This page is in memory of one of Fleet Street’s great sub editors, Bill ‘Didge’ Reynolds. All tributes will be gratefully received.
ALASTAIR ‘BINGO’ McINTYRE remembers the whistling.
There are times, when some one dies, that words of tribute don’t seem enough. Didge was a figure so larger than life that it is hard to come to terms with his death.
Bill was a great character who exuded warmth and good humour. He was an immensely capable journalist but, like so many others, he eschewed the big time, contenting himself to an agreeable and comfortable life down table with the other honest grafters known as sub-editors.
Mischief was Bill’s middle name – and that was the cement in my relationship with him. We were of like minds in laughing at authority and ploughing our own furrows in an increasingly stressful job on the Daily Express.
Didge was a great whistler which got him – and me – in trouble at times. It was always the same tune, just 11 notes. I wish I could put a name to them. Suffice it to say that you would most likely hear the tune in a circus ring when clowns were chasing each other with buckets of water.
Like birds calling each other in the woods Didge would receive a reply from me, four identical warbling notes delivered with gusto and a very pronounced vibrato.
One day the whistling reach such a level that the deputy editor at the time, a ridiculous man called Paul Potts, stormed out of his office and immediately informed me, as Chief Sub, that whistling was henceforth to be banned.
It was like a red rag to a bull. The whistling increased in intensity. When the chorus of 11 notes, normally repeated twice, finished I would say in a voice reminiscent of an outraged old lady: ‘Did I hear whistling?’ Didge would reply: ‘No Chief, it’s banned.’
On another occasion, after another burst of whistling, Pottsy appeared red-faced to remonstrate with us. Didge helped me out, informing the deputy editor: ‘It’s the television, Paul.’ Potts glanced up at the screen – with a bit of luck The Dam Busters was on.
Collapse of stout party – and the ban was forgotten.
Oh, and just for the record, it was me who first named him Didge. Most of us had silly soubriquets, most of them bestowed by me, and many exist to this day.
Writer and former sub ROBIN McGIBBON writes
As we know, Bill was a warm, friendly, most agreeable guy. But he had an admirable generosity of spirit, too, which I discovered one night, in 1987, when I was Late Stop, and using the early hours to work on my first book – Charlie Kray's autobiography.
I was more than a little apprehensive about the opening chapter – I hadn't even shown it to my wife – so, when Bill inquired what I was doing, I asked if he'd mind reading it and give me an honest opinion.
I'm sure he was anxious to get home, but Bill sat in the Night Editor's chair and read the entire four thousand words. Afterwards, he gave the chapter the thumbs-up and told me that if I continued in the same style I had nothing to worry about.
I was feeling fragile, lacking confidence, and Bill's reassurance meant a lot. And, a few months later, when Charlie did a signing session in the West End, Bill and Margaret turned up, unexpectedly, to give their support.
I never forgot his kindness, and was thrilled, when Terry Manners and I had lunch with him in April, that Bill "well remembered" reading that first chapter all those years ago.
And he was amused that, long before hearing he was ill, I'd chosen his name for a character in my sex-crime-newspaper novel...even though the fictional Bill Reynolds is the editor of an explicit sex magazine.
"Go ahead, Rob," he said. "I should be flattered. Fame at last!"
I'm now beefing up your part, mate.
ELAINE CANHAM: I met Didge when I joined the news subs in 1985, and he was a total sweetheart. I never, ever, saw him lose his temper, not even when, at 2am, when he was late stop and I was on the stone for fourth edition, I changed some copy to read ‘just desserts’. All I got down the phone was a long, deep, sigh. He would make you sub and re-sub copy until it was exactly how he wanted it, but he never tried to score points and he never made you feel small. He could be enormously silly and cheerful but he had a thoughtful, introspective side too and we had some good chats. I can’t believe I won’t see him again.
TONY BOULLEMIER: I agree with all the above comments. And also plead guilty to office whistling.
I worked alongside Bill during two stints at the Express in the 70s and 90s and as well as being a tip-top sub and one of the most cheerful colleagues you could wish to work with, he was absolutely dedicated to the paper.
He always wanted the very best for the DX and put in maximum effort to ensure that whatever anybody else was doing, no-one could ever accuse Bill of letting the side down.
When he later regaled us with tales of his worldwide adventures, like kayaking up the west Australian coast or cycling across Syria, I told him he’d end up being eaten by sharks or having his throat cut by bandits.
In the event, he died in his beloved London. Which was much more fitting.
We will all miss him.
DAVID RICHARDSON: Didge was a guy who gave subs a good name - always friendly, never got angry when we screwed up, and never panicked, even when copy was way past its delivery time. Will always remember his smile.