My Princely interview with Sammy

Watkins

ROGER WATKINS recalls a fraught journey North which resulted in a job on the Daily Express and the start of a glittering career

Spotting Sam Prince in one of John Knill’s pix reminded me of the long, long January day in 1970 when I took my wife Carol and our two (then) toddlers to Manchester for a job interview with Sammy.

We set out from Bristol, where I was a sub on the Western Daily Press, in my white Mini. Carol had never been north of Birmingham and my knowledge of Manchester was non-existent. Suffice to say it was further than we had thought. 

Anyway, we found the office and parked outside the Land O’Cakes. I went in for my interview at 2.50pm and was shown into an office, populated by Peter Welbourne I recall, to await the Great Interviewer’s return.

At 4.30 the front hall rang up to say my wife needed to move the car because rush-hour parking restrictions had started. I moved it around to Tib Street and dashed back to the “interview.

Eventually I had a chat with Prince, all went well and I was asked whether I wanted to be a features or news sub (I chose the former). Then I was ushered into see John McDonald, who had obviously lunched well. He was given a piece of paper by Sammy with, presumably, a figure on it, and said something like: “Hello. is £36 all right?” And that was that. 

At 6.10, as we pulled out of Tib Street ready to negotiate the Mancunian Way back to the M6, it started to snow!

I met some great characters at Ancoats but the one that sticks in my mind is Bill Fryer who wrote a regular column called Fryer’s Unforgettable People (mainly barmaids, I recall).

One day Bill approached Features Editor Ron Baker and said: "Did you get those Unforgettable People columns I left in your basket?” 

“No Bill, who were they?” 

“Dunno, I’ve forgotten.” 

It wasn’t a joke.

The Editor will see you later


© 2005-2017 Alastair McIntyre