John Lloyd gets a ticket to heaven

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                   OLD CHUMS: John is embraced by singing star Dorothy Squires

ONE of the great characters of the Daily Express, John “The Welsh” Lloyd died on April 6th, 2016 after a short illness. He was 87.

John, a much-loved member of the Sports Desk during the paper’s glory days, was proud of his roots in Merthyr Tydfil. He started his journalistic career on the local paper there in the late 1940s before joining the Western Mail and Echo in Cardiff.

He also regularly reported on boxing and was well known for his Welsh showbusiness connections. He was a close friend and PR for the singer, the late Dorothy Squires. He also acted as a PR occasionally for Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones.

John, who could get tickets for virtually any occasion, was an enormously hospitable man. During the rugby international season his little studio flat in London would be so packed with visitors that he would either sleep in the bath or in the office.

His god daughter, former Daily Star reporter VIRGINIA HILL said: "He had just returned from hospital after a month with a bad chest infection, and although that had cleared up he was very weak and not able to eat.

"I went to see him on Saturday [four days before he died]. He couldn't speak but he recognised me and tried to smile.

"I played him his favourite Dorothy Squires music which always made him happy.

"I've visited quite a few times over the past months and also taken my mum to see him. They have been friends for 60 years.

"He always knew us and was so pleased to see us. He couldn't talk, but he would give a thumbs up and smile and hold our hands.

"The doctors didn't seem to know why he couldn't speak any more, and he did have a form of dementia, but he could recognise people and remember them and events. We spent a happy hour looking through a book I got him on the great Welsh rugby players of the Seventies.

"His second cousin Gareth Lloyd is his only relative and we have been in touch a lot recently. He will be organising the funeral which will be back home in Merthyr in about two weeks or so.

As well as his job as a sports sub John ran a newsagents in London’s Grays Inn Road, as the picture, right, shows. It was his local paper shop and he bought it because it was about to close down and it was so handy for colleagues and friends at The Times, and for where he lived in nearby Trinity Court.

Tributes to John, who was particularly known for his ability to get tickets for sporting events, have been pouring into the Drone office from former colleagues and friends.

IAN COLE said: I first met Lloydy in the back row at Leyton Orient (that constituted the press box in those days!) I was covering a match for the Evening News and it was half-time when along the row shuffled a well-groomed Welshman in light-brown overcoat. As he passed each of us to find his seat he pressed a miniature whisky in our hands and then called out: "Anything happened so far?"

During the brief life of the London Daily News the sports desk got a call from Maxwell's office requesting two tickets for the following day's Calcutta Cup rugby match at Twickenham, England v Scotland. I think it was also the Championship decider and tickets were like gold dust.

Sports Editor Nick Mason was ashen-faced. "What are we going to do?" he asked.

I said if anyone can get the tickets I know just the bloke. "What price?" asked Lloydy. "Don't bother about the price," I replied. "Just get them." An hour or two later Lloydy called back. "Two together, but it will be £200." (This was 1987). I was suddenly the star of the show and a pair of tickets duly arrived at the front desk in a grubby white envelope and my name scrawled in green ink (It was always green ink, remember?).

Turned out a junior secretary in Maxwell's office wanted them for her boyfriend!!

I had to pay Lloydy and spread the cost on my expenses over the next ten weeks...after which the paper closed and I returned to the Express!

Great days.

Is there anyone out there for whom Lloydy didn't do a favour?

*****

DAVID CLARE: There's crackers galore:

*Getting absolutely last-minute Cleo Laine tickets for Wooders' wedding anniversary.

*Destroying Bill Beckett's planned assault for lateness (cousin Betty and Tabernacle Ted wouldn't allow him to leave Trinity newsagents until he'd marked up the Standards for the delivery boys) with a series of Wembley-tickets salvos.

*Tracking down sacked Terry Neill to the theatre and actual seat numbers while the rest of Fleet Street was doorstepping his house, Highbury and the training ground.

*The night every single phone in the sports dept was off the hook with someone waiting to talk to Lloydy (standing ovarion from the subs).

He's an absolute legend. There'll never be another Lloydy.

*****

JEFF IVES: The best Lloydy story I recall came from Wooders [Don Woodward, deputy sports editor]. It concerned the time they were in the army together in South Wales and John was in charge of the army base fire tender (amazingly). 

Either Swansea or Cardiff had a home cup tie and John had the truck loaded up with squaddies, (inc Wooders I believe) who were having the time of their lives at the game until a column of smoke appeared on the horizon from the army camp where there was a fire.

As a result John spent a bit of time in jankers (took one for the team I guess!)

We all remember the 6pm arrival for his 4pm shift, always with a tray of tea and rolls for everyone and the words: “Ello, 'ello ... I've had my break!”

Then there was the night he was running late even by his standards and Ken was spitting feathers, threatening all kinds of punishment and in walked Lloydy saying: “Ello, hello ... I've got your tickets Ken!" Genius!

*****

TONY LANGRIDGE: Having worked at the Daily Express from 1970 till 2002, I have many fond memories of those halcyon days and all the larger-than-life characters that frequented Fleet Street's newspaper offices and watering holes. And John was definitely one of them. 

He was an affable charming and extremely popular person. John was a fixer, a legend even, who had a good word and a smile for all who knew him. But then you know all this, and you will also know that many of my former colleagues will of course share their loss with you in the same sentiment.

Only the other day when watching the Eubank/Blackwell fight on TV was I reminded of John. Obviously I didn't expect to see him ringside but it just reminded me of a time when any major boxing match took place you would look across the ring and see John’s face a couple of seats in looking up, avidly studying the fight!

*****

CLIVE GOOZEE: So sorry about John. He was a star. He arranged loads of tickets for my wife Monica and me and he regularly sent a Christmas box for our young grandson – now 22. 

But the best story was the day he fixed for friends to collect tickets at the Wimbledon box office. 

There was a slight snag – his tickets had been put in the mail of his tennis star namesake.

*****

DAVID HARDY: John Lloyd was a capital cove. Two seats together wherever you wanted them.

I recall one summer I was tootling down Fleet Street  at about 10.30pm. JL suddenly puffed up beside me. 

Your tickets for the Gillette Cup Final tomorrow,” he gasped, thrusting them at me. “Better late than never. sorry about the time its taken.”

*****

TONY BOULLEMIER: Lloydy generally walked through the news subs with his arms extended like aeroplane wings, making the appropriate engine noises and then banking to the right and disappearing into the sports department leaving a trail of merriment in his slipstream.

And he got me two together for an FA Cup final. RIP, John.

*****

EPHRAIM HARDCASTLE writes in his Daily Mail column on April 8th: Fleet Street sports writer John Lloyd, secretary of the Dorothy Squires Fan Club, has died aged 87. The Holborn flat of miner’s son “Lloydie” was crammed with clippings about the Welsh singing bombshell, second wife of James Bond star Roger Moore. Declared bankrupt, she was reduced to living in a horse-drawn caravan in Rhondda, with Lloyd providing financial support. “I’m owing you thousands but I’ll repay every penny,” she wrote to him shortly before her death in 1998.


Thursday, 7 April 2016 at 10:59

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