2018 July-Dec

The World’s Greatest Lunch Club moved from its customary festive perch at Joe Allen to the World’s Greatest Luxury Apartment Overlooking the Thames yesterday.

We were guests of David Eliades and his wife Lamar who invited the former Daily Express journalists and their wives to their home beside the river at Richmond.

Pictured above from left are Lamar Eliades, Alan Frame, Dick Dismore and Carol Watkins. Behind Carol is Ashley Walton, Chris McIntyre and David Eliades.


Strolling arm in arm down Fleet Street with a youthful Jim Nicoll in 1969, this was Daily Express Foreign Desk copytaster Muriel Bailey on the day she retired.

Do you remember Muriel? If so her niece Laura Gregory would love to hear from you.

Laura told the Drone: "Do you know if anyone is still around who knew or worked with my favourite auntie Muriel Bailey, she was copytaster on the Daily Express Foreign Desk and retired on June 30th, 1969 after 35 years with Beaverbrook.

"She worked under Eric Raybould and Derek Marks and René MacColl.  

"Four of the seven foreign editors she worked under were  Stuart Steven, David English, Norman Smart, Sutton, Foley, Lulow.”

Can you help with any reminiscences? Contact the editor at dailydrone@mail.com

The Sunday Express has celebrated its 100th anniversary by publishing a special supplement that included its first front page dated December 29, 1918.

More pix here

OH DEAR, former Sunday Express reporter Alfred Lee is looking down on his uppers.

But worry not. Our Alf has turned his hands to acting — as an extra.

He explained in an email to friends: "Here’s me, as a Mongolian prisoner in the big budget film Waiting For The Barbarians now being filmed in the Moroccan desert. 

"I have been tortured and beaten by soldiers commanded by Johnny Depp.  

"Sir Mark Rylance who stars in the film, written by J M Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, plays the powerful Magistrate, who searches his soul and orders the release of the Mongolian prisoners, including me.”

And that’s not ‘alf bad. (See what we did there?)

IT WAS just like old times when 25 or so former Daily and Sunday Express and Star colleagues turned up at their favourite watering hole, the infamous Crown and Kettle in Manchester for their Christmas get-together.

And no wonder they’re smiling. The pub, next to the old office in Great Ancoats Street, charges a reasonable £3.20 for a pint of bitter. 

From the left are: Mike Hughes; David Haigh, who made his way up from deepest Kent; Chris Turkentine, PA to a number of Star editors and who trekked in from North Wales; Paul Berra; Tony Brooks, the hacks' Northern Organiser; and top lawyer Stephen Bacon, who also made it up from the south.

Among others was ex-Star reporter George Dearsley, who flew in from Turkey, although he did combine it with a lucrative media training job!

They may look alike but these two famous women have little in common. One is Brigitte Marie-Claude Trogneux Macron, 65, former high school French and Latin teacher who married one of her students despite his being almost a quarter of a century her junior. 

Oui, c’est Emanuel Macron, now the beleaguered popinjay president of France who could fairly be described as a “flawed rhinestone”. He said their romance was “a love often clandestine, often hidden, misunderstood by many before imposing itself.” 

By contrast, Dame Barbara Windsor, 81, who carries on regardless despite now, sadly, suffering from Alzheimer’s, is a genuine member of Britain’s Royal Family of Showbiz and is, manifestly, a National Treasure. 

The epitome of “saucy”, thrice-married Dame Babs has had romantic liaisons with, among others, Reggie and Charles Kray, Sid James and George Best and has kept the nation happy and gloriously entertained for almost 70 years.



Back in the day (cliché alert) sub-editors were expected to write literate, active headlines which, ideally, contained a subject, a verb and an object.

And avuncular old school chief subs would advise: “If in doubt, young man, just tell the tale.”

For example, the late, lamented Daily Express copy-taster Les Diver’s favourite (and oft-quoted) heads were:






*If memory serves the word in question was not ‘shafts’ — Ed 

Nowadays all bets are off. “News” websites are objects of contempt because of the piss-poor, sometimes hilarious headlines often cobbled together by young reporters who wouldn’t know an avuncular old school chief sub if he bit her or him on the bum (ah, those were the days — Ed).

So MULDOON, the Drone’s Chief Sub in Waiting (not a cat’s chance in hell, sonny — Ed), has been trawling the websites (mainly the Mail Online, actually) for a new series entitled: 

Headlines you’re glad you never wrote.

Here is his first example: 

Is everything OK? Ali Oetjen and Taite Radley**

Look Strained As They Get Coffee Before Heading 

Into Clinic That Specialises In Cosmetic Injectables

**Nope. Us neither. 


Six Children Are Hospitalised

With Breathing Problems And 

Rashes After A Kid Defecates In 

The Pool — Causing A Toxic Cloud

No. 3

Daniel Day-Lewis Checks

His Flip Phone As He 

Enjoys His Retirement 

Alone In New York Park

No. 4

Dame Joan Collins, 85, Reveals

She Had A ‘Transgender Moment’

 At 15 When She Dressed In Her

Father’s Clothes And Went To

Football Matches Because She

‘Didn’t Want To Become A Woman’

No. 5

Rapunzel, Rapunzel Let Down Your

Mare! Horse Boasts Incredible Long

Hair Like The Fairy Tale Character

No. 6

EXCLUSIVE: Kanye West’s

‘Stepfather’ Says He Was ‘Prodigy

Genius Child’ With An Ego And 

Slight Speech Impediment As Details

Of Rapper’s Childhood Reveals He

Loved Nude Thai Beaches And

Preferred ‘Self Love To Having Girlfriends'

No. 7

Mandy Moore Breaks Down In 

Tears When She Learns Four-Times

Great Grandmother Died at Age 

40 at ‘Hell On Earth’ Workhouse

And Had No Funeral


Teen Mom OG: Amber

Portwood* In Bonding

Moment Teaches Her

Ten-Year-Old Daughter

Leah How To Shave Legs

*Not a clue

No 9

Sumo Wrestler Quits The Sport

After Assaulting A Young Wrestler

A Year After Grand Champion Was

Forced To Retire For Hitting HIM

With A Karaoke Machine Controller

No 10

Jennifer Aniston Tells Jimmy

Kimmel He Needs To Control

His Kids: ‘Your Daughter Took

 A S**t In The Backyard

Next To My Beautiful Pool’

No 11

The Mummy Diaries: Billy Faiers


As Daughter Nelly hilariously

Warns Her ‘Not To Do Anything

She Wouldn’t’ And Fiancé

Greg Surprises Her With A Gift

No 12

He Couldn’t Nama-stay: Yoga Guru

Simone Callahan Performs A Downward

Facing Dog Pose On Instagram In Honour

Of Her Recently Deceased Pet Dog Hachi

Next: Er, that’s it — M


There were red faces and profuse apologies when TERRY MANNERS visited his friend George Layton, star of Doctor in the House, with photographer John Downing

Crash, bang, wallop what a picture

The church was full of happy smiling people when photographer Steve Wood’s daughter Natalie married Gordon Ferguson.

Steve is pictured on the right with his wife Sally at the church in Compton, Surrey

Not surprisingly there were some great pictures taken, which can be viewed HERE


FORMER Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre made a combative address to the Society of Editors in which he attacked the ex-editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger, the BBC, Lord Leveson and the judiciary.

Last night Rusbridger hit back, saying the Guardian was a “rather successful model” for public interest journalism and was not, as Dacre claimed, an “economic basket case” under his editorship. 

Press Gazette report

ONLY IN THE DRONE: The speech in full

Rusbridger hits back

FREEDOM: The smiles say it all as the Manchester staff of the Daily Star wave their redundancy cheques prior to the paper’s move to London in 1989.  



Letter to the Editor of the Daily Express

Dear Sir,

I cannot be the first to express my disapproval of the "new" Daily Express under your editorship. But may I join what I am sure is a swelling chorus of outrage? 

I am in the early stages of Alzheimer's and have suffered for years from arthritis and diabetes. Additional to my interest in these disagreeable conditions are my daily concerns about pensions, house prices, statins, extreme weather conditions and the imminent threat of millions of dusky migrants swamping this once sceptred isle. 

Thus, I would like to place on record how profoundly unsettled I am at the unwelcome replacement of these topics by real news on the front page of my favourite newspaper, which I have been reading since young Max Aitken (with whom I went to school) acquired the title in 1916.

I fear you may have parted company from the integrity of your mind. Let it not be too long before the link is restored so that your most prominent Page One story — known by you print wallahs, I believe, as the "splash" — can resume normal service.

God save the King.

I remain etc,

A Loyal Briton (rtd)

This letter was written anonymously in green ink by PAT WELLAND and sent to Gary Jones, new editor of the Express.

Shock as Express titles lose 74 jobs but Mirror staff escape unscathed

REACH, publisher of the Express, Star and Mirror titles, plans to make 74 staff redundant — all of them from Express Newspapers.

Insider reports suggest that the Mirror has escaped unscathed.

The cuts, exclusively forecast in the Daily Drone, aim to make savings of £20million by 2020.

Staff due for the sack will leave the company following a 45-day consultation. 

It is unclear how many of the redundancies are editorial but it is known that Reach, which bought the Express and Star titles and OK! magazine in a £200million deal earlier this year, plans to merge back-office departments and advertising sales teams.

Reach, formerly known as Trinity Mirror, also said that it is proposing to close weekly celebrity magazine Star and is in talks with staff. The potential job losses on the magazine are separate from any made on the Daily and Sunday Express and Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday.

Up to £12million of the cost savings will come from editorial redundancies and pooling of content and resources across the titles, the company announced.

As part of the changes, an “internal content feed” serving each title will provide shared coverage of non-exclusive events of the day and back-of-the-book content like book and film reviews.

The company also plans to introduce more collaborative working between the Daily and Sunday Express and the Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday editorial teams.

A Reach spokesperson said: “Our sports desks have been collaborating very effectively in recent weeks, which give us confidence that our plans to share other content will work well. The crossover readership between the titles is very low.

“The aim is to retain as much resource as possible in areas such as politics, exclusive story-breaking, investigations and columnists, which differentiate each of our titles and give them distinctive character.

“We will be making every effort to achieve as much of the required savings as we can through voluntary means.”


STAFF on the Daily Mail are in turmoil over the imminent change of editorship as star columnist Quentin Letts considered his position on the paper.

Our mole at Northcliffe House told the Drone: “I spoke to Quentin this morning and he is not minded to stay when Geordie Greig takes over, saying "I’ll retire to Herefordshire," adding "I always liked Daily Telegraph readers."

"Unlike most in Kensington, Letts can probably go where he likes. There is a real sense of shock in the corridors. Most journalists here have never known any other boss.

“Paul Dacre [the outgoing editor] seems himself in a state of shock after being effectively sacked. Have a look at his Diary in this week’s Spectator where he throws down the gauntlet to Rothermere and Grieg to remain, as it were, Brexiteers.

"And he is savage about Rachel Johnson who is tipped to take the Sarah Vine slot when she follows her mentor Ted Verity  to the Mail on Sunday. She is still smarting after the MoS suggested her husband Michael Gove had flirted with friends of Dorothy.

"Only Tom Utley has received a reassuring call from the new editor. Leaf [Kalfayan, features supremo] and the rest of features are in a state of shock as the engine of the paper. What is going to happen, they wonder?  

"The money is on Dacre leaving much earlier than October and the title of Editor in Chief and Chairman are feeble. 

"The statement on the change points out that Geordie will retain control of the MoS as well as the Daily Mail and report directly to Rothermere while he will now be on the board of DMGT. 

"Dacre will be merely chairman of the Daily Mail. Apart from that Mrs Lincoln…” 

MORE clues as to the state of Dacre’s mind on the day of his, er, promotion comes from Popbitch, which reports: 

Soon-to-be-ex Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre took to the Spectator this week to warn his successor against reversing the paper's support for Brexit. 

Dacre had assumed he'd have a bit of a say in who was picked to follow in his footsteps, so was a little blindsided when it was announced that his Mail on Sunday Remoaner nemesis Geordie Grieg had got the gig. 

Colleagues at the Mail say the most obvious sign of Dacre's fury was that, on the day of the announcement last week, he stormed off home at 5pm. And he almost never leaves his desk before 9.30. 


When solicitor Freddie Baldwin, pictured right, defended Christine Keeler, left, during the notorious Profumo sex scandal in 1963 he found that his phone was making strange noises whenever he picked it up.

The truth was that he was being hacked by government spooks. In the light of Leveson, was this a case of pot calling the kettle black? 

Freddie’s son FRANK BALDWIN thinks so. Read his fascinating piece here.


GEORDIE GREIG, editor of the Mail on Sunday, has been appointed editor of the Daily Mail.

Greig, a staunch Remainer, replaces Brexiteer Paul Dacre who is stepping down ahead of his 70th birthday in November. 

Ted Verity, joint deputy editor of the Daily Mail, will take control of the Mail on Sunday.

Lord Rothermere, who controls the two papers, said: “Geordie has been an outstanding editor of the Mail on Sunday, and I am delighted that he will continue the high-quality journalism that Paul has made a hallmark of the Daily Mail for more than 25 years.”

The champagne may not be popping at Northcliffe House just yet as Dacre is to remain as chairman and editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers.

Favourites to succeed Dacre, who has been Daily Mail editor for 26 years, had been Gerard Greaves, joint deputy editor of the Daily Mail; Chris Evans, editor of the Daily Telegraph and Tony Gallagher, The Sun’s editor.

The Guardian reported: Any change to the Daily Mail’s editorial line on Brexit could have substantial implications for the government. Under Dacre’s leadership, the paper has launched ferocious front-page attacks on public figures who it deems to have challenged the decision to leave the EU. 

One labelled high court judges “enemies of the people”, another urged Theresa May to “crush the saboteurs” with an early election, and a recent attack on the House of Lords described them as “dinosaurs in ermine”.

The paper is regularly the focus of morning news meetings in Downing Street, while Dacre was an early and consistent backer of Theresa May’s policies.

Greig, however, has repeatedly clashed with Dacre during his stint at the Mail on Sunday. Staff at both papers expressed surprise at the idea the two editors would be able to work together during the transition period, saying there was no love lost between them.

The sister news outlets repeatedly clashed during the Brexit campaign, and Greig’s Mail on Sunday has often gone out of its way to rubbish the daily paper’s scoops.

Greig has been in his current job since 2012, having previously edited the London Evening Standard and Tatler magazine. 

Polly Toynbee’s demolition of Dacre

The Poke’s favourite farewells
The damage is done, says Roy Greenslade

Dacre the genius, by Roger Alton


SHERWOOD FOREST, Thursday, June 28, 2018: After an exhausting manhunt I can successfully report that Portland Bill, alias Wonky (Bill) Wheeler has been found alive and well following his ordeal under the knife at a Nottingham hospital. 

The former Daily Express Regional Chief Sub emerged from his forest hideaway at 1pm today and hobbled down the steps of Log Cabin 51 into the dense undergrowth of the discreet Sherwood Pines Holiday Village where he is peacefully recuperating with his nurse — new partner Lola.

Proudly sporting a body-hugging pair of Lincoln Green surgical stockings that wrapped their way tantalisingly to the top of his dark blue summer shorts, he waved his adjustable, aluminium, arm-supporting hospital walking stick and uttered the familiar Fleet Street greeting: “Fancy a beer then Tel?”

His four-hour ordeal having his knee replaced was successful, he revealed but the alluring stockings were to prevent any thrombosis during his journey back to gardening health. The asparagus plot awaited in the front garden of his recently-purchased listed cottage in Portland, Dorset, where he was headed by train the next day.

At the local hostelry in the nearby upmarket village of Edwinstowe, Bill and Lola joined me for refreshment and told me of their plans. When health allows they will take the high road to Scotland with their newly-purchased little caravan. “Nothing special,” said Bill, “the tow bar cost more than the mobile living quarters.” But he does tow it in his pride and joy — his precious Jag, paid for courtesy of Richard Desmond. 

“Then I might get little boat and go fishing around Portland Harbour,” he added. “I’ll also be joining clubs and societies, there’s so much to do and Portland is such a pretty place.”

Dropping Bill back at his little wooden home and hot tub in the Sherwood greenery, I headed for Lincoln thinking how pleased I was that I had caught up with the old Fleet Street mate I had known for over 40 years. To me, he hadn’t changed at all — except he didn’t wear stockings in those days … I don’t think.  

Bill’s wonky knee is fixed




Friday, June 29: 1am 

Bewildered Traveller, in his late forties, emerges, blinking, from Shenfield station in Essex (19 miles from Liverpool Street) and asks Friendly Cabbie at head of rank: “Where am I?”

FC: “Shenfield in Essex.”

BT: “Oh, shit!”

FC: “Where do you want to be?”

BT: “West Drayton.” (13 miles from Paddington)

FC: “Oh, shit!”

BT: “How far away is it?”

FC: “Well, if you think of the M25 as a clock, West Drayton’s at 9 and Shenfield is at 3.”

BT: “Oh, shit!”

So an hour and twenty minutes later Bewildered Traveller, who wasn’t drunk, Friendly Cabbie (an experienced judge of these things), insists  he is dropped off at his home near the Park Hotel not far from Heathrow.

Even by then he still couldn’t explain why he went to the wrong station and caught a train heading in the wrong direction to a station he’d never heard of.

Cost of his adventure? £150. Even then, this being Essex, he got a deal: the metered fare would have been £187.60.



Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has cleared Trinity Mirror's takeover of Express Newspapers, meaning there will be no further public interest or competition probes into the merger. 

Mr Hancock said in a written statement last night he will not refer the merger for a phase-two investigation, which would have seen the Competition and Markets Authority instigate a six-month investigation into the deal.

Trinity Mirror rebranded as Reach last month.

Full story


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