SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024


How Jim crossed swords
with a youth called Dacre

James Davies with his beloved wife Pat who died in April 2022

GEOFFREY LEVY remembers his old friend James Davies, who has died

It was a Monday morning in the Manchester office of the old Daily Express, and one of its 30 news reporters, James  Davies, was summoned by the news editor, tough Tom Campbell.

’We’ve got this YOUTH coming,’ he bawled at Jim,  ‘I’d like you to look after him for me. The important thing is: KEEP HIM OUT OF MY WAY.’

A couple of days later, the YOUTH arrived — Paul Dacre. He had grown up always wanting to be a journalist, like his Sunday Express father Peter, and nothing else. He’d done some messenger work at the Sunday and was on his gap year before going to Leeds. 

Jim Davies, an old friend of mine,  was a clever and seasoned operator. He could handle the biggest story, but not the YOUTH, and as he carted him around on stories, a  fractious relationship developed.

‘He was always saying things like ‘I would do it this way…’. said Jim. ’This bloody teenager seemed to have the idea that HE was training ME rather than the other way round.’

Finally, Jim had had enough. One afternoon in the car, he pulled over and told the YOUTH: ‘If you don’t stop telling me how to do my job you can get out and get the bus home.’ 

After that things got a little better though Jim ‘wasn’t broken hearted’ when Paul went off to university.

The postscript to this story came  some years later when both were working at the Express in London and Jim, who enjoyed being on the road, was perplexed to  learn that Paul Dacre was going on the desk.

‘Why  are you going’ inside?’, he asked him.

‘That’s the way up,’ was Dacre's reply.

In fact Paul Dacre held Jim in higher regard than he ever imagined.

Dacre's view, expressed recently: 'He was a brilliant reporter.'

Oops! Jim got Levy thrown out of his digs

Back in 1960 when Jim was working on the Daily Sketch in Manchester, he managed to get new arrival in town Geoff Levy thrown out of his sumptuous digs.

Levy, then 20, was on the old Daily Herald and was lodging with a rich widow and her daughter in a large house in up-market Sale — the woman had been advised after the sudden death of her businessman husband that having a ‘man’ in the house was good for her daughter. The girl was  heiress to a £50,000 inheritance on  her 21st birthday.

That birthday was imminent and she wanted her pretty daughter’s picture to be in the smart monthly glossy Cheshire Life. But who to take the picture? Geoff knew of a genial freelance called George who duly arrived to do it.

And once the pictures were taken the woman sat George down and unburdened herself over a drink with a story that she had sworn Levy to keep to himself.

The girl had fallen in love with a fatherly, 50-year-old waiter on a cruise that her mother had taken her after the death of her father. And she intended to marry him.

George did what any self-respecting freelance would do — he immediately sold the story (and the pictures) to the Daily Sketch. And Jim was the reporter  who chatted up the girl at the Altrincham hairdressers where she worked as a receptionist. 

The result was a glittering, brilliantly-turned, exclusive  centre-spread in the Sketch by James Davies.

That night Levy arrived home from a night out to be met by a very angry landlady.

‘My friends tell me you have to be responsible for that article  in the paper,' she stormed. 'I want you  out of this house immediately.’ 

So it was that Levy found himself on the pavement with his suitcase on Washway Road at midnight waiting for a taxi to take him to a hotel for the  night.

Nor did it take very long for the news to get round that Jim Davies's scoop was one that Levy missed right under his nose — and another bollocking followed from news editor Ken James.

For the next 60-odd years whenever Jim and Geoff met,  Levy would remind Jim that he’d 'got me thrown out of my digs.’. 

It never spoiled a warm friendship.