2018 Jan-June

My career's been cruelly ended by Express says sacked football writer

REACH supremo Simon Fox is facing a potentially costly fight over the Express's firing of veteran football reporter Colin Mafham.

Mafham is considering a legal case seeking 'substantial damages' following his sacking over an on-line column article in which he criticised Liverpool fans and urged them not to repeat the behaviour that saw 39 Italian fans die at Heysel in 1985 and resulted in all English clubs being banned from European competition.

Express editor Gary Jones, a Liverpool fan and campaigner for the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy, sparked a Twitter storm after publicly apologising for the article. Mafham subsequently had to seek police protection from trolls who posted his address on the Internet.

An internal investigation and two disciplinary hearings finally resulted in confirmation of his sacking yesterday (Tuesday).

Mafham, who claims the Express's action is 'a gag on free speech', warns that 'every journalist in the country will now be looking over their shoulders'.

He added: 'I am outraged at this unprecedented attack on my professional integrity built up over more than 50 years in journalism on both news and sport. This is wrong on every level.

"My career has been cruelly ended by being offered as a sacrificial lamb to a baying mob, seemingly because of fears that Express Newspapers could suffer the same commercial fate as The Sun experiences on Merseyside.”

Mafham is now believed to be preparing a robust defence and claim with the lawyer who represented Matt Driscoll, the former News Of The World sports reporter who was awarded £792,736 by an employment tribunal in 2009, which is believed to be the highest payout of its kind in the media.

A spokesman for Reach said: “Talking in general terms, freedom of expression for journalists is not a free pass to publish ill-informed, inaccurate, and misjudged comments.

“When journalists are given a platform for their opinions, it comes with the quid pro quo that what they write is to be founded on fact and reasoned argument.”


STAR LINE-UP: A huge congregation including Fleet Street’s top names attended the memorial service for Robin Esser on Wednesday 21st March. Pictured, from left, are Paul Dacre, Sir Michael Parkinson, Philippa Kennedy, Donald Trelford and Christopher Ward 

Photo: Alan Davidson/AJDImages Ltd
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New Daily Express editor Gary Jones, pictured, has told MPs that some of the paper’s front pages were ‘downright offensive’ before he took over — and some stories helped stir Islamophobia.

His comments restore a touch of sanity and decency to the Express which lost its influence and became a laughing stock under the ownership of Richard Desmond. Let us hope that this new and welcome attitude is not too late to restore this once-great paper’s fortunes.



Johnners calls it a day

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How Inspector Watts found
himself en route to Fleet St


PETER SMITH relates how his old friend and colleague, Sunday Express columnist Michael ‘Inspector’ Watts,  got his job on the paper by talking rather loudly on the top of a No11 bus. Read it here



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Old journalists never die, they merely run the marathon. But who’s this action man?
All is revealed here




The plan for Easter Saturday had been to visit a stately home in Suffolk with my wife, parents and aunt. The vile weather meant we opted for a long lunch in Bury St Edmunds instead. 

It was my first visit, and wandering the quaint streets about 3.30pm I stumbled across an intriguing sign outside Waterstones. My old colleague David ‘Bunny’ Laws was signing copies of his book.

It seemed I had missed the event but decided to look inside and, as luck would have it, the great man was still lingering.

He was on fine form, giving a mini-lecture on Munich, the background to his book etc. He still does the odd Sunday Express shift.

Of course, it meant I had to put my hand in my pocket to buy a copy (paperback edition), which David cheerfully signed. 

Troubador magazine interview with David

Buy the ebook here

Buy the paperback here

Promotional video


Expressman STEPHEN WOOD has unearthed some fascinating footage of staff at work on the East Anglian Daily Times/Evening Star/Suffolk Mercury series in 1959.

Wood told the Drone: "The film was shot six years before I started there but it’s full of old coves I remember, especially the news editor Frank Tonkinson (who had reported from the Nuremberg Trials), Chief Sub Alf Boden and the grumpiest bastard of a stone hand called Ken.

"Thing is, the subs get a really good shout in this ... proper blokes (all blokes) all doing a proper job. Good stuff on Linos, foundry and press room too.

"It was all done in a wonderful Victorian red-brick building subsequently demolished to make way for Sainsbury’s in 1967.

The film runs for 16 minutes. Watch it HERE


WRETCHED: More bilge from the new owners of Express Newspapers. For reasons known only to themselves, Trinity Mirror has decided to rename the company Reach, or Retch as its beleagured journalists prefer to call it.

More about this nonsense — if you can bear to read it

drone cannes
whittoe farewell

Daily Mail leaves no
royal cliché unturned

mail piece

A piece in the Daily Mail by Sarah Rainey and Rebecca English on Harry and Meghan’s evening reception was a triumph for lovers of the cliché.

The following shortish page lead contained the following tired expressions:



Late night revelry

Bespoke cocktails (twice)

Trendy DJ

Dancing the night away

Party to end all parties

Carnival atmosphere

Extravagant fireworks display

Night to remember

Prince’s playboy past

Festivities kicked off

Security extremely tight


Sneak pictures


Giddy videos

Bespoke bracelets

Giant marquee

Stunning floral displays 

Liveried waiters circulated

Poignant reminder

Under strict instructions (twice)

Keeping guests in stitches

Late night snacks

Went on into the early hours

Stagger off the dance floor

Bleary-eyed revellers

Late-night party

Celebrity haunt

Rather the worse for wear

Weary looking


One of the few to make it down to breakfast

Biggest cliche: believed to have etc

A DRONE CORRESPONDENT, always up for a challenge, writes: Most impressed by your wonderful list of clichés from the Mail piece on The Reception. I didn't see the story, but I thought it  might be possible to reconstruct it using all the cliches in the order given and linking them with the fewest possible words. Come to think of it, this could be the basis of a template for future tales of a similar nature, thus saving time and effort for all concerned.

It was a star-studded, champagne-fuelled bonanza, with late-night revelry enhanced by bespoke cocktails (and, man,  do I mean bespoke cocktails!). Trendy DJs had the glitterati dancing the night away at this, the party to end all parties. 

The carnival atmosphere and an extravagant fireworks display made it a night to remember  – and perhaps to muse with a smile on the Prince's playboy past.

The festivities kicked off without a hitch, with security extremely tight and guests strictly vetted.  But needless to say there were sneak pictures of the flamboyant knees-up.  Giddy videos of one and all. Oh, those fab frocks… Oh, those bespoke bracelets ...  The giant marquee, with stunning floral displays, was just right for the night as liveried waiters circulated.

To some the occasion had to be a poignant reminder of the past. But that aside, what could mar the magic of it all?   Discreet security guards were under strict instructions to see that things didn't get out of hand. Even so, the antics of Top People were keeping guests in stitches.

There were late-night snacks as the party went on into the early hours, with some guests seen to stagger off the dance floor.

And then – time to go home for bleary-eyed revellers as the late-night party finally drew to a close. Even so, some chose to take in a celebrity haunt or two, although rather the worse for wear. But after all that, who wouldn't be weary looking?

Come the morn ...  Fresh-facedone of the few to make it down to breakfast was believed to have been ...  But that's another story, for another day.


Izzard’s new book on failed VC heroes


Former Express sub-editor Brian Izzard, a prolific writer of military and naval histories, has a new book out. Glory and Dishonour tells the true story of Victoria Cross heroes whose lives ended in tragedy or disgrace.

The book is the first to explore the lives of those for whom the greatest accolade did not bring contentment, happiness or lasting fame. The book is available in hardback now on Amazon for £16.29. 

Details here


History in moments

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1945: Five Australian former POWs catch up on the news with the Daily Express after their release from Japanese captivity in Singapore


Who’s this macho young biker?

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GUESSED IT? You could always buy the latest edition of Motor Cycle News to find out, but the Drone has a simpler way. Just click here


How Ray ‘Docker’ Mills ruled that pigs couldn’t fly

In a snortingly good tale from Manchester, photographer PETER WILCOCK relates how Daily Star editor Lloyd Turner instructed him and reporter Allan Hall to buy a piglet to ‘bring to life’ the paper’s back-page cartoon Orson the Pig. Much hilarity followed with the punchline ultimately being delivered by Ray ‘Docker’ Mills. Read it here


A wander down memory lane

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FIRST TUESDAY CLUB: Standing from left, Bill Orchard, Tony Sapiano, John Burns, Frank Thorne, Peter Shirley, and Brian Steel. Front: Cliff Seabridge, Cora Weston, David Eliades and Jim Watson. Picture by Bill Orchard who Photoshopped himself into it


On a grey day, I ventured out to London to meet up with Daily Express old boys and girls at the First Tuesday Club. 

But my disposition changed to sunny smiles when I finished up wandering down Fleet Street with old workmates Brian Steel and John ‘Bomber’ Burns to visit some of our old drinking haunts, including the Punch, now a ghastly and a shadow of its impressive former self. The old Snooker Club dive bar is now an exclusive downstairs gin palace called the London Distillery.

We enjoyed a few hours recalling our various exploits on the road and slagging off a few tossers we worked for along the way. We drank to absent friends. A grand day out!

The monthly First Tuesday get together takes place in a private room at the Old Bank of England pub at the top of Fleet Street next door to the Royal Courts of Justice from midday onwards. 

It is organised by David Eliades former Express night news editor. Also present were former photographer Peter Shirley, snapper Tony Sapiano, Bill Orchard, ex-reporter John Burns, Jim Watson, former Express sports secretary Cora Weston, and ex-reporter and newsdesk executive Brian Steel. 

Others who often make it are David Bealing, Cliff Seabridge, John Downing and Tom Smith. 

The meeting was founded by the late Jim Nicholl. Norman Luck later took over from Jim. Norman died in 2012.

I spent 18 months on the Express before I left to spend the next 12 years on the Sunday People.


The wonderful art of Michael Green: A coarse life well lived

                      LOVEABLE MENACE: Michael Green who has died aged 91

Once again the Drone is indebted to The Times for an hilarious obituary of the irrepressible Michael Green, journalist and author of The Art of Coarse Rugby and other great books in the Coarse series.

Expressman Richard Dismore was lucky enough to know Green. He said: "He was a legend when I went into journalism as the man who wrote Don’t Print My Name Upside Down. He was working at the time at the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, deadliest foe of my own paper, the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. 

"A wonderful, hilarious book. It contained the story of the young reporter sent to review a play who, for a reason I can’t remember but which probably involved licensed premises, didn’t attend the play but wrote a glowing review, only to find the following day that the theatre had burned down.  

"I learnt more about journalism from his Don’t Print My Name than from the entire Harold Evans canon. And he was a good bloke, to boot!"

Roger Watkins recalled a great quote from The Art of Coarse Rugby: “Never take a penalty with a cigarette in your mouth. Always hand it to the referee. These little courtesies distinguish the gentleman!

"Another magnificent Greenism is  'a coarse golfer is one who shouts fore when he putts’."

Read the obit here




A former top detective and undercover investigator for the Yard’s Drug and Regional Crime Squad — Britain's equivalent of the FBI — who published a successful book on his exploits in 2002, is hunting for a ghost writer to team up on a new project. Anyone interested?

The former SAS-trained officer has written a 120-page screenplay which Hollywood film production company McCoy Films has offered an option on. McCoy produced Fight Club and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, among other top movies.

But the script needs to be turned into a book first and the detective needs someone to write it up with colour and excitement with a target of 80,000 words. The story is based around a teenage boy dressed as a woman who deserts from the Foreign Legion but becomes the captive of a rich American widow who owns a vineyard in France. 

Called The Cruciverbalist, it is a mixture of Misery and the H.E.Bates book/film, The Triple Echo. 

I can vouch for the detective whom I know very well after working with him on another project — and also his agent, one of Britain’s best. 

If anyone would like to have a shot at this, I will put them in touch and arrange a meeting. They can take it from there. I would do it myself but I already have another project. 

Lord Drone will forward the names of anyone who is interested to me. Email: dailydrone@mail.com


The editors of the Daily Express and Daily Star have resigned just one day after Trinity Mirror completed its £200m takeover of Richard Desmond’s national newspapers.

Hugh Whittow, who has edited the Daily Express since 2011, and Daily Star editor Dawn Neesom, the longest serving female national newspaper editor, have announced they are leaving.

Whittow, 65, is retiring and Neesom, 53, plans to pursue a career in freelance writing and broadcasting.

Gary Jones, 53, editor of the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, has been appointed editor-in-chief of the Daily Express.

Daily Mirror editor Peter Willis takes on the editorship of the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People.

Alison Phillips, editor of the short-lived New Day newspaper has been appointed editor of the Daily Mirror.

Daily Mirror associate editor Jon Clark is the new editor-in-chief of the Daily Star.

Martin Townsend remains as Sunday Express editor and Stuart James continues as editor of the Daily Star Sunday.

In other senior editorial changes Sunday Mirror and Sunday People deputy editor Caroline Waterston has been appointed deputy editor-in-chief across the Express and Star titles.

Michael Booker remains in his role of deputy editor of the Daily Express while Bill Izzard continues as Daily Star deputy editor.

New Express editor-in-chief Gary Jones has had surgery for testicular cancer. Read his story here.

The Competition and Markets Authority has announced that it intends to probe the takeover, which could raise issues of competition and market share issues.

It issued an initial enforcement order requiring that the two businesses operate as standalone entities for an extended period of time before allowing the takeover to happen.

Porky Parry’s scratchings, enjoy them with a snort

Sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction. Former Daily Express news editor Mike Parry, now a star of TalkSPORT radio, has lent his name to a toothsome snack, the ideal accompaniment to a snorterino deluxe.

You can buy this delicious salty treat, 10 bags for a tenner while stocks, last HERE. Don’t all rush.

A £127million Mirror deal to buy Richard Desmond’s Express publishing empire has at last been sealed.

Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Labour-supporting Daily and Sunday Mirror as well as the Sunday People, had been in talks to buy Mr Desmond’s Brexit-supporting Express and Star titles since autumn last year.

The bad news is there will be job cuts, particularly as back office operations are merged but editorial will also be hit. 

The good news is that £71.4million will eventually be paid into the Express pension schemes. 

Trinity Mirror shares ended up nearly 10 per cent on Friday.

The deal will be put to TM shareholders on February 28 with the agreement sealed the following day.

It is thought Alison Phillips, former editor of Trinity Mirror’s short-lived new national newspaper, New Day, could take over as editor of the Daily Express. She is currently editor-in-chief of the Mirror titles.

Hopefully a new editor will result in the Daily Express splashing on real news stories rather than the weather forecast or the latest crank cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

The deal to buy Mr Desmond’s Northern & Shell company includes the Daily and Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday, magazines OK!, New! and Star and a 50 per cent share in the Irish Daily Star.

The deal was sealed after an agreement was struck over the pension issue. Trinity Mirror shares stood at 76.50 at 4.35pm yesterday, up 6.70 (9.60 per cent).

Simon Fox, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, said: "Northern & Shell's titles have a large and loyal readership, a growing digital presence and a stable revenue mix and offer an excellent fit with Trinity Mirror."

He told BBC's Today programme: "It's a very wise investment. We've had plenty of time to think about this carefully."

The deal would lead to cost savings, as the titles could pool their resources. "For example, [instead of] sending two reporters to a football game, we can send one.” 

Trinity Mirror expects the deal to lead to savings of £20m a year.

Mr Fox pledged that the publications would retain their identities: "The Daily Express is not going to become left-wing and the Mirror is not going to become right-wing."

Two major Mirror shareholders warned last month against the takeover after suggesting that Trinity Mirror could be paying too much.

Mr Desmond, chairman of Northern & Shell, said: "The Express Newspapers and our celebrity magazine titles have been a key part of the Northern & Shell portfolio for many years, and I am immensely proud of building them into one of the largest newspaper and magazine groups in the UK.

"Today's transformational transaction is a logical and natural next step in the evolution and consolidation of the media sector and will create a larger and stronger platform serving all stakeholders.

"In Trinity Mirror we have a great partner, who will be an excellent steward of the business going forward and I am delighted to be able to retain an ongoing interest in the combined group."

Under the new terms Mr Desmond is in line to get a cash payment of £42million, plus £20million in Trinity Mirror shares, £60 million in deferred payments between now and 2023, and £5million related to approvals by Irish regulators.

A further £41.2million will go into the Express pension schemes followed by extra payments of £29.2million as part of the scheme’s recovery plan.

The Express is currently edited by High Whittow, 64, who succeeded Peter Hill in 2011.The paper’s first woman editor was Rosie Boycott who resigned shortly after Richard Desmond bought Express Newspapers for £125million in 2000.


Find out more here


Christiansen’s biggest mistake: His 'peace in our time' front page

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Legendary Daily Express editor Arthur Christiansen was very proud of this page when he drew it in 1938. The splash headline was more than two inches deep, the biggest type ever used in a newspaper at the time.

The report praised Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for his ‘peace in our time’ agreement with Adolf Hitler at the notorious Munich conference. It turned out to be Christiansen’s — and Chamberlain’s — biggest mistake. 

Back in 2007 Tim Walker wrote an excellent review of Christiansen’s autobiography Headlines All My Life. 
Read the review here

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre