30 Years On: Esther's Snapshot of Life on the Daily Express

FORMER Daily Express secretary Esther Harrod has been delving in her drawers and produced some old pictures of life on the paper. 

Esther started work on the Express in 1973 as secretary to John Ellison on the Foreign Desk, moving swiftly to the Picture Desk when Ron Morgan was Picture Editor. He left quite quickly and was succeeded by Struan Coupar.  

Esther told the Drone: "I can vividly recall Struan and I being knee-high in photos of Princess Anne’s first wedding, we were both picture virgins together really.  After that it was into Features and then I moved around quite a bit, left a couple of times including a year’s stint on The Sun when Roy Greenslade headhunted me to be their Features Secretary.  I also worked as News Desk Secretary on the Express when John Jinks was News Editor, working particularly with Kingsley Squire. 

"My last couple of years on the Express were spent working in the general features room for various writers.  My association with the Express ran for 13 years and I still miss it to this very day."

Esther is now retired, living in a riverside village in Cambridgeshire with her partner. Her husband Barry died of cancer aged 52 in 2001.

She said: “I’m still raising hell as a campaigner on behalf of my village against various controversial planning applications and sending out news letters to residents. I took up salsa dancing, which was a great joy and have now moved on to messing about on the Great Ouse, in our 24ft-long Miami-built sea cruiser."

Esther’s pictures are below, with a few explanatory notes from her.


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Esther, sitting on Bill Lovelace’s lap, with his fellow photographers Tom Smith and John Downing. The picture was taken at Christmas 1981 in the Boardroom (Editor Christopher Ward). Downing was known by certain colleagues as MAGAT (Mine’s A Gin And Tonic). After one particularly long and lively evening in the City Golf Club, Downing was despatched in the direction of home via the railway station in a taxi with a note around his neck. One side read MAGAT, the other his home address

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Yolande Brooks, Hetty Myers, Rosalie Horner, Esther Harrod (at back), Tinu and showbiz writer Judith Simons. Yolande worked for many years for Chapman Pincher, then Mike Evans. Hetty worked for Vic Davis, David Wigg and Judith Simons in the Showbiz Dept. She was replaced by Tinu. This photo was taken in 1979 in the main features room in Aitken House, Fleet Street. Rosalie, a TV critic, once wrote an uncomplimentary review of Max Bygraves. The following day he sent her a packet of Paxo stuffing

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Maureen “Mo” Gardiner. Maureen started at the Express in 1974 working initially for Brian Vine. She later worked for Jeremy Gates, Sheila Hutchins (Cookery Editor), Peter Grosvenor and others in features.  Sadly she died about nine years ago. Vine often used to roar at Maureen across the News Room floor: “Woman! Come here”.  Invariably it was to instruct Mo to go next door to the bookies to place a bet for him and John Jinks

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News Reporter Colin Bell talking to Esther, far right Mike Steemson circa 1983 (Editor Sir  Larry Lamb)

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Photographers John Downing and Dougie Morrison with Esther on the Picture Desk 1974

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Graham Molloy, Dougie Morrison, David (Picture Desk messenger), John Downing, Barbara Sharp (now Smith), Esther Harrod and Jack Kay on the Picture Desk in 1974

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John Downing with Liz Arbuthnot (wife of Robin, owner of the City Golf Club) and Barbara Sharp in the City Golf Club, 1975

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Bob Millar, Yolande Brook, Mike Evans, Pat Falkner (Special Offers Dept) and Ian Christie. Seated, Julie Potts (Secretary to Struan Coupar, Managing Editor) and Anne Crook, Christmas 1979 in Aitken House

Hetty Myers, Alison and Esther.  In the background holding the glass is Derek Jameson, talking to Morris Benet. The occasion was Hetty’s retirement party in the Boardroom, October 1979. It was rumoured that Hetty was asked to retire when it transpired she was well over state pension age, possibly 80 something. Alison worked for among others, Frank Robson, Aviation Correspondent

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Charles Govey, Deputy Features Editor, Bill Spicer, Features Editor and Mike Shmith, Assistant Features Editor, Christmas 1979. Esther explains: 'Govey was a very charming man which caused him quite a problem one evening. He came into the office the following morning very stressed and harassed.  Apparently after work he had taken a lady out for a drink and dinner.Later she became quite distressed when he said he was catching the train home to his wife and family. Despite his protestation, the distressed lady followed Govey to the train station and boarded the last train with him.  As it was so late, there was no return train to London. Govey had to ask his very accommodating wife, Barbara, if she would mind putting up the woman in their spare room.  There must have been quite some explaining to do but Govey lived to tell the tale'

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Feature Subs:  Maureen Paton, Mike Snaith, Angela Brown, Colin Margerison. Front row:  Dave Searby and Alec Snobel.  Christmas 1979

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Christmas Party in the Boardroom, 1981 (Editor Christopher Ward). Esther Harrod and photographers Les Lee, Bill Lovelace, Tom Smith and John Downing.  Standing is Jim Davies, then a Feature Writer

© 2005-2017 Alastair McIntyre