Luck Memorial

Norman Luck unmasked as an MI5 spy

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HAPPY MEMORIES: A typically ebullient Norman Luck raises a glass of bubbly in October 2005

ASHLEY WALTON reports from the memorial to former Daily Express reporter and columnist Norman Luck who died in March 2012 aged 71

Norman couldn't have engineered it better. Yet another "World Exclusive by Norman Luck" was revealed for the first time amid the biggest gathering of former Express hacks in decades.

"We're not here to sing hymns," said David Eliades. "But to remember our friend Norman and to celebrate his life."

Everyone expected to be reminded of just some of Norman's front-page exclusives, a long list headed by "The Intruder at the Palace" and "Captain Mark Phillips' Love Child."  We all knew Norman the ace businessman as well as the award-winning ace reporter. Someone was bound to mention his talents as a forger of expense chits – and did.

What none of us expected was his unmasking as an MI5 spy. That's the bit Norman would have loved.

Norman's one-time News Editor Brian Hitchen clambered on to a chair to address the throng at the Old Bank of England pub in Fleet Street.

"Norman, a man of many parts," said Brian.  We all knew that, what we didn't know was Norman's part in the smashing of the Communist-led 1978 London docker's strike.

Brian told how he had acquired a docker's union card after a lunch at Scotland Yard. The question was: Which reporter to send undercover? "No contest," said Brian, and Norman's photo was stuck on the dog-eared card.

Norman vanished into lodgings in Silvertown. He and Brian engaged in secret meetings in the Bishop's Finger pub's saloon bar in Smithfield and after a few weeks undercover, Norman, in Brian's words, "busted the dock strike" with a world exclusive front page lead on a Commie plot.

The full details of Norman's achievement have now been released under the 30-year rule on Government papers and it was quite clear that Norman was doing the bidding of MI5. A real-life James Bond. But make no mistake, that was a very dangerous assignment. Norman knew the very real consequences of being unmasked as the undercover hack.

"Norman was as straight as a die," said Brian. "He was one hell of a nice guy and we all miss him."

Norman's wife Ann had organised the memorial to coincide with the First Tuesday hack's reunion, a tradition Norman had started following the mass redundos from the Express.

"I'm very moved by the turnout of so many," said Ann as she thanked everyone for coming.

There were so many sharing memories that day. I've tried to record everyone and If I've missed any name I apologise.  But it is a credit to Norman that so many came and the back room of a Fleet Street pub echoed to the sound of laughter well into the late afternoon.

Guests included: Brian Hitchen, Alan Frame, David Richardson, Alastair McIntyre, Dick Dismore, Roger Watkins, Geoff Levy, Pat Pilton, Peter Shirley, Chris White, Liz Gill, Reg Lancaster, Dougie Morrison, Mike Watts, Jeremy Gates, Frank Robson, Mike Blakey, Leon Symons, John Twomey, David Thurlow, Louise Robinson, Margaret Hussey, Melanie Whitehouse, Ashley Walton, John Mead, John Downing, Tom Smith, Mike Brown, Chris Moger, Vic Davis, Larry Ellis, David Haigh, Barry Gomer, Tony Sapiano, Bill Orchard, John Ingham, Tony Brooks, Peter Holland, Mike Hughes, Cora Weston, Christine Gaulton, David Eliades, Brian Freemantle, Norman Potter, Colin MacKenzie, Cliff Seabridge, Sarah Chambers, Peter Tozer, Angela Rigby, Joe Rigby, Sidney Hulls, Tony Bodley, John Whelan, Ken Lawrence, Pat Gibson, Myffi, Sylvia, Maureen Paton, John Burns, Alex Hendry.

Thank you Ann for getting us all together.

Editor's note: The last guests left the lunch at 6pm – I was one of them.

Norman’s wisdom

David Eliades’ funeral eulogy

3rd May 2012

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre