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Her Majesty’s
DAILY DRONE

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LONDON

WEDNESDAY 18 MAY 2022

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SEARCH THE DRONE

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QUOTES OF THE DAY 

Of this I am certain, that we are not here in order to have a good time — Ludwig Wittgenstein

Speak for yourself, Witters — Lord Drone

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Today’s Papers

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Steve Bell, Grauniad

TODAY'S CARTOONS
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SAGE ADVICE FROM DOWN UNDER

News from Queensland, Australia
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SOME of the best reading in the broadsheets can be found in the Obituary pages. (Sadly this is one of the most popular features of the Drone apparently).

The following excerpt from an obit of Australian star cricketer Andrew Symonds, killed in a car accident aged 46, was carried by The Times:

'Yet for all his lavish gifts on the cricket field, he often gave the impression that he would rather be elsewhere, preferably fishing or hunting wild pigs. His favourite reading was not Wisden but an Australian pig-hunting magazine called Bacon Busters. "It's a pretty blokey mag but they have women in it too. There's a 'Boars and Babes' section with women in bikinis sitting on big old pigs," he said approvingly.

*****

ONCE more unto the Interweb where my eyeglass espies the following tweet from Kelvin MacKenzie of this parish: 'Off to Claridges where Boris, Priti and Blair were among guests of Lord Rothermere celebrating the Daily Mail's 125th birthday. My eye was taken by an ex No.2 at the MoS who was so pissed he had to be escorted from the room- even before the speeches had begun. Is this a record?’

Probably not, Kelvin. I doubt this beats the time reporter Michael ‘Oafers’ O’Flaherty got so pissed he retreated under a table, as one does (see Drones passim) during a meeting of Express bigwigs at the Savoy. Seeing a pair of ankles pass by he sprang out and bit them. Bullseye! The ankles belonged to none other Express Newspapers chairman Lord Stevens.

*****

My item about Scooperstar Peter Earle not proving, but admitting, that he worked for the News of the World prompts a reader to recall one of Earle’s contemporaries in the Bouverie Street newsroom.

He had a byline tailor-made for one who recorded the sexual shenanigans of the time: Ron Mount.

*****

The dying notes of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante ping the latest addition to my email inbox. It is from a recovering hack enjoying the cocktail of the day in the Palm Court of the Flying Fuck.

He says the Goss’s Second Mentions item unaccountably reminds him of someone called Pat Welland who neatly embraced one of the Express’s recurring attempts to ban clichés by getting the phrase ‘shark-inhabited waters’ into print.

*****

MORE GOSS

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THE HAMSHER DIARIES
Intrigue, plotting and cocktails, Daily Express gossip from the 1960s

A HINT of the great time that journalists enjoyed in the heyday of the Daily Express are revealed in newly-discovered diaries.

The documents are currently being edited by Carola Wastiaux, daughter of the diarist, reporter William ‘Bill’ Papel Hamsher.

In the excerpt published here, which Hamsher wrote while on assignment in Algiers in 1962, he mentions “Battling Bob’ Edwards not being Daily Express editor any more. 

Edwards, the ultimate survivor, subsequently got the editor’s chair back after his successor Roger Wood was fired the following year. Edwards, the only man to edit the Daily Express twice, survived until 1965 when he was sacked again. He went on to edit the Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror, picking up a CBE on the way. 

The diary goes on to mention René Macoll, the celebrated foreign correspondent and cricketer; ‘Jolly John Macdonald' (a hint of irony here?) of features ’the pillar of the place'; ‘Rollicking [Eric] Raybould’, and Godfrey Smith.

The reference to ‘Pick’ is probably Edward Pickering, DX editor from 1957 to 1961 who became editorial director of the Mirror group in 1964. He retired in 1977 and was knighted in that year, but in 1981 he became executive vice-chairman of News International. Pickering was said to have mentored Rupert Murdoch.

Hamsher’s diary goes on: ‘When Pick left, 30 of us at the Écu de France [presumably the Paris restaurant]; an extremely successful evening with splendid speeches. Roy Ullyett in splendid form. Osbert Lancaster talking of “every iceman has his Pick”.

The diary adds:'But for Harold Kemble, now off to the Mirror, it was only cocktails at the Press Club, with Trevor Evans presiding.

‘Tom Blackburn, no subtlety (or sarcasm) saying that the door to the top was wide open; anybody could get the managing directorship in six months.

 ‘René wonders whether he’ll stay, now that the new triumvirate has 2 young members: Roger Wood and Derek Marks.

‘Donald Wise is convinced Geoffrey Thursby is mad. He tried [to] filch direction of New York office from Henry Lowrie.

'Bertram Jones from Far East to home beat.

'David Lewin and Terry Lancaster quarrel, TL referring to him openly in the presence of subs, as a contemptible bastard.

‘Rome office? Shame to have closed it!'

AS WE REPORTED EARLIER…
Pleased to meet you sir, it’s Bill Hamsher of the Express at your service

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TOP BRASS: Daily Express reporter William Papel Hamsher, right, in Berlin in the late 1940s. The Army officer on the left is, we think, Field Marshal Archibald Wavell

ONCE they were household names but now the journalists who made the Daily Express great are mostly forgotten. The Daily Drone is determined that their works should live on.

One of these star reporters was William Papel Hamsher and thanks to research by his daughter Carola Wastiaux his work is now coming to light.

William, or Bill as he was known, wrote the article pictured left for the Express house journal Crusader in 1973. In it, he tells how he fell ill in Paris and was looked after by his colleagues, photographer Reg Lancaster and reporter Mike Charleston. They managed to get Bill home to London for which heroism he nominated them, with tongue in cheek, as joint Nurse of the Year. Bill died in 1975.

Carola told the Drone: 'I am currently going through all my father's files, cuttings books and private letters and diaries. My brother had a new edition made of my father's 1937 book Balkans by Bicycle. Would anyone like a copy?

'I am planning (trying) to put together some of my father's best or funniest articles. A big job, it seems a pity they would all be  forgotten.

We on the Drone couldn’t agree more.

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JUST FANCY THAT

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From news sub to author, Nick Pigott charts the rise and fall of coal in new book

By TUPPY PADDINGTON

Although the UK has lost all its deep collieries, coal continues to hit the headlines. 

Climate change, energy costs, war and the prospect of a new mine in Cumbria ensure that the fuel that put the ‘Great’ into Britain is never far from the national news agenda.

The long history of the mining industry is told in ‘The Rise and Fall of King Coal’, a new book by former Daily Express news sub Nick Pigott.

Illustrated with almost 300 rare pictures and diagrams, it tells the fascinating story of coal, from its origins in prehistoric swamps to its role as the fuel that powered the Industrial Revolution.

The 256-page hardback embraces all aspects of the industry, exploring the pits and their railways, explaining the locations of the coalfields and examining the hazards, disputes and tragedies that were part of every miner’s life.

Nick, who has studied underground operations at mines overseas as well as in the UK, was born on the edge of England’s largest coalfield and spent 12 years in Fleet Street before becoming editor of The Railway Magazine, a position he held for 21 years. He is now the journal’s consultant editor.

‘The Rise and Fall of King Coal’ is published by Gresley Books (ISBN 978-1-911658-63-4) and retails at £29.99. It is available through bookshops or from www.mortonsbooks.co.uk

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LOOKALIKE

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DENNIS                                       MENACE

It would be nice to think that, now they’ve both passed on to the great place of reckoning in the sky, these two gingers would share a cloud and have a good natter. There may be 464 years between their deaths but hellraising actor Dennis Waterman,  and Queen Mary I could be siblings they are so alike (that’s that box ticked then Ed).

Apart from that and both being Londoners not so much, though. Four times married Dennis will be remembered with affection for his iconic roles in The Sweeney, Minder and, to a lesser extent, New Tricks.

But Mary, or Bloody Mary as she was known, was a pain in the arse. Her brutal, fanatical attempts to reverse the Reformation after the death of her father, Henry VIII,  led to her condemning 280 dissenters to be burned at the stake and all sorts of unpleasant things.

When she died at only 42, her husband, Philip of Spain, wrote to his sister: ‘I felt reasonable regret at her death.’ That sort of sums Mary up really.

AN R.R. (t)

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Er … sorry readers, we nearly got it right

From The Sun, probably 20 years ago
Monitor: George Dearsley

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Hamilton refuses to remove his nose
(according to Grauniad Sport)

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NOTHING TO SEE HERE! 

Defiant Fleet Street keeps calm and carries on as wartime bomb explodes

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You can get used to anything in wartime, even when a bomb explodes over your shoulder.

This was the scene in Fleet Street in 1944 not far from the Daily Express building. 

That plume of smoke behind the Law Courts looking west up Fleet Street is the result of a deadly V1 rocket exploding after crashing into Drury Lane. 

Yet these young women ignore it and go about their business. Maybe they were two Daily Express news subs hurrying to work. Alas, no. An old Express hand, who has taken to hanging around the Drone newsroom, says it was another 40 years or so before the first woman was admitted, as staff, to that exclusive all-male club. Even now, those who worked with her remember genial New Zealander Maggie Thoms with affection. Yet, I’m told that, to their shame, some entrenched misogynist subs were less than welcoming to her but let’s not linger there.

Germany started its V1 onslaught in retaliation for D Day (the V stands for Vergeltungswaffen — vengeance weapons). Between June 13, 1944 and October when the last V1 launching site in range of Britain was captured by Allied troops, 9,521 of the early cruise missiles were fired at London and the South East. More than 6,000 people were killed  and nearly 18,000 injured; thousand of homes were destroyed.

The V1s, also known as buzz bombs or doodlebugs, brought genuine terror to beleaguered Britons who thought the tide of war had turned. Survivors recall the chilling moment when a bomb ran out of fuel, the engines stopped and it glided to its unknown random target. The silence, like waiting for a clap of thunder after a flash of lightning, was agonising.

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I am utterly bereft at losing my lovely wife and soulmate says Jim 

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FORMER Daily Express feature writer, Jim Davies, is overcome with grief after the death of  his wife Pat who was well known among his circle of Fleet Street friends and colleagues, writes ESTHER HARROD

Jim said in a message to friends: 'My lovely Pat has died. She succumbed to a combination of stroke, covid and sepsis in the Royal Cornwall Hospital on Saturday, (30th April 2022), aged 81.  

'I am utterly bereft. She was not just my soulmate but a very special friend as well and I am going to miss her enormously.

UPDATE Jim told the Drone: ‘Several old chums have emailed me with their condolences which I and my family appreciate greatly. You will understand that with grief this raw I may not phone everyone back just yet but if you could thank them through the Drone that would be lovely.'

Pat's funeral is at Penmount Crematorium, Truro, at 2.30pm on 23rd May with a wake to follow at the Lost Gardens of Heligan.

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It’s Tom Newton NONE on TalkTV

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By ARTHUR COCKS, Our Man on the Box

HELLO, HELLO? Is anybody there?

Sadly, in the case of Tom Newton Dunn, the answer is a resounding No.

The latest BARB figures reveal his TalkTV show The News Desk twice dropped to zero viewers detected, with nobody watching between 7pm-7:15pm and again from 7:30pm-7:45pm. 

There is one silver lining: as people tuned in for Piers Morgan at the end of the show, his average viewership actually increased to a mighty 4,800 at one point, up from 3,600 the night before. Things can only get better?

Meanwhile over at Piers Morgan Unwatched, the good news is it appears his viewership decline has bottomed out. His average viewership on Tuesday night was 76,700, with around 118,000 tuning in at the start, and roughly 62,000 sticking around for the rest of the hour. 

The bad news is that’s half-a-percent of the prime time audience. About 4,700 streamed the show on YouTube.

WILLIAM DUMPSTER writes: I am reliably informed that when Newton Dunn was The Sun’s political editor the rest of the Westminster pack called him Confused Dot Tom.

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THE GOSS EXTRA

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BEFORE                              AFTER

By WILLIAM DUMPSTER

Former colleagues have been marvelling at the transformation of Mike Graham from radio hack to a preened, extravagantly coiffed, gleaming dentured TalkTV star.

The trademark mullet and bohemian languor  have been replaced by slick locks and sharp suits since he started appearing on camera.

Our news puppy, Keyhole Kate, sidled up to him at (yet another) Praise Piers drinks reception to winkle out his secrets:

Hair: Mike confirms his flyaway tresses are now controlled by L’Oreal’s InvisiHold (Extra Strength).

Skin: ClarinsMen Super Moisteriser balm  which banishes unsightly blackheads and pimples is preferred. 

Clothes: Smart button-down shirts: Manners at C&A; neckwear: MyTie, Walton-on-Thames; finely tailored retro suits: the John Collier (Window to Watch) Collection.

Shoes: Because his feet are unseen, Mike has taken to wearing designer flipflops from Primark’s Beach Butch range.

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Bye-bye Collette, thanks for all the happy memories

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THE talented deputy editor of the Daily Express, Collette Harrison, has left the paper after 26 years.

Friends and colleagues attended her leaving party at The Telephone Exchange, London Bridge on 28th April. 

She is pictured here, seated, as editor Gary gives his valedictory speech.

MORE PIX

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How to run a story with legs and then run into hot water

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By ALAN FRAME

CRIPES, as our beloved leader would say. Has ever a Page Five story in the Boris-loyal Mail on Sunday ever provoked such outrage, real or concocted, and I will leave it to you to judge just how sincere the reaction is. 

I refer of course to the Angela Rayner Leg Crossing Saga in which some anonymous Tory MP for the Stone Age apparently accused the Rt Hon lady of doing a fully clothed Sharon Stone on poor dear Boris in an attempt to distract him at PMQs.   

Such is the harrumphing, the Speaker of the Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle has summoned David Dillon, recently installed MoS editor and late of this parish, for what one assumes is not just a cup of tea; more than 5,000 people have written to the Press Complaints Commission and politicians of every hue have expressed their horror. Including that well known shrinking violet the Prime Minister himself.  He said the story was ‘misogynist tripe’ but, apparently immediately contradicting himself and channelling his inner King Lear, promising that he would ‘unleash the terrors of the earth’ on whoever the source of the story was.   

What a To Do. But what are Mr Speaker’s powers? It’s a sure thing that the author of the story, MoS political editor Glen Owen, will not reveal his source. Recently a Manchester Evening News reporter, Steve Panter, refused to comply with a court order that he disclose his source of his report naming an IRA bomber. And the admirable Chris Mullin, whose research proved that the Birmingham Six were not guilty of the appalling pub bombings in 1974, would not budge when pressured to name those Provos who were really responsible. 

In fact the last journalists to be jailed for contempt of court were Brendan Mulholland (three months) and Reg Foster (six months) of the Mail and Sketch respectively, for refusing to reveal sources for their coverage of the Vassall spy affair. That was in 1963.

But these instances were very serious businesses and let’s face it, the legs of the Rt Hon Member for Ashton-under-Lyne are simply not in the same league. My bet is that what has angered most is the way the MoS treated the story as a bit of a laugh, or jolly japes as the PM might have said before he had to go into full fury mode. 

What has enraged most MPs, particularly the women, is this line: ‘Tory MPs have mischievously suggested that Ms Rayner likes to distract the PM … by deploying a fully clothed parliamentary equivalent of Sharon Stone’s infamous scene in the 1992 film Basic Instinct.’ Note the word mischievously. And ‘she has frequently landed blows on the prime minister during sparky — some say flirty — exchanges.’

It wasn’t a great story, though it was much better than their Central Office-style Splash on the ridiculous Rees-Mogg trying to get Whitehall back into their offices (written in rather more sombre style by the same Glen Owen.).  

All it has really achieved is to ensure that Wednesday’s PMQs will be even more scrutinised than usual.

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THE RUDE AND TETCHY EMAIL THAT GOT MY PSYCHO SHOW ON TV

On 2 May, 2022 at 10 p.m, Channel Four screened the first of a two-part series, Married to a Psychopath — the first production of a new company. The programme was nearly never made, due to a cynical quip by former Express sub ROBIN McGIBBON to his pal, Terry Manners. Here, Robin explains why.

In May two years ago, I was contacted by a commissioning editor at Discovery TV, who was launching his own production company, Big Little Fish Television. He wanted to know if I had any projects he could “assist with.”

At the time, I didn’t, but I’d been working on something with Terry Manners, which I felt might interest BLF, so I agreed to talk it through on the phone at 2 p.m. the following day

Terry was as excited as I was. And equally disappointed when I emailed him the next afternoon, saying: “Surprise, surprise – he didn’t call.”  

That should have been that. But I’d got the time of the call wrong; he was due to call at 2 p.m. the next day! Then, I compounded my mistake by sending my sarcastic email to the BLF boss, not Terry.

He did not take it well, saying that, while there had been an innocent error on my part, he didn’t appreciate my tone. He said he treated people with respect and expected this to be reciprocated. He surrounded himself with straightforward, honest and joyous people, who would never send rude emails like mine. And he wanted to cancel his plan to “reconnect” with me.

I was disappointed for Terry, because we believed his idea had legs for TV. But there didn’t seem a way forward, so just I emailed the BLF man and apologised for being a plonker.

Re-reading his ludicrously over-the-top rant, however, I felt there was nothing lost in a different approach. So I whacked off another email: “Go on, be a sport – give me a call at 2 p.m. tomorrow. Pretend it never happened. Who knows, we might like each other.”

Surprise, surprise, it did the trick. He responded immediately, cancelling his wish not to re-connect. Sadly, he did not want to progress Terry’s idea, but was interested in my synopsis of a crime story that hadn’t worked as a book - despite it being a TV drama series.

It is the chilling story of Malcolm Webster, a charming conman  who burned his first wife alive and was planning other murders before an international manhunt brought him to justice. It is this story that’s being screened by Channel Four.

And the really good news is that BLF Television is more than a little interested in another of Terry’s ideas.  Funny how life can turn out…

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My luck to have known Norman, legend of the  Palace intruder scoop

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Dear Lord Drone,

I found this picture in one of those dusty old boxes we all have in our messy attics today and it brought back fond memories of our legendary Express pal Normal Luck, much loved by so many staff reporters of the day.

Great names from our past such as Bob McGowan, Ashley Walton, John (Bomber) Burns, Michael O’Flaherty, Danny McGrory, Liz Gill, Kim Willsher and others, too many to list here (sorry boys and girls), were all comrades of a dying breed as the heart of Fleet Street began to fade too.

Norman is pictured here holding the Rupert sign with a great friend of ours, celebrity Lorraine Chase, cockney star of the Luton Airport Campari ad, with her famous catch phrase: “Nah, Luton Airport!”, receiving a prize for the Express team in the Variety Club’s, It’s A Knockout competition for Gold Heart Day back in the 90s.

Lorraine told Norman she always remembered him for his amazing scoop of The Palace Intruder, Michael Fagan. For those who might not know, Norman strolled into the office one afternoon in 1982 and announced he had the scoop of the year. Executives wondered if he had been drinking when he regaled them with it.

Fagan, an unemployed father of four, had entered the Buckingham Palace grounds by scaling undetected the 14ft perimeter wall, topped with spikes and barbed wire. He climbed a drainpipe and got into the building through an open window of the room housing King George V's £12m stamp collection, which he ignored.

Dressed in grubby T-shirt and jeans, Fagan wandered through the corridors admiring paintings and peeping into several rooms. In one, he picked up a glass ashtray and broke it, cutting his hand.

Dripping with blood from the wound, he walked into the Queen's bedroom, where she was asleep. As he sat down on her bed, smearing blood on the sheets, she woke up and managed to ring for help. But 10 minutes passed before it came, and she had to pacify intruder Fagan in her cool, patient style.

Norman won an award for that story, of course … and would not reveal his source. He was great ‘old school’ and is sadly missed by many of us. He died, aged just 71, and had joined the Daily Express in Manchester, in 1965, later moving to Fleet Street. Still thinking of you, mate.

TERRY MANNERS

Former editorial assistant STEVE MILL said: 'Unusual photo of Norman Luck on the Drone front page, if memory serves he was always immaculately attired. I wonder if anyone has a photo of Maria Pemberton, the then editor's secretary, she and Norman were rather friendly I seem to recall. Maria was from Birmingham, not that you'd have known from her accent!

'Other notables on the secretarial side included glamorous blonde Jean Clifton who worked for John Hill, and Judy Lloyd who was secretary to Jackie Modlinger. You couldn't miss Judy, she often sported a turban and wore Indian/Asian clothes years before Princess Di gave them prominence. It would be great to see photos of these two.,

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EXCLUSIVE
WOODING TO EDIT SUNDAY EXPRESS

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STEPPING UP: Wooding with his wife Pat, of the Daily Star

DAVID Wooding, veteran political editor of the Sun On Sunday, has been appointed editor of the Sunday Express at the grand old age of 66.

The position has been vacant since the previous editor Michael Booker defected to GB News in January.

The Drone can also reveal that Collette Harrison, deputy editor of the Daily Express, has quit.

Wooding, whose wife Pat is executive editor of the Daily Star, is a familiar fixture of the parliamentary lobby. It will be the eighth national paper he's worked on during his 43-year-long career. 

It will be a return to old pastures for Wooding, having served on the Daily Express in Manchester under Stanley Blenkinsop. He transferred to the Express in London for his first job in Fleet Street. He also worked on the Daily Star and was the northern correspondent for PA. He left the Express to join Today in London.

Back in 1986 he was described as being 'the voice of innocent News of the World staff' who lost their jobs during the phone-hacking scandal at News UK. His move marks the departure of one of the last remaining Sun on Sunday journalists from its 2012 launch.

Judging from what was reported from the parliamentary terrace last night, Wooding's departure from the press gallery isn't the only looming move there.

Collette Harrison’s departure will be a loss to the Express where she has served 26 years, three years as deputy editor. She is a skilled operator with a pleasing personality. 

Colleague Peter Michel said: 'It's difficult to accept that it's 26 years since she famously did a shift at the Express while still chief sub at the Nottingham Evening Post. Sod's Law had it that a TV crew was prowling the news floor that night, much to her horror. So as they approached she turned her back to the camera, frantically subbing at varying angles of up to 45deg. from screen and keyboard. I was sitting next to her, helpless with suppressed merriment.'

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Friends pay tribute to Gentleman Rob

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ANOTHER great Fleet Street name has been lost. Rob Gibson, former political editor of the Daily Express, has died.

Rob, pictured, who went on to start his own Westminster agency, Gallery News, was a popular name in the industry and warm tributes were paid last night.

His colleague JOE MURPHY wrote on Facebook: I am very sad to learn of the death of Rob Gibson, former political editor of the Daily Express and latterly founder of Gallery News. 

Rob was a gentleman, an esteemed and loyal colleague and wonderful company. A natural raconteur, he held us spellbound with Fleet Street stories and I learned a lot about the practical trade of journalism watching him negotiate stories. 

My favourite funny story about Rob was the time when as an ace chief news reporter he filed in a hurry from the airport, en route to Tehran, his take on the fall of the Shah. According to the legend he simply barked to the copytaker: “The people of Iran yesterday swapped a despot for a crackpot.  Point, par, take in PA! ”

Of course, this is just a story.  Rob always filed a full and professional report. But his intro as always captured the essence of the event with style and brevity. 

It was my great good fortune in life to be allocated a desk in Rob’s office on the Burma Road — aka Room 11 of the Press Gallery — in 1989. 

Rob was the senior statesman in this wonderful room under Big Ben and tried to keep order as some of the biggest personalities and greatest talents in SW1A created stories, humour, scoops, mischief and chaos. 

Crammed within a space the size of a modest bedroom were future diplo David Shaw, then of the Evening Standard, the late, great Peter Welbourn of the Star, and the brilliant Nick Assinder and Peter Hooley, both of the Express at the time. I was a shaver from the provinces, feeding local papers and I learned so much watching this roomful of noise, talent and experience. 

One of Rob’s curious roles at this time was unique. When there was a sudden leaving do or a sad loss of a colleague, people would gather in the old Press Bar and Rob would sing, unaccompanied, in his clear and tender baritone, the folk song Peggy Gordon. People would join in and the bar would fill with emotion. 

Tonight I’ll be “away with the mixer”, and will sing Peggy Gordon for Rob. A lovely man and a vital member of an era of grand characters and warm colours.

The Daily Mirror’s KEVIN MAGUIRE wrote in the New Statesman: The Daily Express’s former political editor Robert Gibson, who died recently, was scribe or secretary of the press gallery freemasons back in the day. The funny-handshake journalist, who went on to create his own Westminster news agency, was incandescent when this column revealed his furtive side after I was forwarded masonic lodge minutes he inadvertently emailed to a number of MPs. 

The parliamentary press pinny boys included an old Times hand, a couple of ex-Express scribblers and a one-time Westminster boss of the Press Association newswire. Reciting ludicrous oaths played a prominent role in the secret gatherings, I recall. After weeks of ribbing, furious Gibbo denounced yours truly as a Blairite. That was news to the Blairites but confirmed the political designation was a widely deployed smear in the Tony years.

CHARLES LEWINGTON: Rob was my first boss on the Express in Room 11, wise, knew how to handle a demanding news desk and handled the internal politics adroitly. And in later life, kept us all informed as colleagues came and went. RIP

ROGER TAVENER: I arrived in Fleet Street during the bitter 80s regional newspaper strike. Turned up at PA practically penniless, with a mortgage, but said I had to go on strike to support my old colleagues. PA said I'd lost my job.

I went on the picket line in the freezing mid-Winter. Rob sought me out, took me for a drink and, in that calm, uber-cool manner, assured me that it would all work out.

I needed somebody to say it because others warned this was professional suicide. He made a huge difference in so many, many ways.

Rob daily returned to chat and encourage those on the picket lines. I owe him a great deal and I'm incredibly sad to hear he's died.

If I'm one tiny part of the huge legacy he's left, I'm proud. Thanks Rob.

DAVID KEMP: Rob and I were friends for over 40 years which were often peppered with hilarious adventures at home and abroad. On email he was Perry (after the silver-headed Perry Como and I use to tease him occasionally with a rendering of Magic Moments) and I was referred to by him as Cliff.

Thanks for all the laughter, Perry, and for your quiet, wise counsel to me and so many others. When the late, sorely missed Chris Potter took me aside one evening and told me he was very ill he said: “You’re the second person I have told.”

And the first? “Rob Gibson.”

The old school of post war politicos used to ask of newcomers: “are they good citizens — or are they ****s or ****s?

Rob was a very good citizen.

FORMER Daily Star reporter TOM ROCHE said: 'Rob Gibson was indeed a lovely singer and also a major Elvis Presley fan, who wrote a highly successful biography of his idol, Elvis, A King Forever. He was aided with pictures from one Sid Shaw, an Elvis nut from Shoreditch and founder of the Elvis Presley Party (among its manifesto pledges; TV news programmes to be introduced with Good Rockin’ Tonight and training schemes for bell ringers to play Crying in the Chapel). 

'Bar a couple, I can name all the players in the Daily Star team photo, which I vaguely remember might have been taken on Hackney Marshes. We would go there for a couple of “friendly” training matches ahead of our annual Maundy Thursday drubbing by the hairy-arsed Northerners featured in red in your earlier photo, despite the presence of our Scottish captain, Brian Steele and big Geordie Chris Boffey in defence and Welsh Huw Whittow between the sticks. 

'I see we were in all green for this partıcular game, but you never knew how we would turn out. Having no official kit, we would borrow whatever we could from contacts in the amateur game, once playing with a large and proud, and reasonably appropriate, Star of David on our chests. 

'Like everyone else, it seems, I remember Rob Gibson for his kind and gentle manner, particularly his encouragement to me when I was a Fleet Street stripling.'

*Tom Roche later worked for IRN and Sky News

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SPORTING LIFE: Rob Gibson, front row, far left
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Farewell to my former partner Sir Ray, a vocal champion of local news

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Tributes were made last night to local newspaper businessman Sir Ray Tindle who has died aged 95.  

Sir Ray, a vocal champion of the local press and freedom of speech, was the chairman of Tindle Newspapers until 2017, when he stepped down at the age of 90. He concentrated on the minutiae of local news and operated on a low budget.

ALAN FRAME, in an exclusive report for the Drone, recalls Tindle with affection and explains how they became joint proprietors of a newspaper for US expats in Britain called The American.

MY DAYS AS A PRESS LORD

TIMES OBITUARY

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Which way’s the wayzgoose?

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OLD Fleet Street hands used to love Maundy Thursday because it was a buckshee day off for everyone. The fact that papers were not published on Good Friday led to the birth of the wayzgoose.

It was a centuries old tradition among journalists, printers, and allied trades who used their free time wisely by stampeding off, often by charabanc to the coast or distant hostelries, to drink themselves senseless.

This entirely reasonable and enjoyable pursuit was abolished by the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell who decided that making money was more important than observing a holy day. 

Back in 2008 former Mirrorman REVEL BARKER wrote a piece for his Gentlemen Ranters website explaining the history of the wayzgoose. Read it here.

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SO LONG JOE’S, WE’RE NOW …
Mrs Brown’s Boys 

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FIFTEEN years of tradition ended yesterday when the World’s Greatest Lunch Club switched their allegiance to a new restaurant.

The club had been meeting regularly at Joe Allen’s in Exeter Street, in London’s Covent Garden. But things have changed at the American eatery which was closed for months during the covid lockdown.

The February meeting was our last. The prices at Joe’s had gone through the roof, the food was mediocre and the service surly — such a change from the good old camp days when out-of-work actors used to wait at tables fluttering their credentials.

Yesterday members switched to Brown’s restaurant in St Martin’s Lane. The difference was marked. The food was excellent and the service efficient and friendly.

The lunch was the club’s 79th, nearly all were held at Joe Allen’s in Exeter Street and later Burleigh Street, apart from one at the Chinese Cricket Club, one at the Ivy Grill, Covent Garden, and two at Browns.

Pictured above from left are: Alastair McIntyre, Ashley Walton, Alan Frame, Terry Manners, Roger Watkins (chairman) and Dick Dismore.

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Laurie Manifold dies at 94

News sleuth Laurie Manifold, described as the doyen of investigative reporters, has died at the age of 94.

Roy Greenslade, who described Manifold as the father of popular newspaper investigative journalism and the mastermind behind hundreds of exclusives for The People, has written a tribute on the Mirror Pensioners website.

READ IT HERE

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Farewell star TV writer Charlie Catchpole, you were one of the greats

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FRIEND OF THE FAMOUS: Charlie, right, with Benny Hill

DOYEN of the TV critics Charlie Catchpole has died after a long illness. He was 76.

Charlie wrote columns for the Mirror, Sunday People and the Daily Express, retiring from the People for health reasons in 2015.

A Facebook post from his family read: 'We're very sad to announce that Charles passed away peacefully earlier this week. The funeral will be held at Mortlake Crematorium on Wednesday 20th April at 12.45 followed by drinks at The White Hart in Barnes. Please share this with Charles' friends who may not be on Facebook.’

Peter Steward told the Drone: 'I first met Charlie in 1976 when he was a caption writer on the Evening Standard. He did the same job as a Sunday Express casual in the Seventies. I last contacted Charlie in 2017 about an Evening Standard reunion and was told he was recovering from a stroke.’

Piers Morgan said: “Brilliant TV critic, Fleet Street legend and charming, hilarious company. Sad news.”

Sun columnist Jane Moore, who worked with Charlie said: “Charlie had a famously sharp wit and a sense of humour that his readers loved.

"When I last saw him, his brain was still as sharp as a tack.”

He is survived by his wife Cynthia, sister Julia, children Catherine, Christopher and Charlotte and his grandchildren Freddie, Ruby and Florence.

Charlie wrote the Sunday People’s Man of the People column for six years and performed a similar role on the Daily Express from 2001 to 2005 when he was sacked along with Carol Sarler in one the paper’s many cost-cutting measures.

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KELVIN REVEALS ALL
Larry was so blotto he drew up Page One on his blotter instead of his makeup pad

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NEW EDITOR: Larry Lamb, left, with Rupert Murdoch in 1969

OUR old chum Kelvin MacKenzie has written a hilarious account of his time on The Sun.

Writing on the Unherd website, he tells how Rupert Murdoch dropped in unexpectedly on his predecessor as editor Sir Larry Lamb and was shocked to see the amount of alcohol being consumed. 'They’re drinking out of plant pots up there,’  he said.

On another occasion Larry ‘was so pissed’ that instead of drawing a Page One scheme on a makeup pad he scrawled it on his blotting paper.

Kelvin adds: 'There was silence as we watched this bizarre turn of events. Not realising he had missed the page entirely, Sir Larry then handed the blank page to the Night Editor who, being a brown-noser like me, said “Thank you Larry”.’

We have lifted the entire piece from Unherd for our readers’ convenience. Read it here.

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Queen Nicola’s shock UDI plan: Rename Scotland after old movie

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By HAMISH McAMISH

Self-styled SNP “Queen of Scots” Nicola Sturgeon has drawn up a secret breakaway plan for Scotland — including a Unilateral Declaration of Independence to be proclaimed from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle.

In what for many will seem a series of inexplicable proposals, she also wants to rename the country Brigadoon, after the cult 1954 Scottish fantasy movie starring the late song-and-dance man Gene Kelly.

Details of the plans were passed to the Drone under the counter in the Snug Bar of the Auchtermuchty Arms last night. They reveal the UDI ceremony will be accompanied by the performance of a new national song — another American borrowing — “Hooray for Hollyrood”, based on the annual Oscar ceremony’s tinseltown anthem.

New lyrics have been given a transgender twist and will be sung in Gaelic by the Port Glasgow Bonnie Laddie Vocal Ensemble, accompanied by the Motherwell & Wishaw String Quartet and featuring MP Ian Blackford on the banjo and former SNP supremo Alex Salmond on the whoopee-whistle.

I have been told the plan calls for men in kilts — the party’s so-called “Indy MacTivists” — to spread out along the border with England and at a given signal to lay tyre traps on connecting roads ...

(OK hold it right there, McAmish. Cork the fucking Laphroaig and sober up. And can this rubbish — Ed).

__________

OH NO! IT’S THE ...
FOUR APOSTROPHE'S OF THE APOCALYPSE

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DAFT: Goodwyn's Furniture (which should, of course, carry an apostrophe) in Brierley Hill, West Midlands

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LOOKALIKE

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APE                                          JAPE

With Europe on the brink of World War III, Boris Johnson decided to gurn his way though the Chancellor’s Spring Statement in the Commons. His resemblance to an orangutan was uncanny with or without the snooker ball.

__________

Crazy night a tottering editorial assistant took a tray of drinks into
the Express newsroom

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Inspired by the story regarding the Fleet Street journo whose drinking resulted in bar staff complaining to the hack’s news desk, STEVE MILL remembers ... 

A FELLOW editorial assistant, (who's name escapes me … but it certainly wasn't Gordon) managed what I believe was a unique feat — I cannot recall a similar instance during my time in the Street. 

This particular assistant was suffering pangs of guilt as a result of enjoying an extended slope in the Poppinjay, which was quite something given his record of slopery. He determined that he would right his wrong by buying drinks all round for his fellow workers, but rather than following the traditional route of inviting colleagues to join him for drinks in the Poppinjay he decided to take the refreshment to them in the workplace. 

I vividly recall the sight of the well-meaning, but perhaps a sheet or two to the wind, assistant fairly weaving his way towards the desk in the middle of the editorial floor holding a large tray with several pints of beer expertly balanced upon it.

 His colleagues, although appreciative of the sentiment, were rather concerned that those higher up the food chain might conceivably misinterpret the situation and the tray was duly whisked away. 

I confess I cannot remember exactly what happened to the drinks but I presume they were put down in a humane fashion.

Perhaps yourself or another ex Express veteran can recall a similar instance?

Down the hole!

__________

=

BACK TO THE SEVENTIES

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FRANK THORNE 1949-2021
The last picture

Former Daily Express reporter Frank Thorne was full of hope when he posted this picture on Facebook from his hospital bed.

One day later he was dead.

Frank, who was 72, had been in the Royal London Hospital for a procedure following a kidney transplant in July.

This was his final upbeat message to his friends on Facebook on Tuesday (7 September 2021):
Buster Bloodvessel - back in my second home,  the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel today, Tuesday, for what I hope will be a minor operation to expand a narrow blood vessel, which is not supplying enough blood to Sydney the kidney. My new kidney is working well, so the expert transplant surgeons are hoping this is just another small bump in the road. Nil by mouth overnight, awaiting scans & depending on what they find, I’ll be whisked off to theatre. Centre stage again, so you can tell me to “break a leg” (errr , not literally)! I’m feeling robust, fit & well, so BRING IT ON!

Frank also worked on the Daily Mirror, Sunday People and Today. Later he freelanced for most national newspapers for several years in Australia and also worked on TV’s The Cook Report.

BILL HAGERTY said in tribute: 'God bless you, Frank. Memories are made of people like you.’

SYLVIA JONES: 'Although it was a close run thing, I think Frank loved life even more than he loved a good story. He died trying to keep on living. If only he had made it to see his book published.

'I remember him in his prime, acting as my “ imp” when we went undercover to expose hookers working in Harrods perfumery department to pick up rich foreign clients. He was in his element wearing an eye catching shiny mohair suit — with a touch of lurex running through the fabric — flooding the Knightsbridge pick up bars with pink champagne using a generous advance from the Bank in the Sky.

'We can all entertain each other with his legendary and well remembered exploits. He was one of a dying journalistic breed who could always manage to write the splash — in Frank’s case probably in between his karaoke rendering of Roy Orbison hits and getting in the next round!

'But beyond all that booze and reporting razzmatazz, Frank was a kind, generous and loyal friend to a lot of people. He’ll be missed, not least by me.'

MARTIN PHILLIPS: 'Such a terrible loss. Memories of Frank belting out Three Steps To Heaven on the Vagabonds karaoke seem especially poignant right now.

NICHOLA MACKAY: 'Bless you Frank, you welcomed me when Don Mackay adopted me into Fleet Street. I hope he's in the Slug and Seraphim with threat of the heavenly host.

OBITUARY

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No hiding place

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 LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Sir — It’s nice to see old folk taking an interest, isn’t it? And what an apt photo!

M.E THUSELAH-SHANKS
Oldham

I suppose you think that’s funny — Ed

__________

They seem like nice boys, but can you spot the three Expressmen, 55 years on?

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WHO are these nice fresh-faced chaps pictured at a leaving do on the Folkestone Herald and Gazette in1966?

Three of them went on to make their names on the Daily Express. Recognise anyone? We can help...

ALL IS REVEALED HERE

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Fleet Street was once the site of London's biggest rail terminus
(Not a lot of people know that)

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YOUR SPORTY DAILY DRONE, TOPS FOR GAMES AND ALL THAT SORT OF STUFF 
Are these the guys who ate all the pies?

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By SWT JOCKSTRAP-SHANKS and the rest of the not inconsiderable Drone sports team

WHO are these two sporty chaps, all decked out in warm scarves in the middle of August?

Have you guessed yet readers? Why they are none other than Expressmen Terry Manners and Roger Watkins, who for reasons best known to themselves now reside in leafy Lincolnshire.

Apparently it is fashionable for adherents of Association Football to wear colourful scarves to games. And here are our two chums on the terraces at Lincoln City’s LNER Stadium where they are both season ticket holders.

We are reliably informed that it is customary to eat pies before, during and after matches (subs pse check). But it is not recorded how many Messrs Manners and Watkins consumed.

Lincoln City, who beat Fleetwood 2-1, are known as the Imps but the editor is struggling to find a joke about that. To be brutally honest he really can’t be arsed — but our chums do look in excellent elf after goblin all the pies.

Will this do? No, it's shite, you’re fired — Ed

___________

LIGHTS GO OUT AT  BLACK LUBYANKA


GOODBYE TO ALL THAT: Jean Rook writes the splash for the final edition of the Daily Express to be printed in London’s Fleet Street before its move to new presses in Docklands. Most of the staff had already moved to new offices over the river in Blackfriars, 17 November, 1989
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DRONE TV
The life of James Cameron, great Daily Express foreign reporter and TV raconteur 

IF you have 47 minutes to spare this superb BBC2 documentary first broadcast in 1984 is well worth a watch.

It features the great foreign correspondent and former Expressman James Cameron talking about his distinguished career with candour.

Cameron, a Londoner, began as an office dogsbody with the Dundee-based Weekly News in 1935. Having worked for several Scottish newspapers and for the Daily Express in Fleet Street, he was rejected for military service in World War II. 

After the war, his experience of reporting on the Bikini Atoll nuclear experiments turned him into a pacifist and a founding member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He continued to work for the Express until 1950, after which he briefly joined Picture Post, where he and photographer Bert Hardy covered the Korean War. 

Tom Hopkinson, the editor of Picture Post, lost his job as publisher when he defended the magazine's coverage of atrocities committed by South Korean troops at a concentration camp in Pusan. Cameron wrote, "I had seen Belsen, but this was worse. This terrible mob of men — convicted of nothing, un-tried, South Koreans in South Korea, suspected of being 'unreliable’." The founder of the Hulton press, Edward G. Hulton, decided to kill the story. Hopkinson, Hardy and Hulton all appear in the programme.

Cameron then spent eight years with the News Chronicle which he described as his favourite popular newspaper.

In 1965, he wangled his way into North Vietnam for interviews and photos (with photographer Romano Cagnoni) of Ho Chi Minh and other top leaders.

Cameron became a broadcaster for the BBC after the war, writing and presenting such television series as Cameron Country, and numerous single documentaries. 

Seldom seen without a cigarette in his hand, James Cameron died of a stroke in his sleep on 26 January 1985, a few months after the BBC2 programme was broadcast. He was 73.

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DroneTube Exclusive

Life After The Front Page

This rare and previously largely unseen film, unearthed in the annals of Lord Drone, recalls the grand old days of Fleet Street. It includes interviews with Ann Buchanan, of The Sun and Daily Mirror; Clem Jones, from the Wolverhampton Express; Eric Todd of the Manchester Evening Chronicle and The Guardian; and George Bell and Ted Townshend of the Daily Telegraph. 

The film, which was made by students of Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 1999, also includes someone called Alastair McIntyre (who he — Ed?) who addresses the public from the Daily Express offices in Blackfriars. 

Runtime is 16 minutes.

___________

Tweet of the Year

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Muldoon’s Lookalike

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                     ESSEX                                     McINTYRE

By S MULDOON (trainee)

Can it be? Surely not. How is it that the world has only just noticed that the acting-singing heart-throb David Essex and our very own Drone clan chief Lord Bingo McIntyre of that Ilk bear more than a superficial passing resemblance? They’re not related of course: one’s quite high born, actually and the other is, at best, of artisan stock. 

Essex, OBE, a man of undistinguished looks, has made good through his showbiz talent. He almost became a professional footballer, though and was on West Ham’s books as a lad. He famously refused to answer a single question in his 11-plus so that he could attend a local secondary modern renowned for its footie prowess.

Lord B, the better looking of the two, comes from an ancient Highland clan (war cry: Flodden the bar!). The name McIntyre is from the Gaelic Mac an t-Saoir meaning son of the carpenter. The clan’s historic seat may have been Glen Noe in Argyll and Bute but it is now Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The chief is in pretty good form considering he has been on a slippery slope (geddit?) for years.

I’ll get you for this, Muldoon — Ed 

__________

Daredevil Tom, forgotten hero of the Daily Express 

The extraordinary wartime exploits of Expressman Tom Dobney can be told today.

Tom became the youngest airman in the RAF when he lied about his age and signed up at the age of 14.

Thirty years later, when Sunday Express editor John Junor heard of the young pilot’s derring-do, he instructed his reporters to scour the country to track Tom down.

The investigators drew a blank … but in an amazing twist of events it turned out that the answer to their quest was on their doorstep.

RIPPING YARN OF EXPRESSMAN TOM

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WHERE’S WALLY?

The editor of the Daily Drone, Mr Alastair McIntyre, normally hides his light under a bushel (whatever that is) and prefers anonymity but today he is the subject of our fascinating quiz.

Mr McIntyre, who prefers to masquerade under an aristocratic soubriquet, has been cunningly hidden in this photograph of him at a family celebration.

Can you spot him readers? Where is the Wally? Answers on a postcard to the nearest wagger pagger bagger (waste paper basket) as the old fool would put it.

Must go, he’s just staggering back from an extended slope.

I want the person who wrote this bilge to report to my office first thing in the afternoon — Ed
PS: The hat lights up, wiggles about and plays a tune.

__________

STAR PHOTOGRAPHER REG LANCASTER DIES

Reg Lancaster, one of the star photographers from the great days of the Daily Express, has died .

Reg photographed everything from sport and news to celebrity and film sets. He was on the staff of the paper for 44 years, joining in 1951. He spent time in London, Scotland and Paris. Reg was also a talented filmmaker and writer.

REMEMBERING REG

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Press awards? I’ve never heard of 'em storms Lord Drone

By I.R O’GREENSLADE 

Lord Drone was late last night forced to deny that any of his online newspaper journalists had been nominated for prestigious Society of Editors awards.

A spokesman roared: ‘This is nothing but outrageous rumour, scuttlebut and the ultimate in fake news emanating from drink-fuelled Fleet Street keyboard warriors and Back Bar WhatsApp gossip mongers.'

He was forced to deny that the Daily Drone’s Editor had to scrap a special edition celebrating the nominations of chief sub LP Brevmin, chief reporter Spike Diver, fashion team Pearl Nonpareil and Reynard Rambleshanks plus star columnist Rosalie Rambleshanks.

The spokesman said: ‘I woke him up and he confirmed that no special edition had been planned for the simple reason that no one on the staff had been up for any awards.

‘Our professional team now just wants to get on producing the World’s Greatest Online Newspaper in peace.’

BLOB* Last autumn Ms Rambleshanks was nominated for two Press Gazette awards but failed to win either. 

(Memo to CS: Can you start the final par with a blob: I’ve forgotten how to do it. - IRO)

*Will this do? — CS

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Media Hits & Myths

An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Q. The late Sunday Express editor Sir John Junor regularly used the phrase ‘Pass the sickbag, Alice’ in his columns. What is its derivation? 

A. You don’t know but I think you should be told. Hah! Hah! Seriously, there are many fanciful theories such as it was the nasty disease Christopher Robin went down with. But, according to a note in the Grauniad in the mid 90s, written by someone called Roger Watkins, Alice was a real person, whom many at the Fleet Street Express will remember.

She was a small, bird-like grandmother with unconvincing blonde tresses who worked in what was laughingly called The Grill Room of the canteen. On Saturdays the Sunday Express hacks moved down to the Daily newsroom and had their one night living on the journalistic edge (Deadline Midnight, Hold the Front Page etc).

Naturally, they considered themselves far too important and vital cogs in the machine to be able to leave the office for such luxuries as lunch. So Alice was summoned to serve them Grill Room fare at their desks. Junor, who knew he really was an important and vital cog, suffered no such constraints, of course, and habitually sloped off to the Savoy or the Salieri in The Strand. 

But on seeing the eggs and chips or gurgleburgers on toasted buns being delivered to his staff he would oft utter the immortal phrase: ‘Och. Pass the sickbag, Alice.’

Watkins, ever the gentleman, sometimes used to take Alice home in the office ‘limo’ to her semi in Hutton, Essex, near where he lived, to save her a train journey in the early hours.

I woke him up so he could recall: “I’d be waiting with John, the office driver, in the Front Hall and Alice would burst out of the lift laden down with heavy carrier bags which she never let me help her with. Except on one occasion when I grabbed one which was so laden with contraband (allegedly) that I could hardly lift it.”

RICK McNEILL remembers: One afternoon in the Fleet Street newsroom, Managing Editor Eric Raybould, in his customary shirt sleeves and braces — and as usual, sucking on an unlit cigar — was sitting alone on the Back Bench reading the paper. Unnoticed by him, a wide-eyed group of members of the public appeared on one of the guided tours that were popular at the time. In hushed, almost reverential, tones, the management guide told them: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is the beating heart of the world’s greatest newspaper!”

At that moment Raybould spied Alice on the other side of the room and barked: “Alice! Where’s my fucking chips?”

__________

After years of taking great pictures for the Daily Express, photographer Larry Ellis now finds himself on the other side of the lens — in a Specsavers ad.

Now Larry can be heard on the radio. How did stardom come to Larry, 90, so late in life?

JEREMY GATES investigates

__________

THOSE of us who spent half our lives in Fleet Street will learn something new in this fascinating video by historian JOHN ROGERS.

He explains: Our walk starts in Clement's Lane passing through the grounds of the London School of Economics and behind the Royal Courts of Justice. We then visit St Clement Danes Church and look for the medieval holy well. 

After looking at the statue of Samuel Johnson we go to Temple Bar the ancient western gate of the City of London. From here we visit St Dunstan-in-the-West with its statues of Gog and Magog and recount of the story of Brutus of Troy, Albina founding Britain and Corineus defeating the giant Gogmagog in Battle leading to Brutus becoming the first king of Britain and founding London. We also talk about the 14th Century statues of King Lud and his sons in the porch of the church. 

We continue along Fleet Street and go into Inner Temple and visit Temple Church, Middle Temple Hall and Fountain Court before going along Whitefriars Street to St Bride's Church with its fantastic spire designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Our walk ends by looking for the site of Bridewell Palace first built by Henry III.

Runtime is 36 minutes.

____________

LOOKALIKE

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HIGGERS                                SHIPPERS

Scrolling through my daily emails, writes KEVIN MULDOON, I came across Tim Shipman’s doppelgänger .

He is Eliot Higgins, British founder of Netherlands-based investigative journalism website Bellingcat which specialises in fact-checking and open-source intelligence, whatever that is.

Tim, a former Daily Express graduate trainee, was recently replaced as political editor of The Sunday Times by his deputy Caroline Wheeler. He now writes a weekly column for the paper. Strange business.

According to Private Eye, Shippers made the fatal mistake of falling out with Dominic Cummings, who now cuts him dead. Then Caroline Wheeler was offered a very good job elsewhere, so the editor thought a smart solution would be to elevate Shipman to Chief Political Commentator, meaning he didn’t have to get stories day by day, while Wheeler was promoted to his old job to persuade her to stay.

__________

The Editor wishes to announce that, contrary to an earlier report in the Drone, he is not aged 80

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Sir — I claim the Drone prize for guessing your age. Please find my entry attached, as requested, to a £5 note. My dear old granny used to tell me that she was as old as her little finger – which would apply with equal accuracy to your good-self. I am not quite sure how Winston Churchill fits into all this, so please regard it as a funny joke.

M. E. THUSELAH
Petts Wood

PS: My gran also told me she was much older than her false teeth, if this helps.

__________

Guess Bingo’s age competition: Page 98 (Send entries attached to a crisp fiver to the usual address)

GREAT MOMENTS IN SATIRE

Peter Cook sums up in Jeremy Thorpe case

THIS sketch by the brilliant satirist Peter Cook is regarded as one of the greatest moments in satire.

Cook, a comedy genius who died in 1995 aged 57, performed the sketch at the Secret Policeman’s Ball in 1979. It was a skit on the blatantly biased summing up by Mr Justice Cantley in the notorious Jeremy Thorpe case.

Thorpe (29 April 1929 – 4 December 2014) was MP for North Devon from 1959 to 1979, and leader of the Liberal Party from 1967 to 1976. In May 1979 he was tried at the Old Bailey on charges of conspiracy and incitement to murder arising from an earlier homosexual relationship with Norman Scott, a former model. 

Thorpe was acquitted on all charges, somewhat against the odds, but the case and the furore surrounding it ended his political career.

Cook wrote the entire sketch in less than three hours following criticism that the Secret Policeman’s Ball show lacked satirical bite. His final words to the jury were a classic of the genre: 'You are now to retire (as indeed should I) carefully to consider your verdict of not guilty.”

It was the crowning moment of his career.

__________

Former DX execs exiled to the Gran(dad)stand 

BAD MANNERS: Terry, left, and Roger

By DEE MENTIA, Medical Staff
Two former Express executives have been banished from the Main Stand at Lincoln City FC where they are season ticket holders.

Terry Manners and Roger Watkins have been accused of upsetting sensitive supporters with loud, foul-mouthed tirades against match officials and misfiring strikers.

They have been told to sit in the Selenity Stand, named after a Lincoln-based software developer. A club spokesman said the stand would now be renamed the Senility Stand.

You are not sons of the sod, you are very naughty boys — Ed

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR
A question of authenticity

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THE REAL THING: Mods never wore crash helmets, just like these in the 1979 film Quadrophenia

Sir — Your historic news pictures always interest me, even the ones that make history today, such as former News Editor, Michael Parry of our Parish, known for his quiet approach to life and modest personality, mimicking the Great Churchill smoking an unlit and uncut cigar in a pub where smoking is banned. He always was one for authenticity, he once told me.

And I enjoyed your picture from the past of the Teddy Girls, before they were blown away in the pages of history by the Swinging Sixties, as you rightly say. Which prompts me to write about the irritating habit of the Press today when they depict the original Mods from the era. The new young bucks on the Backbench and Picture desks, just fish out a snap of a young man on a scooter wearing a crash helmet.

But Mods never wore them. It was almost a sin and unheard of, as anyone worth their weight in military parkas and chrome Lambretta panels would tell you. You wouldn’t be able to hold your head high in Margate or Brighton. So irritating these little gaps in historical research by hacks these days. 

Ah well, I suppose they’ve never heard of Hush Puppies, tab collars, Cuban heels and paisley shirts either.

TENERIFE TEL
Neasden branch, Lambretta TV 175.

____________

Dear Aunt Marje

I am terribly attracted to tractors of all shapes and sizes and have been since reaching puberty. It all began when visiting a cousin on his farm in Ireland where there was a gorgeous Ferguson. It was red with the longest exhaust pipe I’d ever seen. Love at first sight! Since then never a day goes by without me thinking of that beautiful beast. I even bought one a few years ago but had to sell it because I live in a first floor flat in central London and the neighbours complained. What am I to do?

Anon,

Tiverton

Dear Anon,

I suggest you give pornography a go. I can heartily recommend what is known girl on girl. No giant exhaust pipes though. Here’s a tip: Make sure you watch it in the privacy of your own home.

*****

Dear Aunt Marje

Did I see a letter in the Drone from former trainee S. Muldoon? Whatever happened to him?

Groupie

Dear Groupie

I hope you’ll understand that, because of a conflict of interest, I have handed your query to my colleague Spike Diver who writes:

Spotty, as he was called because he was a hack from Hackney with acne, was a promising young journalist. Alas, and I have to speak truthfully here, he lost his way somewhat. Initially, he made his name passing on amusing comments overheard in supermarkets, bizarre TV listings and, I have to admit, the clever and original Last Train to Adlestrop which media commentators ruled was too cerebral for Drone readers. 

When it was axed, he went off the rails, so to speak. After that he filled in writing Histories in Moments and Lookalikes. It was the latter that led to his downfall. The Editor allowed his attempt to draw a visual comparison between Waynetta Slob and Welsh chanteuse Katherine Jenkins to pass without demur but a piece labouring the similarities shared by Labour MPs Angela and Maria Eagle was, as the Ed said, so amusingly, one twin too many.

He now makes the tea on a fortnightly ‘satirical’ magazine.

MORE MARJE

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8 MAY 2022

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre