Fleet Street Days: A tribute to Didge

MEMORIES: Photos on display at the wake guarded by the koala that sat on the coffin

This address was given at the funeral of Bill Reynolds by DAVID LAWS, who wrote it jointly with RAY KING

We all have our own thoughts about Bill, known as Didge to his Daily Express colleagues, but here is an enlightening tale from a journalist colleague:

“One memory of Bill I treasure goes back to my first week on the Daily Express. A chapel meeting was convened at St Bride's Institute and I sat next to Didge. He introduced himself and warmly welcomed me to the paper. We hit it off immediately.

“But there was a reporter sitting behind us munching noisily on a sandwich. Didge suddenly turned round and said: ‘Don't chew that effing thing in my ear’. 

“Crestfallen, the reporter nearly choked...and moved to another seat to annoy someone else. My introduction to Didge. 

“His great sense of humour made me laugh and helped me to endure many nights which would otherwise have been darker without his bright personality.

“He was an outstanding journalist and the perfect colleague - always happy to bounce ideas around with a headline or suggest how to re-phrase an intro.” 

Bill was born in Gourock in Scotland but lived in Strone Road, East Ham, as a child and went to Salisbury primary school.

His love of English probably came from his time at grammar school and his love of cycling from when his Mum encouraged him to go off on long cycle rides with friends.

He cycled to Southend as a 10-year-old and got lost on the way back to the consternation of his Dad.

He fell in love with Kent after cycling there as a teenager. 

In his youth he was an amateur boxer and worked as an insurance clerk until he found his niche as a journalist. He fondly recalled travelling to Chelmsford to land a job as junior reporter at the Barking Advertiser where he met fellow trainee Roy Greenslade.

After emigrating to Oz and becoming an Australian citizen, he came back to Britain to be near his Mum. Because of his love for Australia, his mates at the Express soon dubbed him Didge – short for Didgeridoo.

He was more appreciative than most people of the good things Britain had to offer but still travelled regularly back to Oz to paddle his kayak and swim in the warm ocean.

When in Kent (he delighted in visiting his tiny cottage at Deal) he often paddled round the white cliffs of Dover in his kayak and said he enjoyed the peace of being out in the sea which allowed him to get close to the wildlife.

His rule when he went canoeing in Oz or Britain was to leave only footprints on the beach. He also often picked up other people’s litter.

He was a determined supporter of Greenpeace and was proud to give up his car and travel by train and bike as a way to live green.

He was prepared to fight for what he believed in and was a proud supporter of the Royal Marines who once had a base at Deal.

He was also passionate about cleanliness and good order especially where he lived for 30 years in Albert Terrace, Buckhurst Hill. He was known by some of his neighbours as “Head of the Terrace” because he took such an interest in everything being looked after properly.

People in the terrace plan to remember him by installing a bench, decorated with a kangaroo and a bike.

Bill had a full and, in many ways, charmed life and always wanted to share his experiences with others. Like most Aussies, he easily struck up friendships, even when passing on his bike, with adults, children and animals in places as diverse as China, Burma, Laos, the Ukraine and Lithuania.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre