Er, G’day mates

Dialling the spike: Daily Express copy taster Les Diver who died in 1987


A chance email from Alan Frame to members of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club, has sparked an exchange of emails which Lord Drone thinks deserves a wider audience.

Alan sent the picture, right, of Barry Humphries dressed as his alter ego, the Australian Cultural Ambassador Les Patterson, with the one-word comment: “G’day." The suggestion was that it was the judge arriving to preside over that day’s disciplinary hearing involving England Test bowler Jimmy Anderson.

This stirred the minds of those of us who were privileged enough to serve on the Daily Express in the 1970s and 80s and well into the Noughties. The Daily Express was still a great newspaper then, decades before it started splashing on the weather forecast, Madeleine McCann and diseases of the elderly, to name but three of its weird obsessions.

Anyway, back to the emails. Dick Dismore replied: "May I point out that in Antipodean, as spoken by the great Les Diver [the then Express copy taster who was very much a New Zealander], G’day is always preceded by Er."

Alan messaged back: "’re right mate (pronounced ‘might’)."

He added: "Actually, that reminds me of the awful trick we played on The Great Les one evening. I had been to Lord’s for an Ashes Test and had been lucky enough to meet Keith Miller [a legendary Australian cricketer]. 

"Naturally, when I told Les this he was very impressed and said he had once met him also.

"So we (I can’t quite remember who ‘we’ were but I suspect Bingo McIntyre, Roger Watkins, Don Higgs or Chris Williams might have been involved). Anyway we crept off to the reporters’ room and phoned the Back Bench and it was answered by Les. 

"Cue bad Aussie accent: 'Could I talk to Alan Frame please'. 'Who shall I say is calling?' 'Er, it’s Keith Miller'. 'Oh hello Mr Miller, my name is Les Diver and we met once etc etc….' Highly oleaginous stuff then followed. 

“Yeah well, cut the crap whatever your name is, where’s my mate Alan?” at which point we all collapsed in hysterics and Les gave me the punch-in-the-arm treatment. I have the bruise to this day!”

Bingo McIntyre then messaged: "Er, you are quite correct, Dicky mite. Snooks [Alan Frame], I do have a vague recollection of the Diver incident but, in common with all these Express pranks, I invoke the customary, all-encompassing denial. 

"Not that this has done me any good in the past.

"Love Bingo

"PS: And that includes the editor's kidnapped teacup.”

It was left to Roger Watkins to explain everything: "I, too, recall the Keith Miller incident (whoever Keith Miller was) but deny involvement. 

"I also remember giving Diver a (false) rumour beseeching him not to repeat it and having a bet with someone on how long it would take for it to be passed back to me by a third party: 17 minutes I think it was. 

"Re G'day, the ‘er' is a New Zealand trait (particularly South Island) on the basis that your Kiwi is slower of thought. Diver admitted this to me. 

"What fun!”

LEON SYMONS sends a pigeon to report:

The late, great Les once gave me an arm-puncturing explanation of the greeting. First of all, it was not "er", it was "aaahhh" and quite a long "aaahhh" at that. This was followed by the ubiquitous "g'day”.

Les elucidated: “Australians just say 'g'day'. we say 'aaahhh, g'day' because New Zealanders think about it much more.” 

Thus spoke a man of outstanding talent and a damn hard punch.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre