Peter's Farewell

A GLASS APART: Chief sub Jon Smith, right, gives his valedictory address to Peter at The Monument pub watched by Valerie Bolcina and Alastair McIntyre

IT'S never easy to get into a crowded City of London pub on a Friday night, but on 22 June 2012 it was well nigh impossible.

The reason was that sub editor extraordinaire Peter Michel, one of the great craftsmen of Fleet Street, was hanging up his subbing quill two days before his 80th birthday.

And he invited a few friends from Fleet Street to The Monument pub for a few drinks to celebrate the fact. 

The invitation was accepted with alacrity. There were colleagues in attendance from every popular paper in Fleet Street – the Daily Mirror, The Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, and of course the Daily and Sunday Express. We were all eventually thrown out at 20 minutes to midnight.

Presenting Peter with a souvenir front page and other goodies, Express Chief Sub Jon Smith said in his valedictory address: 'After more than 60 years in newspapers, and I know it's hard to imagine, but the last 22 years have been on the Express, super sub Peter Michel is calling it a day, so [turning to Peter] why is this then, have you got no staying power? Or is it something we said? 

'In fact Collette [Harrison, night editor] and I, on two separate occasions over the last few years, have talked you out of leaving, but on this occasion it wasn't to be. And in fact it's not the first time you've retired. Peter left the Mirror at the sprightly age of 58, I'm told, and in a few months [Editor's note, it was actually only a few days] he was fed up doing Hoovering, housework and basically getting in the way of everyone that he actually ended up back in harness at the Daily Express. 

'So I'm hopeful that maybe in the next couple of weeks if your good lady wants to throw a few dishes in your way and a bit of Hoovering you might be on the phone again.

Turning to Peter, Jon added: 'But seriously, all of us who have known you recognise many outstanding qualities, first of all your brilliant writing and your incredible style. The other thing is your crazy, offbeat humour which is so infectious. The other thing I want to mention is your genuine kindness which is not always relevant in Fleet Street but you've always shown it. 

'I've lost count of the number of times that a news sub sitting next to Peter has handed in a fantastic headline and received due recognition for that headline and a pat on the back, and funnily enough the next week, when they've not been sitting next to you, the work has not been quite so great. I don't know why that might be.

'Peter started out in Portsmouth, later moving to the Daily Mirror, where he was quickly moved on to the backbench, but he always loved subbing the best and every chief sub (I'm looking at a few right now) loved him for his style and his lightness and his ability. 

'So when he retired for the first time he was snapped up by the Regional Desk of the Daily Express. That was back in 1990. Inevitably, it wasn't long before his incredible talents were spotted and he was cruelly hijacked by the main desk. Since then he has worked under six different editors and eight night editors.

'So it's farewell, or rather au revoir, to one of Fleet Street's finest, a true gentleman, and you'll be greatly missed Peter. 

'Thank you very, very much. I've enjoyed every moment of working with you.'

Peter replied that every time he had tried to retire he was told he couldn't 'because it depletes the drinking rota'.

He added: 'It's been lovely to have worked with you for all these years now and given the choice I'd have done it all again.'

Jon Smith: 'It could be arranged!'

Those attending included, with apologies for errors and omissions: Dick Dismore, Jonathan Zackon, Alastair McIntyre, Brian Izzard, Paul Blebta, Deborah Stone, Nick Dalton, Valerie Bolcina, Tessa Evans Hurrell, Robin Davison-Lungley, Andy Jones, Tony Reid, Mark Hoey, John Maskey, Vernon Rowe, Nick Jenkins, Geoff Stimson, Crawford McAfee, Pat Welland, Jonathan Cundy, Terence Lloyd, Helen McGiveron, Bruce Turner, Tony Reid, Keith Ging, Chris Shearer, Stuart Kershaw, Phil Postings, Mike Carter, Jon Smith, Roy Povey, Willie Robertson, Elaine Canham, John Sebastian, Matt Brand. 




© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre