In memory of Graham Ball

Sunday People crew, led by Ted Hynds on an expedition to the war graves in Northern France, about 30 years ago. Left to right: Mydrim Jones, Ted Hynds, the late Paul Davidson, Graham Ball, Frank Thorne and, wearing spectacles at the back, Phil Hall

Graham Ball, respected former literary editor of the Sunday Express died on 4 April, 2020 after a fall at his home. He was 69. FRANK THORNE, who worked with Graham on the Sunday People, remembers his old friend.

Graham, who was living alone following the break up of his marriage to journalist Tessa Hilton some years ago, the mother of his boys, had a fall when he went to the bathroom in the middle of the night. He was found the following morning by his cleaner. Graham deteriorated over several days in hospital before he sadly died.

I first got to know Graham when he was a Mirror Group graduate from their Devon training scheme and he came to the Sunday People on attachment first in our northern office in Manchester as a general news reporter and later in the London office, where we first met. After stints on the road and later the news desk, Graham became the editor of the gossip column. I believe he had the title of assistant editor. 

Graham eventually moved to the Daily and Sunday Express and when there was a round or more of savage redundancies when the office was just over Blackfriars Bridge, our old Sunday People friend turned Express executive, the late John Maddock, also a close friend of both of us, looked after him by giving Graham the plum job of literary editor. 

I recall the news that, after I had moved to freelance in Australia, Graham attended a farewell at Stamfords pub across the road from the then office (it may have been Express picture editor Chris Djukanovic's leaving do), and Graham passed out after suffering some sort of brain aneurism. 

graham ball.jpg

Eventually, an ambulance was called and Graham, pictured, spent some time in hospital and even longer at home until he returned to work. That was the start of his health problems. We lost touch but the last time I saw Graham years later was at the funeral of retired Sunday People editor Ernie Burrington at that quaint little church in Smithfield a few years ago. He told me he no longer worked and was living near Aylesford in Kent. I never saw him again.

My fondest memories of Graham was that he became the skipper of the Sunday People cricket team and our first proper outing was a grudge match, the London office versus the Manchester office at the Werneth Cricket Club in Oldham. We won but the result was not all that — as ever, most of us who had not played cricket since we were teenagers were there more for the social side. Back at our hotel the Sam Smiths flowed like water and a good time was had by all, especially Graham who gatecrashed a wedding disco.

Our team under Graham and his big mate Ric Papineau, their wives, Mirror art editor and wicketkeeper Roy Wright and other Mirror Group mates eventually became Grub Street Casuals and once a year, we all embarked on some wonderful cricket tours for the odd week. Graham was our leader, skipper and an impressive fast bowler. I was a slow, left arm spinner — left arm round the wicket — and once took 5 wickets for just 9 runs. 

The photograph of the Sunday People reporting team was taken when the late news reporter Paul Davidson organised a trip to visit the First World War “killing fields” of northern France. The misty picture of us, taken on an automatic timer with my camera perched on top of a gravestone, was taken when top freelance Ted Hynds — then the boss of Devon News and a close friend — took us to visit a small war grave cemetery where the Devonshire Regiment suffered terrible casualties. 

I remember the cold mist coming down and raindrops dripping from overhanging branches like tears. Very moving. I was 40 years old when this pic was taken, so that makes it just over 30 years ago, as I am 71 now. RIP Graham Ball.

Former Daily Express editor ROSIE BOYCOTTGraham was on the Independent on Sunday when we launched the cannabis campaign. He was totally brilliant, and he did more to keep the campaign going than anyone else. We also had unbelievably good fun. Someone apparently planted cannabis seeds in the various potted plants that were littered about the office. I never knew who did it, but it may well have been him. He was a brilliant reporter, as well as a seriously nice and funny man. Totally dependable and  a joy to work with him. RIP old pal. 

Former Sunday Express editor MARTIN TOWNSEND: Sad to hear of the death of my former Sunday Express colleague, Graham Ball. Always good company over lunchtime fish and chips - and a brilliant professional. If you needed 5 good news ideas, Graham would come up with at least four of them. RIP Graham.

Association of Mirror Pensioners obit

Graham’s Mirror chums have set up this tribute site

Guardian obituary by Tim Minogue

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre