Snookered by the Docker

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BOB CUMMINGS, former composing room manager, remembers Ray Mills, pictured above, Deputy Editor of the Daily Star when it was produced from Manchester

Ray Mills was bald, fairly tall and considerably overweight – a big man in every sense of the word. We in the composing room called him the Big Ignorant F***er from Oldham.

It has to be truthfully said that the composing room staff who migrated from Thompson House (later Maxwell House – Robert Maxwell’s ego having no limits whatsoever) were less than kind about Ray Mill’s reputation when they heard that he was following them across. I can’t remember him smiling at all in the comp room but maybe that was due to his defence mechanism or maybe he was just dour.

 I recently discovered that he had a secret life as the treasurer of the Greenfield Gentleman’s Bowling Club, a definitely male only bolt-hole. I also heard a nugget of anecdote. The story goes like this:

 My barber was the son of another club official of the aforesaid club. At a young age he used to help his father with club maintenance, roof work, clearing leaves and so on. As a reward he was allowed to play snooker on the club table and over the years, became pretty good.

Full of confidence, he asked his if he could enter the snooker doubles competition obviously partnering his dad. A few days after the teams went up on the noticeboard, one of the venerable elders lodged an objection as the boy was too young to be a member and therefore ineligible (nothing to do with the fact that he had a good chance of winning the prize, of course). 

The boy’s father was incensed. He expressed his anger in no uncertain terms to Ray Mills who told him to leave it to him. The story goes that at the next club meeting Ray stood up and made a magnificent speech, not without literary references – the full monty in fact. Such was his skill that he won over the members and the boy was allowed to compete.

When he was congratulated and thanked profusely by my barber’s dad and he would be so pleased to be playing with his boy, Ray’s retort was along the lines of “what are you talking about Fred, the lad’s f***ing playing with me!” Ray’s team went on to win and scoop the jackpot… 

The last time my friend went to see Ray in hospital, he remembers his last conversation ended with “The trouble is, my lungs are like a string vest – full of holes”.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre