Jimmy, Guinness in hand and wearing his Old Bailey tie, in his natural habitat with Mike Parry
JAMES DAVIES remembers his old friend James Nicholson, the Caped Crusader of the Daily Express
Jimmy Nicholson came into my life in 1960 when I was, ridiculously at the age of 24, standing in as Northern News Editor of the Daily Sketch in Manchester.
The actual news editor, Les Stringer, was away sick as he often was, and had told me to try and fill a reporting vacancy left by the departure of the ebullient, Blackpool-based Brian Cartmel.
And what did we get – the ebullient and Blackpool-based Jimmy Nick! In fact he was even more Cartmel than Cartmel had been and I loved him for it. When Stringer came back and was introduced to my new signing he said: "Christ. What have you done?"
What we had done, of course, was hire a first class reporter who built a list of contacts as long as Hadrian’s Wall and would dig remorselessly after stories. Jimmy would be the first to admit that he couldn't write. It didn't matter. He got the goods and the subs would look after the rest.
He also brought a wonderful atmosphere of quirky bonhomie to the tiny reporting staff we had on the Sketch in Manchester. "Morning Big Noise," he would say to whoever was on the desk. "Top cat reporting for duty."
It was there he developed the persona he was to carry through the rest of his career, the Caped Crusader with his raincoat thrown like a cloak over his shoulders.
Jimmy was due to be fired for some misdemeanour and went to London for the axing only to find they were also understaffed and found himself in docklands where a defection from a Polish ship had become big news (Cold War and all that). Instead of being fired he landed an exclusive interview and came back to Manchester with a herogram.
I met up with Jimmy again in Fleet Street after both of us had joined the Express and he distinguished himself there as crime reporter and, particularly, Old Bailey man. There wasn't a judge's clerk that Nick had not poured out lunch for and he was a walking library of inside stories from every major trial that had taken place in that august building.
He knew every judge, every cop and indeed every villain. Jimmy truly was the Bailey's Big Noise.
He was also enormously convivial company if a little slow to a round! Once he raced out of the Bell to attend to something in the office only for Hugh McIlvanny to shout: "Jimmy its OK. You've already bought a round".
I knew Jimmy for over 40 years as a colleague and met him thereafter at the odd First Tuesday. I was saddened when he had to move to a care home, though knowing him I'm sure he enlivened it, and his death brings a wonderfully flamboyant era to an end. Sleep well Big Noise.