Jimmy Nick: The true story of the prince

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The Spaghetti House siege: Picture supplied by the Press Association’s Jon Churchman who confesses to being the ‘diminutive bald reporter extreme right chatting to two rather larger PCs'

A prince is born

Contrary to popular belief, crime reporter James Nicholson was not born with the nickname Prince of Darkness.

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During the Spaghetti House Siege in Knightsbridge (Sept 1975), Daily Mirror reporter John Penrose – and there’s a name we don’t see often in print, these days – took a suite at the Hyde Park hotel at enormous expense because it had an overview, kind of, on to the restaurant’s front door.

Always generous as hell with company money, he invited everybody into his rooms to order what they liked. Crime reporter Tom Tullet brought handfuls of people – who were otherwise keeping vigil from the pavement or the end of the street – in for steak suppers.

On the Sunday night – Day Two – there was a wild piss-up on Penrose. Deep into the early morning Jimmy (‘I’ve covered every siege since Troy’) Nick stood on the balcony railing silhouetted against what was left of the Knightsbridge neon. He held open the hem of the cape he always affected to wear instead of an overcoat, as if about to fly.

No one approached him in case he reacted and fell.

TV reporter Keith Graves, drinking then, looked up from his glass and said ‘Fuck me – the Prince of Darkness.’

And the name stuck.

Nicholson thought it was John Edwards of the Daily Mail who had thus named him, and gave him the credit, even in a couple of books. It was too good a story for Mr Edwards to deny, but it was, in fact, Mr Graves.

Jimmy died in June 2016 at the age of 89.This piece was extracted from the Gentlemen Ranters website. 

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© 2005-2017 Alastair McIntyre