Danger Mouse and bagpipes, my crazy days at Ancoats

By BOB CUMMINGS, former compositor and overseer at the Daily Express in Great Ancoats Street, Manchester

I met some extraordinary characters from all departments at Ancoats and wonder who else remembers some of them. 

penfold

Denis Cosgrove comes immediately to mind, deputy northern editor of the Sunday Express and on whom Penfold of Danger Mouse fame was supposed to be based.* It had to be true, the glasses and voice were a dead giveaway. The editor at the time was Howard Bygrave whose sartorial elegance had to be seen to be believed. His son Simon came to work on the daily and he hadn't inherited dad's style of dress one bit but he was a very nice guy.

The stereo department's FOC was a chap called Bill Maxwell who also ran the Express Pipe Band which rehearsed just across the road from the black palace. The first few years I worked at the Express he used to pipe in the band on New Year's Eve in full highland dress. When he was asked what he wore under his kilt he whipped it up and revealed a sight that affected many of us for years to follow. I remember seeing him staggering down Oldham Street later that night and wonder if that would still be possible today with Piccadilly Gardens now resembling a scene from The Night Of The Living Dead populated with spaced-out pilgrims who now make it their final destination.

The stereo department also managed to run a drinking club called The Stereo Club, appropriately enough. How they managed to staff it during working hours always puzzled the management. It was one of two such places, the other being The Express Club. What Health and Safety would make of it considering the machinery that was being operated at the time I can only guess at. 

Crown & Kettle

The watering holes that depended on the Express staff for their existence were many and sadly most have met their demise. I was mortified last year when I revisited The Crown and Kettle which was where the editorial often planned 2nd edition changes. The wonderful ceiling is in ruins held up by netting and the frieze of Churchill outside No 10 is no more - it is a mess. 

I closed my eyes and remembered Derek Jameson with his half rimmed glasses peering into a slot machine and my own father's retirement do that was hosted there back in 1979. I shan't be going back.

*Denis Cosgrove was in fact the brother of Brian Cosgrove, the animator who created Danger Mouse. He and his business partner Mark Hall ran Cosgrove Hall Productions, a major producer of  children’s television programmes, including Danger Mouse and Count Duckula.

Brian, 76, who lives in Brindley, near Nantwich, once told Cheshire Life: "It took me a while to come up with Penfold. Once I did Mark told me I'd drawn my brother, Denis, who was the editor of the Sunday Express in the north at the time. Everyone he worked with used to call him Penfold. I think he liked it really though." – Ed


© 2005-2018 Alastair McIntyre