A jailed chief sub and a broken leg, my mad time at Ancoats

LIVING IT LARGE: Jeremy Greenaway enjoys champagne and oysters aboard his boat in Brittany

JEREMY GREENAWAY recalls his crazy days at the Daily Express in Manchester and London

I was originally hired by Sammy Prince, who was managing editor in Manchester at the time and had been a mate and colleague of my then editor of the Western Morning News, Noel 'Nat' Vinson. Both had worked as subs on the Telegraph, and I believe the Express too but not sure.

Anyway, fast forward, and one summer's eve, the usual indecision and chaos was ensuing, and the stone sub — I think it was Ray Chapman, who later went to Canada — was hopping up and down the stairs twixt stone and subs as Page One kept being rejigged. 

He'd raced off on another return to the stone, but nothing had been heard of him until one of the messengers raced up to the backbench, and shouted out to Tony Fowler, who was Night Editor: 'Mr Fowler, Mr Fowler . . . it's Mr Chapman — he's fallen down the stairs and broken his leg — and he's unconscious!' 

Mr Fowler, leaped up from his chair and, throwing his arms in the air, responded: 'Oh for fuck's sake, why does everything always happen to me?!’ 

The incident had a silver lining for me though — it opened the door for yours truly to begin his life of grime down in the lead mine!

Anyone one know where the chief sub is? He's in jail in Liverpool — Mr McDonald and Mr Prince have gone over to bail him out

Ancoats housed several individuals who, shall we say, had hang-ups and suppressed emotions from previous happenings. One of them was the Chief Sub, whose identity I will protect. He'd worked on the Liverpool Echo before moving east to The World's Greatest Daily Newspaper, and had had numerous fallings out with his editor at the time. 

One evening, after the chair had been vacant for an hour or so, Ray Collin (what a lovely guy, mentor et al) stood up from the backbench and asked: "Anyone seen XXXX or know where he is?" 

Much head-shaking went on until Macmumble's [John McDonald] secretary came out of the office. "He's in jail in Liverpool — Mr McDonald and Mr Prince have gone over to bail him out."

It transpired that XXXX had gone over to the Pool to visit some of his chums the previous evening on his night off and had hung more than a few on before going to the Echo offices, where, allegedly, he tried to lay in to the editor, who barricaded himself into his office. 

Incandescent of Ancoats then started lobbing typewriters out of the windows to the street below before a squad of Liverpool's finest succeeding in coralling the alleged miscreant, and taking him to the Bridewell. 

The incident became known when the Old Bill contacted the Express the following morning, asking if anyone by the name of XXXX worked for the paper — cue rapid departure by Macmumble and Sammy to bail the aforesaid, who returned to the fold a couple of days later.

There's no chance of a revolution here: the fucking bourgeoisie outnumber the proletariat four to one

In the latter days of my sojourn in Fleet Street, the backbench had swelled out of all proportion, under the navigation of The Great White Whale, aka Derek Marks. 

Indecision after indecision was washing to and fro like a series of waves along the backbench, with the likes of David English, Arthur Firth, Ted Hodgson, Tony Fowler and numberless others having their say. I think the story of the day was connected with yet another rising in some Third World country. 

Dear Ralph Mineards was splash subbing in the absence of Peter Hedley, with the inimitable Douglas 'Come along Crackleknackers' Orgill chief subbing with something of a shortage of yer ackshul subs — I think there were only three or four on that night, with me P1 stone sub. 

After yet another Mexican wave along the bench, Ralphy slammed his hands down onto the desk top, stood up and said, very politely but very loudly: "There's no chance of a revolution here: the fucking bourgeoisie outnumber the proletariat four to one . . . "

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre