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Most real relationships are involuntary
— Iris Murdoch


Today's papers


Dave Brown, The Independent


Mike Parry puts his trotter in it and loses radio show

SPLIT: Parry, right with his nemesis Mike Graham


Former Daily Express news editor Mike "Porky" Parry started the week with a big announcement on Twitter that he was going to be taking over the TalkRADIO's weekend lunchtime show. 

Four days later, there's suddenly no mention of him anywhere on the upcoming schedule – neither in his old slot, nor in the new one. 

What happened? Sadly, it seems Porky is the latest victim of #cancel culture. 

All he did was repeatedly publicly insinuate that his former Express and TalkRADIO colleague Mike Graham was a cocaine-addicted drunk and that some of the station's other talent were forgettable nobodies. 

Now he looks to have been de-platformed, simply for holding these differing opinions. 

Still, at least it gives him some more time to practise his cinnamon swallowing…



Art Attack

by ROSALIE WHATSERNAM etc, etc (t)

Mrs Cassatt Reading: Mary Cassatt

‘Oh, no! We’ll have to slip this. Who the fuck subbed the Page 7 lead?’



How a foodie evening with Clement Freud became a dog’s dinner


Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you 
Carl Jung

Inspired by this quote from the Daily Drone VICTOR WATERS remembers bumping into food writer and panel game regular Sir Clement Freud in the 1960s.

Freud was an amiable bloke and I met him at the UK Gastronomic Festival, where I was taking pics for the Gas Council, sponsor of the show.

It was a wild weekend, but that story really is for ever sealed. 

We drove down in my open-top car and had to leave the place a couple of days later, under cover of darkness, after I tried to thump an arrogant Yank. But that turned out all right, because I heard later he was conman who had actually stitched up the manager of the Imperial for a few quid.

Anyway, Clement Freud.

He was there to judge the groaning display of food. 

This eventually began to smell very high, as it was displayed in a glass pavilion and the weather was unreasonably warm for an English summer. On the opening night he was introduced to us all by the Lord Mayor, whose oratorical style was honed in a boxing ring, by the sound of him.

You know — 'on my right, in the blue corner' — etc.

So he warmed up the mob before bellowing, 

"Now, on my right, may I introduce our honoured guest, Mr Clement FROOD."

Freud’s face was a picture. We addressed him as Mr Frood for the rest of the night.

He told us later that he had been sitting next to the Mayoress until called on to speak.

"She asked me haughtily if I had any children," he said.

“Yees, I have three, I replied." (Freud had a very distinctive mode of speech.)

"Oh, she said, I have one married daughter — and she looked at me like I was a sex-mad pervert.

Victor Waters’ book Pirates of Fleet Street is available here



Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected and is frequently humorous. Winston Churchill loved them. The word comes from the Greek "παρά", meaning "against" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation". 

1. Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you — but it's still on my list.

3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.




                    BLUNT                                     HEWSON

So … here are two identikit thesps at the top of their game. Memphis Eve Sunny Day Hewson understandably took the stage name Eve Hewson when she launched her career. 

Award-winning Emily Blunt, slightly older, is already the go-to girl for many casting directors on both sides of the pond. Her latest movie, Disney’s Jungle Cruise, is set for a summer release. Hewson is currently starring in the Netflix psychological thriller series Behind Her Eyes.

Both have interesting fathers. Memphis etc is the daughter of Bono, lead singer of the iconic group U2. He once started a set by slowly clapping his hands together. ‘Each time I do this,’ he told the audience ‘a child dies in Africa’, to which a bloke in the front row replied: ‘Well, stop fucking clapping.’ 

Emily’s papa is the legal superstar Oliver Simon Peter Blunt, QC. He’s a tour de force in the Temple and the Central Criminal Court. One of his recent high profile cases was the defence of journalists caught up in the Operation Elvedon cash for info witch-hunt initiated by the then DPP Sir Keir (There really is less to me than meets the eye) Starmer. On acquittal, at least one journo was charmed to receive a congratulatory phone call from the lovely Emily.

AN R.R. (t)




          PIERCE                  SCHMIDT                   OWEN

So … today the Daily Drone breaks new ground by presenting … the Triplelike! 

Two of our three doppelgängers are well known in the world of journalism and television. The stranger is currently ‘starring’ at the Grenfell Tower inquiry: he is Claude Schmidt, boss of the French cladding company Arconic, who has bowed to pressure to give evidence to the virtual hearings. 

Doesn’t he look like TV presenter Nick Owen and the Daily Mail’s consultant editor, Andrew Pierce? 

Avuncular Nick, a breakfast TV pioneer, currently presents Midlands Today. A classics scholar and print journalist, he is a former chairman of Luton Town FC and president of Derbyshire CCC. 

Openly gay Pierce, acknowledged as a good Fleet Street operator, brings authority and wit to his paper. He is well known for his late night Sky TV jousting with the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire who, some would argue, doesn’t.

AN RR (t)


DAY 35

Sleeping comes so naturally to me, I could do it with my eyes closed



express sport .jpeg

It looks as if it has been taken in a London fog but if you squint carefully at this picture you may be able to discern a few familiar faces.

Yes chums, it’s the serried ranks of Express Sport taken in the early 1990s in the Blackfriars Lubyanka. 

Lined up are, foreground from left: Mike Sinclair, Charlie Sale, Jeff Ives, Chris Gill, Richard Lewis, Peter Tozer, Clive Goozee. In the background are: David Harrison, Peter Boyle, Martin Booth, Cora Weston, casual sub Pat Mooney, Barry Flatman, David Prole and John Phillips. 


How my football chum John came a cropper 


On February 19, 1955, two friends and I travelled to Wolverhampton to see our team, Charlton Athletic, play Wolves in the FA Cup 5th round.

  As we — and hundreds of other Charlton fans — came out of the station, a photographer came up to us and asked if he could take our a picture. One of my friends, who was always a difficult cuss at the best of times, didn't want to know, but the other one, John, and I, who were never shy of cameras, willingly posed.

After the game we were walking back to the station, sad that Charlton had been trounced 4-1, when John saw a copy of the Wolverhampton Express and Star in the gutter. He gleefully picked it up, hoping to see his photo, and was gutted to see he'd been cropped out. He sulked all the way back to Euston.




Sports subs of the Daily and Sunday Express long ago will recall having to fit the decorative, esoteric prose of equestrian correspondent Julia Longland into its allotted slot, phrases such "double oxer" in elongated sentences sometimes puzzling the uninitiated. Julia, a life-long keen and highly competent horsewoman, has recently given up her role as master of the South Down and Eridge Hunt after 24 years whipping 'em in. 

Originally employed at the Express in the 60s as secretary to famed columnist Bob Pitman, she has always possessed a style of her own, both in writing and verbally. 

An agitated sports news editor, with an eye on edition time, once gently chided her for late copy. "I'm sorry, but I had a dreadful copy-taker," Julia replied. "He couldn't even spell Moët et Chandon."

At the time Julia was teetotal and remained so for 44 years. Former colleagues will be surprised to learn that in her golden years she takes a splash of ginger wine in her regular tipple of ginger beer. 



Grieving widow speaks out after hospital A&E tragedy


Former Daily Express photographer Barry Gomer has died of a blood clot while waiting for treatment in a hospital A&E. He was 71.

Now his grieving wife Marthe has accused doctors of failing to save his life by failing to give him the drug he desperately needed.

Barry waited for nine hours without food before dying. And Marthe wants questions answered.



The hippy trail that led to Fleet Street

Turnip Road Cover.jpg


In 1973 as a 21-year-old babe-in-the-woods I hitch-hiked through a universe that good timing, luck and the pure innocence of being a turnip prevented me from experiencing war, a cyclone and a serial killer. I kept a diary of my nine-month journey from which I blew the dust during this lockdown, before editing it and publishing it.

I went through Iran, now a country where you run the risk as a UK citizen of being held by the state as a spy. I went through Afghanistan, now a country where the Taliban bomb at will. I went through Pakistan where Osama Bin Laden was hiding when he was assassinated by US Navy Seals.

By the time I got to Bangkok the serial hippie killer, featured on BBC TV’s The Serpent, was just warming up.

The title comes from an old adage I recall that bumpkins went round the world a turnip and returned a turnip: that was me.

When I got back to the UK, the recession had dried up the work I then did as a diver on projects like the Brighton Marina, so I asked my father for the air fare back to Australia to continue my global wanderlust. He agreed on condition that I first applied for a job as an editorial assistant in the Fetter Lane office of D.C. Thomson’s Sunday Post. I got the job and instead a new journey into Fleet Street began.

Now you can share my youthful wanderlust by reading Turnip Road, Beyond the Hippie Trail, from Southend to Sydney, available from Amazon Books or Kindle.


*Dick Durham worked casual shifts on the Daily Mirror, The Sun, Daily Mail, Evening Standard and The Daily Star before landing a staff job on the Daily Star in June 1980 where he remained until 1998.



Jobs for the girls



Media hits and myths
An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER


NAUGHTY: Lucy Verasamy

Q. Is weather forecasting really just showbiz? 

A.You could be forgiven for thinking so. Especially after the weekend’s confected White Hell That Wasn’t drama. The winking, gurning show-offs who are now our TV weather boys and girls are certainly different from Michael ‘I’ve got a touch of wind’ Fish, Ian MacAskill and Bill Giles of yesteryear.

They seem to be selected for Weather Studio stardom as much for their looks and ‘personality’ as for their degrees in meteorology.

Take foxy redhead Isobel Lang. She appears on Sky where the weather ladies are shown full length wearing smart, pencil skirts. Who’s to say she wasn’t poached from the Beeb because of her pretty pins? 

Then there’s ITV’s gushing, pouting, simpering siren of the small screen, luscious Lucy Verasamy who, even (especially) during lockdown, looks as if she’ll be going on to do something naughty in a subterranean nightclub after News at Ten.

The Beeb’s Tomasz (The Finger) Shafernaker (crazy name, crazy guy etc), who got his kit off to grace the cover of a gay mag, is a heartthrob. However, the pandemic has seen him morph from being a blond boy band lookalike into a rather sinister, dark-haired society crimper.

A favourite is school marm Helen Willetts. This wholesome former badminton international just loves forecasting inclement weather. Watch her wriggle and shiver, almost orgasmically, when the latest Beast from the East is nigh.

The BBC team’s lust to be centre stage is played out each Sunday during Countryfile when the duty forecaster has a live slot inserted into the recorded programme. Because it’s all about mangel wurzels (crops and people), the presenter feels obliged to change out of his suit into jeans and check shirt like a member of a Dolly Parton tribute act. And then change back again for the 10 O’Clock News.

Have you noticed as well the game weather presenters play? They seem incapable of saying things like ‘the showers will reach London, too’ or ‘will also reach London’. It’s always got to be ‘reach London as well’. It’s as if they compete to see who can use this lazy phrase the most during a two-minute bulletin.

Still, turned out nice again, hasn’t it?


Specs and drugs and sausage rolls


One columnist’s view of the Daily Express in 1965

From the Spectator, January 15, 1965

The Press


ON Monday morning a new man started work at the Daily Express as associate editor. His name is Harold Keeble — his mission, to refurbish the fastest-fading myth in Fleet Street.

For forty years. while the Express rode high, one nagging question always remained: 'What will happen when Beaverbrook dies?' At last the answer is becoming plain for all to see. On Tuesday, as the Daily Mirror announced a gala ball to celebrate its circulation passing the five-million mark, Bcaverbrook's squabbling heirs faced rumours that they might soon have to break to advertisers the news that the Express was below the magic four million.

Signs that the Express had lost its flair were already increasing with Beaverbrook's senility.

Executive changes at the top of the paper started to become a running joke. The paper's proud boast that 'it always lived up to the big occasion' was finally shattered by the amateurishly woebegone edition which greeted its proprietor's death — hardly an event that could be said to have been unanticipated in the Express office. 

But in the past six months things have gone from bad to worse. Without the continual threat of that Canadian rasp down any Expressman's telephone, the paper has become flaccid, dull, no longer the first one turns to on a bleak morning, but a paper which spends as much time picking up other people's ideas and stories as finding its own. When even the World's Press News can say 'it appeared to be living on past glory' the Express has come to a sorry pass.

Meanwhile, in the paper itself, bitterness, temper, even wild accusations of 'megalomania' abound. Staff changes continue. Recently, amid internecine shouts, deputy editor Peter Baker —intermittently a longtime Beaverbrook white hope — left his post. Bright young men, such as the political correspondent Ian Aitken and defence correspondent Charles Douglas-Home —who, in ancient times, might well have made their lives with Beaverbrook — find happier pastures elsewhere. 

Things have happened which six months ago could never have been imagined — such as the sub-contracting out of chunks of the paper to the staff of the Queen, the virtually unreadable Leisurescope feature on Saturdays. Not to say, of course, the ludicrous reversal of old Express policy on newspaper participation in ITV— coupled with the buying of shares in ATV and the appearance of sycophantic features on the artistic good taste of Mr. Lew Grade.

All this was the challenge which on Monday faced Harold Keeble, a fifty-two-year-old North Countryman who has been with the Express before — for twenty-three years. His speciality is 'projection' and layout — it was his flair that was a considerable behind-the-scenes ingredient in making up the public legend of Arthur Christiansen. 

In the four years since he left the Express, Keeble has twice been caller-in to perform facelifting operations on ailing or stultifying news- papers — on the Sketch and the Mirror. He has won much admiration. But the problem that faces him on the Express today is one defying mere tricks of 'projection'; it is to find the paper a new personality. It is hard to imagine that a man who grew up in the shadow of Lord Beaverbrook will find it easy.

Another rescue-attempt is under way on the Observer's Colour Magazine — the BBC-2 of journalism — where it seems that Editor Michael Davy is shortly to be moved back to the deputy editorship of the main paper, to be replaced by Anthony Sampson. 

A crop of rumours earlier this week that Mark Boxer is also to move, wafted upwards in the Thomson group on the tide of Sunday Times Magazine profits, is strictly untrue — although this is not preventing him from laying the foundations for at least one new Thomson magazine venture for later in the year. 

Rumours that the Weekend Telegraph is to be moved to Sunday after all — to pick up the suffering Sunday Telegraph —are still being denied.


Sir – Christopher Booker’s coruscating assessment of the Daily Express back in 1965 is notable, reading it today, for its prescience. As a junior news sub at the time, I was only dimly aware of the machinations going on behind the scenes as the paper struggled to find its way after Beaverbrook’s death. One does clearly remember, however, DX80, the truly dreadful Jocelyn Stevens-inspired project to take the paper into the 1980s but which succeeded only in plunging what was still a stylish broadsheet into characterless mediocrity. The relaunch as a tabloid, too, which began promisingly as a game-changer in 1977, was quickly hobbled to accommodate the birth of the Daily Star.

A grim succession of editors and proprietors are also part of the story, of course. For me the signal event was when Sir Max Aitken refused to give the editorship to David English, the natural man for the job. The aggrieved English quit to take his undoubted talents to edit the Daily Sketch, then the ailing Daily Mail in 1971, which he transformed into what became, in effect, the Bouverie Street Express. 

But we’ve all passed a lot of water since then.

Rick McNeill
Night Editor 1977-79
Cape Town


Aunt’s sad letter to Daily Express writer Judith that proved John Lennon planned to return to UK


LAST PHONE CALL: Lennon with his Aunt Mimi

Two years after her death at 93 in 2018, veteran Daily Express showbusiness writer and Beatles confidante Judith Simons is still making the news with a John Lennon story.

A letter to Judith sent on  January 24, 1981, has revealed that the night before the former Beatle was assassinated in New York by Mark Chapman on December 8, 1980, he had phoned his aunt Mimi Smith about his plans to return to Britain soon.

Mimi, who had raised Lennon from infancy, wrote the letter in response to Judith’s condolences about the musician's shocking murder. 

The letter read: ‘Dear Judith, Thank you for your letter, kind thoughts. I’m trying to accept this terrible thing which has happened, but finding it very hard. He had such faith himself, I’m trying to do the same. He phoned the night before, witty, funny, bubbling over with excitement, coming over very soon. Couldn’t wait to see me. So I’m glad of that.' 

Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, who interviewed Judith, pictured above, about the Beatles for his biography, believes that the letter from Mimi is proof that Lennon was not only planning to return to Britain but also to perform. ’There are other indications that he was considering a concert tour, and this letter supports that,’ he says.

The letter from Mimi formed part of Judith's estate and was recently discovered by Tracks Ltd, which gives free valuations of music memorabilia at

Judith had gained unique access to the Beatles through contacts that included their manager Brian Epstein’s mother, a distant relative of Judy’s; she became good friends with Mimi, to whom Lennon remained close all his life despite relocating to Manhattan with his second wife Yoko Ono.  


Nimmo’s last lunch at the Daily Express


THIS happy gathering at the Daily Express offices in London’s Blackfriars proved to be actor Derek Nimmo’s final beano.

A few hours after this photo was taken, Nimmo suffered a fall which culminated in his death a few weeks later.

The picture, taken on 2 December 1998 at the National Treasures celebrity lunch in the boardroom, was posted online by Daily Mail diarist John McEntee.

It shows, from left, Express editor Rosie Boycott, TV sports presenter Dickie Davies, writer Melvyn Bragg, novelist Beryl Bainbridge, Nimmo, actress Joan Collins, racing correspondent Peter O’Sullevan and broadcaster Sue MacGregor.

Nimmo had recently returned from a Middle East tour of Run For Your Wife and was in sparkling form during the lunch. 

After the meal he asked to be driven to the Garrick Club for further refreshment, and then returned to his home in Lexham Gardens, Kensington. He and his wife later went out to dinner. 

On their return, Nimmo was checking an external alarm when he lost his footing and fell down a stone staircase into the basement. He suffered head injuries and was taken to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where he remained in a coma until the end of December. 

While still recovering in hospital, Nimmo contracted pneumonia and died on 24 February 1999. He was 68.


4. Billy the Ghillie

Oh, hi! This Covid thing is such a pain in the arse, isn’t it?  Well, I can tell you that little Frame Hampton’s freshest (!) residents have had it up to here (Stop it!). Even though the nights are getting shorter, winter has seemed s-o-o-o long, especially when you can’t get out and about as much as you’d like. Teddy, ever the coquette, says he can’t wait to press the flesh with the locals (well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?). On our lovely walks we’ve been savouring nature’s new year stirrings in the undergrowth (chance’d be a fine thing, says I) but it’s a slow process.

Big breaking news is that before the latest lockdown we’d been learning how to fish: hooray, up she rises, eh? No, the thing is that the lady aboriculturalist from up at the hall was fluttering her eyelashes at young Theodore outside the shop (you’re barking up the wrong tree there, love, I thought) and she tells him that, for a wee fee, the Scottish manager of the trout farm on the River Nadder gives fly fishing lessons. So that’s how we came to meet Billie the Ghillie, suitably masked, of course.

Forget what you’ve heard about it never being difficult to tell the difference between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine, this Big Mac’s a real charmer, although I can’t understand a word he says.  Apparently, he held a senior editorial position on People’s Friend before he adopted the country life (there appears to have been some ‘under appreciation’ of his talents, pal).

Of course, the season doesn’t start till April but florid-faced Billie’s been giving us some early grounding. He said I had a naturally relaxed wrist. Teddy sniggered: I really hate him when he does that. Anyway, roll on the spring when, Covid willing, we can get to grips with a Pheasant Tail Nymph and an Elk Hair Caddis or two.

In other news, we’ve started to tackle our darling little garden. Truth is the lawn could soon do with an early high cut (says he, quoting Old Man Manners in the BBC Gardeners’ World magazine) but we haven’t got a lawn mower. Himself says let’s forget it and turn it into a flower meadow. Bollocks to that: I can see a trip to B&Q at Chippenham coming on. Otherwise, sharpen those scissors,Ted. Ha! Ha! 

Meanwhile, I don’t like to probe too deeply but I suspect something nasty’s going on under the Double Entendre in the lee of the silver birch. Least said, soonest mended, eh? Keep you posted. Missing you already!




Night Bunny Laws was all ears for Lloyd Turner


Here’s a blast from the past, a scene from the Daily Express newsroom in the late 1970s. On the left late chief sub David ‘Bunny’ Laws is discussing third edition changes with night editor Lloyd Turner.

Lloyd had a habit of ripping the first edition to pieces and David had a reputation for calling people back from the pub to assist him in his earnest endeavours.

David, a superb and professional operator, now writes novels. He worked for the Sunday Express for decades until being furloughed in the Covid crisis. He finally got his redundancy cheque last October. His service on Express Newspapers spanned 54 years which must be a record.


Dear Aunt Marje 

(still a trainee and still in dentures)

agony aunt.jpg

Gipsy Rosalie (with apologies to that weird cross-dressing potter whose name we forget)

Nurse! The screens

Dear Aunt Marje
Can Gavin Williamson possibly survive?
Head Mistress

Dear HM,

Do you know, I couldn’t give a Flying Fuck on a wet Wednesday. I’ve had it up to here with people and their pettifogging problems: I’ve got plenty of my own. Here I am, a beautiful rosebud, trembling on the threshold of the full bloom of adulthood, chained to a creaking laptop in my bedroom. What have I got in my lockdown life? Can’t see my pals; no boyfriend; brother away at uni; mummy nagging me to join one of the yoga classes she gives on Zoom or to ‘get a proper job’. She has a point there, though. 

Nominated for two prestigious awards and still a trainee: what, pray, does that tell you? My byline picture isn’t even me. It’s Clint the cross-dressing ceramicist from Chelmsford. Then there are the jobs I’m given to do: pieces about that unholy trinity Peter Wyngarde, Jason King and Dirk Doppelgänger. I mean I wouldn’t mind but who the fuck are they? Now they’ve got someone called Oliver writing the Nancy Boys diary about their move to the country. I could have done that.

And pals of his Droneship or the Editor are always sidling up seeking puffs for their oeuvres: one’s even written a book about a clown and Judy Garland’s dog. I ask you. The other day I wanted to contribute a piece to my popular Lookalikes series but I was let down by the Picture Desk.  Library? Forget it. 

Sorry, HM, you’ve caught me at a challenging moment but, ever the professional, I’ll answer your question about the Education Secretary: not a chance. Now piss off!

(Rosalie, dear, could you pop in when you’ve taken your meds? — Ed)




By POPBITCH, Gossip Editor

After having publicly shamed a long list of Covid rule-benders, it was pretty rich of The Sun to throw an in-person Christmas party in their office in late December – just days after London was placed in Tier 3.

True to form, there hasn't been much of a rush to bring any disciplinary proceedings against the lecherous 50-something boss who, after several bottles were sunk, was seen fingering a drunken PA 30 years his junior in a glass-fronted office. HR has been too busy summoning the minimum-wage graduate trainees who witnessed the incident – and threatening to sack them if they dared repeat what they saw.

It's no surprise things are on high alert there though. Throughout the festive season, one of The Sun's former star reporters was taking to Facebook late at night, threatening to spill everything he knows about the paper's inner workings, before deleting them shortly after. NewsUK has always worried he'd be the one to go rogue, even after they arranged a book deal for him to keep him sweet. Seems to have only bought his silence for so long…

UPDATE: As more details of The Sun's finger-heavy Christmas party continue to emerge, how long can they keep the implicated Senior Exec in  position? Especially now that more and more women are swapping stories between themselves about his seedy use of Google Messages?

NOW he's had his second dose of the vaccine in the UK, Rupert Murdoch is preparing to make his way to NYC to oversee the difficult post-Trump positioning for Fox News. Should be fun.



Perry QC gets it in the neck from his learned chums

EMINENT QC David Perry, a former night lawyer on the Daily Express, has got himself into a bit of a scrape.

He has attracted the ire of his fellow learned friends by agreeing to act for the Hong Kong government in its efforts to convict Jimmy Lai and eight other pro-democracy activists accused of taking part in an illegal assembly in 2019.

Now, after pressure from within the profession, Mr Perry has pulled out of the case.

Hong Kong’s justice departmnent noted “growing pessure and criticism” of the QC for taking the case. Mr Perry had “concerns about such pressures and the exemption of quarantine” and "indicated that the trial should proceed without him".

Many of us who worked on the Daily Express in the 1970s and 80s remember David as a charming and knowledgable lawyer with a light-touch approach to newspaper law. 

He advised us what we could get away with rather what we couldn’t say. One of his few equals on this was the late, great Geoffrey ‘Called to the Bar’ Conlin, another fine and convivial fellow who was a delightful companion in the pubs and clubs of old Fleet Street.

David, one of the country’s most respected and formidable criminal lawyers and a part-time High Court judge, found himself at the centre of controversy over his Hong Kong appointment.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the shadow attorney-general and former lord chancellor, said: “He must withdraw as he cannot continue in that role and remain consistent with the values of the UK. He is prosecuting some of the most well-known democracy campaigners.”

Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, chairwoman of the International Bar Association’s human rights institute, told The Times: “I cannot fathom why any reputable British barrister would provide a veneer of respectability to actions which are contrary to democracy and the rule of law. This decision will become a source of shame.”

David has refused to comment on the controversy but in his defence we would point out that it is nothing new for lawyers to be asked to act for people whose views they find reprehensible.

The “cab rank” rule is the standard justification. Horace Rumpole sums it up thus: “I’m a taxi plying for hire. I’m bound to accept anyone, however repulsive, who waves me down and asks for a lift.”

In other words, lawyers must accept any case that comes their way. That is nothing new.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, the Daily Drone  wishes the excellent Mr Perry well.

CLIVE GOOZEE remembers: Mention of the late great Geoffrey Conlin took me back to an evening in the Black Lubyanka when he walked into the sports department to query a story, just as another late great, John Lloyd, carrying a tray of teas and rock cakes, arrived for his shift, late as usual. That’s why he bought the warm beverages. 

On seeing Geoffrey, John said: "Allo Allo Mr Lawyer, how’s the soliciting business?" The subs thought it was funny, but a very affronted Geoffrey didn’t appreciate the laughter, said loudly: "I wouldn’t know,” and walked out.


After P.E. Dant’s list of banned winter clichés, the Flying Fuck Back Bar What’sApp group would like to know if the following are still allowed:

Winter Wonderland!

It’s Snow Joke!

Brrritain! Brrrighton! Brrridlington! (I get it — Ed)

More on way, warn Met men (archetypal sub deck used on any weather story)

Ice Work If You Can Get It! (Skating rink attendant pictured with girls sliding around in short skirts)

Freezer Jolly Good Fellow! (Good Samaritan aids trapped motorists)

Ski’s A Jolly Good Fellow! (Good Samaritan skis to aid trapped motorists)

Tree’s A Jolly Good Fellow! (This is getting silly now-Ed)

Winter Of Our Disco Tent! (DJ defies Lockdown to stage rave under canvas)

That’s it! Stop this right now — Ed


The atmospheric photo that landed Katherine Whitehorn her first job 


(and why she couldn’t bin her husband’s underpants)
This great Bert Hardy picture of Katharine Whitehorn resulted in the celebrated columnist getting hired as a journalist.

A Times obituary of Whitehorn, who has died at the age 0f 92, describes how she landed a job in 1956 as a reporter on Picture Post, off Fleet Street, under the editor Lionel “Bobby” Birch, in whose office she quickly made friends and, in her words, “attracted a good deal of male attention”. 

The job (“which I wanted more than heaven,” she telegraphed her parents) was hers after the great photographer Bert Hardy pictured her in an iconic pose: sitting in a circular skirt on the floor by a gas fire, surrounded by milk bottles and laundry, for a feature entitled “Lonely in London”.

The obituary adds that she once told how she had tried to bin a pair of her husband Gavin Lyall’s faded, ragged underpants, whereupon he snatched them back, protesting: “But they were my father’s!”

Whitehorn spent most of her career on The Observer where she was associate editor from 1980 to 1988. Lyall, a noted thriller writer, died in 2003 aged 70.


History in Moments

(Our awards-nominated trainee)

1920s. So...a different view of bustling Fleet Street. We’re all accustomed to the shot taken from roughly opposite the Tip looking up to St Paul’s with the Telegraph, the King and Keys and the Black Lubyanka on the left. And if there’s a London, Chatham and Dover train chugging out of Ludgate Hill Station across the viaduct, before it was demolished in 1990 to make way for what is now City Thameslink station, then so much the better.

Here we’re looking West, though. In the distance on the right is the clock outside the gothic Royal Courts of Justice. The church tower of St Dunstan-in-the-West is closer, almost next door to the offices of the Bristol Times and Mirror. This newspaper, now long gone, was once part of a thriving press in the West Country port city whose merchant venturers were always anxious for any news that might affect their businesses. 

Now the city is home to just two newspapers, both owned by what Proddie describes as ‘fucking Retch: they really make me sick’. The Bristol Post (né Evening Post), known as ‘the newspaper all Bristol asked for and helped to create’, limps on. The morning, the Western Daily Press has also seen better days, notably when sometime Express subs Eric Price and Terry Manners worked there as Editor and Roger Watkins as Night Editor. Let’s not forget two other Bristol staffers, Sir Terry Pratchett and Sir Tom Stoppard. They didn’t do too badly, either.

AN RR (t)


Canary Wharf, 50 years apart


Looking north from Greenwich, these two pictures reveal how Canary Wharf, home of the Express, Star and Mirror titles, has grown from a dockyard to a huge commercial centre with towering skyscrapers.

From 1802 to the late 1980s, what would become the Canary Wharf Estate was a part of the Isle of Dogs and was one of the busiest docks in the world. After the 1960s, the port industry began to decline, leading to all the docks being closed by 1980.

The area in East London was then developed to become what it is today — a city of skyscrapers, 300 shops and luxury flats. Thanks to Covid it is a bit quiet at the moment.

Happily, the Old Royal Naval College, now part of the University of Greenwich, on the south of the Thames has remained more or less unchanged.


The unchanging face of London

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A PERIOD of 83 years separates these two photographs on London’s Charing Cross Road.

The top pic was taken on a foggy day in 1937 and the scene below shows the same spot in 2020. As you can see, nothing much has changed.

Photographer Davenant questions whether it is the same tree in both pics. We had our doubts as it appears to have moved several feet to the left. But ‘avid Drone fan’ Ian Barratt suggests that it is the same tree as the pavement appears to have been widened since 1937.

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Legends in their lunchtime


ANOTHER day, another booze-up — we did rather a lot of that back in the day.

 This 1990 line-up was snapped at a Daily Express lunch for the new England football manager Graham Taylor and his assistant, Lawrie McMenemy, in the Blackfriars Lubyanka.

Pictured from left: Clive Goozee (who provided this pic),  chief football writer Steve Curry, Lawrie, deputy editor Paul Potts, Graham, and head of sport David Emery. 

Taylor, the son of a provincial sports editor, succeeded Bobby Robson who had steered England to a World Cup third-place play-off at Italia '90. He is remembered for the expression “Do I not like that,” featured in a TV documentary about his time as England boss.



History in Moments

1982. So...before my time, of course, but Proddie, my self appointed ‘guide and mentor’, recalls fondly the moment that a well-upholstered lass called Erika Roe ran on to the pitch at Twickenham, flaunting her magnificent embonpoint to a baying crowd. 

‘Talk about swing low sweet chariot,’ he chuckles. The ultimate streak played well on telly, as you’d imagine, but still pictures were rather ruined by the little chap in top hat and tails who insisted on covering Ms Roe’s 40ins attractions with the union flag he was carrying. 

Typical of the late Ken Bailey, 71-year-old self-styled England cheerleader and mascot, a ubiquitous, jumped-up, show-off who was ever-present at sporting events at the time. 

Naturally, the January 2 rugby match between England and Australia was disrupted. England prop Colin Smart memorably said to his skipper, Bill Beaumont: ‘Don’t look now, Bill, a bird’s just run on with your arse tacked on to her chest.’ 

Erika, who later became a sweet potato farmer in Portugal (as you do), was unrepentant. Drink was blamed. 



BY POPBITCH, Gossip Editor

Prince Andrew is under the spotlight again now that Peter Nygard – another society figure he has ties to – has been arrested on sex trafficking charges. 

Some new questions are now being asked about Andrew's version of events, but no doubt HRH will simply consider this to be more of the same beastly treatment he has come to expect from the media. 

When Handsy Andy was a guest at a party at Cameron Diaz's house a few years ago, one poor soul who ended up stuck talking to him says the Prince spent the entire evening complaining about how the UK press liked to build people up, only to knock them back down again. 

Not only had it happened to him, he said, but also to his favourite band "The Radioheads”.


Q: Why does the Duke of York not sweat?
A: He uses Andy-perspirant



Reg Lancaster, one of the star photographers from the great days of the Daily Express, died on Sunday.

Reg photographed everything from sport and news to celebrity and film sets. He was on the staff of the paper for 44 years, joining in 1951. He spent time in London, Scotland and Paris. Reg was also a talented filmmaker and writer.



How Barbara pulled a fast one and got a lad in


Dame Barbara Windsor had many strong points, but subtlety was not one of them — as I discovered while ghosting her autobiography 20 years ago.

One of the experiences Barbara had to address in the book was falling love with the son of one of her old school friends, while married, a story she asked me to reveal exclusively in the News of the World.

On the morning the story broke, the tabloid Press besieged Barbara’s Marylebone home, eager to see and hear from the new man in her life, an actor, 26 years younger, named Scott Mitchell. 

The couple stayed indoors, with the phone off the hook, all that Sunday and most of Monday. But that afternoon Barbara had to leave for the theatre, where she was appearing in Aladdin – and, as she rushed to Scott’s waiting Mercedes, she fended off questions with: “Sorry, can’t stop – I’m appearing in panto.”

The next day, The Sun ran a photo, under the headline: “Sorry, must dash, I’ve got Aladin tonight” a witty line, for which Sun sub Fergus Shanahan must take the credit.     

When Barbara read how I’d written this episode for her book she shook her head. “No, darling, we’ve got to spell it out, otherwise my readers won’t get the joke.”

She wanted the line to read “: … I’ve got A-LAD-IN-TONIGHT.”

I explained that The Sun must have been convinced their millions of readers would understand the double-entendre and, after a while, Barbara gave in.

As far as I was concerned, that was the end of that but, weeks later, when I read the proofs, I discovered that crafty old Babs had persuaded the editor to put the dashes back. 


The mad gangster now singing at Platform 14

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No, you’re not going barmy … this really is the benevolent Mad Frankie Fraser singing his heart out for charity with movie star Shirley-Anne Field.

The astonishing photo was taken in the early nineties by former Express sub-editor Robin McGibbon, who was ghosting the notorious gangster’s autobiography.

It came about when Fraser learned that Shirley-Anne wanted help in promoting a carol singing event on London’s Waterloo Station, in aid of Save the Children. 

The publicity-mad villain immediately offered his services, while admitting he couldn’t sing a note and his tuneless voice was torture for anyone unfortunate enough to hear it.




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LIFE OF LARRY: Steve Wood in Downing Street yesterday Picture by MARK THOMAS

THERE isn’t a lot happening in the world of politics so photographer Steve Wood wandered down to Downing Street to see what was occurring.

The answer was not a lot. But who should Steve encounter outside No10 but Larry the cat, looking worried about how the negotiations on the price of fish were progressing in Brussels.

Former Express star photographer Steve told the Drone: "Larry is worried about his supply of Greek sea bass. 

"I worry about the supply of halibut from Norway but I couldn't give a shit about the fish that the French want off  the Cornish coast — smelly awful tiny herrings — they can have them. 

"All of the fish in British waters is probably covered in oil. I don’t want any of it — I'll stick to Norwegian halibut and Larry will stick to Greek sea bass.”

Er, yes, quite … we told you it was a slow news day.



WHO’S this fresh-faced young man looking mightily pleased to meet Miss World?

Yes chums, it’s Expressman Clive Goozee pictured with Ann Sidney in 1964 when he was a reporter on the Marylebone and Paddington Mercury in London.  

Clive told the Drone; "We are in a branch of Sketchley the dry cleaners in Marylebone High Street. I was sent to interview Ann by the Mercury boss, Maurice Krais, whom I later encountered on Saturdays at The People where he was a news editor. 

"Ann was on a whistle-stop tour to thank the various people who looked after her during the contest. She comes from Bournemouth but I haven’t seen her since we moved here! 

"I think she’s the same age as me, 76. There’s a picture of her on a wall of celebrities at Chez Fred, our incredibly popular fish and chip restaurant in Westbourne. 

"I’ll take my photo with me the next time we go for a fish supper. Sonny’s Fish Bar, my childhood chippie in Lisson Grove, Marylebone, became the Sea Shell in the 60s. 

"It's around the corner from the street where I lived. It’s a favourite for showbiz people. We’ve seen a few, including the Drone’s jokester Barry Cryer.”

Ann’s still looking good, Clive. Here she is, pictured in 2017.

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History in Moments

1943: So...even heroes have to chill, writes Awards Nominee Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee), skilfully avoiding the classic Calm Before The Storm cliché intro. 

A young man in uniform takes a breather in a poppy field as the Second World War rages. But this was no ordinary airman. Rather, it was the extraordinary Wing Commander Guy Gibson relaxing before the action that was to celebrate his name for ever: the Dambusters raid over the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial heartland, on May 16-17, 1943.

Gibson was a phenomenon. He flew more than 170 missions and was the most glittering bomber pilot of his day; so much so that his time as a fighter pilot tends to be overlooked. 

Promoted to senior rank very young, as the holder of the VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar, he was the most decorated serviceman of his day. Yet when he was killed in action in 1944 he was still only 26.

Like his school companion, Douglas Bader, he didn’t suffer fools at all. He was known as the Boy Emperor and the Arch Bastard. Said to be arrogant and bombastic, he had little time for ‘other ranks and colonials’. Yet one of his crew conceded: ‘I could see that he was a true leader although he never spoke to me or even acknowledged me.’

Gibson’s role in the bouncing bomb (mines, actually) raids has been immortalised in the classic and oft-screened 1955 film The Dam Busters. There’s a poignant and true account of the death of his black Labrador dog on the eve of the raid (who can forget the sight of Gibson throwing its lead into a waste paper basket?). Yet one of our insufferable, achingly woke TV stations (no ducks to be won for suggesting Channel 4) chose to cut this because the dog’s name was Nigger.

Gibson was excellently played in the film by another war hero, airborne forces veteran Richard Todd. But his part in the celebrated capture of the Pegasus Bridge in 1944 is, of course, another story, another History in Moments.


Legend Pattinson sums up his great Fleet Street life in 297 brilliant pages

ONE of old Fleet Street’s great characters Terry Pattinson has written a terrific autobiography.

Terry, pictured, spent much of his career on the Mirror and the Express and has received rave reviews for Scoop, A Life In Fleet Street.

The synopsis on Amazon reads: "Journalists live for exclusive stories, or ‘scoops’ as they are better known. Terry Pattinson is one of those reporters from the ‘golden era’ of Fleet Street. 

"Former Daily Mirror editor Mike Molloy called him a ‘great story finder.’ He was an industrial correspondent for 21 years – the final seven as Daily Mirror Industrial Editor. He was Reporter of the Year in the 1990 British Press Awards for his coverage of what became known as The Arthur Scargill Affair. He also won the London Press Club’s Scoop of the Year.

"Former Labour Cabinet Minister Alan Johnson described Terry as a 'Fleet Street legend' while former Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart said, 'Terry was my favourite journalist.'

"Terry’s coverage of the Russian spacecraft taking photographs of the moon’s surface led to a world exclusive for the Daily Express. One rival newspaper called it ‘The Scoop of the Century.’

"He was on the inside track of many major news events and relates hilarious background material that you couldn’t make up. Mirror Publisher Robert Maxwell, MC, admitted to Terry that he was wanted for war crimes and was an ‘agent of influence’ for Israel."

Terry’s book is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle and is warmly recommended. 




The editor of the Daily Drone, Mr Alastair McIntyre, normally hides his light under a bushel (whatever that is) and prefers anonymity but today he is the subject of our fascinating quiz.

Mr McIntyre, who prefers to masquerade under an aristocratic soubriquet, has been cunningly hidden in this photograph of him at a family celebration.

Can you spot him readers? Where is the Wally? Answers on a postcard to the nearest wagger pagger bagger (waste paper basket) as the old fool would put it.

Must go, he’s just staggering back from an extended slope.

I want the person who wrote this bilge to report to my office first thing in the afternoon — Ed
PS: The hat lights up, wiggles about and plays a tune.


Another great Daily Drone competition. Today it’s ...


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Here’s a special Daily Drone picture puzzle to help you while away those long winter nights. We have cunningly hidden not one but two pictures of hunky Expressman Richard Dismore.

Can you spot them, readers? Answers on a postcard to the usual dustbin.

Picture research by T. MANNERS, who prefers to remain anonymous.

A reader writes: Dear Ed, I am another avid Drone reader not wishing to add to your ever-increasing photo gallery of Dick Dismore pictures because there is only so much handsomeness a fellow hack can take. 

But it struck me that following the exposé of Mr Dismore adopting the look of his idol — actor Peter Wyngarde in the 1970s — the similarity he shared with actor Omar Sharif in the next decade is amazing as the picture you featured with arm-punching and chip-sharing Kiwi Les Diver shows in the 1980s. 

Off now to look at my 90s photo file ...

Memory Lane
Dollis Hill.

Well done for omitting a snap of Saddam Hussein, but there’s always tomorrow — Ed



The American magazine Town and Country has revisited the great Daily Express scoop revealing Michael Fagan’s break-in at Buckingham Palace in 1982. 

The story was written by Norman Luck, who is sadly no longer with us, but Express royal correspondent Ashley Walton, who was also involved in the story, tells how his pulse was racing as he picked up the phone to talk to the Queen’s Press secretary.

Read the fascinating tale here


Steve Bell’s cartoon banned by the Graun

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CARTOONIST Steve Bell was in even more trouble last night after this drawing from his If strip was rejected by editors.

Bell, one of our most gifted by controversial cartoonists, is already working out his notice with the paper.

London’s Political Cartoon Gallery tweeted: 'Spiked because it made someone at The Guardian "feel uncomfortable". This is the first time that a cartoon has been spiked by the paper because it didn't toe a particular editorial line. A sad day.'


My fabulous night with the Fab Four

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Mention of The Beatles on the Daily Drone website inspired CLIVE GOOZEE to remember interviewing the group in 1963 and getting them to sign an album for his brother Steve.

A pleasing night with The Beatles




Life has never been easy producing the Daily Express at night so just imagine what it was like during the Second World War when the Germans were busy bombing London just outside the doors to the Fleet Street offices. 

The backbench was prepared for the onslaught as this picture, taken from editor Arthur Christiansen’s autobiography Headlines All My Life, shows.

The tin hats were not worn for long as Chris, seen here on the left, explained: “We were issued with steel helmets at the outbreak of war. Managing editor Herbert Gunn, Brian Chapman and myself posed for this picture — but feeling foolish, had them stored away.”

Forty years later, far sillier hats were worn at times in the Express newsroom as the editor of this publication can confirm.


Fleet St mourns another great talent as Paul Callan dies at 81

The world of journalism was in mourning last night for Paul Callan, who died on Saturday morning after a fall at his Wimbledon home aged 81.

Callan, a larger than life character in his bow tie and pinstripes, was a hugely gifted Fleet Street writer who made his name on the Daily Mirror and later on the Daily Express and LBC radio.

His wife Steffi wrote on Facebook: So sad to say my husband of over 40 years, Paul Callan passed away suddenly yesterday after a fall. 

"He had an incredible life and career and loved being the father of Jessica Callan Olsen and James Callan and the doting grandfather of Scarlett and Gabriel. You always knew when he was around — follow the laughter.’

His daughter Jessica wrote on Facebook: “I’m heartbroken to have to say that my father Paul Callan died today.

“He had been unwell for some time and was recently diagnosed with cancer which he wanted to keep quiet.

"So unlike him to want to keep anything quiet!

“But he had a fall in the early hours of today and passed away very quickly.

“He wanted a huge, great send-off at St Bride’s so we will arrange a memorial next year when we can all see each other.

“Raise a toast to him in the meantime, if you can.

"He would have loved that.”

Farewell to a Fleet Street great, by ALAN FRAME

Daily Telegraph obituary


From yesterday’s Daily Express, most of which has been lifted from the Daily Drone, which we take as a compliment


How top crime reporter Allison of the Express nabbed a naughty vicar


Picture taken from Scoops and Swindles, Memoirs of a Fleet Street Journalist by Alfred Draper, former Daily Express crime reporter

The Daily Express always prided itself in getting its man, think Ronnie Biggs ... but not perhaps Martin Bormann.

The story of the Rev Philip St John Ross, the Naughty Vicar of Woodford, Cheshire, was a classic tabloid tale in 1955.

Former Daily Express crime reporter Alfred Draper writes in his book Scoops and Swindles: "The story occupied the attention of Fleet Street for 18 months before it was brought to a conclusion by the brilliant work of Bill Allison, one of the Express’s most talented and tenacious reporters.

"Bill, a burly Scot with the build of a lock forward, employed tactics that were, to say the least, unorthodox. They may have met with the disapproval of the ‘quality’ papers but they made him the envy of the ‘populars’.

"It began in 1955 when the 52-year-old vicar was presumed dead after faking his own drowning whilst on holiday with his wife at Hell’s Mouth, Caernarvonshire.

“It was soon discovered, however, that he had gone away with Mrs Kathleen Ryall, a wealthy widow, and teams of reporters took up the hunt which led them to the South of France, the Italian Riviera, Switzerland and other holiday resorts of the well-to-do.

“Bill got the equivalent of the non-eating end of the pantomime horse … he became part of the furniture in the Red Lion in Bledow, Oxfordshire [which] had been the local of the runaway couple who had a love-nest cottage in a secluded wood nearby.”

He assiduously befriended the suspicious locals and eventually his  tenacity paid off and it led to Bill cornering the vicar in the Buckinghamshire Hills after a classic Fleet Street car chase also involving  Stanley Bonnet of the Daily Mail.

After giving Bonnet the slip with a swift U-turn, Allison and another Express car stopped the Rev Mr Ross’s car and got a key to the boot.

Draper adds: “But it would not open and in frustration he kicked it, knocking off the handle and leaving a hole. A reporter promptly started blowing cigarette smoke through it in the vain hope of smoking the vicar out.

“Guessing that he had been handed the wrong key, Bill demanded the right one and this time the boot opened to reveal the vicar lying down with his head on a briefcase.

“Bill had one regret, which was the way he pulled a fast one on Stanley Bonnet, an old friend.”

A few secondhand copies of Scoops and Swindles, written in 1988, are still available on Amazon for £3.28.


Your sparkling Daily Drone, the No1 choice for grainy old pictures


NOSES TO THE GRINDSTONE: This pic of the Daily Express London newsroom is so blurry that it’s a job to identify anyone. But the man holding up his hands is Jon Zackon who is probably trying to tell the Backbench that the short he is subbing should be the splash.

The chap on the Newsdesk on the left is Jim Watson. At the back of the pic are Wonky Wheeler, Terry Manners and Bob Haylett. 

The photo, from the 1980s, was taken from the Picture Desk which, a reader suggests, explains why it is fuzzy. The editor couldn’t possibly comment!


NOSES TO THE PINT POT: Terry Manners enjoys yet another lager in the Press Club during a well-earned break from the chief sub’s seat … and then goes back to the office, below, to join Brian ‘Clint’ Izzard


Deux amis sur Le Continong

(Gay Paree actuellement)


ENGLISHMEN ABROAD: Well, one is a Kiwi, but you get the idea. On the left, clutching his copy of The Sunday Times, is a youthful Daily Express backbencher Dick Dismore.  

His compagnon in the crumpled sports jacket is the late, lamented New Zealander Les Diver, copy taster par excellence and an expert on painful rabbit punches to the upper arm.

The picture was taken on the banks of the River Seine in Paris some time in the 1980s. Sleeping arrangements have not been recorded. Not publicly anyway.

Also on the jolly was M Roger de Watkins who, rummaging in his drawers, selected the photograph from his private collection exclusively for the Drone.


Sir — How odd to see one’s other self on the pages of the Daily Drone, the one from a different century, who didn’t creak or drink too much — no, strike that last part, Janet.

On the other hand, how nice to see my dear old friend Les Diver, an invaluable companion on the Backbench and a great bloke on a rugby jolly.

Les and I, along with M. de Watkins, somehow (don’t ask) got hold of tickets for an England match in Paris at the old Parc des Princes stadium. A lovely place to watch rugby — if you can find your seat.

Ours were at the top of a steeply-raked stand. But which one of the sheer staircases should we take? The tickets held few clues.

We puffed our way to the top of the first one where a steward examined our tickets and said: “Non!” And waved airily towards another staircase.

We raced back down and climbed that one too, got to the top again and found our path blocked by another jobsworth who insisted we were still in the wrong place.

I won’t lie, the third staircase was testing for three blokes who’d lunched well. We got to the summit and when the steward there started his teeth-sucking routine as a prelude to the bums’ rush, we formed a ruck and cleared him out as the jargon of the game goes these days.

Not having seats, or at least any we could find, we plonked ourselves down on the concrete steps and watched from there.

Can’t remember who won but it didn’t matter. Springtime in Paris, food, wine, rugby and great company — who could ask for more?

A word to the wise, Sir. If M. de Watkins has any more grainy snaps from that trip, I should show them to that chap Cocklecarrot before putting them in your organ.

As ever,


Funny you should say that Dick ...

Former Mirror and Expressman John Clarke writes:

Without having to burden your immense readership with yet another picture of Dick Dismore I feel obliged to append the following from the February 1971 edition of Splash, the East Midland Allied Press staff newspaper. It shows Mr Dismore during his Peter Wyngarde-lookalike phase when he was working on the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph at Kettering.

Modesty almost forbids me to say that immediately above it is a portrait of myself leaving the Bury Free Press en route to the Spalding Guardian with a young Peter Caney in the background.

Peter and I eventually ended up working alongside Dick at the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. I later worked with Peter at the Mirror and Dick at the Express.

More grainy pix have fallen into my hands and will be published in due course. Bribes to prevent publication will be gratefully received — Ed



Two pics from the 80s
to jog a few memories

HAIR RAISING: Our man Williams, left, forges ahead

PUFFY BUFFY: Roger Watkins

Rare pictures of Express athletes in action have been unearthed by the Daily Drone.

They show future editor Chris Williams and backbencher Roger Watkins taking part in a race around Battersea Park in the 80s.

The pair were members of the Daily Express Athletics Club (motto: You can run but you cannot hide) competing in a charity race involving City of London companies.

Watkins recalls: ‘People shouldn’t really be surprised: you don’t get bodies like ours without honing them. Our team was captained by Bill Wheeler who, between puffs on his pipe, was a decent athlete back then.

‘I knew things wouldn’t go well when I couldn’t keep up with him in the warm-up. During the race I still had a lap to go when I heard the winner cheered across the finishing line.

ALAN HILL writes: I turned up for the great Battersea race with Roger Watkins. Suitably attired, superbly honed and physically tuned, we approached the starting line. With confidence.

Then we saw the overhead banners, which read: Five minute milers, six minute milers. They went on and on and on, in decreasing times.

Roger and I decided that we would replicate our roles as  backbencher and Chief City Sub and adopt the roles of “sweepers”. We would run at the back to mentor and encourage any stragglers.

We finished the race, still which time Chris Williams was probably back in Fleet Street!

Happy times!


How an Expressman came face to face with Sutcliffe in Broadmoor

FRIENDS: Maureen Flanagan and Charlie Kray


The death of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe reminded me of the time I came face to face with him, in Broadmoor.

It was early in 1985, shortly after he’d been transferred from an Isle of Wight prison, and I was visiting the Berkshire psychiatric hospital — at Reggie Kray’s suggestion — to meet his twin brother, Ronnie, for the first time.

With me was Maureen Flanagan, a former Sun Page Three model, who’d become friends with the twins, and older brother Charlie, after being employed as their mother’s hairdresser.

Ronnie always liked to make a grand entrance into the visiting hall, and we were sitting waiting for him when Flan — as she insisted on being called — leaned towards me and whispered: “Don’t look now, but the Yorkshire Ripper’s at the next table.”

I waited a few moments, then, as casually as I could, looked across the aisle. And found myself staring into Sutcliffe’s face. All these years on, it’s hard to remember how I felt, but what I’ve never forgotten are his eyes: dark, cold, expressionless.

A minute or so later, Sutcliffe’s wife, Sonia, arrived, and embraced him, like any loving wife. The next time I stole a glance they were huddled close, cheek to cheek, reading the Bible together.

When Ronnie arrived, it was clear he had seen the Ripper because he immediately changed our seating arrangements, so that he, not Flan, was  in Sutcliffe’s line of vision. Always the gentleman, Ron!

My Kray connection to the Ripper doesn’t end there. 

Five years ago, a man I’d never met rang my home. He said he’d listened to the CD of my conversations with the Krays and wondered if I’d be interested in hearing his taped conversations with a notorious killer. 

Who is it? I wanted to know. When he wouldn’t tell me, I ended the call and thought no more about it. Two days later, he called back and admitted he’d lied about his name because he wanted to be sure I was trustworthy.  

“So, what is your real name?”

“Ray Kray,” he said.

“Yeah, right,” I said. “And mine’s Donald Duck.”

Astonishingly, it turned out his name was Ray Kray. And the conversations he had on tape – many, many hours of them over several years – were with Peter Sutcliffe, in Broadmoor, and prison.

I set up meetings with ITV, who were most interested in broadcasting the tapes, but Ray felt he would be betraying Sutcliffe, who had come to consider him a genuine friend. So, the tapes have never been aired.

I wonder whether Sutcliffe’s death has changed Ray’s mind.


Author Frame looks back to the future

Yesterday’s Belfast News Letter


It was not really a deja vu moment, more a strange combination of role reversal and time travel: I was interviewed by the paper on which I began my, ahem, career. The organ in question is the Belfast News Letter where I started as a spotty, innocent 18-year-old.

The reason was to find out more about my new book Toto and Coco: Spies, Seduction and the Fight for Survival with the angle, I suppose, along the lines of ‘former News Letter hack can actually write more than a few pars’ (take in PA)

When I told the feature writer, a good chap named Graeme Cousins, that I arrived at the paper in 1964 he helpfully explained that he had not been born then. Good start young Cousins! Anyway, he let me prattle on about interviewing an eclectic bunch ranging from the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Ian Paisley and the bravest of the Northern Ireland prime ministers, Terence O’Neill, and seemed to be impressed. Looking back, so am I...

We compared the very first time our by-lines appeared on Page One and then he told me that the News Letter, one of Belfast’s two morning papers (and the oldest continually published paper in the British Isles I’ll have you know) now employs just 14 staff, I felt very depressed, not just for my old home but for the state of our industry generally. In my time there we fielded more than that number at any one time in the pub, the Duke of York, a splendid place presided over by a young barman, one Gerry Adams, who went on to other activities.

So it really was a trawl through All Our Yesterdays. And at my age, that was quite a treat.

Now I’m hoping Lord Drone will dispatch Rosalie Rambleshanks (t) to give me a thorough grilling. It would be the highlight of my career. It’s the least he should do – on Sunday when interviewed about the book I gave the  World’s Greatest Website a whopping great plug. *

*Miss Rambleshanks views this request as a problem as can be discerned from her letter to Aunt Marje, below.



Steve Bott’s World

Former Daily Star football reporter and sub STEVE BOTT has written his memoir — and you can read it only in the Daily Drone.
Start reading From Wigan to the West Indies and Beyond HERE

Part 2

Part 3




Former Mirror and Expressman John Clarke dug out this gem from 1991 to remind us all of the villainy of pensions robber Robert Maxwell who died within 10 months of writing this newsletter warning of ‘major changes'


Former Express legal chief is Times Lawyer of Week



Great pictures of Daily and Sunday Express in the 80s

The Daily Drone is now in proud possession of 148 pictures of the Daily Express taken by photographer PATRICK ROWLEY in the 1980s.

This picture shows the Daily Express Backbench, from left, Norman Cox, Hickey sub; Dougie Mann, news sub (obscured); Pat Pilton; Craig Orr; John Jinks, news desk; Ray Cave, art desk; and Terry Manners








Who’s that with Sue?

bobby and sue.jpeg

Comedian Bobby Ball, who has died, moved in the best of circles. Here he is with Sue McGibbon, wife of Robin, and Kenny Lynch. The picture was taken at the opening of a club (possibly Xanadu) in Regent Street, London in 1986

How to be sensible


You know how it is, you are having a drink with friends in  a pub garden after a round of golf and it starts raining. Silly people head indoors to the pub but former Expressman Roger Watkins just grabbed the nearest cushion and popped it on his head. 

That, chums, is how to be sensible — it is a proud Daily Express tradition.

Mr Richard Dismore, of this parish, said: 'This pic invokes the spirit of Bingo and Bertie c.1985. It recalls the Press Club jape of wearing the club’s lampshades as hats, to the displeasure of the hapless Yorkshireman who ran it. Good drill, Rog!’


Sir — What on earth’s going on at the Drone?

I refer to your incessant pandering to the narcissism of former Fleet Street executives definitely in the ‘has been’ or ‘never was’ category. 

I’ve no problem with that bearded bloke from features peddling his latest book. The story of Tonto and Coypu looks a good read. 

No, it’s the photograph of that prat with the white hair (ash blond, surely — Ed), obviously in drink, posing in a pub car park with a cushion on his head. I ask you!

Why not use this wasted space for interesting snippets from supermarkets or, better still, a nostalgic, evocative series called, say, Last Train to Adlestrop?

It’s game raising time, Mac!



Mail reporters ordered to stop knocking off early and to get some actual news in the paper


Enjoy this proper old fashioned bollocking memo emailed to the hacks on the news team at the Mail on Sunday by James Mellor, the news editor.

He laments; the lack of actual news in the paper, hacks knocking off early, hacks spending time filing their expenses rather than producing news, lack of genuine scoops… well, read it for yourself:

From: James Mellor

Date: Monday, 19 October, 2020  

The quality and quantity of stories provided by the News department this week was unacceptable and frankly embarrassing. By my count, there were just five self-generated exclusives from News in the entire paper. With a couple of exceptions, we let ourselves down. I have apologised to the Editor for our lack of contribution.

To fill the paper, we were reduced to effectively cutting and pasting stories from Mail Online. Despite the desperate need for new material, one of you found time yesterday to file an expenses claim. Others decided to head home before the gaps were filled. 

They might consider apologising to their colleagues who at least had the decency to stay and help fill the paper. The News department has been crucial in making The Mail on Sunday the biggest selling Sunday newspaper — but we failed this week and have not been firing on all cylinders for some time. This needs to change.

With immediate effect, everyone — without exception — is required to send an email detailing their stories and ideas for the week ahead to me, Ronan and Jane by 10am each Tuesday at the latest. If you have no ideas or stories to offer, you should send an email stating that — and be seriously asking yourself why. 

Expect to be chased by the desk if you haven’t sent a note or at least called and spoken to one of us. I also want at least one properly fleshed out idea for an investigation from each of you by Tuesday, October 20. I don’t want a nebulous concept, but a thoughtful, researched proposal. Again, send that to me, Ronan and Jane.

As well as genuine scoops, we need more light and shade on the News List -glamourous, quirky and consumer stories featuring famous people as well as gritty stories. Copy needs to be well-written, accurate and filed earlier to prevent a logjam on Saturday. 

If your stories aren’t making, it’s because the Editor doesn’t rate them, so you need to find ones that he does. We failed badly to meet our usual high standards this week. Let’s ensure that it does not happen again.



Expressman Frame’s book lifts lid on newspaper peer’s  intriguing wartime affair

FORMER Expressman and Drone blogger ALAN FRAME has a cracking new book out which should be high on the reading lists of all old Fleet Street hands.

Toto & Coco: Spies, Seduction and the Fight for Survival tells the remarkable true story of one of the greatest, unknown (until now) heroines of World War 2, the Vogue model Toto Koopman and her one-time friend Coco Chanel. 

Frame told the Drone: "Toto, lover of Lord Beaverbrook AND his son Max Aitken (whoops!), became a British spy, fighting with the Italian Resistance, until she was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. 

"Chanel on the other hand became Nazi Agent Westminster. It was no camp for her, she stayed in the luxury of the Paris Ritz throughout the war, living with her Gestapo lover."

The book is available from Amazon or in the usual bookshops as a paperback, Kindle or Audio (Audio will be online from mid November.)

Frame added: "If you buy it through Amazon and like it, maybe you would be kind enough to write a review on Amazon (the usual fiver in the post!)

"I’ve been lucky enough to have had the help of the Aitken (Beaverbrook) family for this labour of love."

Toto & Coco: Spies, Seduction and the Fight for Survival is published on Saturday, October 24 by Kelvin House. 




The Daily Mail’s review of the book covered three pages __________

Hitch makes his crisps last as he flouts mask rules

COME OUT, WE KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE: Peter HItchens makes a point by wearing a wartime gas mask


After making a big song and dance about face coverings this summer, photographing himself multiple times in full WW2 gas mask get-up, it seems Peter Hitchens has settled on a new plan to flout the requirement to wear a face mask on public transport. 

On the train from London to Oxford this week, Hitchens ignored the many announcements and signs asking him to consider fellow passengers and wear a mask – instead getting himself a cup of tea and a packet of crisps so that he could remain maskless in order to consume them. 

He then proceeded to make the solitary packet of crisps last the entire journey, nibbling away at a rate of one crisp per 1.8 minutes. 

So if any starving schoolkids are looking for advice on how to make a meal out of not very much… 






times subs.jpg

SOMEONE LOVES US: Ben Macintyre has written an excellent piece in The Times on the role of the oft-criticised sub-editor. The headline, of course, has been written by a sub. We think it needs a larger audience outside the paywall. Lord Drone is paying.



Expressman Laws has another book out

YOU can’t keep a good man down, and Expressman David Laws is no exception.

Furloughed from his Sunday Express subbing shift, he has written another thriller, The Fuhrer’s Orphans.

The synopsis reads:

A ragged group of fugitive children are hiding out in a city wilderness in fear of their lives from Gestapo round-ups.

It’s 1940 and their parents have been taken to the concentration camps, but the children have managed to slip away and are sheltering – hungry and desperate – in a disused industrial site in Munich.

Two strangers come together to attempt Mission Impossible; bringing them all out of Germany in the midst of war.

One is a young teacher in the city, the other a British commando with orders to destroy an installation next to the children’s hiding place. He has to decide: follow orders or save the children.

The book is available as a 99p ebook from Amazon (free if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited) and as an £8.99 paperback.

Order from Amazon

Video trailer

Davids website


Rosalie Rambleshanks (t)
Polyhymnia, Muse of Eloquence: Charles Meynier

Social distancing, my arse. If I’d known it was going to be this bad I’d never have signed up for Strictly


By Kelvin MacKenzie as he clears the decks in bid to become BBC chairman (no sniggering at the back there)

OUR chum Kelvin MacKenzie has seen his chance for renewed fame after fellow journalist Charles Moore withdrew from the race to become BBC chairman.

Perhaps sensing that his notoriety may count against him, Kelvin has cleared the air by explaining why Rupert Murdoch sacked him from his Sun column and why he likened footballer Ross Barkley to a gorilla.

Laying out his stall, Kelvin said: ‘I will make the BBC great again by cleaning out all the Lefty and Wokey types.’

Kelvin Tweeted: Although tipped as the next BBC Chairman there are 4 reasons George Osborne  won't get it. 

1) He wouldn't get out of bed for the £160K pay. 

2) Boris wouldn't pick an ardent Remoaner like him.

3) His only media link was as a hopeless editor of the Evening Standard.

4) The job is mine.

Crikey! Lord Drone wishes Mr MacKenzie the best of luck in his mischievous bid for the BBC chair. He’s going to need it.


The following message has been passed to Lord Drone:

Rebecca Ryan, solicitor with Novum Law, is working on a potential claim for Mrs Downing on behalf of Mr John Downing. Rebecca is  trying to contact people who worked either with John or in the same building to ask a few questions about the building layout and details about John's work.  

She's on Direct Dial: 03330 102268/0117 338 2268. Mobile: 07557 273124; email: .


Our trainee Rosalie joins the Gong Show in awards bonanza

Daily Drone trainee Rosalie Rambleshanks has been nominated for two prestigious journalism gongs.

The 22-year-old reporter has been shortlisted as Young Digital Journalist of the Year and as a One To Watch in the Emerging Talent category of the PressGazette British Journalism Awards 2020.

Rosalie has been a temporary intern in the Drone’s head office for a year. A former pupil of Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton, she graduated with a 2:2 in Media Studies from De Montfort University, Leicester and is the eldest daughter of motor dealer principal Reggie Rambleshanks and his wife, Lavinia, a British Wheel of Yoga teacher, from West Byfleet.

A spokesman for Lord Drone said: ‘So...we are delighted to hear that, er, Rosemary Rumplesheets (trainee) is in line for these awards. She is a credit to herself, the Daily Drone family and journalism itself.’

Rosalie said: ‘’s been an emotional rollercoaster of a year. To be honest, I have only just got used to being mistaken for a crossdressing ceramicist in the street.

‘Although I could never presume to emulate the quality of past Drone series such as the haunting and iconic Last Train to Adlestrop, I am proud to have launched Art Attack and the popular Ask Gipsy Rosalie/Aunt Marge advice columns.’

Media commentator Alan Frame, a former Daily Express Executive Editor, said: ‘So...this is richly deserved. Rosalie has the knack, like all great columnists, of talking directly to the reader. It’s almost as if you know her.’

An awards spokesman said: ‘ is most unusual for a trainee to be nominated for any of these awards.’

The winners will be announced at a Virtual Ceremony on December 9.

Who’s written this shite? I’ll believe this when I see it — Ed


History in Moments


May 11, 1941: So...this is a scary moment during the Blitz when the whole wall of an office block collapsed spectacularly. The fantastic picture was taken by PC Fred Tibbs, of the City of London Police, the morning after another German bombing raid had weakened the building. 

Curiously, there is a dispute which address in Queen Victoria Street (not far from the Black Lubyanka) was affected. The Salvation Army claimed it was its HQ at No.101 (surely they wouldn’t fib); the fire brigade said it was 23 (surely they would know); a third report said it was No.147 (who knows?)

However, the nightmare of the Blitz, designed to bully the Home Front into surrender, had ended. Not before 3,000 people had been killed on the worst day since the terror campaign began the previous September. They were added to the terrible toll, not just in the capital but in other strategically important British cities, too.

A total of 32,000 were killed and 87,000 seriously injured. Two million properties (60 per cent of them in London) were destroyed. Yet the civilian population’s defiance forced Hitler to re-think: he moved his heavy bombers to the eastern front in preparation for the invasion of Russia.

Britain’s refusal to surrender during the Blitz, whatever the cost, proved a turning point. In a speech to the Canadian Parliament at the end of 1941 Winston Churchill referred to a sneering remark made by the collaborist Vichy government in France about our chances of surviving alone.

He said: ‘Their generals told their prime minister and his divided cabinet that in three weeks England would have her neck wrung like a chicken.

‘Some chicken. Some neck!’

R.R (t)


Don’t talk to me about
A series in which we talk about things
you’d prefer not to talk about, actually

No1: The Hogarth Roundabout

By IZZY K. BRUNEL-SHANKS Motoring Correspondent

This major traffic fuck-up has been bedevilling motorists in West London since the growth of the motor car after the last war.

Named after the painter William Hogarth, who lived nearby, it is at the junction of the A316 Great Chertsey Road, carrying traffic from the M3 and the A4 Great West Road in Chiswick.

There is usually ample opportunity for drivers to admire the façade of the Griffin Brewery of Fuller, Smith and Turner on the roundabout.

It is notable for its single lane flyover (see picture) built as a temporary measure (sic) in 1971 to carry eastbound traffic. The hastily-assembled structure was intended to be part of the London Ringways project, eventually abandoned after years of wrangling. A recent major refurbishment has made it safe for the future (allegedly).

Picture research: Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

Editor’s note: Jam tarts, which were traditionally consumed at tea time on the Daily Express news subs desk in the 1970s and 80s, were known as Hogarths because they were filled with … well you get the idea. Not a lot of people know this.



Get safely pissed with our wonderful Merlot Mask,
it’s approved by doctors!

Worried about the safety of your Corona crisis tincture? Stay calm with Merlot Mask, another brainwave from the House of Drone to make YOUR life easier. 
As used by the medical profession — Bottoms up!

“It’s a lifesaver. Thanks so much, Lord Drone” — T Manners (Scunthorpe)

Get yours for a snortingly good price. Send a signed open cheque to the normal address.


Whatever happened to silver serpents in Daily Express foyer?


THE foyer of the Daily Express building was one of the wonders of London’s Fleet Street.

It is so important that it is the only part of the old building that still exists.

But a mystery surrounds the entrance hall: What happened to the art deco silver serpent balustrades that adorned the steps to the lifts?

The ones currently in the foyer are replicas which the developers had to make because the new owners said the serpents were 'lost’. That seems unlikely.

Very little is documented on the serpents but their value was huge. Has one of the chairmen got them in his hallway or in the basement? It all seems to be shrouded in silence.

Can anyone throw light on this mystery?

The much-admired entrance hall is a Grade II* listed building designed in 1932 by Robert Atkinson and is one of the most prominent examples of art deco/streamline moderne architecture in London.

The foyer is normally only accessible to employees of the building and invited guests.

A Daily Express reunion was held in the foyer in 2008, organised by the late Norman Luck.


Brilliant, yes ... but was Sir Harold Evans really
the greatest editor ever?

Drone Media Commentator

We all acknowledge the brilliance of campaigning editor Sir Harold Evans who has just died aged 92. He was an extraordinarily talented journalist; certainly one of the best of the last 50 years.

But some excitable obituarists have scrambled to proclaim him The Greatest Editor Of All Time. Really? May I, in all humility, demur?

Evans made his name as the editor of a regional morning newspaper and was trail-blazing editor of the Sunday Times for 14 years (although people tend to forget that he was the shortest serving of the 23 editors of The Times).

Of course, he then went on to be a respected media guru both here and in the States. But the greatest?

We’re to forget the likes of Ben Bradlee, are we? Or a list of other valid candidates, four of whom I have worked with but won’t name?

Bow the knee to Sir Harold by all means. But, surely, the ultimate accolade must still belong to Arthur Christiansen who, for an astonishing 24 years, inspired the World’s Greatest Newspaper when it was the world’s greatest newspaper. And he was the greatest editor.

Additional research by Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee).


Farewell to Jimmy, great sub-editor and one of the good guys


LAST DAYS OF FLEET STREET: Jimmy working his Saturday evening shift on the Sunday Express, 1989 Picture: KEITH MARTIN

The Drone is saddened to announce the death of former Daily and Sunday Express sub-editor James ‘Jimmy' Humphrey. He was 73.

Jimmy, who had been ill for some time, died in an air ambulance in France on Monday night following a heart attack.

He had lived in the Dordogne village of Corgnac-sur-L’Isle for many years with his partner Leigh Andrews.

This picture of Jimmy, looking uncharacteristically grim, was taken from the TV last year when he appeared on BBC Breakfast discussing Brexit.

He said he was worried about continuing to receive free health care after undergoing three recent operations in France.

Lord Drone said last night: ‘Jim was a lovely man with a ready smile and winning giggle despite travelling regularly by the dreaded RyanAir from France for his regular Saturday shift.

‘He was one of the subbing greats and will be greatly missed.’

His friend and colleague Keith Martin said: 'Jimmy first moved to Fleet Street in his early twenties from the Coventry Evening Telegraph, joining the news subs on the Evening Standard, then based in Shoe Lane, in about 1973. 

'He quickly excelled in his favourite role of copy taster and later deputising as foreign editor.

'A heart condition prompted his early retirement from the Standard in the late 90s, where he had worked for more than 25 years, and he moved from Brighton to the Dordogne region of south-west France, a country he loved. 

'He carried on working as a staff casual at the Daily and Sunday Express, where he had done a regular Saturday shift for several years, changing his day a week to a week a month, commuting from France. He eventually retired five or six years ago.

'While living in Brighton, Jimmy served time as a Conservative councillor, but fell out with his fellow Tories over rail privatisation, leaving the party and, eventually, the council.

'In 2013 Jimmy married his long-term partner Leigh Andrews, shortly after same-sex marriages were legalised in France.

'A seasoned raconteur, full of stories about many of the larger-than-life characters he had worked with during his many years in Fleet Street, he will be greatly missed by all who knew him and by those who had the privilege of working with him.


Guttersnipe's Dick pens another novel

23 dick durham.JPG

Another day, another book written by one of the big names of old Fleet Street.

This time the author is Dick Durham, pictured, who worked as a staff reporter on the Daily Star from 1980-1998 and as a casual on The Sun, Daily Mail, and Daily Mirror prior to that.

Dick told the Drone: 'On The Daily Star I covered the Seoul Olympics; Brixton Riots and Prince Charles and Diana's wedding among other stories, which are all mentioned in my memoir, Guttersnipe, A Tabloid Hack's Memoir of Fleet Street, which was aired in your august organ thanks to Mike Hellicar.'

Dick’s second novel, Dead Reckoning, is available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle ebook.

Here’s the synopsis:

Duff Bundock tries to rebuild his fractured marriage with a sea voyage aboard his sailing boat. When his wife, Connie, is thrown overboard, as the boat loses control, the affair which caused their rift in the first place comes back to haunt the skipper. 

Was the accident really an accident? If it was an accident was it one which presented an opportunity for a new life? Is Duff convincing himself it was an accident in order to return to his mistress?

The book, written in the first person, is in two parts, the first from Duff’s point of view, the second from Connie’s. The pair explore faith, sexuality, marriage, and infidelity, discovering vice in the first three and virtue in the last.


One snapper and his dog Flossie record
a town in lockdown

Award-winning photographer Bob Aylott has his two-year-old Cockerpoo, Flossie, to thank for helping him create a book about his home town during last Spring’s national lockdown.

Bob, who worked for the Daily Sketch, Mail and Star, in an illustrious 40-year Fleet Street career, used Flossie as a decoy to fool residents in Fareham, Hants, that he was  taking allowable daily exercise — not shooting thousands of photographs of the deserted town centre and neighbouring areas.

“I certainly couldn’t have got away with it without her,” Bob, 71, told the Drone. “We’d walk up to six miles a day and nobody took any notice. I was just this old pensioner getting his exercise. Flossie would warn me of people approaching, even before I saw them. And she seemed to sense when I wanted to capture a scene because she’d lay down, as though she was tired.”

Bob would have published his book months ago, had he not contracted Covid 19 and been kept in hospital for five weeks. Fortunately he’d taken more than 10,000 photographs before the virus struck. 

In 1968, Aylott won the News Picture of the Year award for his photo of a police officer being kicked in the face by an anti-Vietnam War protester, outside the U.S Embassy, in Mayfair. 

Lockdown Town, by Bob Aylott, with his dog, Flossie – Foreword by Fareham MP and Attorney General Suella Braverman QC – is published by Fareham Life in two editions: high quality hardcover and e-book


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

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



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.'


Massed ranks of Fleet Street’s finest, 1997


FORMER Daily Express photographer TOM STODDART posted this picture on Twitter 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

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 i