Tributes to the mighty Hitch

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Arliss Rhind (pictured right): Hitch and I worked very closely together for a number of years. He was a bigger than life character. and a professional to the core. As his deputy I learned more about myself as a journalist and how to lead a team of reporters than anyone could ever have taught me. He was a joy to work with though I must admit he and I differed a few times over certain things! But Hitch was usually right. My most memorable times in Fleet Street were shared in his company.

Brian Steel: I'll remember a larger-than-life, generous and great fun guy, dedicated to the job that he saw as inseparable from life. And lunch.

He loved hearing from us all and it gave him one more chance to boast of winning a yacht race to France in his boat called Scoop.

Frank Thorne (pictured below): Brian Hitchen gave me my first staff job in Fleet Street on the Express in 1974 as a jobbing news reporter. I sat next to “Me Norman”, John Burns turned up along the way speaking Ulster gibberish, even when he was sober, and I later legged for Jimmy Nic, the Prince of Darkness himself. 

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I was just a Small Face back then, so I’m so proud now to be able to say that. Soon after, I met Paddy Clancy. My favourite memory of us was one night/early morning after a huge day and night on the piss in the Golf Club, we pitched up at a filthy restaurant in Chinatown to drink wine out of teapots and Paddy literally started seeing Pink Elephants. Up until then, I thought that was a myth, an alcoholic old wives’ tale! No so, eh? 

I repaid Brian’s faith in me as a little guttersnipe with many fine Express exclusives for 18 months before we could not see eye to eye and I returned to follow my true Sunday investigative calling on the People. Spoilers, buy-ups and cheque book journalism became my way of life and I never looked back. Over drinks some time later on the night the Daily Star launched, Brian and I kissed and made up in a Fleet Street pub and he was man enough to admit he had been to heavy-handed with his young team and had made a mistake in telling me that if I wanted to work a four-day week, I should get a job somewhere else. Which I promptly did. 

No hard feelings and many thanks to our then union section rep Brian Steel, a man of true courage to tackle Mr Hitchen on our mutinous behalf.

Cathy Couzens: Writing on an iPad in a cancer hospital watching chemicals being pumped into my 20-year-old and remembering the last email chat I had with Hitch. I never called him Brian because my brother was Brian and my first husband was Brian, the ex I can't mention in the same breath. So Hitch it became.

He was just saying how he was fed up with hearing bad news about colleagues. He was boosting me up and giving me love for helping in this cancer fight with my step-grandson. He said he could not understand all the eulogies saying what great upstanding sober geniuses were being praised at St Bride's. I told him no problemo, I will do your eulogy and tell the phuking truth.

Oh lord…

We never had a fight. He was a bully to the boys but he never did that to me. He was softer than poo inside and he knew I would get the job done. He was brutally funny, loved to tell stories and like all of us in those days enjoyed the company of newspaper people. He hated to be bored.

When I first brought our daughter with me from Houston she told him he looked like her teddy bear. Seriously?  He gave her sweets.

I cannot get my brain around this. Nelli must have been a saint, she certainly deserved to live in the sunshine. I don't want to know how it happened but I keep thinking about that eulogy I promised him.

Hitch, you were smart and funny, loyal and a real bad arse. You were the best and you pushed me to my limits sometimes. But you have never forgotten to send a Christmas card and my daughter was right. You did look like brown bear.

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Roy Greenslade (pictured right): Even though Brian's muscular right-wing politics were very different from mine I enjoyed his company whenever possible. And we agreed a great deal about journalism and about press regulation.

He rescued the Star from public ignominy in 1987 after a terrible quasi pornographic period. And he was not responsible for its current celebrity-obsessed agenda.

We often bumped into each other on the train from Brighton - he had a house in Shoreham - and shared journeys that were punctuated by his laughter. He was, quite simply, a great guy to be around.

Stephen Wood: I remember a great moment from the Hitchen days when he took over from the disastrous Eve Pollard. I was on the Sunday Express floor when he got up on a desk to address the hacks along the lines: 'We're gonna turn this fucking girls' mag back into a proper newspaper.' Huge cheers and trebles all round!


© 2005-2019 Alastair McIntyre