Subbing by gaslight on the Express in 1972


DAILY EXPRESS news sub-editors slave away by gaslight amid paste pots and spikes in a blackout during the miners’ strike in 1972. The picture was taken in the old Fleet Street offices in London. We think the man leaning down stubbing out his cigarette in the waste bin is Jack the messenger but others say it is Frank Dobson. Next to him is Bill ‘Didge’ Reynolds, followed by Kelvin MacKenzie, a chap we can’t name, Ralph Mineards and David Laws, who supplied this picture. On the right-hand side in the foreground is Les Diver and next to him is Ray Collin

JEREMY GREENAWAY writes: Lovely bit of nostalgia, even though I'd left the Express by this time. Fond memories of working with Les Diver, Ray Collin as deputy chief sub (cuddly Duggy Orgill was CS in my time), irrepressible Ralphy Mineards, ever calm David Laws. 

My desk was behind where MacKenzie is sitting, apart from when I was copytasting or 'prodnose' before taking over as Page One stone sub. 

On my last night, before being banged out, I wangled doing Iris and chose a block (can't remember the number) from the book of her in a skimpy bikini and captioned it 'Iris says: I'm off to The Sun’. 

I was banged out from The Blue Room and the stone, and headed over the road to do my first late shift on the Super Soaraway, where I eventually did the P3 captions, and became splash sub. 

Most memorable occasion was the jetliner hijackings, when I did rejig after rejig, it being such a running story. Don't forget, this was in the days of hard copy. We had special Beano pads (still have a sheaf, as well as the larger Express embossed ones) which took only a par or two per take. Good memory needed when you didn't have a black of it, and I was physically and mentally exhausted by around 18:30, when Larry Lamb patted me on the back and suggested after five hours furious scribbling and the story having just about peaked, I hand over the splash to someone else — can't remember who that was. 

We had a fantastic subs team then, and although some came and went after only one shift (one walked out less than an hour after arriving, pissed off by Docker Mills) the gang was pretty constant for the three and a half years I was there. 

Bob Kilbey was a great mate, so too Jean-Maurice Gedet. Others too whose names I forget. Having finished up as an assistant night editor on the Super Soaraway, and having been on the stone on Night One in 1969, it would have been great to have been included in the anniversary Beano book . . .

For family reasons, I returned to Devon roots, and became a radio and TV reporter, producer and presenter. Now a retired BOF who spends as much time as I can on my sailing boat in Brittany.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre