Where are they now? John Knill

JOHN KNILL, star photographer and former picture editor of the Daily Express in Manchester, remembers the great days. His cheerful countenance earned him the nickname Jolly John.


John is now retired, after working in newspapers for nearly all his life. 

He writes in what he calls a 'selfie’ for the Drone: I started on the Stockport Advertiser and then spent 28 years with the Daily Express, starting as a photographer and then becoming the Picture Editor in Manchester for 23 years. 

Ten years with the Manchester Evening News and various freelancing escapades kept me occupied until I retired at 65.

Life on the Express, which I joined in 1960, was fascinating and hectic at times. During my snapper years I photographed many famous and well-known people, including members of the Royal Family, the Queen Mum being one of my favourites. Others included President Kennedy, The Beatles, Churchill, Noel Coward, Cliff Richard, Margot Fonteyn and Nureyev, Morecambe and Wise, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. 

I managed also to visit Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Malta on mainly sporting jobs.

My years on the Picture Desk were also very interesting and could be very nerve racking and rewarding at the same time in looking for that exclusive coverage and picture. One of the biggest moments was getting the first pictures of the Moon taken from a Russian Space Vehicle via a Jodrell Bank telescope. 

Other missions not quite impossible were to organise picture coverage of such events as the Troubles in Ireland, the Investiture of the Prince of Wales, the papal visit to Ireland, Liverpool and Manchester, the Moors murders, the Woolworths fire, the Ripper murders, the two big Manchester air crashes, the sinking of the oil rig Sea Gem, the fatal water speed attempt of Donald Campbell, and the assassination of Lord Mountbatten. 

There were lots and lots of other stories that had to be covered, but many are now lost in the mists of time.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre