Tavener’s Tales: The Black Widow

roger tavener

FORMER Daily Express star reporter ROGER TAVENER has written an hilarious account of a crazy assignment on the Costa del Sol with the then assistant news editor Mike Parry. It includes several skinfuls of drink, a spell in the cells and a crazy naked woman.

My mad quest for the Black Widow 


Latest Jonathan Pie

A topping day out for the gossips

ascot diarists

TELLING TAILS: Fleet Street gossip diarists enjoy a day out at Royal Ascot in the 1980s all in the name of work. Those were the days! Pictured, from left, are Nigel Dempster, James Whitaker, Peter McKay, Peter Tory and John Roberts. More pictures here


The day Dumpster & Co dumped  poor old Hickey into a coffin

IT all seemed rather jolly when the Mail’s Nigel Dempster danced gleefully on the coffin of William Hickey in Fleet Street back in 1987. Well he would wouldn’t he? More pictures here


Just Fancy That

crap pubs

Daily Star newsroom staff 1989

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Surrounded by their staff, Daily Star editor Brian Hitchen, deputy Nigel Blundell and No3 Peter Hill pose for a picture on their final day in Fleet Street before the move to Blackfriars in 1989. We can recall a few names … Bob Hadfield (second left) and next to him is Chris Hilsden. Ian Mayhew is seated next to Blundell. On the extreme right wearing a tie is Mike Parker, from the news desk. Golf correspondent  Bill Elliot is on the extreme left.

The Star and its Express siblings remained in their new home until 2004 when Richard Desmond moved the operation to Upper Thames Street. Thanks to Pat Wooding for posting this picture on Facebook. Click for a larger view.


There once was a poet called Arnie whose book was full of old blarney


ANOTHER book alert, chums. This one is by Arnie Wilson who worked with Peter Tory and Jeanette Bishop on Peter’s Diary for the Daily Star and was that column’s resident topical limerick writer. And very good his writings were. 

This limerick was in response to a minor scandal involving hookers at the Tory Party conference in Blackpool (plus ça change) but, even in the 80s, it was deemed too risqué for publication (oh please!). Today’s fevered climate is far nastier – at least Arnie’s referred to consensual, if monetised, sex.  

When a hooker at Blackpool on Sea

Tried to visit a Tory MP

The police said “Alas

Since you haven’t a pass

You can’t enter – and neither can he!” 

Arnie’s book of his collected limericks ‘A limerick romp through time’ is out and (plug alert) makes a jolly stocking filler at £4.54 from TSL Publications  

Go on, you know it makes sense – support your fellow hack!



More cow jokes…

You have two cows.
You worship them.

You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
You count them again and learn you have 17 cows.
You give up counting and open another bottle of Vodka


You have two cows.
You don’t know where they are.
You break for lunch.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so that they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create cute cartoon cow images called Cowkimon and market them worldwide.

With thanks to CLARE DOVER


Fleet Street mourns a legend as Robin Esser dies aged 84


FLEET STREET legend Robin Esser has died aged 84 after a glittering 57-year career in national newspapers.

Esser, who passed away after a short illness on 6th November, realised his lifetime’s ambition when he became editor of the Sunday Express. He was later appointed executive managing editor of the Daily Mail. 

The funeral will be for family only but a memorial service will be held.

Former Express photographer John Knill told the Drone: "So sorry to hear of the passing of a friend and gentleman. Robin saved me and many of my Ancoats chums from being driven mad by the 'terrible twins' when he replaced them, became Northern Editor and returned sanity back to our beleaguered outpost. May he rest in peace."

Times obituary

Mail tribute

How Esser pipped me to the editor’s chair

Press Gazette tribute


brexit paradox

Pension trustees get improved offer in Mirror takeover deal

PROGRESS has been made in Trinity Mirror’s takeover of Express Newspapers.

The Drone understands that Northern & Shell, owners of the Express titles, and Trinity Mirror have made an improved offer to the various pension funds, including the 1988 and Senior Management funds.

Our mole says that apart from some minor points, this has gone a considerable way towards what Trustees were hoping to achieve. 

The Trustees feel they are almost in a position where they could accept the £125million deal. There is a general feeling that, with Richard Desmond desperate to offload the Express titles before the end of the year, the funds would be in a stronger position as part of the TM group despite its chequered pensions history. 

NEW Jobs at risk in takeover

Roy Greenslade has his doubts

Be careful what you wish for

Uncomfortable bed fellows, says Peter Preston


Cartoons of the day


Christian Adams, Evening Standard


Nick Newman

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If, by Steve Bell, Guardian

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Seamus Jennings, Telegraph

Tuesday’s first editions



Cartoon of the year nominees
No7 Chris Riddell, Observer



The night Jimmy Savile tried to get me into bed

weinstein 3

It is not just the world of showbiz that suffers from what is euphemistically called the casting couch, it happens in all walks of life, including newspapers. With the Harvey Weinstein affair dominating the headlines JEANETTE BISHOP recalls her distressing ordeal at the hands of Jimmy Savile when she worked at The People as a 21-year-old. #MeToo

Read her story here
Have you been sexually harassed in Fleet Street? Tell us your story at 


Seamus Jennings


Morten Morland, The Times


Dave Brown, Independent


Alistair Findlay

K J Lamb


Ingram Pinn, Financial Times


Michael de Adder


 © Carl Giles 1982

H M Bateman





Punch Classic

French President De Gaulle and German Chancellor Adenauer have a ticket to the Common Martket Ball while British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan plays Cinderella

Hold Page 96! 

News you may have missed

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Latest Eye


Classic Eye (1973)

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Potts of fun! TP Fielden’s new book

FORMER Hickey editor Christopher Wilson has been hard at work on his typewriter again (an upright Underwood, no doubt) to produce a sequel to his first Miss Dimont mystery,The Riviera Express.

Resort To Murder, written under his alias TP Fielden, is published on 2 November and once again delves into the world of 1950s local newspapers, with chief reporter Judy Dimont taking time out from the day job to solve a mystery or two in the company of ace snapper Terry Eagleton.

Christopher told the Drone yesterday: "Nobody called Shrimsley is murdered in this one; there's only a walk-on part for the dipso manservant called Lamb; but the wine waiter Potts is rushed off his feet when visiting Fleet Street staffers descend on Temple Regis to follow up a brace of killings. 

"Resort is the second in a series of five commissioned by HarperCollins, inspired by my days on Westminster Press weeklies long ago. 

"The Fleet Street boys always drop in for a drink in these books, but they're about local journalism.  RIP.

Lord Drone warmly recommends both books.


Alice takes on the mighty Fielden

alice castle

It appears that TP Fielden is not alone in turning to a life of crime. Fielden, alias former Hickey editor Christopher Wilson, has former Hickey hackette Alice Castle as his rival for sales when they both have books out in the run-up to Christmas.

Fielden’s Resort to Murder is the second in his splendid Judy Dimont amateur sleuth series. 

Alice, pictured, who wrote for Hickey in the days of the great Ross Benson from 1990-94 before moving to Features for a further two years, also has a heroine.

Hers is single mum Beth Haldane, who made her first appearance in Death in Dulwich and now gets caught up in all sorts of life or death nastiness in The Girl in the Gallery, set in Dulwich Picture Gallery.  

Alice’s first book in her Beth Haldane series topped the satire/detective fiction category on Amazon when it was published in September. Because of that success, The Girl in the Gallery is out on December 19 and is full of the sort of yummy mummies that make driving through Dulwich Village so delightful (if hazardous).

To order Death in Dulwich click HERE

To order TP Fielden’s two excellent books, of which more below, click HERE

Can you name these Expressmen?

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The Drone can, well we can name three of them. They were pictured at a redundancy party thrown by the Daily Express features subs at London's City Golf Club in, we think, 1985. The pictures were supplied by ELAINE CANHAM. Can you name them?
Find the answers and heaps more pictures here.


Who was the expenses king?

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Maurice Chittenden certainly knew how to claim expenses, as The Times Diary has revealed. But was he the champ? Our nomination would go to the late Norman Luck of the Daily Express. 

The editor can recall the evening in 1978 that Derek Jameson, one of the best Daily Express editors post-Christiansen, took all the sub-editors and their wives out for a private screening of the film Grease followed by dinner.

At the end of the meal Jameson summoned the maitre d and asked him for a pile of meal receipts. These were distributed to the subs with the guarantee that they would all be signed by the managing editor.

Obviously this was a lottery as the receipt amounts differed, some subs hit the jackpot while others got less but everyone did well.

We are asked for readers’ views on the matter. Here are two:

Former DX foreign editor DAVID RICHARDSON reports: 

It was my second week on the Express in Manchester in 1968 and exes day.

I had only been out of the office once the previous week, and even then had grabbed a lift to a job in Bolton with a snapper.

In my previous life on the Newcastle Evening Chronicle I was used to about 10/6p a week exes so I anguished for what seemed like hours before submitting a £12 demand to the newsdesk.

Within minutes I was summoned by News Editor Bob Blake who told me: "Do you want to ruin it for all of us? Go and see Norman.”

Within minutes Me Norm had raised to sum to £25 (£10 less than my gross weekly salary) and Mr Blake was happy.

However, the best exes claim I ever saw was from MX snapper George Birch who successfully claimed £10 for “a length of old rope”.

ANONYMOUS recalls: I well remember a newly-appointed Jameson inviting subeditors and mouse racers to lunch in the boardroom.

One of our number, who must also be anonymous, had had little sleep but decided a few pints of Young’s would make a good breakfast aperitif followed by some stiff G&Ts when he got to the boardroom followed by some glasses of fine claret.

Suffice to say, when the main course arrived, his head literally slumped into the steaming boeuf bourguignon nose first.

Jameson, to his great credit, ignored this and carried on the lively banter.

Incidentally, D Richardson misses a trick when he recounts the 'length of rope' exes claim. 

What happened was that an Expressman’s car became stuck in an Irish bog. He asked a local farmer to pull him out with a tractor. Alas, the rope broke. The farmer then got another length and pulled him out.

Thus, the immortal exes item: “Money for old rope: £10” True story.

DAVID ELIADES also went on the subs trip to see Grease, He remembers it this way:

Being Night Foreign Editor at the time I was invited with my wife to these subs outings. On the night in question Jameson held up the bill he had just paid for us all and said it was for his own exes. I piped up and asked “Why can’t you get a receipt for the rest of us? .

He nodded and went out of the room where we’d been eating. He returned a minute or so later with a spike full of receipts. He handed one to each of the staffers and said: ‘Now, don’t all put them in at once.”

The bills had various totals. The one I got happened to get was a few pounds more than I paid. But I know a couple of others got bills considerably smaller than they actually paid.

But the funniest thing of the evening was what I was told by our Parliamentary Reporter, Paul Potts, the next day.  Jameson had been in the House of Commons the previous afternoon and when he took his leave, he said to the MPs be’d been talking to: “Sorry, chaps, I can’t stay any longer, but I’ve got to dash to Grease.”

When he had left the MPs said to Potts. “Is he always dashing off around the world like that?  Tonight it’s Greece …. tomorrow, where else is he off to?”

CHRISTOPHER WILSON, (who incidentally hase a new book out) reports: Walter Partington, later parly corr, covered the Biafra war. His expenses sheet read: "To purchase of native hut, £10.”  He also gave a native girl some money and told her, "There, go and buy yourself a hut."

Can you beat this story of unbridled largesse? We bet you can. Email the editor at with your story.

*Maurice Chittenden’s book EXCLUSIVE: The Last Days of Fleet Street, My Part In Its Downfall is available HERE

One in the Eye

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No 103

Volume 15: 1986

THE history of the Daily and Sunday Express as told 30 years ago through the columns of Private Eye (Lord Drone does not necessarily agree with the sentiments expressed although, from memory, they seem reasonably accurate.) 

New readers: The Eye referred to the Express as the Getsworse, the Getsmuchworse, or the Getsevenworse or sometimes even worse than that.

UPDATED 19th September, 2017

2nd May 1986

Street of Shame

DESPITE the pleadings of Roy Hattersley to replace Keith Waterhouse as the Mirror’s columnist, Robert Maxwell has personally selected someone else for this crucial position.

He is none other than George G Ale, Thatcher-lover extraordinaire, lifelong Tory and £100,000 redundee from the Daily Getsworse.

This is a return to pastures old for Ale. Prior to Waterhouse he was the Mirror’s columnist for a disastrous 12 months. After years of oblivion as a gravelly-voiced radio phone-in host, he was brought back to the Street of Shame by Lord Matthews as the Getsworse leader writer.

Ale subsequently resigned from this post after Fingers refused to print an editorial of his in adulation of Mrs Thatcher. Since then his task has been to fill a weekly page which has earned him the nickname of Attila the Columnist.

With a background like this Ale will have no trouble slotting into the Maxwell Mirror.


EDDY Shah has demanded a high standard of technical competence from his staff on Today, though some of his appointments were as blurred as his colour printing.

He has continued to introduce some of the most advanced equipment known to modern science. The latest was a coffee percolator for use by the editorial staff.

On the first day of its installation it was carefully filled by brilliant chief sub-editor Simon Crookshank. Unfortunately, Crookshank’s skill was not sufficient to cope with this.

It blew the plant’s whole system and Shah lost an entire edition.


30th May, 1986

Street of Shame

Our recent prediction that United Newspapers’ horrible sleaze-meister-in-chief Roger Boyes had downmarket designs on the stately, decent Sunday Express are likely to be confirmed soon. Editor Sir Jonah Junor has been persuaded to stand down next month, and Boyes is conducting the search for his successor. Jonah’s choices have included book critic Graham Lord and the ectomorphic Henry Macrory, whose chief qualification as a Sunday Expressman was that his diplomat father, Sir Patrick Macrory, was a Walton Heath member prepared to play golf with Auchtermuchty’s most irascible son.

Sir Jonah would be happy with either of the two, confident – perhaps wrongly in the case of Lord – that he could continue to exert power from his position as curmudgeon-columnist. But his biggest fear is that the ghastly, naff Boyes only interviewed Macrory and Lord for appearance's sake, and befriended while at the Daily Mirror someone in the mould of his Daily Express choice ‘Nick’ Lloyd.

Jonah has almost fulfilled the expectations of those colleagues closest to him over the years – that he would rather destroy the Sunday Express entirely than give up his power. Even after making an estimated £500,000 from buying Fleet Holdings shares when they were 20p, staying as editor well past retirement age, ensuring that his own column was the only sought-after one on the paper, Sir Jonah lingers on while Boyes and his half-witted chairman, David Stevens, plan to do for the Sunday Express what they have already done to the battered Daily Getsworse.

*Robin Esser eventually took over from Junor as Sunday Express editor in 1986. Macrory was appointed deputy editor and later became head of press to Prime Minister David Cameron – Ed

27th June 1986

Street of Shame

Peter McKay’s move to become editor of Eddy Shah’s Sunday Today has been welcomed cautiously by his old mentor, Sunday Express editor Sir John Junor.

Sir Jonah told McHackey on many occasions that he was just the man for the tiller of the Sunday Express. He would encourage the bibulous Scottish scribbler to write to the Express owners and apply for the job.

‘Should I mention your name, John?’ McHackey once asked Sir Jonah.

‘No, no laddie, that would be counter-productive at this stage,’ replied the cunning denizen of Auchtermuchty, who never had the slightest intention of yielding his throne to McHackey or anyone else.

The move to Shah Towers in Vauxhall Bridge Road comes at a sad time for McHackey. He has finally fallen out for the last time with his Street of Shame chum of nearly 20 years, Nigel Pratt-Dumpster.

It was Pratt-Dumpster who went to McHackey’s last editor, Mail On Sunday supremo Stewart Steven, and informed him that the cigar-chomping Lothario had helped to compose the Eye's Sir Jonah column in which Steven was advised to seek employment as chief rodent operative in the sewers of Tel Aviv.

11th July 1986

Street of Shame

Shuffling, cigar-chomping Ron ‘Badger’ Hall has emerged as favourite to edit the Sunday Express after interviews with two other no-hoper candidates – the Getsworse’s features editor Alan Frame and the Daily Mail’s Nick Gordon.

Jonah feels sympathy for the weary Badger, who has been labouring at the Sunday Express’s piss-poor colour magazine since the departure of Charles ‘Pasty-Face’ Wintour and his flame-haired moll Audrey Slaughter.

Frame is a bearded hack who presides over some of the worst features in Fleet Street at the Getsworse while the rodent-like Gordon is best known for filling the Daily Mail with undistinguished showbiz articles.

Jonah is saying he wants to retire from the column and the paper. He cannot stand Roger Boyes, the useless chief executive from the Daily Mirror whose dream is a sleazy, tabloid Sunday Express.

Bowes has power over United Newspapers chairman David Stevens because Stevens is a money man who knows nothing about newspapers. Together they are a downmarket version of another disastrous Getsworse partnership – that of Sir Max ‘Biggles’ Aitken and Jocelyn ‘Piranha Teeth’ Stevens. Even Piranha now sympathises with his old foe, Sir Jonah, and has offered to arrange a grand retirement banquet for Auchtermuchty’s most famous son.

















ONE IN THE EYE 1966-1971



The Beaver’s 75th birthday 

Express1 (1)


Hoss of Sky News loses it on air

OOPS! Jon Craig, who was known as Hoss to his colleagues on the Daily and Sunday Express, has a bad day at the office

Dan and Dan


Bec Hill translates Piaf


Towering changes at Blackfriars

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There have been huge changes on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge in London since Express Newspapers vacated Ludgate House in 2004. In this view, seen from Blackfriars Road looking north towards the bridge on 9th June 2017, Ludgate House can be seen behind the bus stop. 

Opposite Ludgate House is the 170-metre high One Blackfriars skyscraper, still under construction and in the right foreground is the new headquarters of United Business Media, former owners of Express Newspapers.

Ludgate House is now boarded up ready for demolition in preparation for the huge Bankside Quarter redevelopment between the old Express HQ and the Tate Modern.



Who put the lights out?


NOTHING stopped the Daily Express in 1972, not even the miners’ strike. It was the year of constant power cuts instigated by Prime Minister Edward Heath to cope with the lack of coal to fuel the power stations. And as the clock hit 4.14 on a winter's afternoon the Express news sub-editors slaved away by gaslight. Lord Drone recalls that the gas lamps on the ceiling were still there when the Fleet Street office was vacated in 1989. 
Who’s in the picture? We put a few names to faces HERE


Farewell to Fleet Street

Fleet Street was full of journalists for the first time in many years when the London Press Club held a long lunch to mark the departure of the last newspaper from the Street of Broken Dreams. Watch the YouTube video of the event above and read the Guardian report


Only on DroneTube

Life After The Front Page

This rare and previously largely unseen film, unearthed in the annals of Lord Drone, recalls the grand old days of Fleet Street. It includes interviews with Ann Buchanan, of The Sun and Daily Mirror; Clem Jones, from the Wolverhampton Express; Eric Todd of the Manchester Evening Chronicle and The Guardian; and George Bell and Ted Townshend of the Daily Telegraph. 

The film, which was made by students of Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 1999, also includes someone called Alastair McIntyre (who he – Ed?) who addresses the public from the Daily Express offices in Blackfriars. 

Runtime is 16 minutes.


ONLY on DroneTube

The Crusader Years 1900-1990

Only in the Drone: This video was supplied to Express staff in 1990 and is now published on the web for the first time. 


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© 2005-2017 Alastair McIntyre