Drone Archive 2022

Crisis? What crisis? Let’s splash on the man with 
a phone up his bottom

NOTHING TO SEE HERE: Yesterday’s Mail


Gallagher named as editor of The Times

THIRD TIME LUCKY: Gallagher has edited two national papers

Tony Gallagher was named yesterday as the new editor of The Times.

He takes over from John Witherow, 70, who becomes chairman of Times Newspapers. Witherow has been in charge of the newspaper since 2013 but has spent much of the last year off work due to illness. During this period, Gallagher, his deputy editor, has effectively been in charge.

Gallagher, 58, was editor of the Daily Telegraph between 2009 and 2014. After being sacked from that job, he worked as a chef in the restaurant Moro before a short stint as deputy editor of the Daily Mail. In 2015 he joined Murdoch’s media empire as editor of The Sun.

Five years later he became deputy editor of The Times, where he has long been seen as the favoured candidate to take over. If his appointment is confirmed, Gallagher will become one of the few people to have edited three national daily newspapers.

Speculation about the editorship of the Times has been widespread in recent weeks. Rumours that the former cabinet minister Michael Gove, who worked at the Times before becoming a Conservative MP, may return to the paper proved to be wide of the mark

Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corp, said: “Tony is an exceptional editor with an expert and experienced eye on creating the best news package. His deft approach will be an asset to The Times in the years ahead.”

Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News UK, said: “Tony has a peerless record of leadership across Fleet Street and, as deputy editor of The Times, he has shown tremendous skill, commitment and passion."

Gallagher said: “I am delighted and enormously proud to take on the editorship of The Times, the first paper I subscribed to as a teenage schoolboy. I am acutely conscious of the heritage of The Times but the title also has an exciting future.

“We have made significant strides with our digital transition – and there are more to come – but world-class storytelling will always be at the heart of what we do. With the most talented newsroom on Fleet Street, I am confident we can succeed in delivering for Times readers.”


How the Press reported the sinking £ in 1992

17 September, 1992

How the Press reported  the sinking £ in 2022

26 September, 2022


The height of chivalry

What a pair of gents. Two men give an elderly woman a lift at the Coronation of King George VI, in Trafalgar Square, London on 12 May 1937. 

The picture was taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson and featured in an exhibition, Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers at the Barbican Art Gallery in 2016.

Picture: Magnum Photos


A service for snowflakes

You’re Special! You’re Loved! You’re You!

You don’t always have to be strong.

It’s all right to scream, swear, if you have to,

And have a really good cry.

Friendly hands will reach out to you if you do.

But remember: you’ll ultimately need to pull yourself together.

Yes, you alone. Draw strength from the good you have done

And look towards a bright, new horizon.  Beyond the doubt.

Fenella Frame

Thanks, Fenella: eloquent as always. We’re forever in your debt. Next week: Melanie MacKenzie — Ed


How Tories solved the UK's migrant crisis 44 years ago

MASTERPLAN: The Daily Express reports Shadow Home Secretary William Whitelaw’s scheme to keep the foreigners out in 1978, a year before Margaret Thatcher led the Tories to power. Wonder how that went then. 

The paper also records the retirement of its income tax expert Monty Hales who retired at 65 after 35 years service. He must be turning in his grave over the latest mini-budget.
Thanks to Steve Mill for the cutting.


24. What Jack Daniels made me do

Hola! I have to admit that this column is a bit of a con. We’re not facing the first hints of autumn in darling Frame Hampton but are getting sand between our toes (and everywhere else, luv) on the Costas. Señor Eduardo doesn’t approve of our destination but Benidorm is actually quite nice: it’s just the people (mainly tattooed Brits) who are so awful. We were so sad about the Queen that we got a last minute, all inc, deal in the Hotel Costa Bomba y Fortuna on the Poniente. But, alas, we’ve found that there, the fun just never starts.

Ted bought some lairy T-shirts which he insisted we wore to get in the holiday mood. His says: I’m Only Here For The Crack (sic). Typical. Mine proclaims: Jack Daniels Made Me Do It (twice on horseback).

The second night we went to see the ‘comic’ in the hotel’s Playa Blinda ‘theatre bar’. I thought he was a horrid little man whose idea of sophisticated humour was taking the piss out of the paying guests. Example: two old ladies wandered in after he’d started his set. He stopped and hurried to help them, faux solicitously, to their seats. ‘You smell nice,’ he told them, ‘been jogging?’ Ted thought it was hilarious. Nuff said. 

We decided to avoid the hotel’s buffet breakfast bunfight and take fruit and croissants at Tubby Tel’s CaffBar on the seafront. Himself couldn’t get over a couple of lads at the next table supping pints of Madri as they tackled a (very) full English. How can they do that, drinking lager as soon as they get up, he squealed. I had to explain, gently, that they were probably having a nightcap with their supper before returning to their rancid, one-star room after a night on the tiles.

We also went to an all-night bar in the Old Town called Dubious. It was certainly that, especially the prices: cheapest cocktail (Screaming Orgasm): €12; Boogie Woogie Bender: an astonishing €15. ‘Highlight’ of the evening: an outrageous drag act featuring something called Thora Thunder Fuck aided and abetted by Sonique Booma Booma. I don’t know about you but I don’t get drag: a lot of over-trained Jessies showing off, if you ask me. How the Beeb can justify flooding BBC3 with their mindless cavorting I just don’t know. But that’s Auntie for you.

See you back in Wiltshire! Hasta la vista, baby!




Star Sunday shows monthly growth as other titles decline

THE only newspapers to see month-on-month growth in August were the Daily Star Sunday and the Daily Record, according to ABC figures.

The Financial Times saw marginal year-on-year growth with every other newspaper continuing to decline.

The FT had a circulation of 105,748 in August compared to 105,213 the year before. Its newsstand sales and non-UK circulation grew although paid subscriptions and bulks (copies distributed for free at locations such as airports and hotels) were down.

Month-on-month, the only newspapers to see growth were the Daily Star Sunday, up 2% to 103,200 and the Scottish title Daily Record which was up by 1% to 69,316. Both are owned by Reach.

The Evening Standard also upped its free distribution, although by less than 1%. Its print readership in July was its lowest since before it went free in October 2009, with August the second lowest. Its year-on-year decline of 19% was one of the biggest in our table.

Fellow London free title City AM is also at its lowest distribution (36,640) since its 2005 launch. Its print edition was paused for 18 months during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Reach-owned Sunday People’s circulation was down the most, by 22% to 82,597, with DC Thomson’s Sunday Post down by 20% to 48,943.

Source: Press Gazette


Eliades heads for the mountains

Expressman David Eliades, who headed the Daily Express night news desk for years, is retiring soon to Switzerland with his wife Lamar, with whom he is pictured.

To mark the occasion, members of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club, modestly presented him with a signed photograph of themselves at their normal dining trough, which at the time was Joe Allen’s. They now dine elsewhere due to overpriced food and iffy service.

Thanks to Alan Frame for organising the pic and doing the presentation all by himself.



BEST FEET FORWARD: Novelist, expert on royalty and former William Hickey editor (to name but a few accolades), Christopher Wilson put this post on Twitter on the eve of the Queen’s funeral, proving that you can’t keep a good man down.


A new service for snowflakes

You’re Special! You’re Loved! You’re You!

We all make mistakes; regrets haunt us.

How we wish we could change some things that happened in the past.

Be brave. There’s a reason why the rear view mirror is so small

And the windscreen is so large.

Where you’re headed is much more important

Than what you have left behind.

Daphne Dismore

Just so, Daphne and how like you to bear witness to this pure truth. We’re grateful. Next week: More insightful insights from Fenella Frame.


What ever happened to the Daily Express Make It Accurate sign?
(The answer’s a bit of a curate’s egg)

The editor has received the following strange communication.

Sir, from the Ministry of Utter Bollox …

What was the meaning of Make It Fast — Make it A Curate? The sign on a green board that hung for years on cobwebbed chains from the yellowing, nicotine-stained, clean-air pipes over the Express newsroom in Fleet Street of the 1970s/80s, we wonder.

An oily rag had been thrown over the second letter ‘c’ in the word accurate (making it a curate), on the sign originally installed to reflect the fast pace of a newsroom on deadlines. But what did the modified curate line mean? One scholarly sub, from Oxbridge or somewhere hallowed, who always struggled with a brev across two, once offered his explanation.

The phrase, he said, was from a Punch magazine cartoon showing a timid curate, having breakfast with his boss, the Bishop, who says: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones." To which the curate, Mr Jones, replies, trying not to give offence: 'Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent.'

And that my learned friends, refers to the well-known phrase or saying - a bit of a curate's egg! Something discreetly declared to be partly good and accurate - but in fact thoroughly bad!"

What a load of bollox, eh?

But what did happen to that sign? Whose study is it hanging in?

Claptrap Towers, 

Definitely a load of bollox, Prof. My favourite version of the sign was: 'Make It Fast — Make It Up' — Ed

TONY BOULLEMIER writes: My lord, I cannot tell you what happened to the Daily Express sign 'Make it Fast — Make It A Curate’. But I can tell you who covered up the first 'c' in accurate. I was present, and somewhat amazed when a senior executive lumberered up on a desk and effected the change.

So who was it? 

Step forward Arthur Firth, then Night Editor and later Editor. A man with a very fine sense of humour.



Sir – The newsroom signs as I remember them said MAKE IT EARLY, MAKE IT ACCURATE and (shades of My Fair Lady), GET ME TO THE PRESS ON TIME!

There was also a hangman’s noose some wag had set above the Back Bench. It was there for years. I managed to escape with my neck intact.

Night Editor 1977-79

The famous 1895 Punch cartoon by George du Maurier, pictured above, has spawned several parodies. Here’s one from 1997 ...


Garrulous footie pundit Graeme Souness eloquently emphasises what a one-man irony-free zone he is by dismissing a current manager, whom we won’t name, thus: ‘I think it’s a risk bringing someone with his CV, seven jobs in nine years.’ Can this be the same Graeme Souness who managed six clubs in nine years in the nineties?’ Sure darn tootin’!


A worrying increase in violence at games has led some to fear a return to the bad old days of football hooliganism. 

My aged retainer, confined to a rancid lair under the main stand, suggests employing the Brian Clough strategy. 

On one famous occasion the iconic Nottingham Forest manager punched four of his own fans who invaded the pitch after a victorious League Cup quarter final match in 1989. 

Next day two of them turned up at the ground to say sorry. Cloughie said he would only accept their apology if they kissed him on the cheek … which they did.


In these days of national mourning it is comforting to know that there is a Twitter feed Mascots Minute Silence (@MascotSilence) where football club mascots are shown paying silent tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.

The late Queen’s pronouncements on football are rare but she did confide: ‘Michel Owen’s my favourite player: he’s so clean.’


Sacked Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel always reminded me of an irascible Jack Russell terrier on the touchline. 

His ‘handshake’ clash with Spurs gaffer Antonio Conte is TV gold and this week players have revealed that they hated being on the same side of the pitch as the Chelsea dugout because of his incessant ‘barking, moaning and groaning’. One star says that Tuchel didn’t initiate a conversation with him in more than a year. 


They breathed a sigh of relief at Man U when they finally got rid of Paul Pogba on a free transfer this summer even though that was £89million less than they paid for him six years ago. Pogba has always had the reputation for being, how shall I say, difficult. Currently, he is under investigation by the Paris police for hiring a witch doctor to put a curse on fellow France superstar, the PSG forward Kylian Mbappe. 
I say, Ed, should we bung in an ‘allegedly’ somewhere? — Cocklecarrot. No Cocky, we are here to rattle a few cages — Ed


Which league manager with a broad Irish accent unconsciously enlivens his post match press conferences by regularly praising his team for ‘pressing hard in the final turd’?


Thank fuck the tedious transfer window is shut. One of the worst aspects of the posturing of overpaid prima donnas is when they go all sulky as they try to force a transfer to a new club.

Mikhail Antonio, West Ham’s star striker (there’s not much competition), recalls one player so desperate for a move he started to show off during training.

One morning he turned up early, collected every football in the training ground and took them home. Training cancelled. Says Antonio: ‘I’ve seen another player in training who, when the ball comes to him,  boots it away. Every single time. And if you don’t pass to him he’s running after the ball to kick it away.’


Everton’s Frank Lampard may be the only Premier League gaffer to have a GCSE in Latin but, generally, footie chaps are dim bulbs. Take American striker Daryl Dike who relocated from Florida to West Brom last season. The 22-year-old has been assiduously doing his own laundry but has been blaming his washing machine for poor quality outcomes.

Apparently, when he tried to replace his washing powder after it run out he realised that for eight months he had been using dishwasher detergent. Just goes to show it’s not how you start but how you Finish.


Footie bad boy Diego Costa is on the move again. Fans of his new Spanish club, the unfashionable Rayo Vallecano, must be hoping that the former Chelsea striker starts behaving himself at last.

The beleaguered residents of the sleepy town of Albacete where he spent some time on loan still shudder when they recall the outrageous parties he used to throw. His canallada del dia was to project hard core porn on a giant highly visible screen with the sound turned up to the max. 


Man United better be careful what they wish for as they try to lure ‘difficult’ French midfielder Adrien Rabiot from Juventus. Not only does he have a bad reputation but you should meet his mother and (over the top) agent, Veronique. 

Madame Benoit is notorious for speaking her mind regardless of whom she upsets. 

She once told superstar Kylian Mbappe’s father his son was a disgrace for missing  a penalty and she had to be pulled away by stewards after a 20-minute tirade against Paul Pogba’s family when she blamed him for the opposition scoring an equaliser in an international match. 

Old Trafford fans may be pleased to know that the deal may still fall through: the maman from hell is demanding that her boy is paid more than the £6million a year he gets in Italy. 


No nonsense, uber combative new Sunderland manager Roy Keane knew he had a job on his hands even before his first match in charge. The final song played on the dressing room sound system before his gladiators trooped out on to the pitch was ABBA’s Dancing Queen. Recalls Keane: ‘Testosterone levels were high. They were going out to play a match, men versus men. You’ve got to hit people at pace. Fuckin’ Dancing Queen. It worried me.’


Squeaky bums in the East End over the arrival of West Ham’s new striker, the 6ft 5ins, flamboyantly tattooed Italian, Gianluca Scamacca. He looks nice enough, although the jury’s still out. 

No such doubt about his family, though. They’re definitely scary. Last year his father, also Gianluca, smashed his way into Roma’s training ground in his car, intimidated a club director then vandalised several cars, ruined a statue of a wolf and, as you do, destroyed a bonsai tree. There’s more: grandad Scamacca, visibly over-refreshed, recently blundered into a bar and held a knife to a customer’s throat.

Cristo Santo!



Charles or Dacre: Who has the most hair apparent?

In among all the crazy coverage of the new King, the Economist ran a piece this week suggesting we could expect a stable reign from Charles III because "his hair has been parted in the same place since childhood". 

It's weird, but the Economist isn't the only publication to be fascinated with Charles's hair. The royal barnet has also been a source of endless interest to Daily Mail supremo Paul Dacre. 

As both he and Charles were born on the same day (14th Nov 1948), Dacre has long been obsessed with comparing his own ageing to that of Charles, and would regularly ask employees which of them they thought looked better for their age. 

Part of the reason the Mail has followed the balding of Princes William and Harry so closely in recent years, isn't because he cares about the boys' hairlines especially. It's because he's obsessed with Charles's. Dacre believes Charles has had secret work done and is absolutely convinced the King has a weave.

Or a Crown Topper, maybe?

Source: Popbitch


Just in case you don’t know what news is, here’s a handy guide

WE’RE not sure of the provenance of this document, seemingly retrieved from the wastepaper bin, where it probably belongs.

It appears to be an instruction to journalists on London’s Evening Standard as to what does or doesn’t constitute a good story.

The ‘content grid' could be an attempt by the news editor to stop the flow of news which had no chance of making the paper.

Call us old fashioned, but we on the Drone think that any reporter worth his salt would have a good nose for news and not need to be told.

But what do we know?



HER ROYAL THIGHNESS: Anne in a miniskirt


A Daily Express photographer and I were sent to the Chertsey Thames Embankment one night around 1969 to report on Princess Anne arriving for dinner at a riverboat restaurant with her latest unknown boyfriend.

It was our exclusive. No other media present and no crowds.

We waited until she came out and Express cameraman Harry Dempster took the pix.

Harry then put his camera into the boot of his car and we stood on the street corner for a few minutes wondering where we should go for a pint.

Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder (Yes, a funny place to have a tap ...Chic Murray ...)

It was Princess Anne. She clearly did not know who we were.

She said: 'My boyfriend's sports car has broken down. Can you help?'

I said: 'Can you bump start? Can you double de-clutch?'

She said: 'I have no idea what you mean.'

Nor did her boyfriend.

I said to the boyfriend: "Put your foot down on the clutch and put your engine in second gear. We will push hard and when I say release the clutch raise your foot off the clucth immediately. Hopefully, the car will bump start."

Harry and I started pushing hard and, to my amazement, Princess Anne joined in. It was the days of the miniskirt. She was also running in high heels. Her bum was in the air and her thighs were on display.

What a great press photo that would have made.

After a few yards I yelled: 'Release the clutch!' And the car started.

Princess Anne blew us a kiss as she jumped into the passenger seat and her unknown boyfriend gave us a wave of thanks as her sped away.

When we realised what a great picture we had missed Harry promised me never to reveal this story until after he was dead.

Obviously we did not tell our news desk or picture desk.

What a lovely story that would have made.

It could have been Royal Photograph of the Year.

Harry is long dead, so I can now tell that story.




Meanwhile at Buck House Truss is out for lunch ...


George V was given lethal injections so that his death would be recorded in the right type of newspapers

 KING George V was given lethal doses of morphine and cocaine as he lay on his deathbed in 1936.

The monarch’s death was hastened, according to his physician’s notes, so that it could be announced 'in the morning papers rather than the less appropriate evening journals.'

The fact that the death of a reigning monarch had been medically hastened remained a secret for half a century until the publication in 1986 of the notes made at the time by Lord Dawson, the royal physician.

He recorded that he administered the two injections at about 11 o'clock on the night of January 20, 1936. That was scarcely an hour and a half after Lord Dawson had written a classically brief medical bulletin that declared, ''The King's life is moving peacefully toward its close.''

That ''close'' came in less than an hour after the injections. Lord Dawson, pictured right, wrote that he had already taken the precaution of phoning his wife to ask that she 'advise The Times to hold back publication’.

'A Peaceful Ending at Midnight,' read the headline the next morning in the newspaper that was deemed to be the most appropriate vehicle for major announcements to the nation.

Lord Dawson's notes assert that he had been told by Queen Mary that they did not want the King's life needlessly prolonged if his illness was clearly fatal. There is no indication that the King himself had been consulted.

Royal expert CHRISTOPHER WILSON told the Drone: The King George V lethal injection story was unearthed by Sunday Telegraph diarist Kenneth Rose when researching his official biography of the King.  It cost him his knighthood.

I worked for him briefly while he was writing the book, and later he told me that it was customary for an official biographer of the sovereign to get the KBE, but he was denied the honour because of the injection story — plus his other scoop that it was George V who refused to give his cousin Tsar Nicholas sanctuary in Britain after the Russian Revolution, thus bringing about the wholesale murders at Ekaterinberg.

So no K for Kenneth!

"And after all I did to make the most boring king on earth sound interesting," he railed.

Consolation came when he was awarded the lesser CBE, and an invitation came from the Queen Mother to take her to lunch at the Ritz. The old girl, who hated her father-in-law, revelled in Rose's deconstruction of George's reputation and wanted to celebrate his gong in as public a way as she could.

Together they walked slowly through the Ritz to their table in the dining-room and Kenneth, the biggest snob I ever met, was in seventh heaven.


A new service for snowflakes

You’re Special! You’re Loved! You’re You!

Following Molly Manners’s unscheduled contribution, her twin sister, Teresa, shares her thoughts:

Some may misunderstand you; others may be hurtful.

But what they think doesn’t matter: their opinions pay no bills.

Instead, stay true to yourself and your truth; be committed to love.

Whatever they do or say, never doubt the pure beauty of your worth.

Keep on shining … and let the haters hate.

Teresa Manners

Teresa, how is it you can articulate what others only think and do so much better than your sister? Thank you, darling. Next week: inspiration from Daphne Dismore — Ed


You never know how much a person needed that special smile you gave them.

You never know the difference your thoughtful kindness made.

You never know how much a person needed that long hug or that friendly chat holding hands

So don’t wait to be kind. Reach out to a fellow human being in despair. Be kind first!

Patricia Pilton

Thank you, Pat. That was lovely. Next week: words of comfort from Molly Manners — Ed

Ms Manners has headed us off at the pass:

Sir — I found Patricia Pilton's wonderful addition to your new Woke Service for Snowflakes, very moving.

I contribute: 

For beautiful eyes, look for good in others

For beautiful lips speak only words of kindness

And to quench the thirst for knowledge

Know that you are never alone, with a Pils lager.

Molly Manners



Never let the facts get in the way of 
a good 

AH, those were the days when a punning headline, no matter how bad, would earn you Brownie points.

This Daily Mirror cutting from 1978 illustrates the point. The only station mentioned in the story about a signalman delaying trains by having a tea break is London Liverpool Street — but to hell with that, let’s get a pun in and mention another station altogether. Those were the days.

Steve Mill, who sent this cutting, said: 'And for those, (like Brother Number One Jerry Corbyn) who yearn for the halcyon far off days of 70's style industrial action, marvel how the brothers made it look so easy. No doubt they enjoyed the wholehearted support of the then Labour government. "Trouble has been brewing for some time"… how the passengers must have laughed.

'Note the other two stories, smoking ban on the buses … hard to believe people used to puff away on public transport and even in hospitals. And naughty Mrs Straw, wonder who the,  er, lucky guy was?!'


Never mind the strikes, Express and Mirror plan to Reach out to America


Publisher Reach is considering a plan to expand the Express and Mirror websites into the US market by employing more than 100 staff across the pond.

The proposal, which would involve the launch of .com versions of mirror.co.uk and express.co.uk, was discussed by managers at a meeting on Thursday, according to Press Gazette.

Reach’s plan comes go on strike and work to rule over pay in the UK and Ireland.

The project has not yet been given the go-ahead and it is possible that Reach does not move forward with the plan or does so with a smaller staffing than is currently proposed.

If Reach goes ahead with its proposal, it has been mooted that it could involve as many as 60 journalists on the Express in the US and a further 60 at the Mirror, with somewhere between 120 and 150 in total according to a source.

Their duties would include covering the overnight hours in the UK and they would have their own traffic targets, chasing The Sun in particular.

Reach’s US ambitions have likely been inspired by the successes of Mail Online and The Sun in America.

The Sun launched its US website, with new content aimed at US audiences as well as bolstering its existing royal and entertainment coverage that was already popular in America, in 2020 with an initial team of about a dozen staff in New York.

The-sun.com is now the 29th biggest English-language news website in the US, according to Press Gazette’s latest monthly ranking, with 41.1 million visits in July following growth of 78% year-on-year – making it the second fastest-growing site in our top 50.

Mail Online, which also has a heavy focus on celebrity news, is well-established in the US and has had the Dailymail.com domain since 2014. It was the tenth biggest news site in July with 115.7 million visits – the second biggest UK site in the US behind the BBC.

Neither the Mirror nor the Express currently appear in the top 50 news websites in the US. In the UK, Ipsos iris data from June put The Sun in second place behind the BBC, with the Mirror and then Mail Online in third and fourth respectively for audience size.

The proposal ignores the fact the some 1,150 walked out on Wednesday and plan to do so again for three days from 13 to 15 September unless an agreement is reached with the company, with a period of “work to rule” now ongoing meaning journalists are working only their contracted hours and duties.

Reach declined to comment on the US proposal and has said of the strike that it is open to further talks but must ensure “the group has a sustainable future in the face of an uncertain economic climate”.

There could be a problem with the express.com website as this is occupied by a US clothing company. Mirror.com takes you to a seller of home gyms.


MailOnline answers 
its own question



Not many people know that since 2019, Boris Johnson has employed an Anatolian crimper called Emil, charged with keeping the PM’s trademark hairstyle properly unkempt and on message.

A diminutive character, Emil always manages to avoid the TV cameras, scampering around at his boss’s press conferences and public appearances, comb and brush in hand, ready to rescue the Johnson thatch from the slightest sign of neatness.

But with Boris’s departure from No10, Emil will return to Turkey with a generous Civil Service pension. He plans to open a string of hair salons in Istanbul called Borissimo.

Now you’re taking the piss – Ed


Harold Wilson drunk at launch of his new book? Shurely shome mishtake


THE story George Dearsley recounted about knocking over Harold Wilson at The Savoy reminded me of my own encounter involving the former Labour leader who resigned in 1976.

In 1977 I had just started working for the Fleet Street News Agency and one of my first jobs was to attend a London launch where Harold was promoting his latest book – A Prime Minister on Prime Minister.

I introduced myself to the PR organising the event (can’t remember where it was) and then had to wait for ages while a steady stream of people queued up to pop their copy in front of him for his signature.

I can remember thinking at the time about how I was going to approach my task as it appeared Harold wasn’t being very friendly. He did not engage with any of the people that had parted with their hard-earned cash to buy his book and he did not say a word to any of them. So, I couldn’t even get any ‘quotes’ out of this.

The signing was like a production line, although Harold did seem to be smiling through the whole thing – maybe happy with the money he was making I thought.

Eventually there was a break, and I was introduced to Harold. As I started asking questions, he just stared at me vacantly, still smiling, but didn’t say a word. It was all a bit embarrassing and after what seemed like an eternity – but in reality, was probably just a few seconds – the PR whisked me away saying Mr Wilson could not do the interview as he was unwell.

I found a phone box, called the office, explained briefly that Harold was unwell, and was told to return to my desk. I came to the conclusion that the former Prime Minister could have been drunk, although I had not seen any drink.

A few weeks later while I was chatting to a senior staffer, I mentioned what had happened with Harold. He said: “Crikey, I would keep that quiet from the news desk if I was you because that WAS the story … former Prime Minister pissed at his own book launch.”

I felt a bit of a fool but years later may have been vindicated as reports started emerging that the reason Harold had resigned unexpectedly was because he was displaying signs of dementia.

I have since worked on stories about dementia with various organisations and been given an insight into recognising the signs. Although it was a long time ago, I am fairly certain now Harold was having a ‘bad day’ and so I would have felt guilty if I had put together a story on him being drunk – although it was known that he ‘liked a drink’, but I am fairly certain this was not the case on this occasion.


Not many people know that SNP leader and shoe fancier Nicola Sturgeon once tried to acquire the red ballet shoes worn by Scottish actress and dancer Moira Shearer in the iconic 1949 movie The Red Shoes.

Long a fan of the actress, Scotland’s First Wee Wifie approached the Dunfermline Film Institute, where the famous shoes were said to be “on display”.

Unfortunately, after spending a fair purseful of bawbees, she discovered that the institute didn’t exist and she had been sold a pair of pumps belonging to retired Ballachulish railway shunter Archibald McGuffie’s teenage step-daughter Hilda.

Utter rubbish  Ed.


And next on BBC News ... Quentin Sommerville gets a snort of the drugs trade


You're a gang of cruel faggots: author Hunter S Thompson’s 
view of his fellow journalists

Hunter Stockton Thompson (1937-2005) was an American journalist and author who founded the gonzo journalism movement. He is best known for his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971).

Gonzo is a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story using a first-person narrative. Pot kettle etc. 

Pic posted on Facebook by Allan Hall


Great escape which landed poor Harold flat on his back


It was 1979 and the end of another busy day in Fleet Street. I was on the Daily Star, housed in what Private Eye always called the Black Lubyanka. 

The stunning glass fronted building, designed by Sir Owen Williams, boasted a spectacular front hall with an ornate floor and curving marble staircase and featured in the 1961 film The Day The Earth caught Fire. 

It had an identical twin in Ancoats, Manchester, where I normally worked, which was briefly glimpsed in the 1951 movie The Man In The White Suit. In the London office I remember a sign which read "Starway to the Stairs", which I thought was very clever. 

That evening the requisite number of celebrity reputations had been puffed or poisoned, the weather story had been done (was it “hailstones as big as golfballs” or “paving-stone cracking sunshine”? I can’t recall) and a few jars in The Old Bell beckoned. 

However, tonight was different. My accomplice, glamorous reporter Pam Francis, and I had taken ownership of two invitations to a swanky PR event in The Savoy. We strolled in, mingled and sank as many glasses of champagne as decorum allowed. 

Now to find the exit before the tedious speeches began. Unfortunately, the Press officers had done their logistics and in a pincer movement of which von Clausewitz would have been proud, Pam and I were ushered into a large auditorium where someone began droning about something like fluoridation in Wales or animal rights in Kazakhstan. 

We had to find a way out before deep vein thrombosis took hold. I spied a door so we wriggled along a side wall as inconspicuously as two Turkish greasy wrestlers in a nunnery and dashed for freedom. We found ourselves in the hotel’s kitchens, where the sharpening of knives did wonders for our slight inebriation. 

Having negotiated the stainless steel maze for less than a minute I spotted another door and urged Pam to follow me through it as quickly as possible. I was still checking that Pam was right behind me as I burst through the door and collided shoulder to shoulder with an elderly man … who went flying like a weak defender hit by Tony Hateley. 

When I looked down at the prostrate pensioner it was none other than Harold Wilson, flat on his back. Amid profuse apologies Pam and I made our excuses and left. Luckily, he wasn’t smoking his pipe at the time.


Addis makes big changes but the Daily Express has the 'smell of death’ about it

WINTER PLUMAGE: Richard Addis in his trademark pullover

BY STEPHEN GLOVER writing in The Spectator
17 February, 1996

There is a sense of excitement at the Daily Express, where the new editor, Richard Addis, has been installed for six weeks. Almost every day brings a new change. A new masthead is introduced. So is a new headline typeface. New writers are hired and old ones are sacked. The humorous column Beachcomber is revived, as is the gossip column William Hickey. The letters page is promoted, and the great and the good are persuaded to write to the Express, as their predecessors might have done 40 years ago.

And now the paper has a new proprietor — Lord Hollick, the Labour-supporting businessman. Well, he is not really a proprietor and he will not officially be in charge. But MAT, the company of which he is chief executive, is merging with United News and Media, which owns the two Express titles. 

Lord Hollick will be the chief executive of the merged company and Lord Stevens, at present chairman of United, will continue in the same role in the new conglomerate. Since Lord Hollick is younger, more ruthless and more dynamic than Lord Stevens, he will end up calling the shots. This assumes that the merger will go ahead, which some in the City doubt. [It did — Ed]

Is it possible that the 35-year decline of the Daily Express, during which period average daily sales have fallen from 4 million to just over 1.2 million copies, may at last have ended? The temptations to believe so are great. One can quarrel with some of Mr Addis's innovations — the revived Beachcomber seems to me to be grindingly unfunny, and I groan at Roy Hattersley's television reviews — but he has introduced an infectious sense of energy into his paper. 

There are even a few good jokes. How nice to see a new editor having fun. This reminds me that next week I should at last be ready to write about another newly installed editor, Max Hastings, now that I have followed up all those loose ends.

Among the media chattering classes few have a word to say against Daily Express Redux. The paper is regarded as a spirited underdog locked in battle with the rather brutish Daily Mail. But readers take a different view. 

This is no reflection upon Mr Addis, whose editorial innovations are so recent that they could hardly be expected to have stemmed so ancient a decline. Sales were down in January, normally a strong month, to 1,265,967, which is close to a post-war low. By contrast, the circulation of the Daily Mail rose by nearly 4 per cent to 2,065,985. 

The paper has never been so far ahead of the Daily Express since the 1920s. It sales have been boosted by at least 150,000 as the result of the closure of Today last November, whereas the poor old Express has not picked up any new readers. There could be no more telling illustration of the relative strength of the two newspapers. In the minds of too many readers the Express has the smell of death about it.

It would be cheering if we could believe that brilliant journalism could alone save the paper. Granted that the Express still has some way to go, in six months it may hold a candle to the Mail in most departments. 

Mr Addis has been throwing money at new writers with abandon — one of whom has already been found wanting as a whole-page weekly columnist, though apparently he has been retained for other things. 

Mr Addis has certainly attracted some good people. But editorial investment is only part of what is needed. Though word of mouth can help to spread the message, I doubt whether the good news of the Express's transformation has travelled all the way from the Groucho club to the English heartlands. Being a succes d'estime is not enough for a mid-market newspaper which must rely on a much wider constituency than the chattering classes.

Mr Addis has to find a way of telling people who have deserted the paper, or never read it, that things have changed. Though marketing devices such as scratch-cards can attract readers, the Daily Express is so low in the water that it needs the much greater pull of the kind of advertising which will establish a new image for the newspaper. This naturally costs a very great deal of money. The Mail spends over £20 million a year on marketing and promotion, and with its war chest swollen by the extra revenues coming from its Today readers it could afford much more. Mr Addis has been promised an annual promotional budget of £10 million. This represents an increase, but in his predicament he needs far, far more.

Lord Stevens' ten-year stewardship of the Express titles (I shall be writing about the new Sunday Express on another occasion) has been a prolonged feat of cost-cutting. He has never been a great proponent of investment. I suppose he might say that as the Express titles are making only about £20 million a year, United cannot afford the enormous sums which the Mail lavishes on promotion. But how else do you get out of a period of remorseless decline? 

Appointing Mr Addis, and giving him some money to hire some good writers, was an inspired first step on the part of Lord Stevens — so inspired, and so apparently out of character, that it may be that Lord Hollick had a hand in it. The Labour peer will certainly need to play a part in the next stage which calls for some hefty expenditure. He will also need to turf out many senior Express managers who do not match up to the sabre-toothed chaps who run the Mail.

I am not sure about Lord Hollick. I'm not worried that he will try to Blairise the Express, since he is a businessman who understands the value of 'brands'. Everyone says he is sharp and clever, and many speak admiringly of his understanding of modern media conglomerates. 

For all that, like Lord Stevens he is a leading light of a public company with a tiny shareholding rather than a proprietor with a controlling stake. It is doubtful whether any accountant would sanction the kind of expenditure which the Daily Express needs. Lord Rothermere, the proprietor of the Daily Mail, would, but he is undisputed captain of his ship. Old-fashioned proprietors, if they are benign and take the long view, offer many advantages.

The question is whether Lord Hollick, answerable to shareholders and with his eye very much on the bottom line, will take the investment risks that are necessary for the prosperity of the Daily and Sunday Express. Those who have made or saved great newspapers have mostly been journalist-businessmen. Lord Stevens was never one of those, though he has vaingloriously placed his bust in the foyer of the Express building, as Beaverbrook with much more justice did before him. 

Lord Hollick isn't one either, and for all his reputed way with figures I can't conceal my fears that he may not be the man to save the Express.



Guess which Liverpool fan has just taken over at the Sunday Express

FUN AT THE TOP: New editor David Wooding


A fourpenny one from the Daily Mail but will it hit circulation? No!

By DESMOND DONNELLY writing in The Spectator, 
25 February 1966

THE Daily Mail went up this week to fourpence. The surprising fact was that it had stayed at threepence for so long, after the Daily Express and Daily Mirror had put up their prices on November 1, 1964. The question immediately arises: was the lower price the main reason that enabled the Daily Mail to advertise proudly in last weekend's Sunday Times: 'Without knowing it last year, 63,789 people were in on the beginning of a trend.' I think not. I suspect that the Daily Mail's circulation will continue to improve at fourpence.

My reason for saying this is that I have long believed in the basic theory that the public are intelligent. They are, indeed, much more intelligent than certain publicists realise. Thus it is that the best ad-man in Britain cannot sell a poor product for long; and our recent history shows that the politician who is the compulsive gimmick addict always comes to the nasty end. This same analysis of public common sense applies to the newspaper business — and Mr. Mike Randall, the Mail's editor, is proving it.

The Daily Mail is, at the moment, an extremely good production. Its editorial team were the first in British journalism to grasp the major change of recent years, by which television and radio give us the news of events within seconds of their taking place. Therefore, the newspapers are having to find a new role — and one role is the ability to tell us what lies behind the news itself. 

A glance at a single issue of the Daily Mail (February 21) illustrates what I mean. On page 1, there was the major story: 'The new voice of the racialists.' It was an investigation of a most distasteful group of people called 'The British Preservation Society.' On page 2, there was another investigation: 'Oil, how it is getting past the embargo.’ 

Pages 6 and 7 carried two different stories — one, a comparison between the efficiency methods of the Luton Borough Council operating under the influence of General Motors, and the ramshackle welfare-statism of Salford; and a background brief on the defence controversy. In the rest of the edition there were other stories with a similar 'investigation' technique.

The Daily Mail's circulation stands now at 2,463,972. This is still far behind that of its main apparent rival, the Daily Express, with 3,987,439. Furthermore, the Express, although it has slipped some 200,000 in the year (the Daily Mirror lost over 60,000 in the same period), remains a most interesting paper: it was the Express's Chapman Pincher who won the race for the Navy resignations by the entire length of Fleet Street.

Where then is the Mail getting its new readership? Obviously some are coming from the Express. Many others, I believe, may be drawn from the Mirror as they grow a little older. The extent of this particular shift may not be reflected in the figures because the Mirror still occupies the great catchment area for the young as they leave school. In this respect, the Mail is really filling the gap between the populars and the serious papers.

A quick look at some of the other main dailies. The Daily Telegraph remains the best newspaper of them all. The Times appears to be in the doldrums for the moment. The news coverage is variable. Some of its reporting is extremely tendentious and therefore increasingly ineffective. Its leaders are patchy. Some are perfunctory. 

The Guardian is losing marginally (down 7,000), but it retains its attractive amateurish atmosphere — polo-necked sweaters and jeans — and it has some very good contributors, like Mr. Ian Aitken. And there is the Financial Times, which is brilliant in its own field. I find it essential reading.

Before I praise our own newspapers again, however, I draw attention to the scoop of the year. The following story was in the Times of Zambia (February 2): At a mass meeting in Sloane Square, the heart of London's working-class arca, over a million people from all parts of Britain signed a petition demanding the immediate invasion of Rhodesia by British forces under the command of the popular idol, President Nyerere of Tanzania. 

Mounted police, sent to disperse the demonstration, defied their aristocratic reactionary officers by signing the petition themselves. The British Government is increasingly worried by public indignation over its policy of appeasement towards the Fascist leader Smith. More than 500,000 workers in the industrial city and nuclear submarine base of Bournemouth are on strike and there have been many arrests in the Haywards Heath coalfield in Scotland.

Heavens above! Not yet — it turned out to be a solemnised reprint of the literary skills of Mr. Michael Wharton, who writes Peter Simple in the Daily Telegraph. No wonder Mr. Wilson has a problem holding back President Kaunda.

Postscript. I see that the Prime Minister took some of his favourite journalists to Moscow this week — the Parliamentary Lobby correspondents. Soon they will be known as the Lobby Fodder.



Wooding takes over at Sunday Express

New Sunday Express editor David Wooding wrote on Twitter: 'I began covering politics the day Tony Blair moved into No10 and end my stint as Boris Johnson heads out. These are pics from a memorable quarter-of-a-century in the corridors of power — plus a sneaky one from my local paper days getting a snatched interview with a famous ex-PM.’ Wooding was previously political editor of The Sun on Sunday

Pictured left to right from the top: Blair, Cameron, Brown, May, Wilson and Johnson


Notting Hill Carnival, 1979


Times editor is proving difficult to budge as his rivals wait in the wings


SPECULATION is mounting over who will replace Times editor John Witherow, still in full control of the paper at the age of 70.

The old stager is proving difficult to budge and is not going quietly.

One of the favourites for the chair could be Michael Gove if, as expected, he fails to gain a place in Liz Truss’s Cabinet. Others say deputy editor Tony Gallagher is a shoo-in for the job.

NewsUK insiders say Witherow is haggling hard over his payoff and his well-established "woman problem" is hampering attempts to appoint a deputy for his successor.

In one way or another, Witherow has chased off all the potential female candidates from taking a leading role at the paper and news conference is described as resembling a gentlemen's club if features chief Nicola Jeal is ever absent. 

Frantic calls are being made to women across Fleet Street trying to find someone to take the job, although why it has to be a woman is anyone’s guess.


A slit of the tongue Down Under

SACKED: Aussie TV reporter Josh Massoud


IT seems the lessons of the Wagatha Christie case have yet to reach Australia. 

Rugby League TV reporter Josh Massoud has lost an appeal to overturn a failed defamation case he brought against a number of Aussie outlets that claimed he was fired from his job on 7 Network for telling a young colleague, Jack Warren, he would slit his throat. 

Massoud denied having said that – and, technically, that's true. It emerged in court that what he actually said was "If you weren't so young, I'd come up there and rip your head off and shit down your throat". 

Funnily enough, the slitting/shitting distinction didn't cut much ice with the judge, who ruled against him, leaving poor Josh with an even worse reputation than he started with and a hefty legal bill to boot.


It looks like Frank has written another book
Former Daily Express deputy sports editor Frank Malley has written his second novel of a packed summer.

His new book is called If It Looks Like a Duck. It is a murder mystery, involving a dead pub landlord, a shotgun and a man called Crime. Described as quirky and funny as well as dark and gritty, it comes just four months after his spy novel, The 13th Assassin, was released.

"Two novels in one summer sounds excessive," said Frank. "It was down to chance. The new book was actually written two years ago, but the publisher had a few problems during Covid and so the launch was delayed. The two novels were released by different publishers and they both decided on this summer."

Royalties will be donated to the Primrose Car Service charity, for whom Frank volunteers as an ambulance driver, transporting cancer patients from across Bedfordshire for radiotherapy treatment at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

If It Looks Like a Duck (Whisper Publishing) is available from Amazon, Kindle £2.99, paperback £7.99.


How on earth does this screeching harridan keep her TalkTV job?


How much is a broadcaster like Julia Hartley-Brewer worth to a station like TalkTV? Not just in salary, but in other measures. 

The gossips at Popbitch report that they have heard that six staffers there have left posts because of her – and at least three HR complaints have been levelled against her and investigated.

Threats that she'll punch people's faces in; calling senior staff cunts; screaming so loudly at colleagues that the studio soundproofing is tested to its limit. Time after time, complaints have been brought to the attention of senior execs at NewsUK and they are invariably handled in such a way that means Julia retains her job while everyone else relocates. 

Why are they standing by her so firmly? A well-timed threat to cross the floor to GB News back in the spring has meant that, far from sanctioning her, the higher-ups have been bending over backwards to sweeten her employment package and keep her on side. 

The claims come as no surprise to those of us who had the misfortune to work with JHB when she was political editor of the Sunday Express. She was unapproachable at times and would screech insults at anyone who dared to query a fact in a story.  That said, she was pleasant enough when off duty.

Sling in an ‘allegedly’ in there, Bings — Cocklecarrot. No — Ed



PETER PATTER: Beccles and Bungay Journal, July1


A reporter just like Dad

We used to catch them young at the Daily Express back in the day. This little chap can barely see over his typewriter.

The boy is former reporter Alun Rees’s son Harry and he is sitting beside reporter Fiona Millar at the Fleet Street office. We think Kim Wilshire and Ross Benson are in the background. The picture was taken by John Downing.

Harry has come on a bit since this pic was taken. He went on to do Classics at Oxford, and worked for six months at the MoS features. He went into publishing at Random House and now he’s number 2 boss at Audible UK. 


Daily Express circulation plunges 18% year on year

Every publicly audited UK national newspaper recorded a year-on-year decline in circulation in July with the Daily and Sunday Express among the biggest losers.

The Daily Express dropped to 191,202 copies, down, 18% year on year, and the Sunday title fell by 16% to 172,386.

Even the Financial Times, which has seen year-on-year growth every month since July 2021, was down by a few hundred copies compared to the year before. This was the smallest annual decline among the audited newspapers.

Metro distributed less than one million copies for the first time since May 2021, when it trumpeted making it back over that milestone following the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The biggest year-on-year decline was a drop of 22% at the Sunday People. Month-on-month, however, there was growth of 2% at the i largely down to an increase in paid subscriptions.

The biggest decline from June to July was at City AM, where free distribution more than halved to 37,369.

Source: Press Gazette



WHAT is former Starman, Sunman and Everywhere Else Man ALLAN HALL doing leaning on the bonnet of this rather nice old Mercedes?

As with all old photos in the Drone, thereby hangs a story.



Match ball from Man U disaster game that just insisted on playing away

By GEORGE DEARSLEY, ex-Sun shifter

It is 1998 and the 40th anniversary of the Munich air crash is looming. In the Manchester office of The Sun newspaper fevered brows are huddled trying to dream up something new to say about one of sports most awful tragedies. 

The survivors, the relatives, the airport staff, the police, the emergency services have all been interviewed, many times. Suddenly someone has a bright idea. “Let’s get the ball United played with in the match immediately before the accident and present it to the Manchester United museum.” 

News editor Peter Sherlock agrees and reporter Guy Patrick is tasked with finding the ball. “It’s Coming Home,” someone sings. Patrick’s research leads him to a small house high in the Austrian mountains, for it is Vienna-born referee Karl Kainer who put the famous ball into his kit bag after the fatal match against Red Star Belgrade. 

Patrick’s entreaties to the now 83-year-old whistler were in vain. He spoke not a word of English. Returning with an interpreter the Sun’s offer was put: a large sum of money (£5k perhaps) to buy the ball. Herr Kainer, clearly away with the fairies, held the leathery trophy in his gnarled hands and spoke: “Ball, do you vant to go to Manchester?” After a few seconds Patrick had his answer. “Nein, zer ball vill not go, it vants to stay in Austria.” 

Patrick hastily turned to plan B. “How about we pay you to borrow the ball for a week, take some pictures and return it?” The ball seemed to like the idea of visiting Manchester in winter. “Ja! Ze ball vill go to Manchester for one veek.” 

Photos duly taken with Sir Alex Ferguson, several weeks later the ball was gathering dust in a cupboard in the Sun’s offices at 111 Piccadilly. I spotted the ball and asked Peter Sherlock whether it shouldn’t be returned to the ref. 

“Hey Guy,” Peter rounded on the reporter, “I thought I told you to get that ball back to that Kainer bloke.” Guy Patrick was non-plussed. “Peter, I would have done … but I spoke to it … and ze ball vants to stay in Manchester!”


Have a drink on me said Reggie as he passed a tenner through his letterbox 


IT was good to see Reginald Bosanquet and the luscious Anna Ford back on The Drone Channel. It reminds me of my days as a teenage trainee on the Fleet Street News Agency, where I was lucky to be sent on jobs mixing with, and learning from, older newspaper staffers.  

One morning I found myself outside the Chelsea apartment of Reginald Bosanquet, where I discovered how a doorstep could come to an unexpected and mutually satisfactory conclusion. 

“Reggie” was loved for his “eccentric” pronunciation of foreign names and a trademark slurred delivery, which fed the rumours that he was a heavy drinker, "Reginald Beaujolais" the comics called him. His TV role, could have marked him as a “luvvie” but as he was a “proper” journalist and, given our own predilections, he was considered “one of us.”  

It was, therefore, a sympathetic press crew that turned up at his home off the King’s Road after Reggie had delivered a particularly peculiar News at Ten performance the night before. 

We reasoned that a gentle approach was called for. A note was composed and dropped through his letter box, to the effect: “Dear Reggie, just give us a quote and we’ll all piss off and leave you alone.” Minutes later, an envelope came the other way. In it was a £10 note, a fair sum in those days, and a line: “Lads, please fuck off and have a drink on me!” How could we refuse? 

Tom Roche formerly worked for the Daily Star, LBC and Sky News.



How Hitch was beaten to the button on TV quiz

Sir — Reading through my Daily Mail, so often referred to on Twitter as the Gammon Bible for flushed-cheek and vericose-veined, Right-Wing baby boomers such as myself, imagine my joy when I stumbled on yet another trip down Memory Lane written by a brainy ex-member of our parish, who often spends his time reflecting on the past these days, like we do.

Writing about his old foe, Jeremy Paxman, and his ascendency to fame and fortune as host of University Challenge, Peter Hitchens (still without a knighthood, or some funny letters after his name), recalls the time in 1968 when his family gathered around their black and white TV set one evening to watch his talented, late brother Christopher, on the show as a member of Oxford’s Balliol College team.  

“Christopher was crammed with historical and literary knowledge,” Hitch says. “He was able to remember huge slabs of Shakespeare without effort.” But Christopher was able to answer only one question – about rabbits. The team got a drubbing, and the family was crestfallen.

In the late 1990s, Hitch got his chance to redress the balance when he appeared beardless and youthful in front of Paxman in the first of the non-student versions, between a team from popular newspapers, against a team from the upmarket ‘unpops’. Hitch was batting for the pops, while batting for the unpops was Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who later went on to redecorate Downing Street.

But Hitch was to find out that tackling the starter questions like his brother, wasn’t an easy task as he expected. His teammate, Tony Parsons, hit the button with panther-like speed, robbing him and the rest of the 'pops' hacks of chances to shine. Hitch says: “I recall gaping idiotically at the little white button as I pressed and pressed, trying to work out why there was no buzzing, and I was being ignored. Blasted Parsons beat me to it every time!”   

Watching a recently unearthed recording of the show, he was gripped by shame at his ‘utter failure’ to answer questions to which he knew the answers. Consolation prize was the fact that his team won. Or rather Parsons did. Another wonderful tale from the past, eh? 




Sir — Your revealing piece by George Dearsley of Daily Star fame on his mission to team up with the legendary Bert Horsfall to track down an SAS style unit set up to tackle drunken holiday Brits in Spain, brought back more fond memories for me of travel abroad during the heady days of the Express in the 70s-90s.

These were the decades of Jeremy Gates Tours, of course, when one particular DX Editor never turned right at the top of the steps to his British Airways seat. Our canny Travel Editor was quickly adopted by every senior executive during his career. All became his friends and I understand he still gets the Christmas cards.

Freebie trips were handed out in seniority, of course. So, you knew who you were in the pecking order when you got either Barbados and St Lucia or Benidorm. Lower still was a three-day cruise up the Seine in a barge. Which brings me to my laboured point.

One day a particular hack had arranged a little trip himself through the Mayor of Benidorm’s office. The Gates seal of approval was needed of course, but our esteemed Travel Ed was on holiday somewhere more exotic himself. Desperation overcame our Benidorm-bound freebie seeker. As a last hope, he approached a smiling sub who had carved himself a little empire producing travel bits for the Northern Edition. “Space is power” was his motto.

Finally armed with official approval our hack took off for the Costas and was treated royally by the Mayor. A 3.5 star hotel, personal tour in the mayoral car, town reception, evenings in famed beach nightclubs, the works. They became friends and exchanged gifts. A Fortnum & Mason corkscrew for the Mayor and a case of best wine for the hack. Job done and a sun tan as well.

Back home, weeks later, the friendship ended. The Mayor couldn’t find the glorious write up he expected. Every day his aides had brought him the Express for his perusal and his PR office was standing by to reprint the article across Spain. Of course the Northern Edition did not go to the Costas, only the London run did. Frantic, our holiday hack insisted the Northern Edition sub found it and sent it directly to the Mayor’s office.

Sadly, it was just five pars long, no picture, squeezed on a page of adverts for winter boots, gloves and sewing machines. Need I say more. 



My abortive wine-soaked mission to find drunken holiday Britons in Spain


Back around 1980 the Daily Star received a tip off from expat freelancer (and well-known faker-of-tall-tales) Bert Horsfall in  Spain that an elite SAS-style military outfit had been specially re-formed after 40 years to tackle drunken hooligan Brit tourists violently kicking off in Benidorm. 

Off I went with snapper Alan Steele to track down Spain's answer to the Waffen SS … and find blood stained Brits in Union Jack shorts … only to find that on any given Saturday night there were no more than six people arrested, mostly for accidentally damaging property while pissed. 

I even went out on tour with two Spanish cops in a patrol car and the only incident we saw during an eight-hour shift was a Spanish bloke being thrown out of his house by his irate Spanish wife. 

The fearsome “black berets” were a figment of Bert’s vivid imagination.  However, Spain's Ministry of Tourism had got wind of the potentially damaging tale and sent a flunky with unlimited expenses to hoover up the Fleet Street pack and take them on a three-day jolly around Benidorm. (We informed news editor Jeff McGowan that return flights were impossible for several days). 

Gallons of Sangria later we headed back to rainy Ancoats, with empty notebooks but full stomachs. Mucho gracias Senor Bert!



Reggie and Anna scoop: We name the guilty heroes

IT all started with a letter to the editor of the Drone from ‘The Old Brown Cardigan’ describing how two Daily Express reporters outwitted their rivals from the Daily Mail.

The letter, printed below, told how both teams were pursuing ITN newscaster Reggie Bosanquet for an exclusive interview. 

All that was missing in the story was the names of the doughty duo from the Express.

Now the truth can be told.

Brown Cardie's letter read:

Sir — The piece by journalist extraodinaire, Peter Hitchens on the remarkable partnership between newscasting duo, raffish epic drinker Reggie Bosanquet and brainy beauty Anna Ford, in this week’s The Mail of Sunday, brought back such fond memories of the real days of journalism, a far cry from our snowflake world.

But who were the hairy, drinking lads of the Daily Express, on the trail of Reggie’s ‘tell all’ Book about life staring at the TV cameras through the narrow end of a bottle in the late 70s? The Daily Mail had brought him and his book up, of course, for an obscene amount of drinking tokens, when strapped of cash as always, the Express sent our intrepid duo, suited and booted, to beg the newsreader’s favours.

Undaunted, they turned up at his front door to be greeted by Reggie, pissed as a rat in a bow tie, throwing on his jacket, before they could introduce themselves. “Where are you taking me?” he asked, obviously expecting to go to dinner. They couldn’t believe their luck. They were minutes ahead of the Daily Mail who were arriving to take him to a restaurant that night. Who were they to spoil things? So they didn’t disappoint.

Once ensconced at a table far away from his home, the new Daily Mail double act surpassed Morecambe and Wise with their entertainment skills, ordering a stream of alcohol for Reggie to dip into. The words soon flowed, and the glowing tones of the newscaster hit the airwaves again as he recounted the rise and fall of Reggie therein and his bottles in the studio.

The Express pair took it in turns to go to the loo and hit the phone in the corner of the restaurant, as they filed their story, scooping the Mail’s serialisation of this national broadcasting legend’s hazy nights on our TV screens. Good old-fashioned journalism, eh? Who were these clever lads? 

Yours, an Old Brown Cardigan

A Drone correspondent writes:

The dynamic duo who lifted Reggie Boozalot from the clutches of the Daily Mail, and incidently getting a better story, are revealed today as  Ashley Walton and the late great Bob McGowan.

Knowing that the Mail were in Reggie's flat at the end of Chelsea's Kings Road, Ashley and Bob, who had worked together on many such stories, sat and waited, watching the flat from a parked car.

Their persistence paid off.  The Mail reporter left his post and went off in a cab. The duo were in like a flash. Reggie, who was hammered, thought they were new boys from the Mail who had promised him a dinner.  All three went off to a nearby Italian restaurant. A phone line was kept open and Reggie poured out his heart. The pair took it in turns to file an estimated 3,000 words which made a two page spread and a piece on page one.

They left Reggie face down, passed out on the table. The restaurant staff knew him and promised to get him home.  The gentlemen from the Express paid the bill, tipped handsomely,  and collecting two bills, headed for the office car.

A few weeks later they did it again, lifting a story from the Guardian who had their prize buy up in a London hotel. Walton and McGowan posed as the Guardian news editor asking the reporter  to come down to the lobby. When the reporter entered the lift the boys got their man out of the building saying they were moving him to a safer hotel. Having debriefed their victim and obtained the story he was suitably dumped.

That is the way the reporting team of the World's Greatest newspaper worked, as a team.

Bob McGowan’s widow Pauline told the Drone: 'Bob was always relating odd stories to me of how he'd screwed the Daily Mail. I think he loved doing that more than anything.

'There was one time when he was on his way to see Sheila Buckley, mistress of rogue MP John Stonehouse, who had been bought up by Dacre's lot. Realising it was probably a futile journey instead he rang. She answered and he got chapter and verse completely spoiling the Mail's buy up.'

To complete the story former Expressman STEVE MILL has unearthed this recording. Steve asks: 'How bad was the B side?! And another who upheld the finest traditions of the profession, the glassy eyed Peter Woods. 

Listen and cringe.



Express and Mirror staff vote to strike

IRONIC: Daily Mirror front page from June 13, 2022

JOURNALISTS on the Express, Star and Mirror titles have voted to strike this month following a “meagre” 3% pay rise offer. 

They will be joined by staff working for parent company Reach on countless local news outlets. They will walk out on Friday 26 August, Wednesday 31 August, and for 48 hours from 14 to 15 September. They will also work only contracted hours from 1 to 13 September…

Reach offered staff a pay rise of either 3% or £750 minimum, which the National Union of Journalists said wasn’t enough, especially after last year’s 1% increase. A total of 79% of members voted for the strike action on a 70% turnout.

Ironically the NUJ’s local chapel representatives rejected the 3% pay offer by a ratio of four to one shortly after the Mirror published a front-page splash about chief executives earning up to 86 times their average workers’ salaries while trying to suppress staff wages.


Express celebrates as General Strike begins to crumble

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the General Strike of 1926 it was clear that the Daily Express opposed it. No surprises there.

The printers had walked out but the paper managed to publish an emergency edition.

The strike was called by the TUC for one minute to midnight on 3 May. For the previous two days, some one million coal miners had been locked out of the pits after a dispute with the owners who wanted them to work longer hours for less money.

Huge numbers from other industries stayed off work in solidarity, including bus, rail and dock workers, as well as those in the print, gas, electricity, building, iron, steel and chemical industries.

The aim was to force the government to act to prevent mine owners reducing miners' wages by 13% and increasing their shifts from seven to eight hours.

The industrial action came against a backdrop of tough economic times following the First World War and a growing fear of communism.

The strike was already crumbling by 6 May and the Express reported that many workers had returned to work and five thousand trains were running.

Print workers also walked out and newspapers were reduced to producing one or two foolscap sheets.

Nine days after it began, the TUC, which had been holding secret talks with the mine owners, called off the strike without a single concession made to the miners' case. The strikers were taken by surprise, but drifted back to work.

The miners though struggled on alone and by the end of November most were back down the mines, working for less pay and longer hours. Others remained unemployed for many years.

A year later, Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government passed the 1927 Trades Disputes Act, which banned sympathy strikes and mass picketing.

The act was repealed in 1946, but in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher reintroduced the ban, which still applies today.



The famous wedding cake spire of St Bride’s Church is reflected here in the facade of the old Express building in Fleet Street,writes ARTHUR CAKES.

St Bride’s is one of the most ancient churches in the City of London and at least seven versions of the building have stood on the site with worship perhaps dating back to the conversion of the Middle Saxons in the 7th century.

It has been conjectured that, as the church’s patron saint is Bridget of Ireland, it may have been founded by Celtic monks, missionaries proselytising the English.

The building's most recent incarnation was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672 although Wren's original building was largely gutted by fire during the Blitz in 1940. 

St Bride's association with journalists and the newspaper business began in 1500 when Wynkyn de Worde set up a printing press next door. Until 1695, London was the only city in England where printing was permitted by law.

Not a lot of people know that.


The paper that got it right 100 years ago

So to be clear, the dangers of burning fossil fuels were known in 1912 as this cutting from The Rodney and Otamatea Times in New Zealand proves. 

It begs the question: Why has so little  been done about global warning in the intervening century?

We think we should be told … don't hold your breath. 


How Daily Star reporter Dearsley was ordered to Denmark for debriefing 

Ah, for the good old days of tabloid journalism, writes GEORGE DEARSLEY

While I was on the Daily Star (around 1980 I think) I was ordered to Copenhagen to deliver a box of women's knickers to a Royal Navy ship. 

Apparently, when the RN goes on exercise to a foreign port  it hands out knickers embroidered with the ship's name as a goodwill gesture. 

This ship had left the smalls behind. That's as far as it goes, I'm afraid, for my military exploits. Never mind "gassed at Mons" more like "de-briefed in Denmark.

They also serve who only stand and wait with knickers — Ed



Lord Beaverbrook with his wife Marcia Anastasia Christoforides at his home, Cherkley Court near Leatherhead in Surrey on his 85th birthday, 25th May 1964. He died less than a month later. 
Picture: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

THE RIDDLE of Lord Beaverbrook’s secret time capsule deepened last night.

Expressman RICK McNEILL started the ball rolling with a letter to the Drone which said: I have picked up a strange tale of how back in the days before the big move to Blackfriars, Express library staff were deputed to search the deepest basement of the Black Lubyanka for a "time capsule" put there by Lord Beaverbrook when the building was new.

They recovered a box which they duly delivered, unopened, to management.

I'm astonished. What happened to this Holy Grail? What did it contain?  Is there a Crusader who can shed any light?

ALAN FRAME thought he had the answer. He said: 'What I do know for sure is that there was indeed a black box or case. The Beaver left the strict instruction that it was not to be opened until after his death (he died in June 1964 aged 85.) 

'It was opened by his son Sir Max Aitken, newly installed as chairman of Express Newspapers, who immediately destroyed its contents. Nobody else in the family ever knew of the secrets within and this caused understandable outrage. 

'Even beyond the grave, the old bugger was fomenting trouble.

But Rick believes this is not the case. He told the Drone: ‘Au contraire, my impeccable source assures me the mysterious box in question, possibly a time capsule, was recovered by the Express chief librarian from the basement in the late 1980s.’

Former editorial assistant STEVE MILL said: 'I was working in the Express building while it was being hollowed out almost to the point where it was pretty much deserted. Library staff, (funny handshakes all round) were still in evidence, just, but I don't recall hearing about them being seconded for special duties. 

'Incidentally, while the librarians might have been scurrying about looking for buried treasure I was told that rodents, (of the four-legged variety) were already scurrying around the library!

'A colleague and I did discover some treasure during a visit to the back numbers department, (any Dronesters remember it?) to secure a copy of some ancient Express text. When you visited back numbers there usually wasn't anyone around so it was a question of waiting. 

'During the course of waiting we observed a cardboard box which looked rather out of place and we decided to investigate. Upon opening the box we discovered, (and this is absolutely true) that it was filled with … bottles of beer. We were shocked and stunned, not to mention thirsty.

'On the subject of the big move, I do recall hearing that the new working arrangements that unions/chapels voted on in 1989 were rejected by library staff and they were the only employees to vote against the deal. I don't know if that was true but that was the goss. Old habits died hard.

'And a sign of the times, with the advent of the new technology arriving in the print business I remember the cry going up, "remember your screen breaks lads!" I believe it was 15 minutes break for every hour in front of the screen. Imagine trying to argue that now, you'd never get a job!

'Amazed to see an interview with Liz Brewer recently, surely not still contributing to Hickey?!

'Printer please!


Fleet Street, c1885


Profits at Reach, publishers of the Express, Mirror and many regional titles, have plunged by almost a third, writes Romulus Rambleshanks, City Reporter.

The outlook for the rest of the year is also bleak.

Bosses blame newsprint inflation and reduced demand for advertising.

Operating profits fell by 31.5 per cent between January and June, down from £68.9 million to £47.5 million.

Revenue fell 1.6 per cent from £302.3 million to £297.4 million.

Reach, which blames rising energy prices for the newsprint price hike, says the cut in ad revenue has been exacerbated by the Ukraine war.

Bosses pledge to continue to invest in Reach’s digital platform where revenue increased by 5.2 per cent.



DAD                                     CAD

NOW here’s a question for older readers, which one of these two chumps is a cad?

They look so similar that they could both qualify, indeed one is a Tory MP — and there’s no shortage of cads, bounders and professional twerps in Westminster.

But the cad is not, as far as we know, Andrew Selous, MP for South West Bedfordshire. It is Cardew Robinson, pictured right, a much loved comic actor who was known as Cardew the Cad.

Robinson, who died in 1992 aged 75, was a famous name in the 1950s and 60s appearing in many comedy films.

On leaving school he took a cub reporting job on a local paper but it soon folded so he took to the stage. He began in variety and played the Cad on radio and stage and later in a film, Fun at St. Fanny's. Cardew the Cad became a cartoon strip in Radio Fun, a children's comic.

Clad in a striped school cap with a long scarf draped about his scrawny neck, the tall, bony body with prominent teeth, once described as 'a double row of tombstones hanging out to dry', was a familiar figure of fun during the last legs of the variety theatre and the early hours of monochrome television. 

Selous’s background is more mundane. After serving in the Army he became an MP in 2001 and served as Minister of State for Prisons in the Cameron government and is currently Second Church Estates Commissioner. He is the father of three children.


How to beat today’s lazy reporting with a little simple digging

MUGGED: Jan Leeming


Jan Leeming, 80, a former BBC newsreader, has been mugged while on holiday. Her arm was grazed as a thug attacked her at a cashpoint but she clung on to her valuables and he escaped empty-handed.

It happened in a “sleepy French village”. Which one, asked my wife, who is French.

A fair enough question. I mined the internet for clues. Daily Express? No geography there. Mail Online? Likewise. Mirror? Nope. The Birmingham Mail and Wales Online — all right, I was clutching at straws — they all had the same story.

It was Leeming’s post on Twitter, with a quick intro whacked on the top.

Some of these stories had bylines on them. Yet all of them counted as the laziest possible journalism. In fact, not journalism at all.

A couple of phone calls — remember the newsroom cry of, “Anyone got a number for Jan Leeming/Mick Jagger/Muhammad Ali?” — to her manager (Simon 01237 721475 since you ask), one of her five ex-husbands, even the BBC, might have put some meat on the bones of Leeming’s tweet.

But seemingly, no one could be bothered.

I finally found the information I had been looking for in Pressreader, where you can buy digital access to newspapers and magazines.

Someone on the Mail (proper) had put in that call. Ms. Leeming was mugged at 1.30pm on Saturday in the Provence village of Mouries, near Arles.


“It was in a place called Mouries,” I told my wife, triumphantly.

“Never heard of it,” she said.

“It’s near Arles.”

“We’ve been there,” she said.



My running stories on the Green ‘Un

LAST OF THE LINE: The final edition of Portsmouth’s Sports Mail was printed last Saturday


The death of Portsmouth’s Sports Mail, the last dedicated match day newspaper in the country, took me back nearly 60 years to when I was a green ‘un … on a Green ‘Un.

It was one of a plethora of pink, green, buff and even blue coloured newspapers produced at breakneck pace to bring the latest football results, match reports and pictures to hungry readers on a Saturday evening.

This was the second time the 119-year-old Mail had been kicked in to touch. After the first closure in 2012, a readers’ revolt prompted a re-think. This demise, though, looks permanent.

My Green ‘Un, the Saturday night edition of the Hereford Evening News, was where I scored my first byline, ‘writes Observer’,  followed a season later by my real name.

The Evening News, now long gone, was a super title and had the distinction of being the smallest circulation newspaper (about 14,000 a night) to win a design award.

Lickspittle that I was, I gave up my Saturdays to cover the former Hereford United, or, more accurately, its reserve team in the Warwickshire Combination Western Division and the Camkin Cup.

This meant travelling on the team bus to exotic outposts such as Worcester, Nuneaton, Hinckley, Stafford and Wellington in Shropshire.

A typical 3pm match required: 200 words and teams at kickoff; 200 more at 3.20; 200 more at halftime; 100 at 4.20; late scorers and intro at final whistle.

Of course, this all had to be telephoned to a copy (‘is there much more of this?’) taker. Home matches were OK: we had a phone in the press box. Away games, though, could be a nightmare.

I remember one cup game at Alcester Town. The Warwickshire club has progressed a bit since 1963 but then it didn’t even have a phone. I had to make do with a public call box 10 minutes away.

The opening chunk was filed OK but, after that, I spent the rest of the match racing between the phone box and the ground to get updates from the Hereford trainer to weave into my report: ‘so-and-so soared like a salmon to head the ball home’ etc.

I remember the score was Alcester Town 2, Hereford United Reserves 5. And I didn’t see one goal. Talk about a running story.

The aim for Hereford’s Green ‘Un was to try to get it to street vendors before the footie crowds had dispersed. We didn’t always achieve this but, amazingly, sometimes we did.

Mind you, this could rebound on muggins here. As the team bus returned from some far-flung West Midlands town we always stopped when we had reached the Green ‘Un’s circulation area to buy a copy for each of the players plus fish and chips.

The rest of the journey was often punctuated by outrage over what I had written about them and some subdued sobbing …from me.



Roger Watkins’ report of his exploits on the Hereford Evening News Green ‘Un brought to mind memories of my debut on the Sheffield Star Green ‘Un in the late Seventies.

Knowing nothing about football, I was sent to cover a junior game which would be given the “big match” treatment.

I found a handy spot on one side of the pitch with the home team supporters but unfortunately for me the first goal was scored by the away team whose fans were on the other side of the pitch.

Running round the ground I quizzed them to get the name of the goal scorer, by which time the home team had scored and I had to run back to get the details of his goal.

I think there were nine goals all told and I ran further than any of the players as I raced from one side to the other in pursuit of the facts.

Running to the nearest phone box to file my copy I found the first one vandalised, so I sprinted on and eventually found one that worked. Job done.

On the Monday morning I regaled newsdesk sage Ron Roland with my tale of woe.

He gave me the following advice: “The trouble with you, Tony lad, is that you tried too hard. The first time I was sent to cover a match my intro read ‘Twenty-two men good and true faced each other over a green sward this afternoon’. They never asked me again.”

We’ve all been there Tony — Ed



Many people yearn for a press that is fairer and more balanced.  They deprecate partisanship and sometimes admiringly point to more even handed American newspapers. Yet is is the outrageous partiality of British publications that often leads to light being shone into the murkier recesses of our political life. Without the Boris Johnson hating Daily Mirror we wouldn't know about Partygate. Without the Keir Starmer loathing Daily Mail there would be no Beergate. Investigations require enormous stamina and this stamina has to be fuelled by political animosity. We need newspapers that know how to take on their enemies. — STEPHEN GLOVER, THE OLDIE


Dear Aunt Marje



Dear Gramps,

Congratulations on the second shortest question I have been asked after Tog? I suppose only ‘Ng? Shortest surname in the English language’ is going to beat that.

Velcro though. Yes, I can see where you’re coming from. You’ve got to the age where it’s an almighty faff tying shoe laces and you have to rely on that little Vietnamese girl from down by the station (‘Anyfin else you wanna me do for you, Misser Gramps? Cash or card’) to trim your toenails.

You’re thinking Velcro flaps for your shoes. Not as elegant as those nice 10-eye Oxfords you used to wear to the office but very effective (if a bit loud when you peel them back after a hard day).

All praise then to Swiss engineer George de Mestral who invented the fastener he named after the French words velour (velvet) and crochet (hook).

And if you’re worried that they’ll quickly wear out. Don’t. They reckon you can fasten and unfasten them 20,000 times and can even spruce them up with a toothbrush.

Go for it!


Dear Aunt Marje

‘A’ surely?

Brig. Gen. ARMITAGE SHANKS (ret.) WC
Gazunda, Western Aus.



By L P BREVMIN, Chief Sub

OUCH. We suspect there was much back slapping and congratulations in the Mirror newsroom when this splash headline was dreamed up.

It certainly divides opinion and has received praise on social media. But does it tell the story of the day? Nope.

The headline is a classic example of  subs trying to impress other subs with their cleverness but it is a contrived weak pun and doesn’t make sense.

This tomfoolery is carried out nearly every day by the Daily Star whose back bench dream up a headline and find an insignificant story to back it up. Many Star heads are funny, clever even, but surely the whole point of a splash headline is to make people buy the paper.

Never mind the facts, let’s show rival newsrooms how clever we are. And sod the readers. 



Mike Lowe, the grey eminence, great editor and prankster supreme

Lowe in his heyday as editor of the Bristol Evening Post which he ran from 1996 until 2005

TERRY MANNERS remembers his old friend Mike Lowe, legendary editor and author of The Grey Cardigan column

THE death of larger than life Mike Lowe at 68 is deeply sad.

He was a fine editor, journalist, passionate Manchester United season ticket holder and Prankster Extraordinaire. The Old Grey Fox will be sadly missed by his family, friends, the publishing industry at large and myself.

So many fun stories to tell of him from our times together. So many moments that would shake the quiet, well-behaved hacks staring into their news monitors as they munch Marmite sandwiches at their desks today.

I recall one of many. Back in the day when Mike was editor of the Bristol Evening Post, and I was editor of the Western Daily Press, we were invited to a bash at Downing Street by Tony Blair. We had met him regularly on his trips West, spreading the word of his new socialism, the one that made him rich.

It was a get together between Government and the Regional Press … fizzy wine, curly sardine sandwiches and sausages on sticks as we all chatted about his new Britain. As usual in the lobby of No.10, we were scanned by an airport security contraption and ordered to leave our mobile phones on a table at the foot of the winding staircase, under the glaring stares of His/Her Majesty’s former PMs, now captured on canvas.

This was the time of the Blackberry … and all editors had them. Some 50 of us. We were each told to put our name, newspaper and phone number on a piece of yellow, sticky Post-It paper, and slap it on our phones, to be picked up on the way out.

Mike and I approached the table by ourselves, but the schoolboy in him took over. He loved a good prank. With a gleam in his eye and a wink to me, he switched the numbered labels on about eight identical Blackberries,  before a uniformed officer ushered us up the stairs.

All hell broke out later that night at the end of the jollies, when editors on their way home, were inundated with calls from rival newspaper news desks across our green and pleasant land, searching for their bosses. Took weeks to sort out and phones returned by special delivery. In the end, everyone saw the funny side of it … some knew who it was and plotted to take their own revenge.

@Telboy (Twitter)

Brilliant columnist and editor dies aged 68

GENIUS: Mike Lowe wrote the Grey Cardigan column in Press Gazette from 2005 to 2012

THE man who wrote the brilliant Grey Cardigan column in Press Gazette has died after a short illness at the age of 68.

Grey’s identity has been secret for years but today we can name him as Mike Lowe, former editor of the Bristol Evening Post and one of the giants of the regional press.

His column was an enormously popular feature of the magazine for seven years from 2005 to 2012.

The un-politically correct cast of characters in the column included:

Mungo, a peripatetic Glaswegian sub who kept a house brick in his desk drawer “just in case”;

Tommy Cockles, the photographer with a mail order Thai bride;

Eminence Grease, the bean-counting MD; and

Editors including The Boy Wonder and Crystal Tits.

This column extract from 2008 gives a flavour:

“They’ve killed off our editions, closed our district offices, sacked dozens of journalists, made us print overnight on an industrial estate 100 miles away, and are actively discussing having Evening Beast pages subbed and laid-out in Bangalore. So where can the bean-counters turn next in their search for savings?

“I know, says one of them, brushing the dandruff and Scotch Egg crumbs from his shiny suit. Telephones cost a lot of money. Do they really need them? All they do is talk on them all day.

“And so it comes to pass that our telephones, our very lifeblood, are ripped out and replaced by some kind of computer-based IP system which digitally crunches up your questions to the old dear celebrating her 100th birthday and flies them around the world before unzipping them again at the nursing home down the road. In theory.

“(Don’t, whatever you do, search ‘unzipping’ and ‘nursing home’. The cops will be kicking the door in before you’ve had time to delete your history.)”

Mike was a regional newspaperman from the era when editors would wave imitation firearms around and throw typewriters out of windows when they wanted to make a point. He was remembered by colleagues for his skill, creativity and quick wit.

When Prince Charles announced his  wedding to Camilla, Lowe’s Bristol Evening Post marked the news with the cheeky front page: “Tetbury man to wed".

Former editor of the Nottingham Post Mike Sassi was among those to pay tribute on Twitter: “Mike was a great, great editor. His leadership was exceptional. His sense of humour was even better. It was an absolute privilege to have worked with him.”

Editor of Holdthefrontpage Paul Linford said: “Mike was indisputably one of the greatest regional newspapermen of the last 30-40 years.”


But there’s few customers at this station bookstall in 1903

THEY didn't exactly need crash barriers to hold back the crowds at this newspaper stall on the London Underground back in the day.

And the one passenger on the platform of the British Museum Tube station on 13  February 1903 does not seem to have made a purchase as he gazes wistfully for his train.

Maybe he was not attracted by the Financial Times poster promising details of the Underground Railway half year and the results from Bradford Dyers. Can’t say we blame him.

The month before this picture was taken Edward VII was proclaimed Emperor of India and the first transatlantic radio broadcast was made between between the United States and Britain. Arthur Balfour, a Conservative, was Prime Minister.

British Museum was a station on the London Underground, located in Holborn. It was served by the Central Line and took its name from the nearby museum in Great Russell Street.

The station was opened by the Central London Railway in 1900. In 1933, with the expansion of Holborn station, less than 100 yards away, British Museum station was closed. It was subsequently used as a military office and command post, but in 1989 the surface building was demolished. 

A portion of the eastbound tunnel is still used to store materials for track maintenance and is visible from passing trains.


My chums in print unions really were Not Sober says our man from NATSOPA

ROLLING AGAIN: Jocelyn Stevens, with arm raised, celebrates the end of a NATSOPA/SOGAT strike at the Evening Standard in 1971

Former editorial assistant STEVE MILL, who describes himself as an (almost but not quite) ashamed former NATSOPA/SOGAT veteran, remembers the mad old days at the Daily Express.

As an ex-NOTSOBER/SOGAT member I enjoyed reading the letter regarding the anarchic union practices that were all too common back in the 70s and 80s. 

I was reminded of an instance of what Penelope Keith as Margo Leadbetter labelled 'trades union hysteria' in The Good Life. A colleague, (for want of a better description) had worked himself up into an apoplectic self righteous, (and to be frank alcohol- fuelled) rage over an apparent non payment of overtime. 

I should point out that there was no suggestion of any overtime having been worked, but that was beside the point, beer cost money even in those days. 

I suppose our man could have done something wacky and off the wall and walked upstairs to the accounts department to discuss the situation but no, his recommendation was that we all walk out and I clearly remember him turning out the lights and slamming the door shut on the tape room where the old fashioned printers churned out the news 24 hours a day. 

I don't think he went as far as turning the machines off, he wasn't that brave/pissed. Thankfully more sober heads prevailed and our disgruntled colleague had to console himself with drowning his sorrows in the Popp ... again.

Another uniquely Fleet Street moment … walking past the Hickey desk I was asked to sign a piece of paper by a journalist, this I did and was surprised to learn that I'd just signed off his expenses! No doubt you are wondering if the journo in question was Ben Travers, but I couldn't possibly comment.

On the subject of the Front Hall lifts, I was surprised to read that there was a lift operator. He must have been gone by the time I joined the Express in 1975 because I don't recall anyone operating these lifts. 

Jocelyn Stevens famously didn't make use of handy elevators, many was the time I saw him stride through the front doors of the Express dressed in his black Gestapo-style leather coat and bound up the stairs to the third floor where his secretary was no doubt trembling with fear.

Daily Express lockers, yes I well remember the corridor running along next to the editorial floor and the line of rather battered looking lockers. One afternoon and I heard out in the corridor, (completely out of sight) a couple of chaps returning from an obviously highly enjoyable lunch. As they strode along they sang, for reasons best known to themselves, the theme tune of vintage western series Rawhide, so all I could hear was 'Rollin rollin rollin' being sung at the tops of their voices. They even drowned out Jean Rook's clanking jewellery. You couldn't make it up.

I used to feel quite sorry for those members of the public that were shown around the building, usually on a Saturday evening. I'm sure they were expecting a hive of activity with people shouting "hold the front page", what thay actually saw was rows of empty desks since all of the heavy work for the first edition had been done and the majority of the staff were either in the canteen or perhaps enjoying a refreshing glass of something in another location.

Oh for the days of the Art Desk rota, two days on … five days off.

Up the workers.


New education minister  Jenkyns fingered for 
a bad spell of grammar

When Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns made a vulgar gesture to the crowds outside Downing Street, little did she realise the hornet’s nest she was stirring.

She claimed the crowd was a ‘baying mob’ when in fact they were happily singing “Bye-bye Boris, Bye-Bye’.

Ms Jenkyns, a former beauty queen who was appointed a junior education minister, issued a statement later explaining why she made the gesture.

It needed heavy subbing — which is what it got from teacher Robbie Mitchell on Twitter (below). He gave her a D, adding: 'Your work has been marked and, like your behaviour, found wanting. Step up please!'


Back benchers at war

Ladybird book of 1969: Perhaps back bencher R. McNeill, of Devon, remembers what it was all about. Disputes often  flared after the pubs closed but not exclusively


Sir  I’m afraid I was a humble 3.30 shift sub when Ladybird Books immortalised a Daily Express Back Bench sartorial dispute in 1969. However, I do recall the confrontation between Morris Benett and Dennis Brierly over the latter’s decision to wear a pair of fashionable chino flares and Cuban heels to evening conference.

Luckily for both of them editor Derek Marks couldn’t see beyond his glass of whisky and milk, and was unable to rule on the matter.

A fellow sub (no names, no pack drill) used to moonlight for Ladybird so perhaps he was the source of the cover poster. For the record I spent the evening quietly in Poppins until my shift ended at 11pm, as was my wont, and did not concern myself with Brierly’s trousers.

Devonshire Lad


How Twitter hounded Johnson out of No10

TERRY MANNERS, in a long think piece for the Daily Drone, believes the salvoes of hate on Twitter contributed to the defenestration of Boris Johnson from Downing Street. 


Terry Manners (@telbabe) has 24,656 followers on Twitter


Meet Bone MP, new Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

HATSTAND: This post has been vacant since 2018 but it’s what you get when you toady up to Boris Johnson

BYE BYE JEREMY: You’ve upset NewsUK

Having gone all in on Boris Johnson last time around, even when it made them look absolutely unhinged, who will NewsUK get behind in an upcoming Tory leadership contest?

The official line on it looks to be Anyone But Jeremy Hunt. Although Rebekah Brooks despises Keir Starmer her dislike for him is eclipsed by an even greater burning hatred for Hunt. Why so? Because Hunt was the one who pulled the plug on the Sky takeover way back when. 

It would put the company in a pretty sticky spot regarding who to back if the next election was called between Hunt and Starmer, but Bex is already on the case. The Times ran a "Who Should Be The Next Leader?" poll on their site yesterday, which saw Hunt polling at 30 per cent for a while. He no longer appears as an option. 


Thursday’s Drone ...

… Friday's Mail


As Johnson tells the Drone he’ll keep buggering on we have news for him ...

Print, social media and the telly have been awash with Whither Boris? Think pieces by keyboard warrior hacks, some of whom have been peddling op-eds from the Flying Fork’s Truth and Reconciliation Centre. Now the Daily Drone trounces the opposition with a first person reflection from the beleaguered Prime Minister himself.

Look. I just think it’s all so terribly unfair. What have I actually done wrong for fuck’s sake? What’s so awful about the way I have governed the country? How, exactly, has my judgment been at fault? 

That Pincher wallah, for instance. OK, OK. I concede he’s not a chap you’d like to share a taxi with (neither was Amber Rudd, by the way) but he can be a real scream in Annie’s or Bellamy’s. Talk about being called to the Bar of the House, eh?

Anyway, we had a way of dealing with coves like that at Eton. We wouldn’t take that sort of creepy hands-on malarkey in Walton’s House — and I’m not joking. A stiff arm to the goolies and a damn good thrashing from the duty King’s Scholar usually did the trick. Mortuum flagellas, as we used to say after prep.

Then there’s Partygate: Party? Party? Call that a party? May I fucking demure? Some old M&S Vicky Sponge and a plastic mug of IrnBru does not a party make.

So what else? Come on, come on … if you think you’re hard enough. There’s nothing is there?

Might I also mention that since I became PM there have been quite a lot of events, dear boy as dear Harold used to say.

I have, after all, lost my mother, been through a divorce, got married, had two children lost another through miscarriage and survived a serious Covid infection.

Politically, I’ve delivered Brexit, achieved an 80-seat General Election triumph, coped (as best I could) with the largest pandemic in a century, inspired a sometimes faltering NATO in supporting Ukraine and am getting on with the job addressing the cost of living crisis.

So that’s what I intend to do: keep buggering on (not literally, of course). Tomorrow, for instance, I’ve got a packed programme of meetings, press conferences, walkabouts and I fully intend…

(Sorry, there’s someone at the door. Sir Graham. Do come in. What can I do for you?)

As told to Reagan Rambleshanks, Political Intern


TIME’S UP BORIS This wretched smirking clown of a PM must go


So the end is nigh for Boris Johnson and about time too. His undoing comes at the hands of two of the most senior cabinet ministers who know only too well that the fish rots from the head down. There will now be a stampede of Tory MPs to rid their party of this premier league liar.

The cynics among us at the Express (and there were many of them) used to say that our key principles were Make it Fast, Make it Sing and Make it Up. Happily few abided by them just as Johnson has stuck to the seven Nolan Principles of Public Life. 

They are Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership. Boris Johnson fails on every one.

He is totally self centred; has zero integrity; his objectivity is based on whether it will suit him; he sees himself as unaccountable; his apparent openness is a sham; there is no leadership other than to keep himself in No 10, and as for honesty, well we all know the answer to that.

In summary he is a shambles of a human being and has been a disgrace to the office. If anyone still has any doubts, and there now can’t be anyone in or out of the Cabinet who do, then listen to our old colleague Max Hastings, his editor at the Telegraph, or Petronella Wyatt, the woman who aborted his child, his ex wives and mistresses or to Sonia Purnell.

Purnell wrote the definitive biography of Johnson, Just Boris, A Tale of Blond Ambition, and as his deputy in the Brussels office of the Telegraph saw at first hand what a shit he was and is. Required reading especially if you aren’t too squeamish.

Has there ever been a prime minister who is so pilloried by cartoonists, especially those from newspapers who are generally Conservative supporting, or is branded a liar on a hourly basis?

So Pincher by name, Pincher by nature, as Johnson himself dubbed him, is the final straw. We now know that Johnson has lied about what he knew about the former whip and that is why Sunak and Javid have quit. 

One thing is certain: Johnson will have to dragged from office screaming and even then he will have that awful guilty smirk for the cameras. Post No10 he will be a darling of the chat shows and will make the fortune he craves on the international speaking circuit. After all, if Mrs May can command more than £500,000 then how much will this wretched clown earn?


Charles and Camilla hire former Express trainee Andreae

STEPPING UP: Daily Mail deputy editor Tobyn Andreae is Charles and Camilla’s new communications chief

FORMER Expressman Tobyn Andreae has been appointed communications secretary to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Andreae, currently deputy editor of the Daily Mail, will replace Simon Enright, 52, who joined Clarence House in May last year after serving as communications director for NHS England during the pandemic.

The Times reports that Charles and Camilla are keen for Andreae to oversee their public relations in the run-up to a change of reign, when he will become king and she queen consort. 

The duchess is understood to have taken the lead in Andreae’s appointment, closely consulting her friend Geordie Greig, the former editor of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, who is believed to have personally recommended him for the position. Greig and Andreae were both educated at Eton.

Andrae began his journalistic career on the Daily Express as a trainee after being turned down for a graduate place. His parents paid his wages at first before he moved to his soaring career at the Mail.

Express colleague Jeremy Gates recalled: 'Tobyn was always very calm and smooth, never ruffled, but quite grand. He would never bawl and shout like Gerard.



Piers and his pervy pals

An exclusive series in which the Fleet Street legend and TV icon reflects on the larger-than-life personalities who have enhanced his life


DRAMA: Reagan lies wounded on the ground in Washington after being shot by John Hinckley in March 1981

THE STORY of one of the great pranks of old Fleet Street can now be told.

It was the night in March 1981 that Daily Express Night Editor Kelvin MacKenzie stopped the presses in Manchester and got Northern Editor Tony Fowler dashing back to the office in his pyjamas.

The kerfuffle started when Kelvin spotted that Peter Kirkman, duty sub on the Manchester Desk, was fast asleep — this was a regular occurrence in this particular dozy hollow. The Manchester Desk did not have to do much. This was is the days before new tech and their sole duty was to phone details of page makeups to the Manchester office.

There was nothing much for the Desk to do late on, after the pubs had closed, and Kirkman was seldom conscious at this time.

The big story of the day in March 1981 was the shooting and wounding of Ronald Reagan in Washington and the US President was seriously ill in hospital.

Kelvin decided to wake up Kirkman with a start. So he got the Art Desk to draw a Page One makeup with the splash headline: REAGAN IS DEAD.

He then rang Kirkman who woke up, saw the page and swiftly alerted Manchester to the big ‘news’.

Manchester reacted immediately, stopped the presses and phoned the Northern Editor who was asleep in bed. Ever the professional, Fowler rushed back to the office in his pyjamas.

The story was, of course false, and Reagan survived despite a punctured lung and serious internal injuries.

The following morning all hell let loose and Kelvin got a severe bollocking from Editor Arthur Firth who, it has to be said, enjoyed a spot of mischief. He and I got on well. 

MacKenzie narrowly kept his job and was appointed Editor of The Sun the following October, about the time that Firth was sacked and replaced by Christopher Ward.

Express management, for reasons best known to themselves, refused to release Kelvin from his contract. Undaunted the great man ended up night editing the Express before nipping across to Bouverie Street to edit The Sun. Management soon caved in and Kelvin was a free man.

*Alan Frame, who was Kelvin’s deputy that night, said: 'I had my own lesson in fake news while subbing in Manchester many years earlier. At about 3am I sent down a fudge with the headline TITANIC: NO NEWS. This was in 1969. Result: Complaint from irate printer and a bollocking for me.’

FORMER Hickey editor Christopher Wilson had his own delicious MacKenzie moment.

He told the Drone: ‘Kelvin and I once had a standup row on the backbench when he was night editing — I had a Page One exclusive that Selina Scott was ITN's replacement for Anna Ford (those were the days). 

'He bollocked me for not getting (ie making up) better quotes, despite the fact I'd tracked down Selina to some remote Hebridean isle and got her to talk. Exclusively.

'What followed was the usual  elevated "Fuck off" "No you fuck off" level of debate which ends in (a) mutual hatred loathing and contempt or (b) let's forget it. 

'Next morning I saw him in the newsroom and he beckoned me over. Which was it to be — (a) or (b)?

'He looked at me bleakly for a moment then said, "Mother sends her love."

 'Precious moment.'



Sir — Apropos my piece on the role of rolled up newspapers in the history of the media [see below], may I thank all those who have been in touch with me on their own memories of such violent events … not least of all, one gentleman of the press, who remembers a Yorkshireman who had a leaning for such editorial violence, Sir Larry (The Angry) Lamb.

He tells me that he was present on several occasions when the legendary Page Three guru from the Current Bun, caught subs peacefully dozing downtable on the Express as he passed.

One he vaguely remembered was pub violinist and journalism lecturer extraordinaire, Joe Barrett (I think with two rs and two ts) and Larry rapped his head, buried in his arm, so hard, Joe’s specs fell off. Sounds elaborated to me.

The other was a scholarly-looking sub on the Manchester Desk, with his head on the page proof he was supposed to be dictating over the phone to the North. The sub looked up at the giant hanging over him, with fear on his face,  scratched his head, smiled and apologised.

All this excitement over rolled up newspapers prompted recall of a fascinating fact of my own. When asked to outline a book for a publisher on a notorious Special Branch officer in the Sweeney, I arrived at his flat in west London, with my notepad and pencil, to learn that he was a former SAS officer.

He spent an hour outlining ways of killing or maiming a guard if I was captured in the desert and locked in a cell with just a plate, cup and a newspaper. He rolled a copy of the Express up as tight as he could into a rigid tube and bent it over once.

Holding the two ends together it was like a rock at the fold and he demonstrated to me in slow motion the art of ramming the solid end into my nostrils in a swift upwards fashion to drive my nose into my brain.

Good job Larry didn’t know the trick.  



ALAN HILL remembers: When Larry The Angry was Editor of the Express the City staff were ensconced in the Aitken House part of the Black Lubyanka. 

When the City reporters had finished their work, and the subs were still toiling, the TV set in the office was switched on for the nightly showing of Bugs Bunny.

This was accompanied by a game of office cricket, with rolled up newspaper as the ball and anything to hand as the bat. This entertainment was much encouraged by Pat Lay, the City Editor, and a very able wicket keeper.

We remember the night that door to the office was thrown open and Larry, a keen cricket fan entered. He strode the length of the office to have a word with Pat Lay.

Conversation over Larry left the office to the sounds of Loony Tunes from the telly. Larry’s parting words: “Carry on with the game!”



Sir — Your story of Fred Shawcross on his way to Trap Three in the bogs of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph most mornings, with a hangover and a rolled-up newspaper under his arm, prompted memories of another rolled-up newspaper tale, not known to many but true.

It led me to believe that such affection for rolled-up newspapers might be a Lancashire thing.

For in the early 1980s, award-winning Lancashire Evening Post Editor and crusader Barry Askew, right, caught Murdoch’s shrewd eye after a recommendation from Harold Evans no less, and was enticed down south to save Rupert's ailing News of the World, then in free-fall. 

Askew's reputation had been enhanced when he quickly launched a colour magazine which reversed the decline.

But a series of gaffes followed, particularly insulting the royals, and it wasn’t long before Murdoch and his bright star were wrestling on the ropes in Bouverie Street as it became apparent that Askew had turned into an archetypal, hard-drinking hack. Private Eye nicknamed him the Beast of Bouverie.

And so came the day I was doing a Saturday news shift on the News of the World. In the senior chair on the Backbench that afternoon, a few yards away from me, was a close friend of mine, a bright and energetic young executive, affectionately known as Bog Brush, due to his stylish hair, who had a very important brother somewhere in the building.

Imagine the subs' horror when angry Lancashire Lad, Askew came storming across the editorial floor after lunch, gripping the end of a rolled-up newspaper, then stopped behind our boy in the hot seat, and repeatedly rapped him over the head with it. Thwacks echoed across the subs' table as his paper battering ram met a spiky haircut and we wondered if he would ever stop. I was just about to get to my feet when he did … and he stormed out, as prickly as the hairdo he had hit. 

Our brave executive in the chair kept his cool, even if red faced, and continued to read copy like the pro he was. I never knew the outcome of that close encounter, or the reason why it happened. Bog Brush wouldn't say. But I suspect words were exchanged with the famous brother behind the scenes. Askew from then on, treated our man with an over-exaggerated respect clear to all. He even bought Bog Brush and I drinks at one of his renowned disco dances in the Golf Club. He was such a good mover on the floor.

It wasn’t long after that day however, that Askew, entangled with a controversial buy-up of the Yorkshire Ripper’s wife, Sonia Sutcliffe, a frequent visitor to his locked office, left the paper after a short reign of just eight months. The rest is history. 

TENERIFE TEL, Dollis Hill, via Las Americas.

Askew, who died in 2012 aged 75, was educated at the Lady Manners Grammar School in Bakewell. Not a lot of people know that — Ed


Gropes, a drunken whip and dodgy Russians, the club where Tories play

SCANDALS: The Carlton Club in St James’s Street, London


It used to be said that the Church of England was the Tory party at prayer and that the Carlton Club was the Tories at play. Well, it would seem the latter still applies given the extraordinary story of deputy chief whip Chris Pincher getting pissed at the club and groping a couple of chaps. 

The stupid sap then wrote a mea culpa letter to Boris Johnson, resigning before being pushed, and has now had the whip withdrawn. That makes it a hat trick of recent Tory scandals involving some aspect of sex (also known as tractoring.)

But what about the Carlton Club? Hugely respectable, very white and terribly English. Er, up to a point Lord C; it is much favoured by the very rich who were born in the old Soviet Union. Take Alexander Temerko who fled to London in 2004 after being accused of theft and forgery in Moscow. He became a member of the Conservative party and a major donor. He also joined the Carlton (natch) and gave the club a £90k bust of David Cameron.

Another Carlton member is Lubov Chernukhin who is said to be the biggest (I think they mean in financial terms) female Tory donor having given the party more than £2m. Her husband Vladimir came to London when his feud with Putin got a little too hot.

Then there is Sergei Pechinin, a great pal of Johnson, who displayed such taste as to send Christmas cards showing a picture of him with his pal in No 10 and captioned ‘We open closed doors.’

I am told that Tory MPs applying to join the club are not vetted with the same vigour as other applicants, though this may be a scurrilous rumour which I feel obliged to pass on. 

But surely the strangest thing to emerge from the Pincher affair at the Carlton is that the whips office were sufficiently concerned about his thirst that they gave him a minder. One who evidently was not very good at his job.

A reader recalls that the Express’s centenarian Chapman Pincher was called Bottom Pincher by Private Eye — Ed


Two faces of Katie show the true Price of fame


You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Katie Price (née Jordan) who has had yet another run-in with the law mainly because of her rackety love life and awful choice of men friends.

The feisty ‘model’ and ‘author’ has much to commend her, not least her loving care for her son Harvey, and certainly she is a rich seam in the tapestry of life.

Forget having to put up with the alleged inadequacies of Peter Andre, the real sadness is that in her frantic pursuit of youth through dodgy medical procedures she has ended going from

             THIS …                TO THIS


Cock of the walk

ONE FOR THE LADIES: Piers Morgan is 57

When blurbs go wrong

ER, IF YOU SAY SO: Our chum Mike Graham is not known for his self-deprecation so we must assume he has had a change of heart


Batsman bowled over by Bedsers

Look, I know Muldoon got the heave-ho for trying to peddle a set of twins as Lookalikes (the Eagle sisters as I recall) but the current selection of the Overton brothers as the first twins to play Test cricket gives me the opportunity to tell a delightful tale about the Bedsers.

Alec and Eric were eerily alike (that’s twins for you — Ed) but although both played cricket at a decent level only fast-medium bowler Alec was capped; off spinner Eric was confined to the county circuit.

They mischievously enjoyed being lookalikes and loved to tease, as eminent batsman Frank Woolley found in 1947. Alec bowled the first three balls of an over at his usual speed and Eric a gentler last three. Woolley, completely fooled, was heard to say to the wicket keeper: ‘He’s got a wonderful change of pace.’ 

Words: AN R.R. (t). Picture research: Romulus Rambleshanks


Black mark for Yahoo News

Night the Queen Mother joined the long cue for a 
swift half at Press Club 

The Queen Mother rather liked visiting the Press Club. She made at least two visits between 1961 and 1986, Lord Drone recalls.

Here she is in 1961 taking a pot shot on the Club’s green baize watched by a admiring onlooker. The inevitable glass of Dubonnet is presumably out of shot.

Twenty-five years later Her Majesty also bumped into Lord Drone’s major domo Alastair McIntyre and shook his hand, as pictured below. McIntyre recalls that the QM was impressed that he was one of the few journalists in the club that night, surrounded as she was by fawning, hee-hawing PR persons. No offence, chaps.


Strikes and anarchy of 1970s are coming back to haunt us all

ON THE MARCH: Members of NATSOPA, or NOTSOBER as Private Eye magazine described the union, parade down Fleet Street in 1972 at the height of the industrial unrest

Dear Sir — Well done our old Express chum Mike Graham, for speaking out on Talk Radio/TV about the shadow of the 70s and 80s hanging over the current rail strike, and his own reminiscences of life under union power in Fleet Street at that time.

We all remember the oodles of money dished out to SOGAT/NATSOPA Brothers in their blue overalls on the stairwells of the Express, Mail, Sun and other titles, to bribe them to put newsprint bundles of our day’s work on the vans. Revenue was lost forever if one night’s paper didn’t come out.

Vans in the gangway made way for security trucks arriving with the cash as Mickey Mouse, Pluto and Dan Dare would sign little chits issued with a nod from Jocelyn Stevens over the brim of his champagne glass.

Journalists of course were members of a more gentle union, and would talk themselves out of any strike action, with a softer approach, perhaps ‘working strictly to rule’. At the Express, that meant making sure subs finished a story in time for their 9pm deadline at the Poppinjay bar. Late Chief Sub’s nightmare.

This got us nowhere and left us wondering why Linotype operators were earning £1,000 a week for typing literals into our prose … and God, the Father of the Readers’ chapel, could change what we wrote if one of his lads thought it too political.

All this was part of the industrial scene at the time. The country went through a well-documented period of wildcat car strikes; the postmen, dustmen, even grave diggers were at it and finally the miners.

All of this culminated in the classic words of Electricians Union leader Eric Hammond admitting: “Scargill went into the strike with a big union and a small house and came out with a big house and a small union.

Scargill, of course, ended up buying his Barbican luxury flat on his enemy Margaret Thatcher’s right to buy scheme. He got it at half price. It’s now worth £2million. He’s still around and turned up the other day on the rail strike picket line. Yep!

And so came the fall of Fleet Street and the birth of new tech, the rest is history. But for the Express, how can we forget the years of Thatcher and the unions. Hardly a day went by when our Editor’s splash intro didn’t begin … ‘Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher will today … ‘

Those years left us Express hacks with an indelible memory of life aboard our dingy, yellow-walled battleship with lockers in the corridors left locked by the dear departed and toilets that followed the style of YMCA hostels.  

From the Front Hall lift, where you had to wait for the NATSOPA man in the grey coat to finish his tea, before he took you up to the 3rd floor … to fearing to touch a line of metal type on the Stone because compositors would walk out … on to gold rings, portable TV sets of dubious origin and smutty videos available at a little underground shopping arcade under our feet in the bowels of the building, set up by the enterprising inkies, this was us sailing on HMS Lubyanka.

So many stories, so many memories, it left many of us lifelong friends. well done Mike Graham for mentioning it on his show. 

Dollis Hill, Neasden. 




FORMER Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is to be given a peerage by Boris Johnson , it was reported last night.

Dacre has long wanted a peerage and his wish has been granted in recognition of the Mail’s steadfast support for the Government.

The still unconfirmed reports have received a mixed reaction.

The most forthright comment came from Alastair Campbell who tweeted: 'Well well well. I am hearing it is actually happening — a lifetime ambition is about to be achieved. 

'One of the most malign cultural and political forces of recent decades is to be “elevated” to the House of Lords by the most corrupt Prime Minister the country has ever had.

'Johnson debases everything he touches and cares only about his own interests and those he considers useful to him. Hence the peerage for, are you ready for this?, Paul Fucking Dacre. The fact Dacre is so desperate for it is just one more reason among many to despise the man.

'When he gets this putrid reward in the coming weeks for services to Johnson’s press office, feel pity amidst the contempt. 

'Dacre is the worst of British values deluded that his wretched propaganda rag represents the best. I also wonder whether the “elevation”may be related to the dropping of the story about Johnson trying to get a £100k job for his mistress, a story Lord Family Values now deems unworthy of publication. 

'Dacre has helped to destroy journalism. He feels his reputation is strengthened by being called Lord! The opposite is the case.’

Mail columnist Sarah Vine responded: ‘Or … one of the most brilliant editors in the history of journalism is about to be given the honour he deserves.’

LORD DRONE notes: Ms Vine is, of course, a devout member of the Parish of St Rothermere.


Sir – The tweet-attack (Drone, June 24) on Paul Dacre reminds us that nothing confers more honour on a journalist than a spittle-spraying rant by that highly principled wielder of the sword of truth Alastair Campbell and this latest may set a new record (subs: please check) on the foamfleckometer.

Senior Drones may remember Dacre as a congenial colleague on the Features Desk and Our Man In America back in the 1970s before he took the talent trail — David English, Nigel Dempster, Geoff Levy, Ross Benson et al — leading out of the Lubyanka down to Tudor Street. Mention of the ’70s, when the Express outsold the Mail 2-1 rather than the worse-than-reverse ratio today, makes one wonder whether the biggest loss among the diaspora was, indeed, Dacre.

Incidentally, The New European (editor-at-large A. Campbell) which led the way in the current Carriegate rumpus made many a mention of Lord Rothermere. 

Campbell’s tweet makes no mention of his lordship. But it cannot be supposed that he believes Rothermere approaches the high ethical bar set by Campbell’s much-admired newspaper owner, the late Robert Maxwell. Such was his devoted service to that prince among men that it outlived the great man himself. Campbell punched a fellow Parliamentary scribe for his lèse-majesté in cracking a bob-bob-bobbing along remark upon the great man’s briny demise.

By email


Two women who took 
El Vino to court over its ban on drinking at bar

BARRED: Anna Coote, left, and solicitor Tess Gill outside El Vino in 1982. They won their case in a landmark ruling

IT’S nearly 40 years now since journalist Anna Coote and solicitor Tess Gill struck a great blow for women by taking El Vino to court.

Up until 1982, there was a 100-year-old British law which stated that women were not allowed to be served in pubs on their own. They had to sit on a table and have their drinks ordered by a male companion. 

This only changed in November 1982, when Coote and Gill  were banned from El Vino wine bar in Fleet Street for standing with their male colleagues at the bar.

The two women took their case to the Court of Appeal, where the ban was lifted and the law scrapped in a landmark ruling under the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. It was a massive win for all women, who could no longer be refused service in pubs.

One of the judges, Lord Justice Griffiths, said that El Vino's popularity amongst journalists made it one of the famous 'gossip shops of Fleet Street', and confining women reporters to the tables put them at a special disadvantage in 'picking up gossip of the day’.

 Several days after the verdict, El Vino lifted the lifetime ban it had imposed on the two women.

The ban on women standing at the bar was thought to date back to the second world war and was apparently instituted to prevent unescorted women of ill repute from picking up customers. 

The character of El Vino was imposed by the owner and 'prime vintner of Fleet Street', Frank Bower, who reputedly had quite puritanical views about women at the bar. He also imposed a strict dress code of jacket, collar and tie for men.

Even in 1970, when the rest of the world was moving towards equality, El Vino stubbornly stuck to its rules. That summer, a group of female journalists marched through its front door and demanded to be served at the bar. 

'Our money is equal so our rights must be equal,' said Mavis Davidson, a reporter on The Sun, before they were sent back through the doors. Later, some in Fleet Street mocked their protests as a 'storm in a sherry glass’.

In Fleet Street, the women's victory was greeted by cheers, even by men. Women who were once prevented from buying their own drinks whilst standing at the bar rushed to El Vino to celebrate a hard fought win, leading one exasperated bartender to exclaim, 'There are more women at the bar than men — it's chaos.'


Laws goes to war with another great novel

OUR chum former Expressman David Laws has been busy at his word processor again — his latest novel Her Private War was published yesterday.

The synopsis reads: 'She’s a daredevil pilot! Suffragette Charlotte Dovedale defies a government ban on women pilots … goes to war … but finds herself in all sorts of trouble.’

It is available in paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited where it is free to subscribers.


Also available from David is The Martyr of Auschwitz, a reissue of his first novel The Man Who said No.

The synopsis reads: 'A woman’s quest to discover the truth about her grandfather – a fleeting man of the forest who uses his skills as a marksman to put a brake on Hitler’s Holocaust transports.'




HOW IT WILL LOOK: The existing fascia is retained, left, with a modern interpretation alongside and a huge development to the rear soaring to 21 storeys

By SPIKE DIVER, the Ghost of Fleet Street Past

THE iconic Daily Express building in Fleet Street is to rise again in a huge redevelopment of the Central London site.

In keeping with its illustrious past, it will become a public arts centre — or a Palace of Fun, if you will.

The current Grade II* listed Art Deco structure, built in 1932, sits on the corner of a block of buildings and was incorporated into a larger office block development to the side and behind in 2000, known as River Court.

It was occupied by Express Newspapers until 1989 when the titles moved across the River Thames to Blackfriars. 

The site is currently concealed behind hoardings but planning permission has been granted for a massive transformation of the site which will retain the existing preserved frontage.

The building will  soar to a staggered 21 floors to become a public cultural destination with 'social and educational outreach’, a writers’ area and a roof garden.




THIS intriguing story appeared in the early editions of The Times on Saturday. But it was swiftly spiked.

Why? We do not know but we understand there was pressure from No10. A similar story was also withdrawn from Mail Online

 It is also curious that the story was relegated to the Page 5 lead rather than the front page

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson acknowledged there had been contact between Downing Street and The Times before and after the story was published.

Asked whether there were conversations after its initial publication specifically, the spokesperson told reporters: “That’s my understanding.”

He refused to say “who spoke to who”, but denied that it was Mr Johnson himself.

“I’ve checked and I’ve been assured that he hasn’t spoken to anyone,” he said.

“I’m not aware of any calls by the PM.”

The spokesperson added that “it is entirely a matter for publications, for journalists to decide on what they write”.

Simon Walters, who wrote the story, said he stood by every word. 


Watch out TV Piers, Rupert’s in town to check your ratings 

By LUNCHTIME O’SNOOZE, He monitors TalkTV so you don’t have to

Having lost a full 90 per cent of his audience since opening night, now rustling up 30,000 viewers at a push, Piers Morgan's future on TalkTV has been an evergreen topic of gossip among media types. 

A couple of weeks ago the Telegraph ran a piece suggesting that Murdoch's finger has started hovering over the kill switch. 

It would be a very costly move. Insiders say that Piers' contract is pretty watertight (he had Elisabeth Murdoch helping him negotiate it, after all) and Rupert would still be on the hook for £15million a year for the full three years. But does that mean he won't? 

Well, we'll hopefully have a clearer picture of his intentions before too long – because Rupert is currently in London. 


Tom Newton Dunn was circulating at lobby drinks recently, asking fellow journalists if any of them had watched his TalkTV show. One wit replied: 'It would have shown up on BARB if I had. '



The armchair generals who hysterically bash Boris on Social Media have now gone too far

ON THE BUTTON: Boris Johnson has even been criticised on Twitter for the way he does up his shirt cuffs


The recent intuitive article by Richard Dismore on our mop-haired PM Boris becoming something of an Enemy of the State in the eyes of many TV news pundits, seeking fame and self-satisfaction, mirrors the political hysteria in other walks of life in Britain today — none more so than unpoliced Social Media.

In fact, it could be said that following the self-opinionated interviewing techniques of Mainstream Media luvvies still bristling with verbal shingles over their Brexit defeat, their brazened hatred for everything Boris has universally manifested itself on Twitter, where Tweets and memes against the PM are rife.

The word liar has replaced gammon, racist, fascist and bed wetter as the in-trend insult for anything and everything he does, not just from those who are blatantly biased in their journalism but the battalions of left-wing armchair political generals on the other side of the TV box.

Everything is now fair game to unseat a Prime Minister it seems, even personal insults, some crude, some distasteful, some outrageously untrue and some with an edge of humour — from calling him a mass murderer and serial adulterer to a drunk, Eton armpit and strangely picking on him for not doing up the buttons on his shirt cuffs correctly.

All this egged on by the never-ending biased reporting and interviewing of a media elite and its armchair infantry who have decided they know what is right for the country. Boris is a baddy. Everybody hates him, don’t they? Time to get him out for the birth of their own political dogma. Not all passionately cared about the damaged souls of Partygate.

From the smugness of Robert Peston (if you can stay awake long enough to listen to what he is saying) to the machine gun rat-a-tat-tat of Beth Rigby (who asks long questions but doesn’t wait for an answer before the next), a leftie element of angry Tweeters is convinced that disrespecting and insulting a PM is perfectly normal politics in today’s freedom of speech world, and all this under the cover of Partygate.

The other side of the coin is also poisoned. Even those who innocently read newspapers such as the Express and Mail perhaps even because they might like them, are branded racist, gammon, fascist and leggy Ginger Rayner’s favourite word: 'Scum’. It is seen as perfectly acceptable behaviour to be abusive these days. If journalists and MPs do it, so can they.

I too am unhappy about the direction Boris is taking right now, but there is little doubt that all of this media hatred for him offers a chance for the leftie Twitterati to voice their venom and hatred towards the world they don’t like and are bitter about. 

With a Labour Party still floundering over what to do about the EU and immigration, a frustrated armchair army on Twitter believes the only way to bring the Government down and make its own bit of history is not sound argument but picking on the perceived weaknesses of Boris as portrayed in a biased media and his trembling Tory supporters still in fear of the Red Wall.

For Partygate and Covid, read Brexit and Brussels … that’s what the heart of this is about. And let’s not forget the antics of the BBC, where Auntie is on the warpath over Tory threats to the TV licence fee … and its pay packets.

Terry Manners (@TelBabe) has more than 24,000 followers on Twitter, more even than Kelvin MacKenzie. 


It’s David Eliades of the parish of St Beaverbrook

PARTY BOY: David celebrates his 89th birthday at The Ivy Café, Richmond, south London on 26 May, 2022 and below in his Aston Martin Sigma two-seater in the 1950s


WE asked readers if they could  identify this handsome young cove in the sexy sports car.

Today we can reveal it’s David Eliades, celebrated playwright, novelist and former foreign editor of the Daily Express.

He is seated in his one-off Aston Martin Sigma two seater which he bought in the 1950s before he even had a driving licence and had to get a friend to drive it home for him! Then, a few weeks later, David was waiting at a level crossing for a steam train to pass and as it did, the loco deposited burning coals on the gleaming bonnet of the Aston.

But it was all happy motoring after that and when the pair parted company a year later David was working for the Sunday Express under that sanctimonious old lech John Junor. From there it was the DX where he was foreign editor before retiring to write more books in 1990.

As for the car, it is the only one in the world, built in 1953 by an Aston executive using a pre-war BMW chassis and post-war Aston engine. Subsequent owners have lived in the US and Europe and it’s just been sold by Bonhams for £155,000, about £154,700 more than David paid 70 years ago.

At least four readers guessed the identity of our mystery man. Lord Drone has been asked to cough up but he has hurriedly disappeared in a cloud of cigar smoke — Ed

SUPERCAR: The Aston that fetched £155,000 at Bonhams


Buy Frank’s book and help charity

A former Daily Express deputy sports editor has turned to crime to raise cash for charity.

Frank Malley's new novel, The 13th Assassin, has been released in paperback by Sharpe Books, with all royalties going to the Primrose cancer charity. It is a murder mystery cum spy thriller and is Malley's fifth book.

Malley worked on the sports desk in Fleet Street and Blackfriars in the 1980s and 1990s, before joining the Press Association as their chief sports writer.

He turned to writing books, penning Living on the Deadline, a memoir of life in journalism, including his time at the Express in Manchester and London.   

When he's not writing he now volunteers as an ambulance driver, transporting patients throughout Bedfordshire to radiotherapy treatment at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.  

The 13th Assassin, which has five-star reviews, is available from Amazon. Ebook £2.99. Papeback £6.09.



Crazy night a star-struck Desmond hosted X Factor Simon at Express offices 

CHUMS: Desmond, right, with Simon Cowell


ANOTHER story of the madness of Fleet Street has dropped into the Drone’s gossip box.

This concerns the crazy era of Richard Desmond’s ownership of Express Newspapers and proves that publicity is easy to come by if you are mates with newspaper proprietors.

A former Express journalist vividly remembers the time Simon Cowell, the man behind TV’s The X Factor talent show, popped in to the paper's Blackfriars offices to visit Desmond. 

It was early December (the final few weeks of an X Factor series) and Desmond ordered every single journalist in the newsroom to bring an X Factor story up on their screen ahead of Cowell's arrival and pretend to be working on it for the duration of his visit. Which they all did. 

The reason they remember that day so specifically is because Simon and Desmond then left the office in Desmond's chauffeured car and immediately got stuck in rush hour traffic. 

Desmond was so embarrassed and furious about it that he came in the next day demanding that his journalists start a brand new Express Crusade – against traffic. Which they also all did.

I have no idea of the veracity of this story but it does have the ring of truth. But what the hell? It’s good gossip.


These biased and elitist reporters just want to make history by bringing down the Prime Minister


A robust piece of reporting in the Daily Mail on Wednesday morning is headlined The Remainstream and skewers the TV news pundits trying to hound Boris Johnson from office because they cannot forgive him for getting Brexit done.

The usual suspects are accused of being elitist and biased in their journalism and of having a “relentless obsession with Partygate.”

They include Beth Rigby and Sam Coates, the political editor and her deputy at Sky News; Robert Peston, the political editor of ITV News; the BBC Today programme presenter Mishal Husain; and her colleague Katya Adler, the Corporation’s Europe editor.

“In effect,” says the author of the piece, Mick Hume, “they tried to remove a premier with the greatest popular mandate since 1987.”

He adds: “This is not the objective journalism on which our broadcasters once prided themselves. It is a partisan propaganda war…”

Hear, hear! So why are they doing it?

Try this theory for size. These are clever and extremely well-educated people with strong opinions and a passionate belief in the European Union.

No problem there but it is not enough for them simply to report a story. They must take part in it. They have to influence the story. To influence history.

If not, what was the point of going to Oxford or Cambridge? No doubt, they have contemporaries who went into the City and made fortunes; or are even now being lauded for scientific discoveries; or chose politics and soared; or headed for Academia and wrote well-received books (by their peers, if not the reading public).

Money, plaudits, power and respect: not the sort of thing half decent, self-respecting journalists are likely to receive in large measure; although they can usually count on a certain grudging respect for breaking a good story.

But Johnson’s detractors want more. They would love to be able to say airily at dinner parties: “Oh, Boris? I brought him down, you know.”

The sad truth is that television journalism has slowly, almost imperceptibly, become showbiz and Beth Rigby (Beaconsfield High School and the University of Cambridge), Sam Coates (University of Cambridge), Robert Peston (Balliol College, Oxford, and, tellingly, The Université Libre de Bruxelles), and Mishal Husain (University of Cambridge and, equally tellingly, the European University Institute) find themselves centre stage.

The only one of the Mail’s targets who seems to have had a more normal journalistic progression is the Beeb’s Katya Adler, who studied at the University of Bristol. Then you learn that she was born in Hampstead, an uber-liberal enclave in north London, to parents of German origin and read German and Italian at Bristol. Europe was practically baked into her.

Boris is a dead man walking and I don’t care.

But his tormentors in the media should remember the words of Paul Begala, an American journalist and adviser to President Bill Clinton: “Politics is show business for ugly people.”

Not that they are ugly themselves. But their reporting ain’t winning a beauty contest any time soon.


The world’s most unfortunate byline

OH DEAR, it’s on the front page too. Either Mr and Mrs Boyes had a warped sense of humour when they named their son Roger or maybe they didn't think it through. We suspect the latter.

Former Express, Mirror and Times man John Clarke, who sent this cutting to the Drone, called the cross-ref 'my favourite ever puff from The Times’. 

Readers of a certain mindset have been laughing at the byline for years but we suspect that Roger, who is the paper’s diplomatic editor, fails to see the funny side.


They knew how to write a headline back in 1910

How to sum up a story in one easy lesson: Great humour from the Los Angeles Herald, 1910

Shurely shome mystic


History in Moments 

March 13, 1954: Hello. Is that the Governor? It’s Jim Nolan, just released from C Wing this morning. No, boss, it’s not that: for prison issue, the suit’s fine. Pinstripe. Fits like a glove. No, the thing is, I know I should of gone straight home or to me mum’s in Maida Vale but it’s five years since I had a drink, swelp me, so I just pops into the Rat and Drainpipe for a half a mild don’t I? Honest. I’m just ‘aving a nice chat with this blonde with big knockers (smart piece she was) when in walks the missus. Well, it all kicks off doesn’t  it? Talk about a cat fight. Look, guv, I know it’s a bit out of the ordinary but is there any chance I could have me old cell back?

Jim Nolan, his wife and the woman with whom she was fighting were photographed by the legendary Bert Hardy for a Picture Post series about the problems newly released prisoners faced adjusting to society. 
Words: AN R.R (t). Research: Roly Flex-Shanks (Picture Desk)


Richardson takes on the might of French justice in Covid row


FORMER Daily Express foreign editor David Richardson is taking on the law. French law.

Richardson, pictured, who decamped to Montpellier in the South of France some years ago, is in dispute with the authorities over the country’s Covid rules.

He explained on Facebook: Exciting times ahead when my wife and I appear before a French judge in Montpellier accused of breaching covid quarantine regulations by being absent from our Languedoc home on New Year's Eve 2021.

Armed with my fluent Franglais, I will defend us by pointing out that we left France for London — legally, and fully covid tested — on December 15 and did not return, again legally and once again covid tested, on January 3.

Our €1,000 each fines will be increased by 10 per cent if we fail after a police tribunal rejected our online appeal despite us supplying all documents proving the legality of our absence from France. 

I briefly consulted a French lawyer who said it would cost more to defend us than the fines and even if he wins we will not get costs.

So, with my vast experience of Newcastle magistrates court and the odd foray to the Old Bailey, I will brush up my best Rumpole and enter the fray

Only in France,

And, using the letters of my old career,


THE DRONE SAYS: Bonne chance, David … you’ll need it. 


OUT NOW: Yet another great mystery by Wislon of the parish of St Drone


Royal commentator Christopher Wilson has written a third book in his Guy Harford mystery series. 

Christopher, who is known as Wislon to his chums and writes under the pen name TP Fielden, has set the story in Windsor in 1943 and it involves murder most foul.

Our literary staff haven’t had a chance to read it yet but if Christopher’s past novels are any guide it will be an excellent read. 

The synopsis reads: Windsor, 1943. Britain is in the grip of war and treachery is afoot. The body of controversial former courtier Lord Blackwater is found in the abandoned Fort Belvedere, once the country bolthole of the King’s wayward brother. And all signs point to murder.

Royal confidant Guy Harford is called in to solve the mystery quickly and quietly, before any hint of scandal reaches the public. Investigating with the help of Rodie, his roguish burglar girlfriend, his enquiries lead him into the world of the Royal Ballet, where on-stage glamour hides an undercurrent of off-stage deceit. And when the ballet company’s newest recruit turns up dead, it’s clear there’s more to this murder than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, news reaches the Palace that the King’s brother—already under strict orders to stay out of trouble—is threatening to undermine both Crown and country by taking US citizenship.

Harford must do his royal duty. It’s up to him to catch the killer and save the monarchy from crisis in wartime. Before any more heads roll…



We led the Daily Express on Tampongate … guess what ad was on the page?


The awful juxtaposition of an ad for a guns sale under a lengthy report of the appalling massacre of schoolchildren in Texas prompted the Editor to ask if readers of his esteemed organ had similar experiences of ads inappropriate to the main subject matter on the page. 

Er, yes.

In 1993 the excruciating telephone call between His Royal Chumpness Prince Charles and Camilla was leaked (‘leaked’ might have another connotation in this context). This is the late night conversation in which the future king, in the last knockings of his marriage to Diana, professed he longed to come back in a future life as his lover’s knickers. ‘Or God forbid a Tampax. Just my luck!’ To which Camilla showed great judgment in her reply: ‘Oh you are an idiot!’

(This is the same Charles who will appear in jubilee celebrations this week bedecked with toytown braid and medals and uniforms usually seen in a Gilbert and Sullivan production.)

I was editing the Express on the day the details of the call were revealed and not surprisingly splashed it with the story turning to Pages Four and Five. So far so good, there was not even an intervention from Little Lord Stevens. But…

As production hacks will know the adverts on all pages of the following day are shown by size and subject in the ‘dummy’ of the edition. In those days this dummy took the form of a full size blank copy of the Express with ads pasted in or at the very least drawn to size. In the case of Page Five, a relatively small ad, about an eighth of a page in size, was merely signalled by size and not the subject matter. An annoying lack of detail but rarely a problem.

Happy that all was well I left the office at 9pm. The following morning my handiwork arrived at home before leaving for another jolly day in Ludgate House. There on Page Five was the ad in all its glory (and no doubt you’re ahead of me here) … it was for Tampax!)

I immediately rang the ads department to insist that never again must the subject of an ad not be clearly shown in the dummy. Only to be told that the agency for Tampax was thrilled at the apparent product placement. Not sure if Charles saw the funny side.


When advertising chiefs fail to speak to editorial it leads to tragic disaster

ONE of the many essential requirements when drawing a page is to check if there is an advert on it and, if so, what it says.

But when editorial loses its connection with the advertising department it can lead to disaster, as they discovered on the San Antonio Express-News in Texas.

The paper’s report of the appalling school massacre in Uvalde, in which a teenage gunment shot dead 19 children and two teachers, was accompanied by an advert for firearms: 'The summer sale you won’t want to miss.’

Mark Medici, the horrified publisher apologised for the error, explaining that the ad had been automatically uploaded on to the page before the tragedy and was not visible to journalists.

The apology read: An independent advertising agency electronically uploaded the ad to our advertising system on May 19, well before the tragic shooting in Uvalde. The ad was not sold, created or endorsed in any way by the Express-News. In fact, we have a strict policy against advertising assault rifles. For technical reasons, the ad was not visible to the employees who produce the paper. We are fixing our internal processes to provide for a direct review of all advertisements for firearms and ammunition.

I apologize for this error. We have sought to provide in-depth and timely coverage of the Uvalde tragedy, and we want the focus to be on the victims and their families.

The ad was immediately removed from our digital replica edition, and it did not appear on ExpressNews.com, our subscriber website.

It couldn’t happen here could it? Or could it?




What the hell has happened to Sky News? Like Radio 4’s Today programme, it used to set the political agenda and every decent journalist took notice.

Not any more. The other night, with the deathly dull Sue Gray report freshly minted, we had the unedifying spectacle of Deputy Political Editor Sam Coates shouting inane and sometimes offensive questions across Downing Street to Cabinet Ministers as they left No.10.

I think I heard him ask Boris Johnson: “Did you lie to Parliament, Prime Minister?”

Would he have dared to ask it of Margaret Thatcher or Harold Wilson? It would have brought retribution on the reporter, the editor and the news outlet itself. When did it become acceptable to hurl a naked insult at the leader of the Government?

It might be true but that’s not the point. Good reporters find ways to ask their questions with civility, persistence and often barbed wit. Coates’s moronic Downing Street display – quite possibly demanded by the newsdesk – is unlikely ever to draw any meaningful answer (and isn’t that the sole purpose of the reporter?).

It is yah-boo journalism. Journalism reduced to showbiz. It’s throwing rotten fruit at the man in the stocks.

Coates, once a reporter for The Times, should be ashamed and embarrassed. He made a fool of himself.

Not that I hold any brief for Boris Johnson. The Dulux Dog couldn’t organise a piss-up in … no, wait, I take that back.

And as if Coates wasn’t enough, we later had his boss, Beth Rigby, deliver one of her preachy, opinionated pieces to camera – short on facts as well as the letter G.

Was this not the same Beth Rigby who was suspended by Sky for three months for breaking lockdown rules to attend Kay Burley’s sixtieth birthday party? Indeed, it was. They must think we have short memories.

Meanwhile, one of the great political reporters at Westminster, former Expressman Jon Craig, pops up on our screens whenever it is late or the others can’t be bothered. He looks like a teddy bear in an outsized overcoat but delivers up to the minute, well-sourced stories in an authoritative growl.

I formed a great respect and affection for Jon when we worked together on the Sunday Express. Mysteriously, he seems to have more hair now than he did then. How is this possible?



As DX digital offering sinks slowly in the West, we ask…

IF bosses at the Daily Express are wondering why its website is haemorrhaging viewers, the Daily Drone has some helpful advice.


The Daily Express saw its digital audience fall by a massive 13.4 per cent month on month in April, the highest fall in the top 10, according to Press Gazette. 

This came as a story which made no sense appeared on express.co.uk. It said a motorist was fined for driving too slowly — then added that he had been fined for driving too fast. The reporter clearly couldn’t understand the story and we doubt very much if it went through a sub-editor, if there are any left.

The report was spotted by a puzzled ALEX COLLINSON of this parish.

He told the Drone: 'Am I missing something in this report? The headline and intro would have me believe that a driver was fined almost £300 for driving too slowly on a motorway, yet the second paragraph has the unfortunate motorist collared for breaking a 50mph limit.

'Are we talking about two separate offences? What speed was he doing? What offence or offences was he charged with? And what the foxtrot is a “single justice procedure”? Oh, and it turns out that the “fine” was £169 plus costs.

’The report goes on :

Going slowly forces other drivers to adapt to that speed.

If this is the case, it can encourage drivers to overtake, which heightens the risk of a collision.

Equally, driving too slowly on the centre lane on a multi-lane motorway can impact traffic in all lanes.

Motorists will need to continually brake and speed up continuously, thus increasing the risk of an accident.

‘This is barely believable on every level.'


Newspaper sales sink again but Mirror and Mail show slight rally

NATIONAL newspapers are still losing sales with double-digit losses over the past 12 months.

There was one bright spot — the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror both marginally grew their print circulations in April compared to March.

The Daily Mail was up 1% month-on-month to 879,102 while the Daily Mirror also grew by 1% to 327,341.

However both fell by 11% compared to April 2021 and both figures were still their second-lowest respectively since ABC auditing began.

Biggest losers were the Sunday People and Daily Star Sunday, down 23% and 21% respectively.

Free newspapers Metro, Evening Standard and City AM all also saw month-on-month growth, increasing their print distributions.

After an 18-month Covid-enforced hiatus, free business newspaper City AM returned to print in September and has now upped its distribution for three months in a row. It is now at 81,713, its highest since February 2020 when it was on 85,738.

Metro remains the most-distributed newspaper in the UK, putting out 1,074,889 copies in April.

The Sun, Times, Telegraph and Guardian titles no longer publish their ABC print circulations.


Dirty Des loses £100m in race to grab Lotto

Our Man in the Red Braces and Bulging Trousers

Dark days for Dirty Des. The former Daily Express owner Richard Desmond has fallen to 125th place, down from 107th,  in the Sunday Times Rich List, with his fortune depleted to a mere £1.4 billion. That’s £100 million less than he was estimated to be worth last year.

So has the former media mogul, who founded his empire of magazines with names such as Asian Babes and Readers’ Wives, lost the Midas touch?

It would seem so. Desmond, 70, has long coveted the UK’s National Lottery, literally a licence to print money (or at least rake it in from mug punters, gambling addicts and old ladies who can’t resist a flutter at the supermarket checkout).

Desmond reportedly offloaded his remaining stake in Reach — the Mirror owners to whom he sold the Express titles for £127 million — to fund his £20 million shot at grabbing the National Lottery.

He already owns the Health Lottery, which was launched in 2011 and faced flak almost immediately for not handing over enough to good causes from ticket sales, though he later coughed up extra cash.

In 2012 the Canadian firm Camelot, which has run the National Lottery for almost three decades, tried to get the Health Lottery shut down by the Gambling Commission. It failed and Desmond is not a man to forgive or forget.

But in March this year the Commission announced that its preferred bidder for the 10-year licence to run the National Lottery is a Czech-owned group called Allwyn (geddit?), whose UK chairman Sir Keith Mills brought the Olympics to London in 2012 and dreamt up both Air Miles and Sainsbury’s Nectar card.

That almost certainly means curtains for Camelot and dooms Desmond to stand on the sidelines and watch as someone else trousers the profits. Ticket sales brought in £8.3 billion last year.

And that’s not the only recent setback for Desmond. Back in November last year, his attempt to build 1,500 homes on the old Westferry Printworks site on the Isle of Dogs was quashed by the Government.

The scheme was mired in controversy when the then Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick signed it off after sitting next to Desmond at a Conservative fundraiser. Twelve days later, Desmond gave the Tories £12,000.

Jenrick was forced to overturn his own approval for the project.  Documents now show that it breached 22 planning policies and would have failed to preserve the settings of the Old Royal Naval College, Tower Bridge and the Maritime Greenwich world heritage site.



Clare Dover, former medical correspondent of the Daily Express, has died following a long fight against breast cancer. She was 85.

Di Latham, former LBC reporter and producer said in tribute: 'To a broadcast news journalist like me, with even tighter deadlines than the dailies, Clare was a godsend. She really came into her own when the press pack was sent to cover international medical conferences in London. She could look through hundreds of extracts in a tome the weight of a brick, and home in on the newsworthy gems. 

'She had a forensic eye for scientific detail, producing accurate articles in a concise and lively style that not only made the abstruse intelligible, it made the inherently dull seem sensational. This skill endeared her to a group of academic Japanese scientists, whom she loved visiting, and who, to the irritation of their peers, always had their work headlining any conference in their field because of Clare’s presentation.

'She fought off two bouts of breast cancer. Her only complaint was invariably having to stand up on the train all the way back home from Barts after treatment, but the cure had cruel consequences. It damaged the mineral density of her bone, and especially in her jaw, which caused her such embarrassment that she withdrew socially, and almost total deafness meant she could no longer use a phone.

'Last year I received a handwritten letter from her, which, at 84 and ever the journalist, she headlined: ‘Going Senile.’ In a faultlessly coherent, and grammatically perfect piece, bubbling with enthusiasm, she described how, after diagnosis, she had joined a trial at Newham University Hospital. She was thrilled to be shown cells dying on the right side of her brain and this being slowed down by daily injections. She was thrilled that her ‘world class’ treatment came from Newham and she hypothesised, that while she had been ‘zonked out’, ‘the brain has been creating new pathways to isolate the damaged areas’.

'It was the last I heard from her, but it was uplifting, un-self-pitying, and focused on scientific advance: it was Clare, the consummate professional, still on top of her game, and that’s the way I want to remember her.'

How to fail an interview by Clare Dover

A whale of a time at university 

Medical Journalists' Association tribute


Almighty cock-up by the robot that took jobs of real subs and reporters


THE cost-cutting lunatics have finally taken over the asylum.

The American news site MSN had the bright idea of replacing journalists with a robot that could find, edit and publish stories.

As a result it  tweeted out the headline: Prince William and Kate Middleton separate as Duchess moves out with children.

Great story, eh? Up to a point, Lord Copper.

You would think these idiots would have learned from the disastrous error by another American website, Hollywood Unlocked, which announced the death of the Queen last February.

The story MSN ran was a translation of a since-deleted post on the French blog Oh My Mag which appeared to have taken the story from the German-language site Schlager, which in turn  had posted it as a 'Guest Post' from the German magazine Neue Post: a National Enquirer-style weekly that mostly deals in front covers telling famous women they have three months to live.

Clearly MSN haven't trained the Artificial Intelligence algorithm how to respond to takedown requests either, as the tweet stayed up for nearly 24 hours, long after the article it linked to got nuked.

As ever, the only winners from this cautionary tale are our learned chums.

Step forward for a signal honour, Cocklecarrot!


First case of monkeypox is discovered in Westminster


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!'

Pleased to meet you sir, it’s Bill Hamsher of the Express at your service

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 Paris-based 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 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.


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


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



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)



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

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.


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

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.



BEFORE                              AFTER


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.


Bye-bye Collette, thanks for all the happy memories

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.



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


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.



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…


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

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.


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.,



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.'


Farewell to my former partner Sir Ray, a vocal champion of local news

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.




Which way’s the wayzgoose?

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.


Mrs Brown’s Boys 

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.


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.



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

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.


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

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.


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


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).



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



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

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!





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.



No hiding place


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


I suppose you think that’s funny — Ed


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

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...



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


Are these the guys who ate all the pies?

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



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

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.


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


Muldoon’s Lookalike

                     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.




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.



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.



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


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


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.



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

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.

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)


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


A question of authenticity

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.

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?



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?


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.



© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre