back.

Greetings to all Express Persons of Good Standing!



Tweet of the Year

Reflections on Cummings, a great Express cartoonist

TERRY MANNERS tells the story behind one of thousands of cartoons drawn for the Express by Michael Cummings


They way we were

Production editor Bob Smith, left, and artist Fred Boyce inspect the first edition of the Daily Express at the Blackfriars offices in the 1990s


It’s the Duke, caught on camera in the 1970s

There’s a few familiar faces in this pic of the London Evening Standard backbench in, at a guess, the 1970s. In the background gazing into the middle distance is Chris ‘Duke’ Djukanovic, later to become picture editor of the Daily Express. 

Seated on the right is Charles Wintour, famed editor of the Standard, and next to him in the striped shirt is Roy Wright, who later became the editor of the Daily Express before disappearing without trace.

PETER STEWARD has filled in the gaps. He writes:

I believe the picture was taken before I joined the Standard (in the long hot summer of 1976) and for some reason I think it was a pre-Budget meeting. At that time the Evening Standard was part of the Beaverbrook empire and housed in Shoe Lane.

As you say, to the left of Charles Wintour is Roy Wright who returned to the Standard while I was there. I think he was deputy editor when Simon Jenkins was fired and Wintour returned for a short time before Lou Kirby arrived and Associated took half a share in the paper.

Seated centre is Bill Sharp, the splash sub.The chap back left in beard and specs is Cyril Raper, who enjoyed a White Shield Worthington. I think he was once chief sub, but during my time there he was like an executive revise sub. 

In those days subs sent copy direct to the printers below via a conveyor belt down the middle of the desk and a hole in the floor. The first opportunity to get it revised was when galley proofs arrived upstairs or when the stone sub got a chance to read it.

On the left is the legendary political editor Bob Carvel (with pipe) and Michael King.

Perhaps the person furthest right could be David Henshall.

I left the Standard on December 29 1983 after being kidnapped in the Poppinjay by the sweet-talking Terry Manners. I was working a five-day week as the Standard's chief sub at the time but Terry held out the prospect of a four-night week for more money. 

Six months later Mr Manners showed me the way to the escape tunnel (or perhaps he regretted tempting me in the first place) and I left to join the Sunday Express under that dynamic liberal editor Sir John Junor.

Click pic for larger image


The faces look familiar to anyone who was on the Daily Express in the 1970s and 80s. But who are these two youngsters? The answers are here


Hold the front stage! It’sChristiansen the film star

1961: Legendary Daily Express editor Arthur Christiansen demonstrates that as an actor he was a very fine journalist playing himself in the cult sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Caught Fire. 

Chris, pictured with Edward Judd who played a maverick reporter (aren’t they all? — Ed), spent most of the time spouting lines like: “Hold the front page!” and “Make it sing and make it a song I like,” (or was that another legendary Daily Express editor?) 

The film was based on the Express in its heyday and many shots were filmed in the office and Fleet Street. Behind the scenes there was also rumoured to have been a piquant play within a play starring an Express executive (still there in the seventies) and the luscious female lead Janet Munro, who, after a hard day’s filming, were encountered discussing bold intros and splash heads in the lane behind the Old Bell (mem to Night Lawyer Cocklecarrot: It’s OK: they’re both dead now)



We think this may be a pic of the Express subs

but could it be the Mail?

This fascinating pic of sub-editors in, at a guess, the 1950s has been taken from the website of Hugh Dawson, who was chief sub and production editor of the Daily Mail for more than 40 years. Hugh, pictured right, died aged 73 on 24 June after a long fight against motor neurone disease. He started in journalism on the sports desk of The Journal, Newcastle, in 1962 and left the Daily Mail in 2010. He also worked on the Hemel Hempstead Post and Echo.

Hugh identified the picture as of the Daily Express. That being the case, we think the man on the far right of the pic is Dan McDonald.

But Rick McNeill, who joined the DX news subs in the 1960s, thinks the picture may be of the Daily Mail newsroom. He said: "Inspecting your fascinating DX subs picture with my Sherlock Holmes © Magnifying Glass, I think the man you ID as Dan McDonald is cutting a copy of the Daily Mail. See masthead. Which leads me to suppose that (a) it is not Dan McDonald but a lookalike, and (b) this is a pic of Daily Mail subs. Did Dan ever work for the Mail?

"Also the room, windows, ceiling lights and clock on the pillar are wrong  the Black Lubyanka subs’ room I joined in the mid-1960s looked nothing like this and was unchanged since at least before the war.

"Maybe the real mystery is why Hugh Dawson mistakenly identified the picture on his website? He was after all Mail chief sub for yonks.

"I’m happy to be proved wrong, however.

Chris Chalke, an Express news sub in the 1970s, wondered if the picture is in fact of the Daily Express in Manchester. Dan McDonald was a Scot so he could well have worked there before moving down to London.

Chris added: “The skull on the left opposite Dan McDonald reminded me of Ted Hodgson.”

Roger Watkins has his doubts too. "I don’t think that’s the Daily Express. When I moved to Fleet Street from Manchester in the seventies the back bench was parallel to Fleet Street facing north (it later turned 180 degrees when it moved to be closer to the news desk).

"In Hugh’s picture there are windows behind the back bench. For that to be the Express they would have to be on the Shoe Lane wall (where the art desk and reporters were situated when we left the Lubyanka)

"Unlikely, especially when you consider there was a huge supporting pillar (by which the Manchester Desk sat) which would have been in the middle of the subs desk.

"I don’t know much about lookalikes but I think Rick’s right about Dan.”

Last night further forensic examination of the photo throws up more doubts. Could the pic date from the 1930s?

Rick said: "Since when did subs (Mail or Express) ever look so respectfully buttoned up with suits and ties and Ernest Bevin specs? Pre-war I reckon."

What do you think?

Tribute to a true gentleman


The amazing life of Bain,

a fantastic story well told

The idea of launching a public relations company in a desert country where they’d never heard of PR, especially when you couldn’t speak the language and had no experience in that business, might  seem more like insanity than entrepreneurial vision. But that’s exactly what former Express sub IAN BAIN did in the United Arab Emirates.

After an understandably shaky start, he built it into one of the biggest consultancies of its kind in the Middle East with clients that included General Motors, Airbus, Intel, Samsung, Emirates Airline and many others. 

At the time, Ian was well used to risk-taking, having been a reporter, a merchant seaman, a big-time booze smuggler in India, and Buenos Aires correspondent of the Express and The Economist — all before the age of 24. 

How he achieved success without the benefit of an education (he attended nine schools in 10 years and was thrown out at the age of 15 without a single exam pass) is beautifully described in his memoirs, Singing in the Lifeboat, available on Amazon.

Amid a multitude of other adventures, the book relates how Ian battled alcoholism, checking himself into a psychiatric clinic in Dubai where he was shocked to find patients handcuffed to the water pipes, and guards with batons. “It wasn’t the kind of rehab I’d had in mind,” he said.

"I'm grateful to a few of my old Express colleagues who read the manuscript and produced some lovely words for the covers," he added. 

"Right now I'm trying to figure out how Amazon's sales charts work. With pre-orders alone, the book hit No 1 in UAE history and No 1 in motor rallying when these subjects are only loosely connected. Of course, that's only on one particular day but not everyone knows that.

Singing in the Lifeboat is available on Amazon for £8.99 


One in the Eye

No 103

Volume 15: 1986

THE history of the Daily and Sunday Express as told 30 years ago through the columns of Private Eye (Lord Drone does not necessarily agree with the sentiments expressed although, from memory, they seem reasonably accurate.) 

New readers: The Eye referred to the Express as the Getsworse, the Getsmuchworse, or the Getsevenworse or sometimes even worse than that.


25 July 1986

Street of Shame

When an Englishman was sentenced to hang in Malaysia for drug-running, the Getsmuchworse swiftly dispatched ace newshound Norman Luck to cover the pleas for clemency, death-cell agony and grisly end. Unfortunately the grisly end took rather a long time coming.

Worried about the cost of this jaunt, the Getsmuchstingier’s news desk ordered the luckless Luck to return home. While he was in midair, though, it became clear that the editor, “Nick” Lloyd — who had not been told of Luck’s imminent return — wanted him to remain in Kuala Lumpur.

In panic, the news desk decided to keep the return of the prodigal wordsmith secret. As soon as he touched down on home soil he was whisked off to a hideaway and continued filing stories as if he was still in Malaysia.

Thus it was that a series of graphic eyewitness accounts of the days leading up to the hanging which appeared in the Express under the byline “from Norman Luck in Kuala Lumpur” actually came from no further afield than Tunbridge Wells where Luck was holed up in a luxurious flat while involved in discussions of a Malaysian nature.

19 September 1986

Street of Shame

Just as United boss David Stevens removes one source of sleaziness, Roger Boyes, so another pops up. Fleet Street's most repulsive yob Ray Mills, now has a column in the Star. 

Eye readers will remember Mills from issue 635, in which his habit of peeing in office wastepaper baskets, to the distress of cleaners, was disclosed. Mills’s new column is the journalistic equivalent of peeing in public.

At the Star he is known to one and all as BIFFO — Big Ignorant Fucker From Oldham.

The most recent Mills story involves his teenage son who, trying to please the elderly delinquent, baked him a birthday cake. Mills threw the cake at the lad’s head, shouting: “Are you a queer or something?”

3 October 1986

Street of Shame

When word was brought to dynamic Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie that Pat Phoenix was dead, his reaction was swift. “Get Doris Stokes [a clairvoyant] on the phone,” he screamed at a subordinate. “I want the first interview from the other side.”

A few minutes later the trembling subordinate reported back. La Stokes said that it took some time for for the spirit to move from earthly form. Even with her talents she could not yet make contact with the departed star.

“Well tell her to make it up,” shrieked MacFrenzie.

14 November 1986

“Hindley Freedom Move” screamed the Daily Getsmuchworse on Monday, labelling the story as “exclusive”. Its gullible readers were informed that Myra Hindley was to be sent to an open prison, and there were assorted quotes expressing the appropriate shock horror.

The Home Office denied the story as being untrue, for a very good reason — it was.

Step forward yet again Mr Michael Rocco Ryan who, posing as a prison nurse on escort duty, conned the gullible hacks. They can, however, almost be forgiven — for Rocky has become more sophisticated in the last twelve months. He has a fun-loving female accomplice who leads the hacks into his traps.

28 November 1986

Blood is running in the gutters at the Sunday Express, following the takeover by new Editor Robin Esser and his personally-appointed deputy Brian Hitchen.

Assistant Editor James Kinlay, once touted as the next editor, finishes at the end of the month. Photo editor John Dove has been given his cards and finishes up at the same time. Foreign editor Terry Foley returned from sick leave to be told he was no longer needed and has moved out of his office.

The latest office notice board announcement is the demotion of News Editor Michael Dove to reporter, apparently for his remark in the Poppinjay pub: “Brian Hitchen wouldn’t know a news story if it was shoved up his nose. He’s a beer-bellied idiot.”

“Inspector” Michael Watts has been axed after 27 years on the paper after telling Esser: “You can’t change the character of my column, old boy. I won’t stand for it.”

Travel editor Lewis de Fries has been chopped and now the Esser/Hitchen Punch and Judy act have turned their sights on Features Editor Max “Fuhrer” Davidson because of his continual complaining within the office: “All I get are inane features from Esser’s talentless Yuppie friends and Hitchen’s old drunken American-based cohorts.”

Assistant editor Ted Dickinson has been told to leave because when Esser tried to get back on the Daily Express after the closure of the Evening News he wrote a memo, still on file, reading: “On no account should Esser be given a job. He’s a total incompetent.”

Assistant editor Henry Macrory has been demoted to News Editor and one of his deputies, Ted Gartell, leaves at the end of November after being axed. Political editor Keith Renshaw has volunteered for early retirement at Christmas.

So of all departmental heads, that leaves just Diary Editor Lady Olga Maitland. The terrible duo backed off at the last minute when she befriended and started lunching with Lady Stevens, wife of Express supremo Sir David Stevens. Now she’s organising a counter-plot, jabbing her poison pen into the backs of her would-be executioners.

But that has not stopped Punch and Judy from targeting their next victim: the great Sir John Junor himself, who keeps bad-mouthing Esser and Hitchen to his spies still on the Sunday Express.


The Daily Express, it seems, is still under the impression that its rightful owners are the Beaverbrooks. Lady Beaver has recently taken to ringing the paper’s executives to complain of items she finds “offensive” or “anti-Tory”, to wit one poor hack’s reference to “booze and fags”.

The hack was summoned to Deputy Editor Leith McGrumble’s office and told to empty his desk and collect his cards. As stunned as were his building society and family, the minion duly complied, but first informed the Father of the Chapel. A ruckus ensued between various heads of department and, 24 hours later, the hack was reinstated. Later he was told that he had also been guilty of anti-Tory sentiments and had better keep his nose clean (ie brown) in the future.

Lady Beaverbrook is 94.

Christmas issue

Letters to the Editor



Less blood has flowed on the Sunday Express than you claim. Only one member of the News Desk is leaving the paper, entirely of his own volition. The only change in my own position is that my duties have been expanded.

Yours unanaemically, 

Assistant Editor, 
Sunday Express 

121 Fleet Street, London



Your piece about me (Eye 651) is wrong in every detail.

I was not demoted from News Editor. I came off the desk in order to write for the new lively Sunday Express. It was entirely my idea and the move was approved by the editor.

Neither have I ever criticised Brian Hitchen in the Poppinjay or anywhere else. The remarks you attributed to me are a complete fabrication.

Your article was untrue and highly defamatory. I thought you had learned your lesson about checking facts after your recent High Court experience. 

Kindly publish this letter. I know better than to expect an apology from you.


Senior Reporter

Sunday Express

121 Fleet Street, London

















ONE IN THE EYE 1966-1971



Wednesday, 21 April 2021 at 18:59

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre