Click on the graphic for more detailed forecast





Economic forecasts are like sausages, when you have seen how they are made you don't want to go near them — Matthew Goodwin


Today's papers


Go on, give the old chap a boost — tune into new Kelvin TV

(after all, someone has to)

Our old chum Kelvin MacKenzie has started his own TV station on YouTube. 

Unfortunately his channel,  A Spokesman Said, only has 58 subscribers — and he doesn’t appear to have made a broadcast for a month.

The Daily Drone says: Enough is enough! It is time to get the old rogue out of the shit and encourage more viewers to tune in.

Let’s see if we can increase the number of subscribers to at least 59, maybe even 60.

Don’t bother to thank us Kelvin it’s the least we can do. Maybe one day you will be as popular as the Daily Drone.



Financial Times


Ludgate Circus on a foggy night in November, 1922



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Picture research by R.R.(t)

FUDGE: This stereo plate was used for breaking news

Q. Was The Fudge a piece of confectionery provided by the management to keep the late sub awake? 

A. Sweet thought but No. The fudge is jargon for the more confusingly named Stop Press, a device by which a newspaper is able to print late news on the run without, er, stopping the press. On the Express, where it was used until the newspaper went tabloid in1977, it usually consisted of a very short short “printed” on a mini stereo plate (See picture. Rosalie, ahem, this is a fudge from the Evening Standard — Ed) which was inserted in a gap in the full-size Page 1 plate (do try to keep up!).

It was considered a bit of a sin to run with an empty Late News slot even though it was often completely inconsequential, and it was one of the duties of the Late Sub to fill the voracious maw that was the fudge box. 

Trying-to-be-helpful printers were also forever using (and, tiresomely, re-using) any old fudge plate they could find littering the stereo room floor regardless of how old it was.

Thus, a veteran Express hand recalls seeing the classic, all-purpose:

Forty killed as bus plunges into ravine near Lima, Peru on at least three occasions. 

Late Sub was not a popular shift. Downtable subs and the Express editorial management, although they didn’t appreciate it, were lucky that the paper’s fortunes in the hours after drinks had been taken were in the hands of the calm, gentlemanly, multi-skilled Bob Haylett for many years.

The shift ran from 9pm until 4am (no break) and could easily lull anyone into a sense of false security. Most of the time, of course, it was fairly quiet. Just the odd Lima Ravine Plunge. But after the Back Bench had buggered off for beer and bagels, all hell could be let loose. 

It is said that one stand-in Late Sub blames the first silver hairs in his thatch on one incident in the rapidly changing  Toxteth riots of July, 1981 at 2.15 on a Monday morning when he was very much alone. 

Simultaneously trying to copy-taste, redraw Page 1, sub a new splash, write a new head and stone it in while copy tasting another new splash (Cops Fire CS Gas For First Time On British Mainland) certainly kept him awake.

Alternatively, one could always while away the time by composing fantasy fudges for major historical events such as:

Gravity discovered as apple falls on boffin near Grantham, Lincs

Doomed monarch fails in bid to swap kingdom for horse at Bosworth near Leicester

Star-crossed lovers die in suicide pact after family feud in Verona, Italy

One-armed, one-eyed admiral killed as Navy routs French in battle off Cadiz, Spain

Next in Media Hits and Myths: Is it possible to grow your own rough ends of green pineapples in the UK climate and will Rosalie Rambleshanks ever graduate from being a trainee?

LATE SUB: Bob Haylett, left, on his normal Back Bench perch


JESSE (FAST SHOW)                  BORIS (POOR SHOW)

'This week, I 'ave mostly been breaking international law but only in a very specific and limited way.'

The Sun IS selling more than the Mail despite editor Greig’s bragging

THE Sun outsold the Daily Mail in July by 31,000 copies a day, new figures reveal.

They come after Mail editor Geordie Greig boasted that his title had overtaken the red top.

The figures were revealed by political blogger GUIDO FAWKES who reports:

Guido picked up a copy of this month’s painfully woke GQ, which has just hit the news stands. In it Geordie Greig has granted only the second interview of his editorship. 

The first interview with the FT resulted in a complete car crash after he dissed the great Paul Dacre to such a degree that Dacre wrote to the FT to deliver a monumental slap down to his successor. His second interview is timed to coincide with the Daily Mail finally surpassing The Sun in daily sales. Or as the hagiographic Matt Kelly puts it:

“… now the Mail has in all actualité, attained the one great prize to elude even Dacre, you’d have to have a heart of pure weapons-grade vitriol to begrudge Greig and his team their moment in the sun, as they passed The Sun to become the bestselling newspaper in the country.”

This interview was done in June, before the newspaper industry forced the Audit Bureau of Circulation to cease publishing sales figures that have dramatically plummeted during the pandemic. 

Guido however has managed to prise open the undisclosed ABC circulation figures and can reveal that The Sun last month once again returned to being the tabloid primus inter pares. Geordie’s day in the sun was short and the interview’s whole premise was overtaken in July by cold hard print sales figures…

The latest figures (not published) by ABC show that in July The Sun outsold the Daily Mail by 1,030,000 to 999,000 – both titles down double digit percentages from pre-pandemic. Geordie doesn’t have much luck with his annual interviews…


Year the Express changed its title piece three times in as many days (well, there was a General Strike on)

May 8, 1926: An elegant light serif

May 11, 1926: Bold sans caps

May 13, 1926: Traditional Gothic

The General Strike lasted nine days, from 4 to 12 May, 1926. It was called by the TUC in an unsuccessful attempt to force the Government to act to prevent wage reductions and worsening conditions for 1.2 million locked-out coal miners. 

Some 1.7 million workers walked out, especially in transport and heavy industry and the printers joined them, reducing newspapers to single news sheets. 

The government was prepared, and enlisted middle class volunteers to maintain essential services. There was little violence and the TUC gave up in defeat.


Last night in Fleet Street on the Daily Express backbench

FINAL EDITION: The year is 1989 and Daily Express night editor Terry Manners speaks on the backbench telephone during the paper's last night at its iconic offices in Fleet Street, London. Also pictured are art supremo Tim Holder and backbencher Dick Dismore. The circulation manager is in the background.

This picture, along with six others, have been unearthed by former night news editor Terry Chinery.




8 Daily Express, September 24, 1938

Bonfire of the subs




CARLIN                                   PARRY

So … spooky or what? Not Mike Parry, although, to be honest, he can be a bit scary. No, I mean his resemblance to fellow journalist John Carlin. 

Both are in their mid-sixties, went to good schools and are university educated. 

Carlin, born to a Scottish father and Spanish mother, started in journalism on the Buenos Aires Herald writing about football, politics and film. He has enjoyed a successful career writing in both English and Spanish and has won many awards. 

He is best known for his work on The Times, Sunday Times, the Independent and the Toronto Star as well as broadcasting for, alphabetically, ABC, BBC and CBC. A book he wrote on Nelson Mandela formed the basis of the well received 2009 film Invictus.

Parry, more correctly Michael Alan Newton-Parry, is, by comparison, more of a journalistic grunt, although he enjoyed a respectable career in Fleet Street notably as an industrious news editor on the World’s Greatest Newspaper. 

For a time he was press officer for the Football Association and went on to make a name for himself on talkRADIO and, later, talkSPORT, forming amusing double acts with the likes of Alan Brazil and another former Express exec, Mike Graham. 

Indeed, he and Graham even toured the halls with their live Two Mikes show but later fell out and went their separate ways. Parry had serious health problems in 2004 but fought back admirably and resumed his radio and TV work. He left talkSPORT a year ago and now inhabits somewhere he calls Planet Porky. Nuff said. 
R.R. (t)


Express and Mirror subs ordered to work an extra night for no pay increase 

STAFF at Express and Mirror newspapers have been outraged by an order to work an extra night each fortnight for no increase in pay.

Sub-editors and other production workers have also been offerred the ‘opportunity’ to continue working from home. 

Express subs are already on a nine-night fortnight, but now the title's middle-benchers, who have been on four nights until now, have been asked to work the extra day. There will be no increase in hours actually worked.

Mirror subs have not been working the nine-night fortnight but are being told to now. Understandably there have been objections.  

These were answered by Lloyd Embley, editor-in-chief, who reportedly told a meeting that parent company Reach had just made extensive redundancies on the regional titles so those sacked workers would be willing to work on the national titles. But he said he did not want to do that.

This threat could reasonably be interpreted that the company is willing to draft in cheaper labour to replace experienced national newspaper journalists.


The mad world of Andy ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Carson


HERE’S a picture that sums up the fun of the national press in its heyday.

The print was found among the memorabilia at art genius Vic Giles’s flat in the Barbican, London, by his son-in-law Expressman Stephen Wood.

Dated October 1981, it is an intriguing snap from Vic’s time at the Daily Star in Manchester.

We can’t fill in all the spaces but pictured, from left, are: Bob Coole; unidentified; Jeff McGowan, Daily Star news editor; unidentified; Vic Giles and Ray Mills. Grovelling on the floor is Andy Carson. 

The caption on the back in Ray Mills’s handwriting reads: “Andy ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Carson in typical pose.”

Can anyone throw any light on the mystery men?




TWO elderly gents rest their weary bones by the riverside in Lincoln. Discerning folk may recognise them as former Expressmen Roger Watkins, left, and Terry Manners.

It was, we suspect a social visit, not that you would deduce that from the caption supplied by Mr Watkins: 'Former Express hacks during rehearsals in Lincoln for a socially-distanced production of Waiting for Godot (“Dire: do not bother” — Q Letts, Sunday Times) and, below, in their back bench days.'

Mr Manners put it differently: 'Observing social distancing with my grandad in Lincoln today.'



Dear Aunt Marje Rambleshanks*

agony aunt.jpg

*Still a trainee and formerly Gipsy Rosalie

Star struck

Dear Aunt Marje,

Forgive me for mentioning it, but the new photograph used to illustrate your column seems to show a much older lady. What’s happened?

Worried Fan

Dear WF,

I have to be careful what I say, you understand, but there appears to have been an outbreak of wokeness at the Daily Drone (and I appreciate that’s an oxymoron). Apparently, Lord D has decreed that what we call ‘byline pictures’ should more accurately reflect our roles on the online newspaper.

Thus, the Editor will no longer be portrayed as a cheeky young scamp wearing a monocle who squeezes himself under desks and makes duck noises but will now appear as a venerable gentleman, past middle age, who sports a pillbox sunhat on the front at Swanage.

I have been told that my photograph must show me more as an Agony Aunt than as an astrologer.

I chide myself for not seeing this coming but also feel this is a gentle rebuke to me for not predicting what the stars foretell (tall, dark stranger is about to enter your life yawn, yawn)

Apparently, His Lordship  has suggested that I should forget the horoscopes and concentrate on my valuable work as a counsellor and adviser and that I should model myself on Marje Proops (no, me neither). Proddie says he once had a drink with Ms Proops in the back bar of the Flying Fuck. Or it may have been Jean Rook, he’s not sure. 

Anyway, onwards and sideways!

R.R (t)




Today’s cartoons


CHRISTIAN ADAMS, London Evening Standard


STEVE BELL, Guardian


BOB MORAN, Daily Telegraph




DAVE BROWN, Independent

STEVE BELL, Guardian




Massed ranks of Fleet Street’s finest, 1997


FORMER Daily Express photographer TOM STODDART posted this picture on Twitter last night to celebrate World Photography Day. It shows Fleet Street's photographers in action as newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives in Downing Street on 2nd May, 1997 after winning the General Election.

Rupert keeps it up


It's rare we feel much sympathy for any of the Murdoch family, but we had a slight pang of it in 2016 when we heard this story, remembers POPBITCH.

Wanting to check that her dear old dad was keeping fit, one of Rupert Murdoch's daughters bought him one of those wristbands that track your activity. 

She started wearing one too so that the pair of them could check each other's activity for the day – to keep each other motivated to stay healthy.

The daughter eventually decided to turn off the sharing function when Rupes got himself a new girlfriend though as she kept being reminded, at around 9pm each night, that his 'activity' would shoot right up*.

*Fnaar, fnaar — Ed



HAVE you worked it out yet? Yes chums it’s Mike Graham, formerly of this parish and now a celebrated radio broadcaster.

This picture was taken in New York in the 1980s where Mike ran a news agency.

He later joined the Daily Express where he rose through the ranks from reporter to assistant editor. After a spell as editor of the Scottish Daily Mirror he moved into radio in 2006.

Mike now hosts the mid-morning weekday show on TalkRADIO, taking over at 10am from his former Express colleague Julia Hartley-Brewer, who helped him celebrate his 60th birthday, below.

24emma graham nyc c88.jpeg





Daredevil Tom, forgotten hero of the Daily Express 


The extraordinary wartime exploits of Expressman Tom Dobney can be told today.

Tom became the youngest airman in the RAF when he lied about his age and signed up at the age of 14.

Thirty years later, when Sunday Express editor John Junor heard of the young pilot’s derring-do, he instructed his reporters to scour the country to track Tom down.

The investigators drew a blank … but in an amazing twist of events it turned out that the answer to their quest was on their doorstep.


History in Moments

1953: So … stop sniggering at the back there, you down-table subs. We’re about to embrace a serious topic, a first for the Daily Drone: lesbians. 

This rather sweet picture of some pretty girls dancing and drinking was taken at the Gateways Club, a haunt for ladies who batted for the other side in a dingy, windowless cellar-like room in Bramerton Street just off the Kings Road, Chelsea. 

The club, founded in the Thirties, flourished in the war and quickly became notorious for its edgy clientele. It even had a Green Door, said to have inspired the hit song of that name recorded by Frankie Vaughan and, later, Shakin’ Stevens. 

The club really became famous when it was the location for scenes, involving regulars as extras, for the 1968 film The Killing of Sister George, starring Beryl Reid, a youthful Susannah York and a sexy crop-haired Coral Browne. 

It was one of the first to explore lesbianism which, although never illegal like male homosexuality (it is said that Queen Victoria never believed it could happen and declined to sign off the proposed legislation), certainly was confined to the shadows of British life.

Gateways limped on until complaints about its loud music led to its closure in 1985. It was run for many years by Ted Ware, said to have won it in a poker game, and his Italian wife, Gina. They were joined (and I’m not making this up) by a woman, demobbed from the American Air Force, called Smithy.

The Drone’s resident former Express hack, Proddie, says she reminds him of the cast list of the celebrated BBC radio series Round the Horne which included, memorably: ‘burly, moustachioed former bomber pilot Betty Marsden’. Atta girl!

R.R. (t)

Shamefully omitted from the BBC documentary, Kelvin gives his side of Rupert Murdoch story

sum-Kelvin-MacKenz 2103521a.jpg

FORMER Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has come out fighting in defence of Rupert Murdoch following an extraordinary TV snub.

Inexplicably left out of the BBC’s three-part documentary on his old boss, he has written a brilliant article for The Spectator about his experiences working for Murdoch.

And, as you would expect, he has not held back, accusing the programme makers of peddling one-sided bile.

There's more ... Craig MacKenzie revealed yesterday that his brother is writing a book entitled Murdoch and Me and Other Madmen. 

"A movie is in the works — it’s going to get messy,” says Craig.

You have been warned.

Beat the paywall and read Kelvin’s Spectator article free of charge on the Drone. You’re welcome.

The real Rupert Murdoch




BEGUM                                    LOREN

So … OK, it’s a bit of a stretch but, come on, they do look alike, don’t they? One is the doyenne (o dovrei dire la decana?) of Italian cinema; the other a rather pathetic wannabe terrorist. 

Sophia Loren, nee Sofia Villani Scicolone, is pushing 86 now but is still a celebrated beauty, famous for her sultry roles in well regarded films: she won an Oscar for the iconic De Sica movie, Two Women.

This dramatic still is from The Black Orchid, currently in the Talking Pictures TV portfolio. Her love life was a bit tangled. After a notorious affair with Cary Grant she ‘married’ the director Carlo Ponti, 21 years her senior. Trouble was he hadn’t actually divorced his first wife. So he and Loren had to go through a rather messy annulment to avoid bigamy charges. They did eventually marry and, in classic romantic style, lived happily ever after.

There hasn’t been much happiness in Shamima Begum’s short life. Now 21, she fled the UK at 15 and became an Isis bride in various Syrian hellholes. She had three children all, tragically, now dead. She was back in the news this months when the Court of Appeal ruled that she should be allowed back here to appeal against being stripped of UK citizenship. This decision, too, is the subject of an appeal.

However it all turns out, you may be sure that her life will never be as fulfilled and satisfying as her illustrious lookalike.

R.R (t)

History in Moments


February 5, 1953: So...what are these little reprobates up to? Stuffing their faces with sugarlicious sweets: don’t they know it’s bad for their teeth? 

Actually, by the look of  'em this trio is too young to be used to sucking gobstoppers, sherbet lemons, liquorice comfits, dolly mixtures (Get on with it: we get the message — Ed) because for all their lives they had been rationed. 

But today wartime rationing on sweets has ended after 11 years so it’s a feeding frenzy. Toffee apples were the big sellers today along with nougat and liquorice strips. 

One London firm gave 800 kids 150lb of lollipops; another doled out sweets to allcomers. Even adults joined in with many men taking a box of choccies home for their wives, most for the first time. 

An attempt to de-ration sweets in 1949 failed because demand far exceeded supply and rationing was reimposed after just four months. But this time all went well and the sugar rush led to a £250 million boost to the confectionery industry in one year (today the UK spends £5billion annually).

Curiously, rationing of sugar itself continued for another seven months. Old Proddie, the former Express hack who hangs around the Drone newsroom (and, increasingly, over me as I type, I might add) recalls, as a tiny tot, being placed in a ration queue by his mother to keep her place while she did other shopping. Common practice, apparently. 

I asked Granny Rambleshanks if she ever did this. ‘No, dear,’ she said, we had maids for that sort of thing.’ Oh, Granny, those were the days! La dolce vita, indeed.

R.R. (t)


Guardian sacks cartoonist Steve amid allegations of racism and anti-semitism

CARTOONIST Steve Bell is to leave the Guardian next April after the paper confirmed his contract will not be renewed. 

Bell has caused significant controversy for the Grauniad, notably depicting Benjamin Netanyahu as a puppet master of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, and depicting Labour’s antisemitism crisis as a witch hunt. 

Many people view him as the Guardian’s most talented cartoonist but he was widely accused of racism after depicting Priti Patel, below, as a bull. 

The British Tamil Conservatives protested: “It’s anti-Hindu. It portrays the Home Secretary, of Hindu origin, as a cow. A sacred symbol for Hindus. It’s racist and misogynist. It’s plainly unacceptable. It may constitute a hate crime.”

Guardian editor Kath Viner announced that the paper was axing 180 jobs last week. But the decision not to renew Bell’s contract is said to be unrelated to the latest round of redundancies.

Bell first joined the Guardian in 1981 and he has frequently sparked controversy with his caricatures.

A cartoon showing the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as a puppeteer controlling British political leaders William Hague and Tony Blair, was criticised by the Community Security Trust’s Dave Rich as comparable to those featuring  in Nazi publications, the Jewish Chronicle reported last night.

Last July, Bell attacked his editors' refusal to run a cartoon featuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, suggesting it is due to "some mysterious editorial line" about antisemitism.

In the drawing, pictured below, Watson was  depicted as an "antisemite finder general" for being critical of Jew-hate in the party, said the JC.

He was shown to be  encountering the Israeli PM and calling him an "antisemitic trope".

Mr Netanyahu was playing with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson puppets and Mr Watson apologised, saying, "I thought you were members of the Labour Party”.

I’m stunned, says Steve Bell


This cartoon was widely seen as antisemitic

An Expressman writes ...


From The Times, July 13


NUJ passes vote of no
confidence in bosses
UNION members have passed a vote of no confidence in bosses at Express and Mirror owner Reach over  massive job cuts.

The National Union of Journalists’ group chapel voiced its anger over the way the consultation process has been handled.

It claims key details have been held back by Reach, including the exact number of jobs to be cut.

The NUJ said staff are stressed by the process, which has left some in tears, as they remain in the dark about how likely it is they will lose their jobs.

Reach announced its plan to cut 550 jobs last week. The NUJ has said that figure is now up to 580 jobs. As many as 325 editorial and circulation staff are vulnerable to the sack.

Among those facing redundancy, employees of subsidiary Local World, which includes the group’s local titles, are facing lower payouts than ex-Trinity Mirror employees.

One insider told Press Gazette that while the move might be legally sound, “morally it is one of those things that seems hard to justify”. They said comparative payouts for ex-Trinity Mirror staff could be as much as double those for Local World staff.

The NUJ said Local World staff face “bare legal minimum redundancy terms”, while others in Reach are being offered “enhanced” packages.

Chris Morley, Reach NUJ national coordinator, said: “Our members recognised some realignment to revenues was on the way after the economic collapse in the economy due to Covid-19, but the confusion sown by lack of reliable information has been devastating to members trying to understand what it will mean for them and their families.

“All the hard graft and huge flexibility shown by members to support the company at the most vulnerable time in its history look to result in P45s for many but worse, they feel they are not being shown the due respect they deserve as the company cuts its costs.

“The greatest hurt is being taken by our Local World members who are being told that they will be made redundant on the barest minimum that Britain’s biggest independent news publisher can get away with. They, understandably, feel like second class employees.

“We don’t think this is befitting for a company of the size, dominance and reputation of Reach plc and we will be talking hard and straight to management at all levels during this process about how this should change – and quickly – to preserve the good name of the company.”



Sir — As I assume you are experts on unmanned aerial vehicles, I wonder if the Drone can help me. I bought this McGlone Marauder Mark II off a chap I met in the beer garden of the Didge and Widget but now I can’t get it up. Any thoughts?

Uppingham Street
Downham Market

Try Viagra — Ed


Shock as Daily Star’s reporting team is set to be slashed by half 

THE Daily Star is expected to bear the brunt of redundancies in the latest cutbacks at Reach group newspapers. 

Its reporting team is set to be nearly halved from 17 to nine.

Sports journalists, reporters and subs are also believed to be in the line of fire.

It is also understood that six of the 17 photographers on Reach’s national titles are at risk, with the company planning to use photographers on its regional newspapers to cover national jobs.

Bosses have announced plans to axe 550 jobs — 12 per cent of the workforce — and have ordered subs to work a five-night week.

But they have agreed to end the 10 per cent salary cut instituted at the start of the Covid crisis and restore full pay. 

The cuts are blamed on falling income amid reduced demand for advertising in its titles.

Reach said its group revenue had tumbled by 27.5 per cent during the second quarter, compared with a year earlier, as newspaper sales and advertising plummeted during the coronavirus crisis.

The cutbacks, thought to be the biggest round of layoffs in the company’s history, are part of changes intended to deliver savings of £35million a year.

One insider told Press Gazette there was real concern among regional papers “because they believe the nationals will suck up their resources”.

There are further fears that in an attempt to create one combined editorial team, Reach’s regional titles will lose their individual identities, particularly online where some fear celebrity news may be favoured over local news.

The well-placed source also said that under the plans for one editorial team, sub-editors would become “brand publishers” and “page publishers”. An example of cutbacks being dressed up as a “transformation”.

Under the plans, one editor-in-chief and a deputy would be appointed to cover both of Reach’s celebrity magazines – OK! and New! – and its seven newspaper supplements, with staff working across all nine titles, they said.

The Express Newspapers’ union chapel said: “Despite accepting taxpayers’ money for what was meant to be a job retention scheme, Reach is now proposing to do away with many of these jobs."

The union said that despite Covid-19, “Reach is still predicted to make a pre-tax profit of £100million this year and emerge from the crisis with a £20million cash reserve, similar to where it was at the start of the year”.

Reach made a pre-tax profit of £150.6million on turnover of £702.5million in 2019, which included a full year of trading with the Express and Star titles.

A company spokesman said: “The changes at Reach are aimed at maximising the company’s business model and will protect its trusted national and local news brands for the long-term.

“Structural change in the media sector has accelerated during the pandemic and to meet these challenges we have completed plans to transform the organisation to create a more streamlined and efficient operation.”

As former Express and Star owner, Richard Desmond is Reach’s biggest single shareholder. Press Gazette was told staff feel “we are being asked to pay with our jobs” to fund Desmond’s “billionaire lifestyle”.

The insider also said there’s a sense that staff are paying for “past errors”, notably the Mirror group’s payments to historical phone-hacking victims, which has run into the tens of millions of pounds.



Big Gunn who ruled the old Daily Sketch

may17 54.jpeg

IT can be a tough job editing a national newspaper and very few succeed at the job. Ask anyone who worked on the Daily Express for more than a few months.

An exception is Bert Gunn, who edited the Daily Sketch from 1953 to 1959 during which time he doubled the paper’s circulation.

Gunn, who died in 1962 aged 58, started as a reporter for the Kent Messenger before moving to the Straits Times in Singapore. 

He returned to the UK to work at the Manchester Evening News, then the London Evening News and the Evening Standard. He had two sons: Thom Gunn, later a poet, and Ander Gunn, who became a photographer.

In 1936, Gunn became the first northern editor of the Daily Express, then in 1943 became managing editor. He wrote the headline "It's That Man Again", referring to Hitler, which later became the title of a popular radio show.

Gunn was appointed editor of the Evening Standard in 1944 but Lord Beaverbrook disagreed with his plans to adopt a more populist approach and he left in 1952. 

In 1959 Gunn left the Sketch to edit the Sunday Dispatch but this was merged with the Sunday Express in 1961. He resigned from Associated Newspapers in 1962.

The Daily Sketch survived until 1971 when it was merged with the Daily Mail.

Scroll down this page for more on the Sketch.


Would this Daily Express advert from 1987 tempt you to buy the paper?*

*Another in our series of headlines to which the answer is No. (But at least the ad must have been cheap to produce)

A virtual first for the Tuesday gang


THWARTED by their bid to meet again following the Covid crisis, the Daily Express First Tuesday Club held a virtual meeting on Zoom yesterday.

 Members had hoped to gather in The George in Fleet Street for the first time since lockdown, but their plans were wrecked by the fact that the pub was still closed. 

Pictured above are David and Lamar Eliades,  Tony Sapiano, Bill Orchard, Gill Martin and Jim Watson, Frank Thorne’s pic vanished into the ether.

Also joining in were Tom Brown in Scotland and Chris White in Belgium.

Wartime cartoon which spoke a thousand words


This Punch cartoon by Leslie Illingworth is regarded as one of the most famous of the Second World War. 

Entitled The Combat, it features an evil-looking Nazi wearing a gas mask and wings threatening an RAF fighter plane bearing the slogan Freedom.

Drawn in 1940 the cartoon prompted hundreds of heartfelt letters from readers of the magazine.

Illingworth, who died in 1979 aged 77, was chief cartoonist of Punch and also found fame with the Daily Mail.


Drone sub-editors relax in mufti after a long shift





HARD AT WORK: Bertie Brooks is in the foreground with the late Simon Crookshank behind him. Also pictured, standing from left, are Elaine Canham, Mike Graham, Chris Williams, editor Richard Addis and Wendy Fuller. Terry Evans, who is also no longer with us, can be seen in the background speaking on the picture desk phone                Picture: Getty

HONESTLY, the things one finds on the internet. While idly scrolling through Getty Images the Drone’s team of researchers  discovered this pic of the Daily Express Blackfriars newsroom the day after the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

And there in the foreground is a rare study of champion sloper John ‘Bertie’ Brooks at his workstation for once. 

Bertie, who died in 2005, was one of the great Fleet Street characters and a dear friend to many of us. The way he struggled to work while crippled with multiple sclerosis was an inspiration.

Another view of the newsroom is below with sub-editor Roy Povey in the foreground. 


MIDDLE MEN: Roy Povey, centre, and behind him on the middle bench are Rod Jones, Dave Morgan and Keith Ging


Solemn moment Daily Sketch staff learned the paper was folding

The faces are gloomy and not without reason — this historic picture was taken in 1971 as acting editor Lou Kirby told the staff of the Daily Sketch that the paper was closing.

Many of the staff found other jobs, including Kirby and Sketch editor David English who switched to their sister paper the Daily Mail. English became editor and Kirby deputy.

The only people we can identify in this picture are Alan Frame, rear centre, and Jon Zackon, far left, looking into the centre of the room. The proximity of the man in the white coat, who we think is a librarian, is purely incidental.

ALAN FRAME comments: "What a delight to see the picture of the Sketch staff hearing the news of its (and their) demise. And well spotted! It is Your Humble Servant posing languidly in the centre, probably because my great mentor David English had already told me I was to join him on the Mail. 

"In front of me is Harvey Mann who became picture editor of the Mail on Sunday's You magazine and to my immediate left is my brilliant pal Richard Shears, long-time Mail man in Sydney. Next to him is Jack Davies the night editor who I think retired. The chap with the Col Blimp moustache towards the front is Geoffrey someone-or-other who was a star snapper.

"Fashion Note: Didn’t we all look smart in our Burton suits and polyester ties?”

JIM DAVIES: "It was indeed a sad day — though I had left nine years earlier at the beginning of the Sixties and was already on the Express. I had two very happy years  there though and many talented colleagues were just thrown onto the street. The moustachioed snapper Alan mentioned was Geoff White.”


Gad Sir! How Low hit heights with his pompous Col Blimp  

22BLIMP 2.jpeg

DAVID LOW was one of the most famous cartoonists of the 20th century and his greatest creation was Colonel Blimp who first appeared in the London Evening Standard in 1934.

Blimp, pictured here in the deckchair, was a pompous, irascible, jingoistic, and stereotypically British character, identifiable by his walrus moustache and the interjection "Gad, Sir!"

Low developed the character after overhearing two military men in a Turkish bath declare that cavalry officers should be entitled to wear their spurs inside tanks. The character was named after the barrage balloon, which was known as a blimp.

While working for the Standard, Low earned fame for his merciless satirising of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin which led to his work being banned in Germany and Italy.

Born in New Zealand in 1891, he emigrated to London in 1919 after his work attracted the attention of Henry Cadbury, owner of The Star newspaper.

The Star sympathised with Low's moderately left-wing views but in 1927 he accepted an invitation from Lord Beaverbrook to join the conservative Evening Standard on the strict understanding that there would be no editorial interference with his output. 

There he produced his most famous work, chronicling the rise of fascism in the 1930s, the policy of Appeasement, and the conflict of World War II. 

Low was knighted in 1962 and died at his London home the following year aged 72.


Mail takes a whole page to boast it has dropped below one million

By LP BREVMIN, Drone Media Commentator
Additional research: Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

We’re in the shit: official. Not that the super soaraway Daily Mail is acknowledging it.

The Mail achieved two firsts in the history of British journalism this weekend. It passed a ‘a magical new milestone’ by overtaking The Sun as the largest-selling newspaper in the UK (genuine congrats on that) but it is also the first newspaper to take a whole page to trumpet the fact that its circulation has dropped below one million.

Mike Randall and David English must be spinning etc. And Paul Dacre will have, ahem, mixed feelings. And let’s not even think about Larry, Bernard and Kelvin.

But on what is, in fact, a dark day for newspapers in this country, well done to the hack who made success out of failure in his gushing account of the Mail’s ‘victory’ on Page 2.

Perhaps, though, Oscar Hammerstein put it better:

While shivering in my shoes

I strike a careless pose

And whistle a happy tune

And no one ever knows

I'm afraid.

*The Sun stopped publicly releasing its ABC figures last month. But the Daily Mail said it has seen The Sun’s figures and revealed that it has overtaken the News UK title.

In March (the last month The Sun released an ABC figure) it was selling 1,210,915 versus 1,132,908 for the Daily Mail in second place. Since then all circulations have plunged because of the coronavirus lockdown.

As of last April, national newspapers no longer have to make their print circulations public through ABC. The Sun and The Times titles have opted to keep theirs private



My lament for iconic
Weekly News as it folds after 165 years


Sir — I think this may have slipped the radar in the midst of all the hullabaloo in the UK and worldwide but this was certainly an iconic and extremely sad occasion for many. 

Personally, I was absolutely devastated to hear that The Weekly News has closed after 165 years. The last edition (No. 8,600) went out on 30 May. I know for a fact that several former staff members of Express Newspapers (some quite famous) began their careers on the WM and will mourn the passing as much as I do.

I was 17 when I began work in the Chapel Street, Salford offices (now no more) and even after five decades miss it dreadfully. I was tutored by two legends of sporting journalism, Len Noad and Jimmy Arthur who must have helped hundreds of young journalists attempting to get on in the business. Len was what we know as 'a good operator' and first spotted the teenage Lee Sharpe and suggested to Alex Ferguson that he should sign him, which he did. 

As I remember it, the pay was £7 a week which somehow went a long way. Luxury! The difficulty, as on every other weekly, was finding a unique story and keeping it away from the dailies and nationals until Wednesday when it went to Press. 

I wrote a weekly column titled See Them on TV this Weekend which more or less speaks for itself. Most of the interviews were with wrestlers who all turned out to be the most charming of men and that included the so-called 'villains’. 

Like the Economist all writers on The Weekly News were anonymous. My moniker was Goggle Box. The most difficult interviewees, believe it or not, were cricketers who invariably expected a fee. 

As DC Thomson were based in Dundee this was a no brainer so the likes of Sir Geoffrey Boycott and the South African opener Eddie Barlow went unpaid. Boycott (and his mum) simply showed me the door, immune to the plea that I had spent half a day on the train from Manchester to Fitzwilliam and my sports editor (also Dundonian) was not going to be happy. 

Few people had phones in the early '60s so a lot of the newspaper work was all hit and hope.

Tonight I drink a glass to The Weekly News and all who sailed in it.





THIS atmospheric picture of London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, taken in 1954 by the Daily Mirror’s Monte Fresco and published in the Drone last week, has inspired former Expressman ROBIN McGIBBON to write a tribute to his old friend.

Fresco, who died in 2013 aged 77, was noted for humorous photographs of sporting events. He covered seven World Cups, many European Championships and more than 40 FA Cup Finals.

His uncle, Monty Fresco, was a sports photographer for the Daily Mail. His nephew, Michael Fresco, has carried on the family tradition as a Fleet Street sports photographer.

Monte is known on Fleet Street to this day for his sense of humour and for turning sports photography into a distinct discipline separate from news photography. 

He is said to have coined the terms ‘Smudgers' for photographers and 'Blunt Nibs' for writers.




The 75th meeting of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club, due to have been held at Joe Allen, 2 Burleigh Street, London, WC2, on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, has been postponed because of the Coronavirus restrictions. Principal guests were to have been Sarah, Duchess of York (the guest of A.Walton, Esq), the Lord Drone (the guest of A. McIntyre of that Ilk), Ms Amanda Redman, actress and presenter (the guest of P. Pilton, Esq),

Lorraine Chase, actress (the guest of T. Manners, Esq), Onllwyn Brace, rugby player (the guest of R.Watkins, Esq), Jess Conrad, singer (the guest of R.Dismore, Esq), Roy Hodgson, neighbour (the guest of D. Eliades, Esq) and Ms Rosalie Rambleshanks, journalist and ingénue (the guest of A. Frame, Esq).


Sir — I know that no one likes a smart arse and that it’s none of my business and that I’m not a club member and that Onllwyn is a pretty common name anyway, but are we sure that the Onllwyn Brace, rugby player, listed as a guest at the postponed 75th meeting of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club isn’t the talismanic Oxford University, Newport, Llanelli and Wales scrum half of the same name who passed on to the Great Communal Bath in the Sky seven years ago? Just askin’.

Much Shoving

Could be — Ed



Sir — That Emily Maitlis, you know the one with shiny legs off the telly, she’s a snippy, hard-faced little piece isn’t she? She often seems to be irritated or irritable but she’s always definitely irritating.

My other half reckons she suffers from a major chafing problem which comes to a head at the end of a long day on Newsnight.

But could it be that she’s pissed off because she always seems to have a cheap ballpoint super-glued to the fingers of her left hand? (See pictures) Just a thought.

Much Interrupting




History in Moments

1925: So...who’s this letting it all hang out on a helter-skelter at the Wembley Exhibition? Bertie Wooster? Lord Drone on dress-down day? 

No, in fact, it is the Duke of York, proving that, long before William Hague’s log flume baseball cap, prominent people could be persuaded by craven PR hacks to perform the most inappropriate tricks to prove they’re just like us really. 

The duke, who went on to star as Colin Firth in the well-received film The King’s Speech, was then a decent enough cove content to paddle the inconsequential backwaters of royal life.  Truth is, he was a bit of a wuss, said to be ‘easily frightened and prone to tears’. 

Eleven years later, as we all know, the abdication by his fancy dan elder brother, David (Edward VIII to you and me) thrust him and his family into the unforgiving spotlight of history where he performed very creditably as King George VI

His early death in 1952 ushered in the magnificent reign of his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, a constant, reassuring figure in all our lives, whose service is such a contrast to her dilettante uncle.

The Duke of Windsor, as he became, was a keen, if indulgent, golfer. He forever incurred the wrath  of my uncle, Bunny, who played off 10 on a good day, by hitting 3,000 balls into the Med off the deck of Britannia during his honeymoon with ‘that woman’. What a prat (although Bunny said far worse).



Who’s the masked man arriving at the Mail?

Scroll down this page and we’ll tell you




1944: So … here’s a classic case of keeping calm and carrying on as London again faced the might of the German war machine. That plume of smoke behind the law courts looking west up Fleet Street is the result of a deadly V1 rocket exploding after crashing into Drury Lane. 

Yet these young women ignore it and go about their business. Maybe they were two Daily Express news subs hurrying to work. Alas, no. An old Express hand, who has taken to hanging around the Drone newsroom, tells me it was another 40 years or so before the first woman was admitted, as staff, to that exclusive all-male club. Even now, those who worked with her remember genial New Zealander Maggie Thoms with affection. Yet, I’m told that, to their shame, some entrenched misogynist subs were less than welcoming to her but let’s not linger there.

Germany started its V1 onslaught in retaliation for D Day (the V stands for Vergeltungswaffen — vengeance weapons). Between June 13, 1944 and October when the last V1 launching site in range of Britain was captured by Allied troops, 9,521 of the early cruise missiles were fired at London and the southeast. More than 6,000 people were killed  and nearly 18,000 injured; thousand of homes were destroyed.

The V1s, also known as buzz bombs or doodlebugs, brought genuine terror to beleaguered Britons who thought the tide of war had turned. Survivors recall the chilling moment when a bomb ran out of fuel, the engines stopped and it glided to its unknown random target. The silence, like waiting for a clap of thunder after a flash of lightning, was agonising.

R.R (t)


Who’s the masked man?

WE asked who was the masked man arriving for work at Northcliffe House in London.

Yes chums, it’s former Expressman and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter ‘Bonkers’ Hitchens taking no chances with Coronavirus. How did you guess?

Peter was snapped by his colleague John McEntee, a former William Hickey editor who now writes the Ephraim Hardcastle column in the Daily Mail.

McEntee told his friends on Facebook: "Who should I encounter outside Northcliffe House today but my delightfully daft colleague Peter Hitchens en route to work wearing his Day of the Triffids mask.

"We couldn’t even raise a glass at the ham counter. Worse, security and nurse wouldn’t let me past the atrium. They couldn’t locate my filled-in health q&a. I felt like borrowing Peter’s mask and storming the third floor.”


Help, why on earth are there so many badly shaped headlines?
(and, for that matter,
so many commas)

By L P BREVMIN, Chief Sub

The Sunday Times is a great newspaper: we can all acknowledge that. But sometimes it ignores the basic rules of good journalism. Often it exasperates sub-editors (but apparently not its own) with its disregard for headline shape and even the words that go in them.

Take this week’s offering (£2.90 to you, squire). This page lead head with a generous count would never have appeared in the World’s Greatest. Look at it for fuck’s sake. Imagine offering it to Lloyd, Kelvin or, especially, Pat. Piss-poor.

It took me five seconds to knock it into (a better) shape.

         Fifth of staff
         to stay home
         as schools
         open again
Then we were always told not to repeat words in headlines. Look at this sub-deck with more words than an average intro. ‘His’ three times. Fucking lazy.

Again a few seconds’ thought:

Boris Johnson was furious at his top aide
for flouting lockdown rules yet refusal
to sack him has divided the Tories and
flushed out rivals with leadership ambitions

And please don’t get me started on the ST subs’ bonkers obsession with inserting redundant commas into heads. Here are some mad examples from this week. Poor old Jeremy Clarkson, who can turn a phrase or two, suffers the indignity of being hit twice.

And what about splitting pork and pies?

Why not ...

Farmers tell pork pies
about US food quality

What’s going on? Who’s in charge of the clattering train?

I think, we should, be told.



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER


Q. Would you be inclined to say that unscheduled and unauthorised drinks breaks put Fleet Street on the slippery slope?

A. Dear me, No. Newspaper circulations have been on the slide for years, a situation exacerbated by the dawn of the digital age. In the early sixties the Express peaked at 4,328,000; before Coronavirus it was under 300,000; fewer now. Rest assured, comrades, it wasn’t all our fault.

No, Fleet Street and drink have always been sodden bedfellows. Any excuse. At the Express, morning conference, usually at 11, coincided with old-fashioned pub opening hours and signalled a mass exodus of reporters and other parched riffraff. Mind you, some star writers (Jon Akass comes to mind) would go straight to the pub to compose their offerings before actually reporting for work.

And as the senior execs filed into evening conference many subs would file out to the pubs where reporters would already be refuelling after a hard day’s toil. Trouble was, no one was filing or subbing any copy.

Popping out for a quick livener/heart starter/attitude adjuster became de rigeur throughout the evening all helped by the fact that the old Black Lubyanka had 13 different entrances and exits. (When we moved to Blackfriars there was only one: yikes!)

Subs being subs, they started competing: who took the most illicit breaks and how long they were away from the desk. Soon a trophy was put up: the curiously named Lopes Cup, pictured above. It took the Back Bench a full half hour (make that three seconds) to crack the fiendish, cunningly-devised, Enigma-like anagram.

Thus, sloping entered the lexicon.

You could always tell the dedicated sloper: he’d be the one in shirt sleeves crossing a wintry Fleet Street when the wind chill made it minus 11. He’d be the one who’d suddenly appear at his desk with fresh snow, like silver braid, melting on his shoulders.

Competition to carry off the gleaming (actually it’s pewter — Ed) trophy was intense. Once, a leading candidate, the much missed John “Bertie” Brooks, arranged for John, the office driver, to pick him up from the London hospital where he had been admitted for routine treatment, and convey him to the office clad in NHS jim-jams and dressing gown.

Alas, his bid for victory was snubbed by a shadowy Lopes Cup committee. It ruled that sloping to work was an oxymoron and he was sent back to matron. Bertie had form for this sort of thing. Once, outraged because he had been put on the stone, he turned up for his tussle with the Inkies in white tie and tails.

Senior boys on the Back Bench, who were allowed to stay up very late, rarely drank during normal licensing hours. They had to make do with ‘afters’ chez Jean at the Harrow or the soulless Press Club and the risk of long, perilous inquests on stalled careers with a recalcitrant, florid Scot.

Often in the early hours their drinking companions were very large City policemen in full uniform but Fleet Street superstar Richard Littlejohn, then on the Standard, recently shared with readers of his Mail column the reminiscence of how he was caught up in a police “befores” raid on the Cartoonist at 10.45 in the morning.

He recalls: ‘They proceeded to take names: who are you and what do you do? Shaw, Old Bailey correspondent, Evening Standard. Littlejohn, industrial correspondent. Leith, transport correspondent. Stevens, chief crime correspondent.

‘Turning to the other member of our school, the sarge said, sarcastically: “And I suppose you’re the religious affairs correspondent of the Evening Standard.”

‘“No. I’m the head of the Flying Squad. Now sod off!”’

Additional research: Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

Next in Media Hits and Myths: Should one be wary of ‘one size fits all’ rough ends of green pineapples? A physician writes.

HAPPY DAZE! Tom Brown’s Fleet Street pub crawl

History in Moments


1932: So...what’s going on here? Mass slope for charity by Express subs? M. Mouse, D. Duck et al queuing for extortionate dodgy “overtime” payments? Patriotic Brits waiting to laud famous aviatrix outside iconic Fleet Street newspaper office? 

Ah, that’s it. The lady in question, the fabulously glamorous Amy Johnson, had just set the air speed record for a solo flight from London to Cape Town in a De Havilland Puss Moth. She already held the record for the first solo flight by a woman to Australia and, despite competition from the new talkies stars of Thirties Hollywood, was one of the most famous women in the world. 

Capt W.E. Johns, of Biggles fame, even used her as the model for his series of war adventures featuring Flying Officer Joan Worralson in Worrals of the WAAF, who, according to my grandfather (AKA Randy Rambleshanks, Scapegrace of the Remove), was just the game gel to set a chap’s pulses racing between prep and lights out. 

Naturally, when war broke out the real life Worrals did her bit, ferrying RAF planes around the country as part of the Air Transport Auxiliary. 

Amy, pictured, died while flying an Airspeed Oxford from Prestwick to RAF Kidlington in Oxfordshire in January, 1941. Off course because of adverse weather, she ran out of fuel and bailed out as her plane crashed into the Thames estuary near Herne Bay. Naval vessels nearby tried to save her in heavy seas as snow continued to fall. Amy was briefly seen calling for help. Then she vanished beneath the waves. She was 39.

R R (t)


Rosalie’s Art Attack

By Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

The Ricotta Eaters: Vincenzo Campi

‘Pished? Course we’re pished: it’s the subs’ Christmas do for fuck’s sake. When we finish our puds we’ll go back and hide under the desks making duck noises until the Back Bench begs us to come out. Won’t we, Bings?’

(Dear Editor, any chance of a little piccie to illustrate this?)

A concert: Lorenzo Costa


How Sunday Telegraph completely missed the point of Piers Corbyn pic

WRONG: The Telegraph didn’t spot Corbyn

What were the Sunday Telegraph picture desk and back bench up to on Saturday?

The Tel’s pisspoor Page One picture featured police and demonstrators, including a wild-haired protester, at an anti-lockdown march in Hyde Park. 

Thank goodness the rival Sunday Times selected a picture which revealed that the protester was Jeremy Corbyn’s older brother, Piers. Probably worth a mention. 

Picture Research: Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

The Sunday Times, unlike the Telegraph, invests in journalism — Ed


CORRECT: The Sunday Times did recognise Mr Corbyn



Award-winning reporters return from embassy raid


IT’S 1980 and one day after the ending of the daring and dramatic SAS siege of the Iranian Embassy in London. 

Undaunted, the battle-weary Daily Express reporting team was back in the Fleet Street office.

But who are they and what were they up to?




Design genius dies at 92


DOING WHAT HE LOVED: Vic at the Express

NEWSPAPER design maestro Vic Giles, the genius behind the Murdoch Sun who later worked his magic on the Daily Express, died yesterday in a care home nine weeks after the death of his wife June. He was 92 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

He leaves a daughter Jackie and grandson Christopher. His son-in-law Stephen Wood has written a heartfelt tribute exclusively for the Daily Drone.




Those old jokes were the best and so were yesterday's funny men

Another of our Friends in the North

Well done, Daily Drone for publishing my old mucker Ronnie Rawntenstall’s reminiscences about The Comedians. About time the World’s Greatest Online Newspaper became less South-east-centric and reached out to the North. 

Manning, Roper, Goodwin et al were, of course, only part of a fantastic comedic tradition in the region. 

Remember Arthur (Hello Playmates) Askey, Ken (I Won’t Take Me Coat Off, I’m Not Stopping) Platt and Al (You’ll Be Lucky, I Say You’ll Be Lucky) Read who all enjoyed successful careers before The Comedians was first shown in, bizarrely, a casino in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1971. And, of course, we’re not forgetting Tarbie and Doddy. 

The “turns”, such as comics, earned their money in the traditional clubs which sprouted all over the north, parts of the Midlands and South Wales under the auspices of the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union.

They were usually owned and strictly organised by the members as a co-operative which is where the all-powerful committee comes in. Think the Phoenix run by Peter Kay (as good as, if not better than, any of them) in TV’s Phoenix Nights.

The best comedians went on to headline seaside shows or to appear at the northern super clubs such as the Golden Garter in Manchester or the Batley Variety Club in Yorkshire both long since closed.

Batley, dubbed the Las Vegas of the North, had 1,600 seats and attracted stars from around the world. Not Dean Martin, though. When he was offered £45,000 to top the bill his agent replied: “Dean wouldn’t get out of bed to have a piss for that.”

The Comedians’ house band, Shep’s Banjo Boys, were resident at the Garter, unglamorously sited in Wythenshawe, known as the largest council housing estate in Europe. More than 1,000 could sit down for a three-course meal (15s) before watching the international acts.

Which reminds me of the club secretary who announced: “The committee has decided to introduce chicken in a basket as well as th’ot pies. If you don’t like the chicken you can always eat the basket.” It’s the way I tell ‘em.

Scroll down for the gags


Have a laugh on us

the Drone’s Friend in the North

Heard the one about the TV comedy show which inspired a generation of stand-up club comics but wouldn’t get a screening today?

Too edgy, love. Not PC enough by half. Best not.

Yet The Comedians, a low budget Granada TV offering launched nearly 50 years ago, was just the tonic Britain needed then (after all, Ted Heath’s Tories were in power) and now.

The format was simple: a bunch of working class comics with dodgy suits and even dodgier haircuts leaning on mic stands telling jokes.

But, as it was the Seventies, the gags often featured words like “Paki” or “coon” and traded heavily on racial and social stereotypes.

The overnight stars mainly from the Northern club scene had, in fact, been plying their trade in front of tough audiences, replete with Federation Ale, for years.

Among the other regulars were the laconic George Roper, the manic Frank (“It’s the way I tell ‘em”) Carson, Charlie Williams, the black Yorkie who threatened to come to live next to you if you didn’t laugh, Stan Boardman and Mike Reid, later of EastEnders.

My favourite, though, was Ken Goodwin, so different from his self-assured, cocky contemporaries, with his zany, camp, gushing delivery. 

He always laughed uproariously at his own very funny jokes and would punctuate his set with: “We’re having a good time, aren’t we?” Or: “We’ll all have bellyache soon, won’t we?”

Bernard Manning, an overweight Mancunian from Ancoats, where the Northern Black Lubyanka still stands, was a regular. A former crooner who once appeared at the Ritz Hotel (London not Levenshulme), he ran the Embassy Club on the Rochdale Road. 

And some of his best humour was based on the “Notices” the club secretary had to give to members before the “turns” came on (a format which itself inspired The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club TV spin-off)

Here are some examples:

We’ve had complaints about t’accoustics in this club. Don’t worry, we’ve put down poison and set traps.

T’pies have arrived. A word of warning: some came on their own so make sure you use plenty of pepper.


Feller shouts after his best mate running down the road.

Oi, pal, what’s the hurry?

I’m going to the doctor: I don’t like the look of my wife.

I think I’ll join you: I can’t stand the sight of mine.


I’ve got a terrible headache. I was sprinkling toilet water on my hair and the seat fell down on me.


A feller knocked on our door and said he were collecting for t’local swimming pool. So I gave him a bucket of water.


‘My brother’s just joined the Army. Already he’s been made a Court Martial and he’s going away for six months to give Her Majesty pleasure.’


Building site foreman says to Irish labourers: The shovels have been delayed, lads. Can you lean on each other till they arrive?


I answered the door and there’s a fella there who says: Your dog’s just bitten my mother-in-law causing her great pain and distress. 

Sorry about that but it’s no use coming to me for compensation. 

I’m not: How much do you want for the dog?


So what about this fella who was off sick and went to the doctor. The quack says: Put your tongue out and walk over to that window. 

Will that make me feel any better, doc? 

No but I can’t stand that bloke opposite.


‘We were so poor  when I were a lad. I remember Mam sending me to butcher’s for a sheep’s head for us tea. Ask him to leave the legs on’

They’re so posh in Lytham St Anne’s they wear yachting caps when they eat their fish and chips.


I won’t say me dad was a drunk but when he blew on my birthday cake he lit all the candles.

The Daily Drone would like to thank its Friends in the North for their contributions during this challenging time of lockdown, distancing and furlough. Especially to Ronnie Rawntenstall and Charley Chorley for their histories of The Comedians and to Lenny Longsight for his amusing reminiscence of eating black balls in the Crown and Kettle. 

And not forgetting, in strictly alphabetic order: Andy Audenshaw, Barry Bury, Charlie Chadderton, Dougie Doffcocker, Eric Ellesmere, Frankie Frogbrook, Garry Grassington, Harry Hazlerigg , Irene Ince-in-Makerfield, Jimmy Jervaulx, Kelly Kirklees, Larry Levenshulme, Mal Monkwearmouth, Nellie Nuns Moor, Ollie Ormskirk, Peter Pendleton, Quentin Quelchtrossall, Richie Rossendale, Sonny Skelmerswick, Tommy Tadcaster, Vera Vimbottom, Wally Wombwell, Ernie Exwickthistle, Yolanda Yeadon, Zoe Zackonthwaite.

And members of the Accrington and District Weavers, Winders and Warpers Friendly Association too numerous to mention.


The grateful dead

Headline hand-crafted by NICK HILL



NOVELIST and former Daily Express William Hickey editor Christopher Wilson delighted his friends on Facebook with this charming study of himself back in the day. 

Wislon told the Drone: 'That pic was taken when I was a newly-arrived reporter on the Daily Mail, aged 23, when it was still a broadsheet. That they were employing people like me I think convinced David English it was time to make his pre-emptive strike in closing the Sketch and annexing the big paper.

'I and many others were turfed out in the Night of the Long Envelopes, and I ended up in a dusty cupboard at the Sunday Telegraph. 

'When I got there Perry Worsthorne, then dep ed, took me into his office: 'I hear you're from the Daily Mail. Well, you may find here that time hangs heavy on your hands. I suggest you start a book”.

'Me: Oh, I don't think I could be seen sitting round the office reading. Wouldn't it be better if I...

'PW (witheringly): "WRITE a book, Mr Wilson, write a book."

'I didn't stay long.'


All about Iris


BROLLY GOOD: Iris was still going strong in 1975 … but mention of sunny periods was definitely not allowed

MANY readers have been puzzled by the Iris Says weather line on the Daily Drone’s front page.

Grizzled old hacks will remember the young lady well. Back in the 1970s Iris was a feature of the Daily Express Weather Service. 

In those days most of the forecast was compiled by the news sub-editors and part of that task was to choose an Iris cartoon and write a suitable caption. 

And then, as a depression moved in from the executive suite, she got dumped. 

The Express had no shortage of editors who processed with regularity through the revolving doors. One editor, it could have been one of three or four, made it his first task to scrap the daily Iris. And still the circulation sunk like a setting sun.

Sadly, memory of the once-famous Iris has been lost in the shrouds of time but the Drone’s team of researchers are delving into the archive to see if they can find more evidence of the Daily Express weather girl.

Former Daily Express editor Chris Williams told the Drone: "Gazing as I do upon your proud organ, I was pleased to see that weather girl Iris is once more enjoying  her place in the sun.

"Iris was still in situ when I joined the Express in 1977. Her meteorological musings were usually the responsibility of the newest sub. 

"On my first day I was briefed by the legend that was Les Diver who told me: 'You can write anything you like, but just remember that Iris does NOT have periods. Not rainy, not sunny and definitely not heavy’."

Terry Manners writes: Nice to hear from our dear old mate Chris Williams on his days with Legendary Les and Iris, our weather girl. But putting the romantic memories of the 70s aside, let us not forget that doing the weather created a low depression across the subs table at the start of the mainstream 3.30 news shift.

Subs would keep their heads down against the prevailing wind and look busy as Les, pencil behind ear, would scour the room for his victim.

Then he would approach like a hurricane with the red or blue, hardcover, tatty foolscap book crammed with Moon and Sun times; tide tables and ski-resort temperatures for the unlucky sub who received a punch on the arm ... and then have to pour over the data before sending the boring details for to the Stone for setting, along with the Artwork No. for Iris ... smiling, in a raincoat, with a brolly or boots or with the wind blowing up her skirt. Ughh! What a chore.

Worse ... once every 12 months some unlucky victim would have to paste into the weather book all the tables, cartoons, facts and figures for the whole of the new year to come. Fond memories? Mmmmm. Only of Les.  




FORMER Daily Express reporter FRANK THORNE remembers his first meeting with photographer JOHN DOWNING on the sun-drenched Cote d’Azur as they hunted for the missing earl



DX art desk salutes festive season in traditional style

RIGHT-WING? US? They knew how to celebrate on the Daily Express art desk back in the day. Here Dave Marvin and clerk Dobby salute the camera as Fred Boyce gets on with his dinner some time in the 1980s.

For more over-exposed snaps, click HERE



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Planning the edition at the Daily Express offices in Fleet Street in the mid-1980s are, from left: News Editor Philippa Kennedy, Deputy Editor Leith McGrandle, Editor Nick Lloyd, Deputy Night Editor Dick Dismore, Reporter (standing in as News Desk No.2 ) Bob McGowan, and Associate Editor Bernard Shrimsley. Health and safety might have something to say about the elctrical arrangements today


Hunk Rock Hudson’s secret bath nights at notorious gay haunt

SO HETERO: Rock Hudson and Yvonne de Carlo in London, August 1952. They were promoting the film Scarlet Angel


Once upon a time, in the heart of London's West End, there was an establishment which had a notorious reputation for being a magnet for the capital's homosexual intelligentsia.

The infamous, round-the-clock den of iniquity was the Savoy Turkish Baths, in Jermyn Street, and its marbled steam room and massage slabs, ice-cold plunge bath and quaintly-termed bachelor chambers attracted eminent musicians, playwrights, poets — and even a future British Prime Minister.

However, the Savoy's most egregious client was not one of the renowned glitterati of the day. Indeed, he was not even British: he was Rock Hudson, a handsome, charismatic, young American film star, destined to become an international heart-throb.

During Hollywood's Golden Age, the 6ft 4in hunk from Cook County, Illinois, was sold to millions of unsuspecting cinema-goers throughout the world as the epitome of masculinity. Women lusted after him; men wanted to be him.

Not surprisingly, Hudson became the movie industry's most popular leading man, starring in a series of blockbuster romantic comedies with Doris Day, as well as tough-guy Westerns with Kirk Douglas, John Wayne and James Stewart.

Behind this He-man facade, however, Hudson was a predatory gay who spent hours cruising Hollywood bars, looking for casual sex.

No wonder that when he came to London, in 1952, to promote Scarlet Angel, with Yvonne de Carlo, he didn't take long to find his way to 'poofs' paradise, a short stroll from Piccadilly Circus, and to spend nights there, prowling around, chatting up naked hunks.

Maybe it was because he was relatively unknown that made him take such a risk. Whatever it was rebounded on him because the management considered him a pest, and bad for business, and he was thrown out and banned for importuning.

The Daily Mirror got on to the story, but could not substantiate Hudson was homosexual, and the actor's Savoy shame was never exposed until the summer of 1985 when he was diagnosed with Aids and became the first A-List celebrity to admit to being gay,

Historical note: Before the Savoy closed, in 1975, Hunter Davies wrote, in New London Spy, a trendy guide to London: "Staff mostly turn a blind eye to much of the midnight prowling — if the activity is not too blatant.


Former Standard night editor Henshall dies


FLASHBACK: David Henshall (second from right in specs) working in what would have been the chief sub's chair in Shoe Lane. Andrew Harvey is in the foreground. Charles Wintour, is back centre in white shirt behind a big phone system. Roy Wright is beside him in the Shoe Lane newsroom, London, 21 September 1971. 

Former Standard features secretary Pauline McGowan writes: I spotted another couple of faces, Stuart Kuttner, Mary Kenny showing quite a lot of leg and jolly nice boots and Marius Pope, also my boss and known to us females as Pope the Grope — and boy did he live up to his monikker. Such things now would have resulted in NDAs or promotion? Possibly. However, it was all part and parcel of being amongst that great group of talent that was the Evening Standard. Boy I miss that. 

Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

FORMER Evening Standard night editor David Henshall has died at the age of 90.

Henshall later became editor of the Ipswich Star in the 1990s.

Former Standard and Express sub Peter Steward told the Drone: 'David gave me my first job in Fleet Street if, like me, you count Charles Wintour's Evening Standard as Fleet Street. 

'He was managing editor in 1976 when he gave me my chance. At the Standard in those days managing editor was the equivalent of a daily paper's night editor. He  also worked on the Daily Mail  and eventually moved back to Suffolk.

His daughter Ruthie Henshall was to become a West End singing star.

A couple of years ago the Standard organised a reunion for people who worked on the paper prior to its move from Shoe Lane into the Black Lubyanka. I contacted David to see if he could make it and this is part of his reply.

'I am still writing the column I started in the East Anglian Daily Times 25 years ago and a bit of theatre which keeps the little grey cells working.

'I have lost one lobe of my lungs to cancer, six inches off my tailpipe to a similar growth and have a worrying aneurysm that is being watched. Apart from that and a bit asthma, I am reasonable fit creeping up on 88. On the plus side, I have gained two titanium hips that work a treat.

East Anglian Daily Times obit


A poem what I wrote by RICHARD McNEILL

A Stiffener for Straitened Times

(to the tune of Bye Bye Blackbird).


Pack up all your social plans

Now’s the time to wash your hands

Bye Bye Covid

Sanitise the things you touch

Exercise (but not so much)

Bye Bye Covid

Lockdown is the way to save the nation

Everyone must practise separation


Shut that door and close that gate

Isolate! Isolate!

Covid Bye Bye


Verse 2 (for there is another)

 Keep your social distance, chum

That is now the rule of thumb

Bye Bye Covid


Hugs and handshakes are taboo

Bump the elbow, tap the shoe

Bye Bye Covid


When it ends we’ll party up at your house

Unless of course we end up in the Poor House


So cheer the heroes, raise a glass

Kick that virus up the arse

Covid Bye Bye

Wordsworth, eat your heart out — Ed


Jobs axed as working from home becomes new norm

Additional research by L.P. BREVMIN

The Drone’s piece highlighting the do-or-die challenges facing the Press because of Coronavirus was a warning to us all.

The medium we love and which has been part of our lives is no more. How it will change no one knows but one thing is clear: it will be less diverse and a lot smaller.

Tragic isn’t it? 

Yet maybe the gravy train had to pause, as if at Adelstrop, before it hit the buffers. 

Gravy train? you say. Not if you’d been a sub on the Express titles, for instance, where staff numbers have been dramatically reduced over the last 20 years.

But what about those twee, up-your-bum, glossy fashion and lifestyle magazines which slip out of the weekend heavies? Are they not heading for a fall?

Take, at random, last week’s Sunday Telegraph Stella mag, an “award-winner”, don’t you know?

Its staff cast list on Page 3 contains new fewer than 40 names ranging from the Editor-in-Chief (who appears to be subservient to the Editor), through two deputy editors and two assistant editors, two directors of photography and three senior fashion editors (presumably answerable to the head of fashion and style, the style director and the fashion news and features director).

What, you may ask, does the poor fashion editor (be sure there is one) do?

Let’s not forget the beauty director, the beauty editor-at-large, the food and interiors editors and sundry assistants.

By the way, there are just three with sub-editor in their titles.

Can you imagine the cats-in-a-bag editorial conferences at 111 Buckingham Palace Road, the lair of this particular coven?


Of course, pagination is down and I appreciate that Stella also has an on-line offering, but this lot last Sunday produced a magazine with just 40 editorial pages.

I say “produced” but, in fact, 15 more by-lined people assisted them including someone credited, I kid you not, with Food Styling.

Enjoy it while you can, gels, the tumbril is about to replace the gravy train.

Another huge change as a result of Coronavirus is the introduction of home working for all national newspapers.

Our mole at the Daily Mail reports that Northcliffe House is completely empty apart from one IT man who is there in splendid isolation. 

Everyone else works from home, all departments, not just editorial. Editor Geordie Greig holds morning conference from his no doubt bijou London home at 8.30 and off they go. 

Even the switchboard staff work from home. Even Dacre has to rage from one of his grand houses.

The same is happening at the Express and Mirror groups.

It raises the question: will this be the new way of working? It would certainly save a fortune in office rent, canteen and support staff. And chauffeurs!

Strange times indeed.



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HAPPY DAYS: Photographer John Downing in Kiev, 1990, on Chernobyl assignment with Express reporter Kim Willsher and their interpreter Vitaly. Kim recalled: ‘The Soviets said drinking vodka stopped the effects of radiation — and, of course, we believed them'

LEGENDARY Daily Express photographer John Downing has died nine days before his 80th birthday after a long and brave battle with cancer.

The news was announced by his wife, the pianist Anita D’Attellis. She said: 'Sadly, John passed away at 12.40am this morning.  

'As you know, over the past few months he has put up a strong and brave fight against the cancer, but unfortunately he became very weak recently, deteriorated quickly and became bed-bound about a week ago (we had a hospital bed put up in the lounge).  

'His wish was to stay at home rather than go into a hospice, and I’m so glad that this was possible because of the amazing team of Sue Ryder nurses that came several times a day to care for him.

'The funeral arrangements will be limited to close family only because of the Covid-19 situation, but Bryn [John’s son] and I would like to have an event to celebrate John's life later in the year, when everyone can be invited.

'Please, please do not send flowers — I would much rather you give a donation to the Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub, who have supported John over the past few months. 

'The nurses do such a wonderful and important job and we have been overwhelmed by their kindnesses. Only yesterday I read about the charity's financial difficulties and I can’t bear the thought that they would cease to exist. 

Former Express reporter KIM WILLSHER, Paris correspondent for The Guardian, said: ‘I am utterly heartbroken to hear of the death of John Downing. Colleague, friend, fabulous photographer and thoroughly decent human being. We will not see his like again. RIP John.’

Fellow photographer TOM STODDART said: 'John was simply the best of his generation and the most generous of men who inspired and mentored so many young photographers.'

INP Media, which made a film of Downing (see below) said in a statement: 'John was a phenomenal photographer who risked his life on countless occasions to capture some truly iconic images, all of which will be remembered just as fondly as the man himself.










ITV 2019 documentary on John Downing. Runtime 23 minutes

Behind the Lens, a 2016 tribute. Runtime 34 minutes


History in Moments


1987: So … it could be anyone’s old nan, popping down the frog to Doggett’s for a nice pig’s or two in the rub-a-dub. Hang on a cock, though, this old nan sampling a pint she pulled herself in the Queen’s Head battle cruiser in Stepney, was more partial to the odd vera, gay and frisky or even a didn’t ought and sometimes, it must be said, became ever so slightly brahms. But never truly elephant’s.

S’welp me, guvnor (Rosalie, dear, you must be careful not to over-do the cockney sparrer trope - Ed) the Queen Mother was known to like the odd tincture or twain. 

Before the Abdication, when she was thrust into more limelight than she would have liked, Elizabeth was a bit of a party animal. She and Noel Coward were drinking buddies and she was patron of a posh drinking society, the Windsor Wets Club, motto: Aqua vitae, non aqua pura (spirits, not water). 

Her Maj was also notorious for her £7 million overdraft at Coutts (she once also bounced a £4million cheque) and getting that designer chappie, Hartnell, to run up a special gown for her to wear in the Palace air raid shelter. 

Even in widowhood, as the years advanced, she liked to maintain an imbibing routine: Dubonnet and gin at noon, red wine (heavy clarets preferred) with lunch. Then a couple of sturdy Martinis at 6 (the Magic Hour) and then some Veuve Clicquot with dinner. 

Yet she could be waspishly reproving over others’ drinking. When the Queen, no less, asked for a second glass of red at lunch, she said: “Is that wise, dear, you know you have to reign all afternoon.”

R.R. (t)


Circulations in freefall

REACH, parent company of the Daily Express, Daily Mirror and regional titles, has announced pay cuts and furloughs as the coronavirus pandemic hits income.

The news came as informed sources reported last night that the Daily Mirror sold just 300,000 copies a day last week, The Guardian 62,000 and The Sun 800,000.

All members of the Reach board and some of its most senior editorial and management team will take a 20 per cent reduction in salary. All company bonus schemes for 2020 have been halted.

There will also be 10 per cent pay cuts across the rest of the company, although this will not fall below the Living Wage, while 20 per cent of staff will be furloughed.

The Mail group, which includes the Metro, is taking a different and possibly fairer approach. 

Staff who earn more than £40,000 a year are being asked to take a pay cut of between 1 per cent, for the lowest earners, and 26 per cent, for the highest earners.

Those who agree will be offered a monthly grant of shares in DMG Media parent company DMGT to the same value as their pay sacrifice.

They can then sell these for cash at the end of the financial year, when they will take possession of all of the shares they have accrued, or keep them as an investment.

The share price offered will the market price on the day that the shares are issued, it is understood.

Should the share price be lower than when the shares were awarded when staff come to sell at a later date, the company said it will compensate them so they “will not have lost a penny”.

Reach, will  no longer propose a final dividend for the 2019 financial year.

The move follows JPIMedia, which produces a number of regional titles including The Scotsman, furloughing 350 employees and rolling out a 15 per cent pay cut for the rest of the company "after a significant reduction in advertising volumes".

Evening Standard owner ESI Media has also placed a number of staff on furlough and introduced a 20 per cent cut in salary for those earning at least £37,500. It has also paused publication of the ES magazine supplement



Why do young reporters ask such silly questions?

Sir — I, like others, am a fan of your mighty organ you tell us so much about, and currently bored hiding from the old people catchers at this time, so feel moved to write to you over a matter that disturbs me greatly.

I am incensed with the inane and rather silly questions asked by young reporters at the No.10 Coronovirus press conferences. I believe all grave dodgers must feel the same and long for the Resurrections of those mighty Reporters Bob McGowan; Norman Luck, Don Coolican and the like.

I have been so irritated that I was moved to publish this Tweet:

I hope you get the drift.

Fact is, in my view, young reporters today are highly intelligent and bristling with media degrees but have no real experience of life like they used to coming up the hard way. The pain and heartbreak of it all. They go straight to top papers from Academia

I remember the legendary Bernard Shrimsley of our Parish who once told me: “Trouble is that these graduates are good, highly qualified people but have no understanding of the troubles that life brings or how to comfort children when their rabbit dies. So they can’t reflect it with feeling in words or questions.”

There, got that off my chest. I won't continue about their tutors many of whom have only ever lived in Academia.

Yours truly

University of Life and other things.


Sir —  Your correspondent Mr T. Manners speaks on behalf on many of us with his excellent letter in today’s edition of your mighty organ.

I have now got to the stage where as soon as the nominated Minister ceases waffling I immediately reach for the OFF switch and the gin bottle in one well-practised movement.

It appears that appalling creature Peston puts the sound of his own voice and the erection it gives him as he pontificates instead of asking questions that matter to “the readers”. And that Jockinese bint from the BBC clearly thinks she, too, is a big name.

What a pity dear old Frank Howitt, or James (The-Prince-Of-Darkness) Nicholson as well as the other luminaries mentioned by Mr Manners are not around to give  lessons in asking questions.

Yours Sincerely,

In Isolation With A Large G&T

As the Coronavirus has put the kibosh on all forms of sport, commentator Nick Heath has decided to turn his talents to other more mundane matters


Break a leg! My crazy hilarious nights in Great Ancoats Street 

ancoats pic.jpg

CLASSIC: The stylish reception hall of the Express building in Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, as it is today

THE stone sub who ruined the night editor’s evening by falling down the stairs and breaking his leg is the stuff of Daily Express legend.

JEREMY GREENAWAY was in the Manchester office that night and witnessed the incident. Better late than never, he has finally filed his report 50 or so years on. He also records how the Chief Sub disappeared and ended up in a Liverpool jail cell.

Later, when Greenaway moved to London, he witnessed a classic outburst by the legendary Ralph Mineards.



(Except for the chaps in this pic)


FORMER Daily Starman Tom Fullerton has submitted some great pics of the Express newsroom in Manchester from the good old days.

Lord Drone has struggled to put names to the photos but can do a reasonable job with this one, perhaps because it was probably taken in London. It shows four reporters and a photographer holding joint Reporter of the Year awards with editor Arthur Firth. The awards were for the paper’s coverage on the Iranian Embassy siege in London.

Pictured from left: Iain Black, Peter Hardy, Arthur Firth, Bob McGowan, Peter Mason and photographer John Downing.


From Ancoats to Fleet Street with Andy Carson

THERE are certain Fleet Street characters who are once seen and never forgotten. One of these was Andy Carson, a great Daily Express backbencher who spoke in a thick Port Glasgow accent.

Jeremy Greenaway had the pleasure of moving down to London from Manchester with Andy and has written a nostalgic account of his experience — which involved sharing a hotel room with Carson.

I was Andy Carson’s interpreter

History in Moments

1961: one bound he was free. Or so he thought. East German border guard Konrad Schumann, 19, symbolised the defiance of most of his countrymen when he leaped over the barbed wire that was the start of the Berlin Wall and escaped to the West. Yet it wasn’t until the fall of the wall in November, 1989, that he was able to say: ‘It is only now that I really feel free.’  

Schumann’s escape, on the third day of the wall’s construction, was the first of 5,000 over the years; 95,000 failed and the death toll could have been as high as 200. In a classic piece of Communist Newspeak, the wall, a Cold War scar across the face of Europe, was known in the east as the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’.

Schumann moved to Bavaria and worked for the Audi car company for 30 years. Perhaps, despite marrying a local girl he never really settled. Even after the re-unification of Germany, he was reluctant to engage with his parents and siblings back in Saxony. He sank into depression and his wife, Kunigunde, found him hanging from a tree. He was 56.




Craig makes rock cakes and reveals brother Kelvin has produced a Victoria sponge

CURRANT BUNS: Craig reveals the news on Facebook


How news of the war got through the Blitz

Shop front.jpeg

FRANK BALDWIN’S grandparents ran three newsagents shops during the war. They had three because two were bombed in the London Blitz — yet still the news got through. His grandfather Charlie McCarthy is pictured outside the shop in Waterloo Road which bore his name and today Frank tells the family's story.





                     MATT                                      MATT

Sir – Judging by his front-page picture in Saturday's Daily Telegraph I think  the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, and the paper's cartoonist, Matt Pritchett, are one-and-the-same person. If so, I do wonder how he manages to cope with both jobs in these difficult times.
Petts Wood


History in Moments

1964:’s a cosy scene: proud East End mum sharing tea and biccies with her famous son in the parlour of her Bermondsey home. 

I’ll bet Sir Michael Caine, as he became, was glad of a break: his career was just starting to take off big time. His breakthrough movie Zulu, in which he played, against type, an upper crust army officer, was a smash and he was just about to start filming the spy thriller the Ipcress File, start of a film franchise which was to confirm his potential. 

Now aged 87, he can look back on a 130-film career with justifiable pride. Make no mistake, Caine, born Maurice Micklewhite, is one of Britain’s greatest screen actors. The winner of two Oscars, he is only the second actor to have been nominated in six different decades, the other being Jack Nicholson.

It could have been all so different for Michael White, the stage name he adopted when he started in rep after National Service in the Royal Fusiliers, some of it in Korea. 

As he tried to make a breakthrough in London his agent told him he would have to change his name because there was already a Michael White in the profession. 

Michael, who received the news in a Leicester Square phone box, looked around for inspiration. Seeing a film poster for a big film of the time he chose the name Caine. As he said afterwards, if there hadn’t been a tree in the way he’d have been called Mickey Mutiny. 

We all have our favourite Caine movies. The two Oscar winners, Hannah And Her Sisters or The Cider House Rules.  The Italian Job, of course, Educating Rita and you can’t forget Alfie. 

But to many, the movie role that defines Caine is the eponymous hero Jack Carter in Get Carter! Despite appearing with a company of distinguished actors (even Alf Roberts did a decent turn), Caine dominated every scene. Top man.

Funnily enough, his stand-in on the film was called … Jack Carter. Not many people know that. (Sorry, boss, I know I promised but I couldn’t resist).

R.R. (t)


Carrying on regardless: Police closed Bondi Beach because young people were ignoring a ban on large gatherings

As Britain shuts all pubs, bars and restaurants, Australia is dealing with Coronavirus at a somewhat slower pace thanks to indecision by Prime Minister Scott ‘SlowMo’ Morrison, reports ROGER TAVENER from Sydney

Fever pitch? Not quite


History in Moments

1980: So … here’s an absolutely vivid moment in history: the exact time when police passed authority over the Iranian embassy siege to the Special Air Service. 

The hastily scribbled note from Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Dellow to Lt Col Michael Rose triggered the dramatic rescue of 21 hostages held by Arab terrorists in the embassy in Princes Gate. Covered live on prime time television, Operation Nimrod became a defining chapter in our island’s story and confirmed the SAS as the crème de la crème, the epitome of special forces prowess and excellence.

During the 17-minute raid all but one of the hostages were freed unharmed; five out of the six hostage-takers were killed. (Astonishingly and, some may think, shamefully, the soldiers were later accused of unnecessarily killing two of them but were cleared of any wrong-doing by an inquest jury.) 

The sixth terrorist was convicted and served 27 years in British prisons. After his release he was, surprise, surprise, allowed to stay in the UK and now lives in Peckham, south-east London, under an assumed name.

Of course, there were many acts of heroism that day. But one of the bravest was not a soldier but a policeman who was among the hostages. PC Trevor Lock, who tackled the leader of the gunmen as the raid took place, was awarded the George Medal. 

An SAS sergeant who shot a terrorist about to throw a grenade among the hostages received the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Three years later Sgt Tommy Palmer was killed in a road accident while on a covert operation in Northern Ireland. He was 31.

Hot ops such as Nimrod rarely go exactly to plan. One staff sergeant abseiling down the embassy roof became entangled in ropes and was badly burned when some curtains caught fire. He fell to the balcony but managed to rejoin the assault. He was later treated in hospital and eventually made a full recovery.

The best of the best, eh?

R.R (t)


Prince Philip is alive and not at all dead (and we have the pic to prove it)


The Duke of Edinburgh out on the town last night

REPORTS circulating on the internet that Prince Philip had died at the age 0f 98 were denied by Buckingham Palace last night.

The official statement was backed up by this exclusive picture taken by Lord Drone from his sedan chair on his Box Brownie camera.

Lurching unsteadily, His Lordship commented: ‘My mighty organ’s reporters may not always be first with the news but they’re always wrong. Am I making sense, Bings?’

A Royal retainer confided: 'Apart from the broomstick up the Duke’s back and elements of stiffness he is healthy in body and spirit. Will this do, Your Majesty?’

POPBITCH reports: WhatsApp has been ablaze with rumours this week that Prince Philip has carked it. While it's probably only a matter of time before that rumour finally comes good, we hear that Phil has been making every day count in the meantime. 

Whispers from the Royal grounds suggest that he has three regular lady callers, and gets started on the drinking shortly after waking.


The mysterious Hickey writer who turned out to be not all he seemed

FAREWELL HICKEY: Christopher Wilson, second from right in fetching top hat, flanked by Nigel Dempster, right, and Geoffrey Levy, attends the mock funeral in 1987

FORMER William Hickey editor CHRISTOPHER WILSON has a fascinating tale to tell about a mysterious freelance reporter called Nigel who worked on the Daily Express diary for a few months.

His copy was impeccable, his stories extraordinary and he was always first at the bar to buy a round.

All fine then? Up to a point … years later Nigel turned up for Hickey’s mock funeral in Fleet Street and it turned out that he may not have been all that he seemed.

Was he a Fifth Columnist?


Tin hats on chaps, we'll not let Johnny Covid get us down


RUNNERS wielding cleft sticks stormed Drone Towers last night with the following Letter to the Editor 

Sir, following your excellent Drone Guide to Coronaspeak, I thought it might be helpful to share my extensive world research on Covid-19 with you and the readers of your excellent and informative internet Wickedpedia of Fleet Street. 

Intelligentsia like yourself and other members of the World's Greatest Lunch Club might find it useful for analyses and intellectual discussion.

I have discovered that the English are feeling the pinch in relation to this virus and have therefore raised their threat level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, level may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” 

The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the Blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. 

The virus has been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to A Bloody Nuisance. The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

 The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let's Get the Bastard.” They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British Army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its alert level  to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” or in Paris "Keep your powder dry”. The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing”. Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides”.

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs”.  They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose”. 

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its alert level from “No worries” to “She'll be alright, Mate”. Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend” and “The barbie is cancelled”. So far, no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

Medical Correspondent (freelance). 


Drone staff told to work from home


EARLY DOZING DAY: The editor hard at work last night

And now, your wipe-clean Daily Drone brings you, at no extra expense ...

Our exclusive guide to virus speak

The global pandemic has given us some new words and expressions and has revived some old ones. Here is the indispensable Drone guide to Coronaspeak.

Self Isolation: What Matron used to warn against after lights out.

Social Distancing: Technically, the gap between you and a fart before it loses its impact.

Lockdown: City/country shut off from outside world.

Lock-Up: Where panic-bought goods, especially toilet rolls, are stored. 

Contextual Questioning: When a healthcare professional quizzes you on where you’ve been and what you have been doing to whom.

Epidemiological inexacitude: Healthcare professionals don’t know what the fuck’s going on.

Epidemiological breakthrough: They are forced to admit they haven’t a clue what to do next.

Epidemiological Action Plan: Proof of the above.

We’re working on a vaccine: Please don’t hold your breath: it’s very bad for you.

The over-70s are particularly vulnerable: Yikes! They mean me.

Underlying health condition: If Corona don’t get you summat else will.

Panic buying: Are we running out of toilet rolls again, luv?

We’re all in this together: When a politician resorts to this deathless phrase you are in the shit.

So let’s all unite to beat this menace: He’s self isolating — and social distancing — in his constituency. 

We’re in unchartered territory: I not only don’t know what the fuck’s going on but I can’t speak the Queen’s English either.

The World’s Greatest Lunch Club cancels next meeting: World Health Organisation announces we’re in the shit — official.

John Smith: Name of new WHO director-general after the International Federation of Newsreaders and Continuity Announcers votes to isolate Tedros Anhamon Ghebreyesus.

Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee): Fine example of thrusting post-Brexit Brit determined not to let “foreign” Coronavirus get her down.


A toast to Victor


Friends of the late Daily Express Showbusiness Editor Victor Davis raise a glass to his memory in a London pub.

With typical generosity, Victor left money in his will for friends and colleagues to have a drink on him.

ALAN FRAME was there to enjoy the fun and has filed this picture special 

Victor, Doyen of showbiz writers


We laugh in the face of virus crisis
(but not cough, obviously)

Transport Correspondent

A new luxury cruise liner has been launched to combat the Coronavirus crisis.

Fred. Olsen’s Four Towers was built in the Von Rambleshanks yard in Bremerhaven and is currently undergoing sea trials off Dogger Bank.

An Olsen spokesman told the Drone: ‘This an exciting new concept in ocean cruising. The four towers on our iconic new vessel are designed to complement established epodemiodic measures such as self isolation and social distancing.

‘Our guests will be confined to individual staterooms in the four towers enabling them to enjoy a minimum two-week cruise without fear of further risk of contamination or having to converse with riffraff from the North.

‘One bonus is the 360-degree ocean views they will be able to enjoy.’

The spokesman added that they were working on a method of feeding guests using an hydraulic dumb waiter in the centre of the towers but it was still in the early stages of development.

Next week in the Drone: Win a mystery cruise on the Four Towers (only genuine Coronavirus sufferers need apply) 



St Bride’s, the Wren masterpiece that defied the Nazi Blitz


1941: So...I’d be really, really upset if I didn’t know that this important building, severely damaged by the Luftwaffe, has since been carefully restored. 

It’s St Bride’s, of course, Fleet Street’s parish church, genuinely loved by even the most grizzled and atheistic journos. Not looking good here, admittedly, but we may be confident that some cliché-ridden hack subsequently wrote that it “rose phoenix-like from the ashes”. 

Wren’s 1672 masterpiece is the seventh church on the site and its 226ft spire inspired wedding cake design and not the other way around as most think.

The “journalists’ church” has always hosted some pretty impressive scribblers, Pepys, Milton and Dryden among them and the parents of Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in America, married there. 

It was in the churchyard that an Express executive famously deflowered (surely she had been “plucked” before — Ed) the actress Janet Munro during the making of The Day The Earth Caught Fire but, perhaps, we should hasten past.

Nowadays, memorial services for Fleet Street behemoths attract large congregations, although the world-famous choir and the promise of free drink may have something to do with it. 

Some still recall a gathering to celebrate the life of the Express’s Les Diver more than 30 years ago. It was notable for an original verse, The Traveller, by another poet, Terry Manners, and for the recollection that Mr Diver, in intensive care, could still joke: “I’m so full of pills I feel like a sub again.” (Pills-pils: geddit?)

And the professionally irreverent Sun Editor Kelvin MacKenzie, on spotting aging former Express Managing Editor Morris Benett, greeted him: “Oi, Morris, it’s hardly worth you going home is it?”

Oh, Mr MacKenzie!

R.R. (t)


They don’t write headlines like
this any more ...


WE suspect the revise sub was hiding under his desk from the World War 2 flak when this headline slipped through the net.

The classic cock-up was uncovered by former Mirrorman Alex Collinson, who told the Drone: 'I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that I can top and tail (pun intended) the much misquoted WW2 headline concerning bottles and Germans. 

'The excellent Fritz Spiegl book, Keep Taking the Tabloids, has a facsimile, though the guilty newspaper is not named and shamed.

'For myself, when I was a young sub on the Daily Mail in the early Seventies, I was given a filler about a flamboyant French politician, Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, who proposed that busts should be made of Brigitte Bardot for display in public places throughout the land. 

'My headline, Gallic symbol, raised a laugh on the backbench but was judged too risqué and never saw the light of day.

*Our Cape Town correspondent reports: Most parochial headline? After a visiting circus trapeze artist fell to his death, the local paper reported:

*Used copies of Keep Taking the Tabloids are available from Amazon for £2.49


Life’s a brawl on the Mail

SHURELY shome mishtake? This snippet written by an anonymous sub about life on the Daily Mail appears on the Byline Times website.

The claim has been vigorously denied by many commenters on Twitter which, in the Drone’s experience, can only mean one thing…

Read the piece here


How Monty the Great saved me from the dole

JUST WED: Robin McGibbon and his bride Sue with Monty Levy in the front row, far right. Also in the picture is Jon Zackon, far left, third row up


How lovely to see Monty Levy's name in the Drone. He was the most friendly, affable gentleman one would wish to meet, and I have very good reason to remember him, because he threw me a financial lifeline when I was at my lowest ebb.

It happened one Friday night, in December, 1980, in the Printers Pie. Why I was there, I can't remember. Certainly I didn't have much cash to splash, because my publishing company had gone into liquidation and I was — once again! — on the dole.

I got talking to Craig Mackenzie, then News of the World Features Editor, and he asked how I was doing. I took my unemployment benefit slip out of my wallet and forced a smile. "Things could be better. Any chance of a shift?"

"Put that right back and wait here," Craig said and forced his way through to the crowded bar to talk to someone.

A few minutes later, he came back, grinning. "I've just spoken to Monty Levy (pictured right). He's happy for you to come in next Tuesday for an all-day shift. What happens after that is up to you."

I'm happy to say that the shift went well and I was given more — over the following couple of weeks and Christmas and New Year periods — which did much to ease my financial crisis.

I was so grateful to Monty that when I got married three years later, to Daily Express advertising sales rep Sue Tompsett, we invited him to our register office wedding, in Bromley, and the Reception. He was thrilled to accept, he said.

*Monty Levy died at his home in Surrey in January 2016 aged 88.



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

BRILLIANT: Monty Levy’s headline in the News of the World

Q. What is the greatest headline ever written? 

A. Apart from the last one you wrote this is almost impossible to answer because it depends so much on preference or context. Is it a witty head on a one-line short or the splash head on a unique event, the Daily Mirror’s Man Walks On The Moon for instance? 

Should it be the classic Subject-Verb-Object head (Elephant Stuck On Spiral Staircase) or something more whimsical or ethereal? Mind you, the New York Post’s classic Headless Body In Topless Bar is neither.

It’s tempting for old fogeys to think that the days of great heads have passed. Not true. One recent story about Nicola Sturgeon’s interminable efforts to stage another Indy referendum in Scotland was headed in The Times: If At First You Don’t Secede. 

And only last month the Mail headed a story about the issue of a set of stamps to mark Bond films: Lick And Let Dry.

In recent times Kelvin Mackenzie can lay claim to two of the most talked about heads. Even he knew Gotcha! was tacky and knee-jerk. It didn’t last the night. But his Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster was, justifiably, lauded.

My own favourite was written one floor down in Bouverie Street. The News of the World’s Monty Levy deserves a commemorative plaque for his Nudist Welfare Man’s Model Wife Fell For The Chinese Hypnotist From The Co-Op Bacon Factory.

Wow! They really don’t write ‘em like that any more.

Next in Media Hits and Myths: Do rough end of a green pineapple “intimate therapists” deserve their fat fees? 


Crazy night the head printer spiked my scoop on Lord Lucan



SOON after I joined the Daily Express in 1974 I was manning the news desk solo on the “dog watch” overnight. 

Two Met police detectives rang in from a phone box looking for an exclusive payment. 

They told me they were at a murder scene in Belgravia and that Lord Lucan was wanted for killing the family nanny. 

They added that Lucan had called his mother, the Dowager Lady Lucan, while police were with her but he had declined to speak to them, saying he would appear at the local police station the next day with his solicitor. Lucan was never seen again.

The late-night sub editor, Ray, climbed over the library shutter to get out Debrett’s Peerage, the reference guide to the United Kingdom’s titled families. 

When we looked up the Earl of Lucan, we learned that one of his great, great ancestors had ordered the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade. We had ourselves a genuine Fleet Street scoop.

However, fate turned out to be cruel — the boss of the print floor told Ray as he submitted my “stop the presses” plea at 2am: “Never heard of him, mate — I’m not stopping the presses for that.”

So my 15 minutes of fame had to wait for another day. Life in the rough and tumble of Fleet Street could be cruel back in the day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The printer had no authority to refuse to stop the presses. The situation should have been escalated to a higher authority rather than meekly give in.

*Lord “Lucky” Lucan, who would now be 85, disappeared after the murder of nanny Sandra Rivett at the family’s exclusive mews home in Belgravia, Central London, on November 7, 1974. He has never been found and has been officially declared dead. This story was originally posted on the Association of Mirror Pensioners website.


The one that got away

ESTEEMED former night editor of the Daily Express Pat Pilton looks happy in this snap from his time on Today newspaper. 

Maybe it was because he had escaped the hell of the Black Lubyanka. Pat is pictured here in the 1980s with Ron Morgans, seated at his terminal, as they take a break from staring blankly at the gobbledegook on the computer screen.


Rupert and the Wretched Replica Rip-off 


Oh dear, says Rupert, forgive me if I’m rude.
I’ve got a nasty feeling I’ve been ever-so-slightly screwed

What promised to be a lovely weekend has been spoiled for Rupert. And he’s very angry. In fact, he’s growling. 

Rupert was just starting his breakfast porridge and honey when his father, who was reading the morning newspaper, snorted in indignation. 

‘What’s amiss, father?’ Rupert inquired. Mr Bear, his snout trembling in anger, showed him an advert in the Daily Mail’s Weekend Magazine. It showed a puppet-like depiction of a bear. 

With a chill in his stomach, Rupert realised this travesty, dressed in his familiar garb of red sweater and yellow check trousers and scarf, was supposed to be him! In those white plastic bootees?

Worse was to come. As he quickly scanned the glib advertising copy which accompanied the image, he learned that the doll had been manufactured to mark the centenary of Rupert Bear and that the chancers entrepreneurs responsible were charging gullible enthusiastic fans £225 for the privilege of owning one.

 ‘This is an outrage,’ fumed Rupert, ‘I wonder what my agent, Bill Badger will say.’ 




1900: this spooky or what? Definitely not one of the London railway stations on the Monopoly board. The catchily named London Necropolis came into being in 1854 for one specific purpose: to transport coffins and mourners the 37 miles on the London and South Western Railway from Westminster Bridge Road to Brookwood cemetery — at 500 acres then the largest in the world — near Woking in Surrey. 

By the mid 19th century, London, with its rapidly expanding population, faced the problem of what to do with its dead. The limited cemeteries were already full. Graves were having to be used over and over again. The cholera outbreak in the 1840s proved the tipping point and the Brookwood option was adopted. 

Bizarrely, the station, with its state-of-the-art hydraulic lifts for coffins and its individual waiting rooms for grieving families, was used until as late as 1941 when it suffered bomb damage.

Granny Rambleshanks recalls that her mother, Octavia, made this last journey before the family moved from Ebury Street to West Byfleet between the wars. Only single tickets were required, she says. After all, it’s a dead end. Oh, Granny!


Drone readers have been contacting the Editor clamouring for a more cultured content in the World’s Greatest Website. 
Here, in an occasional series, Poetry Corner, is some verse which acknowledges its debt to Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona. 

Who is Rosalie? What is she

That all the Drones commend her?

Art, histories: wise is she;

The Editor such grace did lend her,

That she might admiréd be.

Are her Lookalikes as fair as she?

For beauty lives with kindness.

And doth Muldoon compare? With

Such facile supermarket musings

That, checked out, are, increasing, mindless?

Then to Rosalie let us sing,

That Rosalie is excelling;

Oh, Frame what matter who she be?

But to her, let us garlands bring!


Three picture editors hold a candle for John Downing

PICTURE POST: Photographer John Downing appears to have been presented with a candelabrum for one of his many achievements, quite what the award was for has been lost in the mists of time. Here he is, centre, with three of his admiring picture editors, from left, Ron Morgans, Andrew Harvey and John Mead.


The golden age of Fleet Street gossip

Oh boy! An Express annual for 

BACK in the 1950s the Daily Express knew exactly what its readers wanted — it catered for everyone, including children.

The paper, then selling four million copies a day, started a comic for youngsters entitled Express Weekly, which later became TV Express.

Former Expressman John Clarke found this annual, clearly aimed at boys, in a charity shop.


He told the Drone: "I remember enjoying the comic as a young boy in the 50s. The front cover of this annual features among others Jet Morgan (a Dan Dare-type figure) and Texas Ranger Rex Keene, while the Express crusader does his bit on the back.

Inside there is Wulf the Briton plus a chubby chap called Jack of All Trades who explains how things like film cameras and oil rigs work. Comedy is supplied by Horace the Horror and Wee Sporty while Danny Blanchflower and Stuart Surridge provide sporting tips. All good clean fun. I imagine it dates from around 1959-60."


Porky’s spicey pig-out

Graham hits out at ‘drunk' Parry in angry Twitter clash over Caroline Flack's death

Cipriani’s original Tweet

How rugby player Cipriani started the row



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Q. Was there ever a letter in a newspaper signed Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells?

A. The Kent and Sussex Courier, based in the royal borough, is read avidly by, among others, choleretic colonels and/or disapproving dowagers who have encountered something nasty in the Pantiles; people described by E M Forster in Room With A View as having a “stuffy, reactionary image”.

They may well be disgusted but they are rarely shy about adding their names, titles and awards to their correspondence with the lively Courier Letters Pages.

There are many theories but the sign-off is said actually to have been invented by a rival newspaper envious of the Courier’s letters. The editor of the Tunbridge Wells Advertiser instructed his reporters to make up correspondence (it has been done!) on controversial topics and sign off with a pseudonym.

As it happened, a spoof letter in the Advertiser from Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells was spotted by actor and comedian Richard (Stinker) Murdoch on a visit to his parents who lived in the town.

He is said to have used it in his popular wireless programme Much Binding In The Marsh. 

The scriptwriter and raconteur Frank Muir (“What’s a homophone? I don’t know but it certainly has a gay ring to it”) later picked it up and used it on spoof letters in Take It From Here in the sixties.

Next in Media Hits and Myths: Is the rough end of a green pineapple really that uncomfortable?



And to hell with journalists who had their very modest
five per cent claim rejected


NO wonder Reach chief executive Jim Mullen is smiling — he’s been awarded nearly £1million in shares just four months after joining the company.

Tell that to the editorial staff of the company which publishes the Express, Mirror and Star titles whose request for a modest pay rise has been rejected by bosses.

Unions had asked for a five per cent pay rise over two years, which would cost the company less than £100,000. They were offered a little more than one per cent which they rejected.

A two per cent pay rise for this year has since been offered to Mirror group staff,  who will hold a ballot on the offer on Friday. 

The British Association of Journalists is the recognised union for Mirror staff. The National Union of Journalists, representing staff on the Express and Star, is still waiting for a new offer and has told management that it must improve upon two per cent, according to Press Gazette.

Jim Mullen, who previously worked at News International (now NewsUK) and betting firm Ladbroke Coral, was awarded £949,999 in ordinary shares in the company last December four months after taking over from Simon Fox as chief executive.

The shares are double his base salary for 2019. Each of the 972,364 shares is worth 97.7p.

City Editor TOM TROUSER DE-LOTT reports: The Reach share price has rocketed to 168p. They are going up nearly as fast as Tesla, apparently on the assumption that Reach is now a brilliant high-tech company, bugger the newspaper circulations.    

On the share chat lines, they are talking about the possibility of shares hitting £3 or more so the ‘greedy bugger’ angle could eventually be much greater.



(Up to a point, Lord Copper)

THE truth can now be told in your non-stop, soaraway Daily Drone about three of the world’s greatest mysteries.

We can report that Lord Lucan, Nazi Martin Bormann and the racehorse Shergar were found 35 years ago but the news was  somewhat under reported at the time.

But now the facts can be revealed. Well, sort of

Our story about Mirrorman Garth Gibbs’ unsuccessful search for the fugitive Lord Lucan stirred former Mail sub Tom McCarthy into action.

He revealed last night: "What is not generally known is that the fugitive peer was finally tracked down in 1985 by the Daily Splash, along with Martin Bormann and Shergar. It turned out all three were living together in peaceful semi-retirement in a rose-covered cottage in Ireland.

"Unfortunately, the paper  did not receive any accolades for its scoop because it was a one-off produced by Daily Mail staff in Manchester to raise money for charity.

"Old hands may remember that each of the nationals in Manchester took it in turn annually to make their own version of the Daily Splash. 

"Happy days.

"Long may your Mighty Organ, truly the World’s Greatest Website, thrive.


Old boiler lets off steam

2017: So … let’s salute the Golden Age of Steam, immortalised in the verse of Auden, Betjeman and Edward Thomas whose poem Adlestrop has inspired many a young writer (that train has left; it shall not return - Ed). 

Exactly a century after it was built, Charwelton, a Manning Wardle 0-6-0, has retired from huffing and puffing and snorting around the former marshalling yard now the home of Walton-on-Thames Railway Heritage Society because it developed boiler problems. 

For most of its life this classic Saddle Tank (28 tons; 7,810 lbs tractive effort; two cylinders 15in. dia x 22in stroke; 150 lbs boiler pressure) worked at the Park Gate Iron and Steel Co, of Charwelton, Northants and a quarry in Lincolnshire.

Now it is tended by loving heritage railway buffs (not the one I know - Ed) including Big Mac, pictured here. He likes to keep busy polishing the brassware and cleaning the thrust flues while going choo-choo and, occasionally, woo-hoo. Harmless, really.

R.R. (t)

I suppose you think that’s funny, Rosalie — Ed


Daring publicity stunt that could have cost foreign editor David English his job


THIS historic picture of the entire foreign staff of the Daily Express posed an enormous risk to the paper at the time.

It was taken by Terry Fincher in London in February 1965 at the instigation of foreign editor David English but it left the paper without any foreign coverage for three days.

The photograph features in reporter Andrew Fyall’s excellent autobiography First In, Last Out, Memoirs of an Expressman.

Pictured centre is English, flanked by René MacColl, left, and George Gale. Behind Gale on the far right is John Ellison who later became Foreign Editor of a much reduced department. Andrew Fyall is immediately behind MacColl.

The get-together, organised by the buccaneering and ambitious English, was a risky venture. Foreign correspondents were flown to London from all corners of the earth at enormous expense. Staff travelled first class, were met at the airport in chauffeur-driver limousines, and put up at five-star hotels.

Fyall, a foreign correspondent who spent much of his time in New York, explains in his book: “It was a huge gamble by English; one which would have cost him his job if anything had gone wrong, but his luck held. Nothing much happened in the world that weekend.”

The aim of the photograph, which was splashed across a page of the Express on a Monday morning, was to stun the paper’s rivals. It did that but it left the Express without a single man abroad for 72 hours.

Fyall calls it one of the greatest publicity stunts ever seen in Fleet Street.

English had badly wanted to become editor of the Express but the Mail group saw his potential first, making him editor of the Daily Sketch and then, famously, appointed him to the chair of the Daily Mail which consequently beat the Express in the circulation race.

The picture below, also taken from the book, shows the Express office in New York shortly after moving to the Herald Tribune building. Andrew Fyall is on the left talking to photographer Bill Lovelace. Bureau chief Henry Lowrie is in the background.

Fyall’s book is warmly recommended to anyone interested inthe history of the Express and Fleet Street in general. It covers in entertaining details major world events in the 1960s and 70s. 

Buy it on Amazon for £13.99 in paperback or £3.50 for the Kindle edition.

fyall crop.jpeg


The night TV’s Alastair Stewart admitted being ‘pissed’ on air 
… and kept his job as a result


By POPBITCH Gossip Editor

It's become even more astonishing to us that ITN newscaster  Alastair Stewart had to step down over his "errors of judgment" on social media after the deluge of stories we've heard.

From the sounds of it, he's always been very capable of talking his way out of a sticky situation. 

Back in his big drinking days, Alastair was called into his boss's office to sit down and watch a clip of News at Ten that he had presented the night before. His boss demanded an explanation for it, saying: "If you say you were drunk during that bulletin, you're fired. What's your excuse?” 

Alastair calmly replied: “I was ... pissed.

It earned him a reprieve.

Even in the most debauched surroundings, Alastair still managed to keep his head and was able to extract himself – and others – from tricky situations. 

In 1992, ITN sent a delegation out to Brazil to cover the Earth Summit. While in Rio, one of the journalists' favoured bars in which to unwind of an evening was a place called Frankie's – famed for staging live sex shows. Alastair could often be found there, chatting animatedly to punters in between pukes. 

But when the landlord started getting heavy-handed with a fellow reporter, springing an unexpected $200 rum bill on him and threatening to call his brother-in-law (who he claimed was the local chief of police) if he didn't cough up, who should fix the situation but Alastair. 

He stepped straight in to smooth things over with the lairy owner, defused the situation like a pro and stumped up the necessary funds to get his colleague off the hook. 

Why Alastair had to go


Jollies with Ollie

Fleet Street finally catches up with our story on changes at Sun and Times two weeks later

       PROMOTED: Newton              DEMOTED: Gallagher 

BIG editorial changes at NewsUK have been announced — TWO WEEKS after the story was first published by the Daily Drone.

The company finally confirmed that former Express graduate trainee Victoria Newton has been appointed editor of The Sun, replacing Tony Gallagher who moves to The Times as deputy editor.

Gallagher replaces Emma Tucker who becomes editor of The Sunday Times.

The only new fact is that Keith Poole, digital editor at The Sun, has been promoted to deputy editor. He and Newton will continue to have oversight of the Sun on Sunday, which Newton currently edits. It is not clear if a separate editor will be appointed to the Sunday title.

The changes take place next Monday.

Newton’s appointment means the UK’s two biggest-selling daily tabloids will be edited by women, with Alison Phillips at the Mirror. Roughly a third of paid-for national daily and Sunday newspapers in the UK are now edited by women.



 Emma Tucker is the new editor of The Sunday Times 

By POPBITCH Gossip Editor

FORMER Daily Express graduate trainee Victoria Newton is to take over as editor of The Sun, informed sources reported last night.

To complete the female coup, Emma Tucker, deputy editor of The Times, has been awarded the editorship of The Sunday Times.

So far the only official announcement has been the appointment of Emma Tucker, but the gossip is that it has set in train another game of media musical chairs at NewsUK.

As it stands, the reshuffle is thought to look a little like this: 

  • Emma Tucker displaces Martin Ivens, who is joining the board of NewsUK as a director.
  • Tony Gallagher will quit as editor of  The Sun to take up Tucker's vacant deputy seat at The Times.
  • Victoria Newton will be drafted from The Sun on Sunday to replace Gallagher as editor of The Sun.

If implemented, those changes would mean at least two of NewsUK's four papers will soon be edited by women, which is a great stride for equality. 

The male editor who remains in situ though is the one who – as we've reported before – has treated more than one female colleague to his infamous chat-up line "You have no idea how much I want to shove my cock into you.” 

So a slightly mixed bag.

Emma Tucker will not be the first female editor of The Sunday Times — that honour went to Rachel Beer, the aunt of war poet Siefried Sassoon, who held the post between 1893 and 1901.


Biker Steve takes the Road to Hell

Former Express photographer STEVE WOOD has been living in the dream in the Far East. 

Determined to throw off the shackles of his increasing years, Steve bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and set off on an epic journey from Bangkok to Vietnam with his companion Kornkanok on the pillion.

He calls this video his Road to Hell. It doesn’t look too bad to us Steve!


My part in Christine Keeler’s downfall, by snapper Larry Ellis

(As told to MAUREEN PATON)

Larry Ellis spent 18 months on just two stories

EVERY Expressman or Expresswoman of a certain age has a tale to tell about Christine Keeler’s role in the Profumo affair — and photographer Larry Ellis is no exception.

Feature writer Maureen Paton tracked Larry down and interviewed him about the 1963 scandal in which Christine had an affair with War Minister John Profumo.

The ensuing ructions led to Profumo’s resignation, the downfall of Harold Macmillan’s Tory Government and the jailing of Miss Keeler for perjury.

Maureen told the Drone: “I remember Larry talking about it many years ago in the Express showbiz office where he was one of our regular snappers.

“The other day I was writing a backgrounder piece for The Lady magazine; it was published with Larry’s quotes in the January 10 issue. He talked about how a tip-off led to a snatch shot of Christine Keeler emerging from the underground car park of her block of flats to avoid the ravening media hordes. 

“He maintains she gave him a two-finger salute in the shot but I think that’s a shocking allegation about such a nice young lady: she may have just been rearranging her hair. 

“Most impressive of all, I thought, was Larry’s revelation that he spent 18 months working flat-out on just two stories: Keeler and the Great Train Robbery. Eighteen months… 

“Larry now lives on the Isle of Wight and was the recent subject of a Fleet Street star snappers exhibition at its Dimbola Museum and Gallery, along with Mike Maloney, Bob Aylott, John Cleave and David L White."


Why TV hell-raiser Alastair had to go

DRUNK WITH FAME: Alastair Stewart

By POPBITCH, Gossip Editor

It's genuinely quite astonishing that a bad tweet may be the thing that ends up derailing Alastair Stewart's illustrious innings at ITV News — but not for the reasons that hysterical pundits are giving.

Until he drastically changed his lifestyle in 2004 (after a second drink-driving offence where he rammed his car into a telegraph pole on his way home with a Chinese takeaway) tales of Alastair's hell-raising were legendary in the industry.

At London Tonight in the 90s, it wasn't unheard of that he would have to be locked in his dressing room because he was too hammered to read the news at all, let alone on camera. 

And on one overseas trip, he got so wrecked at dinner he spent the entire journey back to his hotel vomiting. One of the crew with him was an old roadie who claimed he hadn't seen anyone that fucked since his days touring with Joe Cocker in the 60s "...and he had an arm full of heroin”.

My dad and Christine Keeler, by Frank Baldwin



Redone Dad and Keeler.jpg

ACCUSED: Christine Keeler arriving at Court with Frank Baldwin’s lawyer father Freddie in December 1963

The BBC TV series The Trial of Christine Keeler has again raised the profile of The Profumo Affair which continues to capture people’s imagination even though it happened nearly 6o years ago. 

Publisher and former Fleet Street journalist FRANK ‘SCOOP’ BALDWIN has a special interest in the scandal — as his father Freddie was Christine Keeler’s solicitor.

Freddie Baldwin also had to visit Christine’s London flat on occasions and often found her still in bed, which Frank's mum was NOT very happy about.

My Dad and Christine Keeler


The word in the Beaver is:
We don’t want Meghan and Harry here in Canada

ROGER TAVENER reports the latest gossip from his favourite Toronto pub

I always found parts of Canada very fond of the Royal Family, particularly Diana. 

But my pals in Toronto's quaintly named, English-themed Queen and Beaver (yes, I know, but ’twas named when Meghan was but knee-high to a monarch) tell me the mood is turning with the Markle debacle, a reality soap the quiet quasi-Yanks would rather avoid.

I'd spend many a long night in the Beaver, playing darts, eating fine sausage and mash washed down with London Pride.

An old pal, former Globe and Mail sub Dave Downes, tells me: "Most Canadians don't want the attention, or security costs. We don't want Meghan's dirty washing hung out here."


Dramatic new look at site of Ludgate House

The site of the old Express building in London’s Blackfriars is to be transformed, as illustrated by this artist’s impression.

Ludgate House, formerly home to Daily and Sunday Express and the Daily Star titles, was demolished some time ago.

A huge skyscraper has already been built on the opposite side of Blackfriars Road and dominates the South Bank. Soon it will have a rival.



Private Eye snaffles Daily Drone story


PLAYING CATCH-UP: The Eye’s January 10 edition



FIRST WITH THE FUN: These Tweets were first published by the Drone last month. As Lord Drone once said (it was after luncheon): ‘We may not be first with the news but we’re always wrong’ A mishtake, shurely— Ed


News you may have missed

ALMOST CORRECT: A bucketful of bilge from the Christmas issue of American weekly gossip magazine In Touch


History in moments


1945: Emaciated British troops, just liberated from the hell of an internment camp in Sumatra, catch up with the latest “war” news in the World’s Greatest Newspaper. 

Actually, as it is late August, the fighting against Japan had been over for more than a week following Emperor Hirohito’s surrender on the 15th. But the troops’ ordeal, and that of many civilians, continued. 

Few in those heady early days of freedom and longed-for peace realised how much the world had changed after Hiroshima and Nagasaki as reflected in the Express’s splash head: THE ATOMIC PLAGUE



All you need is Wigg


Wigg interviews John and Yoko Lennon in 1969

Interviews The Beatles gave to former Expressman David Wigg 50 years ago have resurfaced on Mail Online. Wigg spent many years on the Express before taking the well-trodden path to the Daily Mail but was working for the London Evening News at the time of the interviews which were given shortly before the group broke up. 






CHEESED OFF: Marc Veyrat’s restaurant has been downgraded

KIM WILLSHER has written a delightful story in The Guardian about a French chef who lost a Michelin star because he allegedly used Cheddar in his cheese soufflé 



Are they on the table or behind it?

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Former Daily Express chief photographer JOHN DOWNING is the subject of a fascinating documentary shown recently on ITV Wales. Several familar faces can be spotted in the programme including Leon Symons, Gill Martin and Liz Gill, whose late husband Danny McGrory is also pictured. Run time is 23.20

Many thanks to Alex Collinson for sending the link. He reports that the programme came about "because of your item on the Daily Drone website. The producer Sarah Drew is my daughter-in-law”.

CHUMS: A still from the ITV programme, featuring John Downing, centre, with Liz Gill, Leon Symons, Gill Martin and Kim Willsher in the front row


Clive James chats to Alan Coren in the Daily Express  Fleet Street foyer, July 1991

Clive James, who has died at the age of 80, visited the Daily Express Fleet Street offices in this BBC Postcard From London recorded in July 1991 after the paper had moved to Blackfriars.

He chats about the old days in Fleet Street with his old friend Alan Coren in the famed foyer of the newspaper. The relevant part starts at 24.20 but if you want to watch the whole show it runs for 48 minutes.


Why can’t Geordie track down his old party pal Ghislaine?



Where in the world is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Since Prince Andrew’s excruciating interview, the Press has redoubled its efforts to track down the whereabouts of Jeffrey Epstein’s elusive “fixer" Ghislaine Maxwell.

So far, no dice — but it’s weird that Daily Mail editor Geordie Grieg hasn’t thought to put in a call.

He and Ghislaine were big pals when they were contemporaries at Oxford and have remained close in the intervening years.

In fact a quick image search through some of the better known picture agencies shows the two of them partying together as recently as 2013 (and in a very intimate looking clinch in 2003).

He knows there’s a £10,000 bounty going for this, right? That’s got to be worth a quick text, surely.

At the risk of attracting the attention of Inspector Knacker, we appear to have found a couple of  the aforementioned pics  — Ed



Farewell to the great Moncrieff


LEGEND: Chris Moncrieff in the corridors of power

THE world of journalism is mourning the loss of another great reporter — the legendary former political editor of the Press Association Chris Moncrieff.

Moncrieff, who was known for his hard working and his equally hard drinking, has died at the age of 88.

Such was his reputation around Parliament that the Commons Press Bar was renamed in his honour.

Former Expressman TERRY MANNERS, who went on to work for the PA, told the Drone: "Chris Moncrieff was one of the kindest, most likeable people you could meet … hard-working to the extreme, dedicated and trustworthy. 

"When Paul Potts asked me to work on the official book covering the history of the Press Association with Chris, I jumped at the chance, knowing I would have to keep pace with the scribe’s rapid work rate — especially as the doyen of the Commons no longer excelled in the excesses of the Commons Bar. 

(This was once the man who had a pint in hideaways all over Westminster ready for the long day and night ahead, especially debates — on a corner shelf; in a cupboard; behind a curtain). He could be assured of a drink anywhere he liked and at any time no matter where he was covering a political story.

In fact Chris’s work rate was so high all his life that he hated taking time off and would be in PA’s London office or the Commons before the day shift arrived – and still be there long into the evening. 

I remember a moment at a function, I think to celebrate his long-standing years of service with PA, which his good lady wife attended. In a pause in the conversation over gin and tonics and egg and watercress sandwiches, Paul and other Board members spoke highly of Chris’s talent, endless hard work, long hours and dedication to the company as Mrs Moncrieff smiled with pride. 

When the praise subsided she turned to Paul and said quietly: “Thank you and I know that you value Chris’s hard work but don’t you think, after all these years, he deserves to have more than one week’s annual holiday?”

Stunned silence.

Guardian obituary



READ ALL ABOUT IT: The cover of the lavish 400-page book

It seems like only yesterday that it launched but The Sun is now celebrating it’s 50th year.

The paper has marked the occasion with the publication of a lavish 400-page book which has been issued to all staff and contributors.

The Drone’s ROGER WATKINS has got his hands on a copy.

Read his comprehensive review, only in the Drone


Coulson airbrushed out of Sun’s 50th anniversary 


SUNRISE: The paper's first front page, November 17, 1969

As part of The Sun's recent 50th anniversary celebrations, Dan Wootton wrote a gushing tribute to the paper's Bizarre column, revisiting some of its best scoops from its various former editors. 

Most of the big names were there: Piers Morgan, Nick Ferrari, Gordon Smart, Dan himself. But there was one rather notable exception. 

Once again, there was absolutely no mention of Andy Coulson. 

Coulson edited Bizarre for four years in the 90s but — in much the same way he was airbrushed out of the Times' serialisation of David Cameron's recent memoirs — there was no trace to be found of him. 

It's a shame, because there's still plenty of good stories about Andy from those high, heady days to be told. The evening he chazbapped with Anna Friel, for example.

The golden age of newspapers

A fascinating look at architecture which built London’s Fleet Street


I have no recollection of meeting these men - Duke of Pork (sword)


By CLARENCE HOUSE, Royal Reporter

BUCKINGHAM Palace has issued a strong denial that the Duke of York has been involved in bizarre sexual practices involving hill marching.

It is reported that up to ten thousand men are alleged to have been involved in incidents involving the Duke.

One participant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “I and loads of other guys were offered money to dress up in early 19th century uniforms and then march to the top of a hill.

“When we got there we were greeted by an extremely ‘excited’ Prince Andrew. He was very giggly now I think about it.

“Then, just when we thought it was all over, he seemed keen to make us march all the way back down again.”

Another man, who also claims to have been involved, claimed: “He was quite firm about it, when we were up we were up and when we were down we were down.”

Denying the claims, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “All allegations in this matter are false, and records will clearly show these men were neither up nor down.”


Dear Sir

Your item about the Duke of York’s penchant for hill marching prompts me to inform you that it started at this school in the 16th century, not as a “bizarre sexual practice” but as a way of honing junior boys’ youthful bodies and hardening up their supple young thighs.

It was traditionally said of those lads who did not want to take part: “They don’t like it Uppingham!”

Yours etc


Downham House

Uppingham School






The Daily Star ran a front page last week bemoaning the death of workplace "bantz", saying that nearly two-thirds of men are now afraid to make "old-school quips" in the office in case PC snowflakes kick up a fuss.

Clearly, this news has yet to reach the broadsheets. Staff at The Times are well used to hearing some very salty language from their esteemed editor. 

More than one colleague alleges they have been treated to his charming chat-up line: "You have no idea how much I want to shove my cock into you.

This story is completely untrue m’lud (allegedly) — Cocklecarrot





Night a mini-skirted Anne asked our man to bump-start her car

STEPPING OUT: Anne in her mini-skirt days

Former Express and Mirror man TERRY PATTINSON has regaled his friends on Facebook with the following memory

The late Daily Express photographer Harry Dempster and I pulled the short straw of having to watch Princess Anne and her latest boyfriend arrive at a restaurant on the Embankment at Chelsea. (It was in the 60s when she was still single).

We had to wait until they finished dinner, so it was a long vigil until they left.

When Harry finished snapping he put his cameras into the boot of his car.

We chatted on the street corner and plotted sneaking away for a pint or three before returning to the office.

Suddenly I felt a tap on my right shoulder (Yes, a funny place to have a tap — Chick Murray, Scots comedian.)

It was Princess Anne.

She said her boyfriend's car would not start and could we help? Obviously, she did not know who we were.

I informed her and her boyfriend how to 'bump start' using the gear and the clutch.

All three of us pushed the car while her boyfriend sat behind the wheel, Anne was wearing a mini-skirt, so the royal posterior was in the air as we pushed the car.

The car started and the white sport car roared off — Anne blew us a kiss..

After they disappeared we both realised that we had missed a great photo — it could have been the royal photograph of the year.

Harry said: "Please do not tell anybody about this until after I am dead."

And I never did.


What a sloppy way to write a caption

This wonderful portrait of actress Faye Dunaway not only demonstrates the towering talent of former Fleet Street “monkey” Terry O’Neill, who has died at 81, but the often average quality of the journalism on Mail Online which marked his death.

Back in Fleet Street, Express subs were instructed to appraise a picture properly by staring at it “until the eyeballs ache — and then stare at it some more”.

Lloyd Turner had two rules on writing a caption: it should always describe what is going on in the picture; and a reader should first look at the snap, then the caption and read something there that made him want to look at the picture again.

So what would the Express backbencher and Daily Star Editor have made of this lamentable effort? The writer has broken all the rules. In a generous three lines he/she has had the space even to give the exact date (as well as the noon temperature in downtown Santa Monica and the Dow closing price). 

But what’s that shiny thing on the table? And what’s that splash head in the paper on the floor? Are they not worth a mention?

Could it be that this iconic morning-after-the night-before picture depicts Dunaway reflecting on the Oscars she and Peter Finch (he posthumously) had just won for Network?

Indeed, it could. Oh, and the fact that O’Neill went on to marry Dunaway might have been worth squeezing in. And what about spelling Beverly Hills correctly?

*A reader writes: From the way she is slumped in her chair she could well have been shot dead. (At first sight anyway.)  But if anyone is accused of getting away with murder it should be the Mail Online caption sub. 


Terry O’Neill, CBE, photographer, who worked on the Daily Sketch, was born on July 30, 1938. He died of prostate cancer on November 17, 2019, aged 81

ROBIN MCGIBBON remembers: I first encountered Terry O'Neill on the Sketch, in 1963. But we didn't strike up a friendship until the early seventies when I launched a publishing company, Everest Books, and we met to discuss projects.

One of the books I published was the authorised biography of Bobby Moore - and it led to Terry giving me a bollocking.

Bobby was keen for me to use a classy photo Terry had taken of him, as the book's cover. I was more than happy to oblige and, at the star-studded book launch — at the Martini Terrace, in New Zealand House — I made a welcoming speech, in which I singled Terry out for special thanks for letting my company have the pic for nothing.

I felt sure he would be pleased, but as soon as I'd finished speaking Terry pulled me to one side and called me a cupid stunt for embarrassing him with Elton John, one of many showbiz guests there.

"I let you have that photo for nothing as a favour," Terry fumed. "But when I'm asked to photograph Elton, I charge him twenty grand."

Happily, that incident did not damage our relationship — or Terry's with Elton —because, a few years later, I bumped into Terry and he told me he had been to one of Elton's legendary fancy dress parties.

Knowing Terry was not one for dressing up, I asked him what costume he had worn.  He said he'd sprayed some luminous gold stage make-up on one of his fingers and gone as Goldfinger. 

That was Terry. Always imaginative. Always original.

CLIVE GOOZEE: Monica and I met Terry O’Neill at the Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth where we’ve lived since 2005. He was on a tour promoting his book of Sinatra photos entitled Frank and Friendly, not always friendly, Terry told me. 

I introduced myself by saying I had worked nearly 25 years on Express Sport, mentioning the names of some of the photographers,  including John Downing, Reg Lancaster, Harry Dempster, he knew them all. He autographed the book (pictured) then he called over his book’s editor, former Sunday Express editor Robin Morgan, who arrived from the Sunday Times to replace Robin Esser. 

I was expecting someone posh sounding but he had a strong Black Country accent and he was a Wolves fan = just like me!

Picture gallery of O’Neill’s work

Terrific obituary in The Times

Another fine mess, Stanley

YOU can’t keep a good man down … except when he goes under the knife. 

Former Daily Express reporter Peter ‘Stanley’ Mason was still smiling after spinal surgery at a hospital near his home in New South Wales.

He wrote on Facebook: “I’ve just sold my lower back and traded up to a new one.

“They call it a partial laminectomy with spinal fusion.

“It’s bloody painful but I had a top surgeon, brilliant and expensive but worth every penny. Should be back on the golf course by Christmas.”

The operation came after Peter and his wife Sheila were among 3,000 people who were forced to evacuate their homes in the Australian bush fire crisis. He has promised to write an account of the emergency when he is back on his feet.



Our witty new series is back despite hack’s plagiarism outburst


The Daily Drone is proud today to publish Part 3 of its popular Overheard in Waitrose series.

The column has not been without controversy as it led a grizzled Fleet Street hack to launch an extraordinary attack on the World’s Greatest Website.

It happened during an alcohol-fuelled lunch in a Covent Garden eaterie.

The journo, well known on national newspapers, clashed with the Drone Editor over the website’s popular series, Overheard in Waitrose.

A bystander said: “It was like something out of You’ve Been Framed: two white-haired old gits having a ruck. One seemed to be accusing the other of lifting or inventing stuff about a supermarket or something. You couldn’t make it up.”

A Daily Drone spokesman said: “We take very seriously any accusations about the probity of the website and its staff. Consequently, the matter was examined rigorously at an internal inquiry in which the editor, the HR director, the FOC and our trainee, S. Muldoon, the subject of the allegations, took part.

“None of the charges was proven and we deprecate this attempt to ankle-tap a fledgling journalist at the start of his career.”

Later the Editor issued a statement which said: “We strongly deny smears that this was a confected dispute designed to publicise a new feature in our witty and incisive Overheard in Waitrose series which is coming to the Daily Drone soon.

And a World’s Greatest Lunch Club spokesman denied that the club’s Christmas “Ladies’ Lunch” had been cancelled to “allow tempers to cool”.

PS: You’ll have to wait for the explanation about the jar of Butterworth and Sons chutney (a bargain at 2 shillings) — Ed

Today in your super soaraway Daily Drone


Overheard in Waitrose Part 3

(And find out the real story behind that bloody jar of two-bob chutney)


That doughty Miss Dimont rides again


Former Expressman Christopher Wilson has written a fourth book in his excellent Miss Dimont Mystery series. Dead and Gone to Devon can be ordered HERE.

Describing it as the best book in the series, Christopher announced on Facebook: “It’s 1959, and apart from a stiff lighthouse, there’s also a General Election (oh no, I hear you groan.

“They did things differently back then, however — including killing the candidate.

“From all good bookshops, etc.”


Old Expressmen never die, they lunch out at Simpson’s in the Strand

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LUNCHING IN STYLE: JOHN McEntee with Charlie Sale, centre, and Peter Tozer

MAILMAN John McEntee was on the point of leaving a smart London restaurant when he spied two old colleagues from the Daily Express sport department.

John, who edits the Mail’s Ephraim Hardcastle column, wrote on Facebook: "Lurching out of Simpson's In the Strand after an Oldie literary lunch with Simons Heffner and Jenkins I came across Charlie Sale with his old friend Peter Tozer.

"Some old fogies had left a bottle of red on an adjoining table so I toasted Charlie’s return to health after illnesses. 

"Before both joining Dacre’s Mail we soldiered on the Express together when Lord Hollick sold to Richard Desmond. Charlie was furious when Hollick dispensed gifts of £40,000 at random to people on the paper. 

"I got £40k having met his lordship once at the theatre. I remember Charlie ranting in Stamford’s about the legitimate unfairness of his largesse.

"He was not consoled when I told him that I gave the £40,000 to my then wife Colette just before I bolted. I was left with a £12000 tax bill.


HOW MANY?The Daily Express once had 169 staff writers and photographers
 (Tell that to the kids of today and they wouldn’t believe you)


SLIGHTLY FOXED: Tony Fowler’s memo from 1973


Statistical analysis by S. MULDOON (trainee)

How the mighty have fallen. Back in 1973 the late, lamented Tony Fowler, then Night Editor of the Daily Express in Manchester wrote a memo (see picture)  to “All Executives and Sub-editors” giving a list of staff writers and photographers in the London and Manchester offices who merited bylines.

Back then, the Express Northern News Editor Stanley Blenkinsop was nearly justified in, famously, routinely answering the phone: “News Desk. The world’s greatest newspaper.”

In truth though, the Express, despite then still selling more than three million copies a day, was on the slippery slope to obscurity.

As a former London Night Editor used to introduce himself to journalism students on the lecture circuit: “Between the time I joined the Express and when I left it had lost two million copies a day. Of course, I accept some responsibility but it’s not all my fault.” 

Now the Express, under the piss-poor ownership of something called Reach, is lucky if it sells 300,000 a day; the staff has dwindled to a fraction of what it was.

In March, 1973, the Express operated out of three “black Lubyankas” (although Scottish Daily Express production staff would soon move, reluctantly and truculently, to Manchester). Wee Ian McColl was halfway through his undistinguished reign as Editor, based in London. The mercurial (a euphemism for “usually pissed”) John McDonald, a far better journalist, reigned in Great Ancoats Street.

As Tony’s memo reveals,  the London and Manchester offices boasted comparatively huge staffs of scribes and snappers (forget about the poor bloody subs and desk men). A total of 169.

CHRISTOPHER WILSON commented: "Among the names of the great and good on Tony Fowler's list is that of the legendary Frank Goldsworthy, who in 1967 came to lecture us journalistic wannabes on block release at Harlow Technical College. 

"At the end of his slightly interesting peroration someone asked if he could give a simple word of advice to a young reporter.

'Always keep two fivers tucked in the back of your passport, and a change of clothes in a suitcase in the boot of your car. That way you're ready, 24 hours a day, to fly anywhere in the world.'

“It was a fascinating insight into why old FG had survived and prospered. And one which we — who rarely saw two fivers together, and who owned neither suitcase nor car, and struggled to find a change of clothes — absorbed in wonder.

At least most of us had the passport.

Here, for the record, is the list: