Her Majesty’s



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We have a hooligan class of politicians and a national football team composed of gentlemen
— Matthew d'Ancona


Today’s Papers


Brian Adcock, Independent



The Guardian has an interesting piece on how subbing was done in the old paste-and-paper days. The headline on the story should make it clear that it was the comp who had to read the type upside down, not the stone sub.



Bunk! What a load of rowlocks in the Mail

What a piss-poor set of headlines on the row surrounding Team GB’s worst performance in Olympic rowing for 50 years, writes Drone Chief Sub LP BREVMIN.

How could the Mail use 26 words but fail to pick the key one? And what the fuck is a ‘boat team’?

Surely, by changing the strap to read ‘result in 50 years’ and dropping the totally redundant ellipses, one might have replaced ‘boat’ with ‘rowing’.

And if didn’t fit, just drop a size: it could do with some air around it, anyway.

Is there one L or two in bollocks?


Oh lucky Jim!

LOOKING happy and healthy in the Cornish sun — this is former Expressman Jim Davies and his author wife Patricia Oliver.

Former Daily Express editorial secretary, Esther Harrod, who took this picture, has just returned from a visit to the veteran writer.

She said: “Jim is now 87 – it’s inevitable that we swopped stories of hospitals, medical conditions and our tablet regimes.   But we still enjoyed a lot of Fleet Street reminiscing – Jim always has such wonderful anecdotes which we never get tired of hearing.

“This year we were able to celebrate Pat’s first book – a huge 729-page paperback – a memoir of her extraordinary, ordinary life entitled Darling, There’s An Iguana In The Bath." The book  available from Amazon. 


You snob! Our old pal Parry in new jam after TV rant about  ‘eyesore’ caravans

By AUSTIN MORRIS, Our man on the A30 at the back of a queue of slow-moving traffic

SAY what you like about Mike Parry, and plenty do, he is nothing if not controversial.

Parry, a former Daily Express news editor, is no stranger to putting people’s backs up — and now he has done it live on national television.

Ranting on the airways has become his stock in trade and resulted in his being labelled  a snob by ITV presenter Alex Beresford .

Parry courted controversy, quite deliberately in the Drone’s view, in a fiery rant about caravans on Good Morning Britain.

Speaking to Beresford and 80s pop star Sonia, Parry, a radio broadcaster, described all caravans as eyesores.

He said: “When we all got out of the second world war and my parents didn’t have any money to take us anywhere on holiday except Butlins, they took us to a caravan in Anglesey.

“I’ve never had a more miserable existence in my life I don’t understand how a human being can exist in a little tin can”.

Parry noted that they make you feel like “hamsters in a sandwich bin” and claimed that “it’s a situation you wouldn’t even welcome if you were in jail”.

He interrupted fellow pundit, 80s pop star Sonia, who was trying to have her say on the matter, and complained that he is often left stuck in his “£70,000 Jaguar behind a caravan trying to go up a hill, trying to go down a hill, they only go at 40mph”.

Sonia retorted: “You stay in your Jaguar, just have a bit of patience.”

Beresford then said: "Mike you’re sounding like a bit of a snob now. £70,000 Jaguar? Come on mate."

Parry responded: "I’m not a snob. I’m not a snob. I'm not a snob. I regard three-star hotels as camping, but I’m not a snob I just like to be comfortable when I go somewhere on holiday.”


Plus ça change…
an exciting new series in the Drone, the online newspaper that spans every generation

FLU DO YOU DO? A couple mask up during the 1918 influenza pandemic

How Hollywood sees us ...


… and the knackering reality


Above and below: Exhausted staff asleep at their desks


10. The fruity fumblings of Petronella Prune

Breaking News! Frisky Vicar Unmasked! The Rev Petronella Prune, BA (Hons), University of West Bromwich, Priest-in-Charge at St Addis by the Closet, Frame Hampton, Wilts, has been sent on ‘pastoral retreat’ after an incident in a Salisbury nightclub. 

According to the lady arboriculturalist up at the hall (who seems, to me, to be taking rather an unhealthy interest), La Prune was spotted indulging in several breathless sets of tonsil tennis with the archdeacon’s daughter after a diocesan think tank. The shame. Well, now she’s been banished into outer darkness and has been replaced by a very underwhelming former bank manager, a late entry to the priesthood. 

He, says Ted the Snob, obviously didn’t go to a good school. And what about burly, moustachioed Sally the Sexton, the other side of this infernal triangle, I hear you clamour? She’s decamped to London to join the Met’s Special Swat Patrol Gang (Group, surely - Ed). Good fucking riddance, say us Boys.

They lowered the tone, actually and we’re just beginning to realise there’re some extraordinarily nice and interesting people in the village. The other evening, for instance, we were in the Ratcatchers’ beer ‘garden’ (Hah!) when a very grubby Land Rover pulled up and out stepped a couple straight from the pages of Country Life. 

It was the ‘Young Master’ and his lady from what the locals insist on calling ‘the big ’ouse’, aka Frame Hampton Hall. They perched near us and His Tedness, who, embarrassingly, will talk to anybody, was in like polished shit off a shovel. Soon they were chatting away merrily. Turns out the YM is an Old Carthusian, whatever that is: they used to play ‘rugger’ (a form of Rugby, I believe) against each other when Ted was at Harlow (Harrow — Ed)

Apparently, his name is a bit of a mouthful: Algernon Smith-Smyth. He was telling us it used to be worse: Smith-Smeeth-Smyth. But they dropped the Smeeth after an unfortunate incident in a horse box at the Royal Show. His wife is a really lovely girl called Olivia (nice name!) who’s from Somerset. There was much hearty laughter when Algy said they became engaged after he caught her by the Quantocks (I must say the way Ted comes over all man’s mannish, engaging in this sort of ribald banter, sometimes confuses me). Enjoy the summer!




Ann Morrow, writer and doyenne of Beaverbrook Express years, dies at 86

FORMER Expresswoman Ann Morrow, who wrote for the paper in the Beaverbrook era before moving to The Times and The Daily Telegraph has died aged 86.

Her beat included royal tours, travel, beauty, interviews and briefly, for the Telegraph, Jimmy Carter’s America, where as a correspondent she enjoyed “surf and turf” with the President on board Air Force One.




Daily Mail subs 1960s


ALL WHITE ON THE NIGHT: Daiy Mail subs hard at work in the mid-1960s. Women are noticeable by their absence, it’s all pipes, paste bottles and spikes. We can’t identify anyone but maybe you can. Let us know!

CHRISTOPHER WILSON reports: Some familiar faces there but the one guarantee is the legendary Leslie Sellers, makeup czar on the broadsheet Daily Mail, next to the two men in suits at the back of the picture. 

Leslie was not only a lovely man but author of the Simple Subs Book and Doing It In Style, two essential reference books for us mid-60s trainees. He was still there when I got to the Mail in 1969, and I think one of the suits in the pic is Arthur Brittenden, Mail editor before David English. 

RICK McNEILL writes: I think Christopher Wilson has nailed Leslie Sellers among some very blurry faces in the Daily Mail picture. I doubt if I’m there (and I wouldn’t recognise me if I was) but before joining the Daily Express in 1965 I did a stint as a lowly “summer relief” sub on the Mail, and Leslie was the consummate layout man on the back bench.

I got to know him well much later on South Africa’s Sunday Times, who snapped him up after he fell victim to David English’s Night of the Long Envelopes.

We were assistant editors together, and I kind of understudied him, trying to match his brilliant front pages. Leslie was also a witty columnist, food enthusiast and author. His Simple Subs Book should be on every sub-editors’ desk in the English-speaking world.

A great character — he couldn’t drive or use a typewriter (so he said) never mind a computer. His devoted wife Doreen did all his driving and typing for him.

CLIVE GOOZEE: I did a stint at the Mail in the late 60s when spikes had vanished from the subs’ desk. Unwanted material was placed in baskets. 

I was invited to do some shifts after sending examples of Surrey Comet pages I designed. Alan Howell, the chief sub, interviewed me and I recall him saying of my offerings:”We like them very much.” 

Bill Nutting was chief subbing on my first shift and I recall  Hugh Dawson, who was a rising young star of the department, and a very tolerant revise sub, Ken Brown, who politely advised me on anything I’d got wrong. 

Leslie Sellers came over for a chat. He was very friendly, giving me some “keep up the good work” encouragement. I was offered a summer relief job at £33 a week but was lured to a £40 a week permanent post on the Post Office staff tabloid. We were expecting our first baby and the salary made up for the loss of my wife’s wage. 

Ken Lawrence rescued me thanks to former Comet colleague David Emery’s recommendation.



Sir – I don’t mean to show off but I just had to share this with someone. When you walk the right path, work hard, avoid temptation, banish drink, drugs and fast women you deserve a little reward. OK, so white was the only colour available but I think these garden chairs will look great parked outside my house, don’t you?

Much Boasting



We couldn’t have put it better ourselves: Good sense from The Times Letters to the Editor


It’s actually a brilliant spoof drawn by Ralph Steadman in tribute to the greatest cartoonist ever employed by the Daily and Sunday Express, Carl Giles. 

The caption reads: Poor old Grandma. She’s got to do something seeing as how Mr Giles hasn’t come up with a good joke since 1952

The cartoon is signed ‘Steadman after Giles'



A jumbo bottle of pop from that nice Mr White can take the edge off a grand cru Vino Collapso

An expert view from the Drone’s resident sommelier MALCOLM BECK-SHANKS

Hello! I’m often asked at this time of year to recommend a mixer that can take the ‘edge’ off a big-hearted Bordeaux. I always go for R.White’s, le grand cru of lemonades. For more than 170 years since Robert White and his wife, Mary, started selling their home-made version from a hand cart in Camberwell, it has been the go-to mixer for the discerning.

And after the company was made an offer it could not refuse by Corleone&Co, it has benefited from the finest lemons grown on the southern slopes of Mount Etna warmed by the gentle Mediterranean sun.  A combination of luscious fruit, crystal-clear water from the Shadwell Basin and a subtle alchemy of saccharin, acesulfame K and aspartame produces a nectar of which the gods would be proud.

Drone reader T. Manners says: From the time I knew that Elvis Costello was a backing singer on R. White’s iconic Secret Lemonade Drinker advert, I’ve been hooked. I love the taste and, experts have found, mixing it with stronger drink stops you falling over too soon.

Next: Why Dandelion and Burdock makes nuns blush


Giancarlo Esposito

The last time we met the genial Italian he’d just been kicked into touch at a struggling Premier League club by the ubiquitous Big Sam. And that didn’t end well either. To be fair, it wasn’t just that Giancarlo’s team weren’t scoring enough but the fact that he’d been scoring too often...with the Chairman’s daughter. Now, after half a season on the coaching staff of his old mate, Luciano Cremenola at Cagliari, he’s back in England as boss of a newly promoted northern team in the Championship. The new season is about to start in less than a month but has he learned from his ups and downs (and not just with the Chairman’s daughter)? Let’s see...

Ey oop! See, I now speak-a da Engleesh well good, no? So ever happy to be back. My muckers (ees how you say?), Salvatore and Gianfranco, come from Serie B to be up your back staff. We cash in on Mancini Mania, as club’s nice little PR girl she say to me. Great bunch lads at club: this season we moon aiming, silverware hunting. Chairman, he say keep tackle to myself: big balls my falldown at Prem club (Mamma Mia! Not old boss’s bellissima bambina again!) He advise cut out long kicks, go for high press; plenty tikka takka flowing free; use false 9 off shoulder. He say sometime we park-a da bus; he like-a clean sheets. I speak ladies in wash room. Training already began. Lads full putting shift in. We working free kicks in dead ball situation. Now see fixtures in list. First up, Fulham. Away. Chairman he shake-a da head. Squeaky bum already. He say make-a sure parrot keep well. Porca miseria!




Daily Express, a great window on the world  in rainy London, 1935

Picture: London Express/Getty Images

There were few news sources available for public consumption in 1935 compared with today.

A popular attraction in Fleet Street was the front window of the Daily Express which then displayed news items, photographs, cartoons and such like.

Here a crowd looks at a map of Abyssinia around the time of the Italian invasion in October of that year.

Tell that to the kids of today and they wouldn’t believe you.


TalkRADIO staff are pinged off


By CHUCK HAMMER (He’s ever so sporty)

It's not just staff at Rupert Murdoch's papers who have been having a tricky time with self-isolation recently. The radio stations at the Baby Shard are having a bit of difficulty too, especially the talkSPORT set. 

Juggling their work commitments (attending Euros fixtures in London and Rome) with all the various quarantine restrictions currently in place was always going to be hard. A number of senior management got pinged after England v Germany, requiring 10 days of self-isolation (which would have seen them out of action for the quarter- and semi-finals). 

When another reporter tested positive after England v Ukraine (which could have put other staff in jeopardy of missing the big final) it was decided they needed to take some better precautions. 

Specifically: deleting the NHS app, so they wouldn't get pinged any more. 



Pipes, wing collars and bushy moustaches, meet the chaps in the Daily Express tape room, 1903

Picture: Print Collector/Getty Images

The Daily Express had only been existence for three years when this picture of the tape and telegraph room was taken in 1903.

The Express was founded in 1900 by Sir Arthur Pearson, with the first issue appearing on 24 April 1900. Pearson, who had lost his sight to glaucoma in 1913, sold the title to the future Lord Beaverbrook in 1916. Two years later the Sunday Express was born.

It was one of the first papers to place news instead of advertisements on its front page and carried gossip, sport, and women's features. It was also the first in Britain to have a crossword puzzle.

The Daily and Sunday Express moved into their new Fleet Street offices in 1932 and remained there until moving to Blackfriars in 1989. The titles are now based in Canary Wharf although most staff still work at home. 


Messenger! Take your pick sir, we have quite a few

Picture: PA

Talk about Fleet Street overmanning — there was certainly no shortage of messengers in 1930.

The Press Association’s dispatch manager Walter Cattermole was justified in puffing out his chest with pride as he posed for  this picture with his huge team of messenger boys.

There was no email or electronic transmission of photographs in those days so there was obviously enough work for them all, scurrying about Fleet Street and its environs spreading the news.

The picture was taken in Salisbury Court with No 130 Fleet Street in the background. This still stands and houses Itsu restaurant. Shoe Lane is to its right which separated No 130 from the Express building, just out of shot. 


Sir — I was fascinated to see your historic photograph of Walter Joseph Cattermole, Chief Superintendent of the army of messenger boys at the birth of the Press Association in the late 1800s. A man whose job it was to instil a military sense of discipline into the boys who marched around in dark blue uniforms with red piping around the cuffs and down their trousers with their identification number on their collars. All this topped by an army-style flat cap that had PA proudly embroidered on it. 

During my time as Executive Editor of the news agency, Chief Executive Paul Potts asked me to assist parliamentary doyen of reporters Chris Moncrieff produce a book on the history of the agency and the legendary Cattermole (who apparently allowed his figure to grow because he believed he should look as nature intended) was one of the people I researched. A fascinating man, who checked every day that his boys’ boots, buckles and buttons were highly polished.

Some of the reasons why the boys, all from poor backgrounds, were fired by him at the time were well documented in the PA records …  “smoking in the kitchen; threatening to throw a mallet and bowl at Mr Bowskill in the office; taking a shilling for a cab but taking the train instead and keeping the change; throwing a live dog out of the upstairs window; calling Mr Cuthbert a bloody Scotch haddock.” And more, much more.

But we are left with a wonderful snapshot of Cattermole in reports of his role during the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, the outstanding news event of the year at that time when Cabinet Ministers would speak to the great and Godly. Cattermole would march an army of messengers to the Guildhall, where he would take over the magistrates court and sit high up in the magistrate’s chair as he directed operations smoking a huge cigar and drinking copious amounts of whiskey, making sure that the boys, who got a shilling for supper, also got sacks of leftover food to take home to their poor parents. Wonderful stuff. Well done Cattermole.

Dollis Hill,
Home of Twiggy


We're relieved to confirm that reports of Andy's demise are exaggerated



TRAGEDY turned to farce for Expressman Andy Hoban soon after his beloved father died aged 95.

Andy, a former Sunday Express night editor and Features chief sub on the Daily Express, picked up a call from an old friend, Bob Watson, who seemed surprised to be talking to him.

“I’d better put you on to Karen,” he said. Karen, Bob’s wife and a colleague of Andy’s during his time on the Mail, was in tears as she spoke. “We thought you were dead,” she said.

Rumours of Andy’s death were begun innocently by an old chum of Andy’s from his days on the Birmingham Mail. They quickly did the rounds.

Curious, Andy began investigating his Mark Twain moment.

“Eventually,” says Andy, “we worked out that the source of the mystery report of my demise was none other than (my wife) Sue.”

In an email to a friend, Sue had written: “Andy’s passed away so I’ll call you in a couple of days.”

She had meant to write, “Andy’s Dad…”

Andy delivered a eulogy for his father, also called Andy, at the June 17 funeral. “His death set in motion events that would have given him a bloody good laugh,” he told the Drone, “and, if I’d still been working, would have suggested a light-hearted comment piece.”

His many Fleet Street friends will be delighted to know that, like Twain, the reports of his death are greatly exaggerated.





THE BABY SHARD, also known as The News Building

By MUSTAPHA JABBI, Medical Correspondent

As Delta variant cases continue to rise the latest Covid hotspot appears to be the Times and Sun offices in London’s Baby Shard. 

Word is that the NewsUK offices are awash with cases after Rupert Murdoch paid a visit. 

Rupert doesn't like people working from home, so the call went up for as many staff to make their way into the office as possible.

The result? Now almost everyone is isolating, including the editors of The Times and The Sunday Times.


Giles of the Express is still the big draw 26 years after his death

Picture: Raymond Kleboe/Getty Images

CARL GILES, was the doyen of cartoonists in his day. His drawings adorned the Daily and Sunday Express for decades.

He is seen here, far left, with a group of cartoonists at a life drawing class held in the White Swan* pub (aka The Mucky Duck) in Fetter Lane, off Fleet Street, in 1947. 

With him, from left are Roland Davies, the creator of the Come On, Steve! strip which featured in the Sunday Express from 1932 to 1939; and Norman Pett who drew Jane for the Daily Mirror. Behind them is Leslie Illingworth of the Daily Mail.

Giles started drawing for the Daily Express in 1943 and finally quit working for the title in 1989; his cartoons had been allocated less and less space in the newspaper, and he said that the last straw was being stood up following a trip from his home in Suffolk to London to lunch with the editor. He continued working for the Sunday Express until 1991 and died  aged 78 in 1995.

*There was another White Swan pub nearby in Tudor Street which was also known as the Mucky Duck and served as the Daily Mail watering hole. It has since closed. 

Giles’ fame lives on and his cartoons will feature at the Herne Bay Cartoon Festival which opens this Saturday.



Roland Davies’ cartoon strip Come On, Steve! made its debut in the Sunday Express in 1932. It transferred to the Sunday Dispatch in 1939 where it lasted for 10 years


Desmond quits the newspaper business after nearly 50 years

Picture: Dan Chung/The Guardian

By PEARL BREVIER, Lord Drone’s minion

RELAX chums, Tricky Dicky Desmond has finally pulled out of newspapers.

The former Daily Express, Channel 5 and porn mogul, has sold his shares in Reach, meaning he has no stake in the UK media market for the first time in almost 50 years.

Tricky’s poshly-named Northern & Shell sold the Express and Star titles and celebrity magazines OK!, New!, and Star to Reach (then Trinity Mirror) in a £127m deal in 2018.

Part of the deal granted £20m in Reach shares to Northern & Shell, which Desmond founded in 1974, making it one of the largest shareholders in the biggest commercial news publisher in the UK.

Press Gazette reports that New Companies House filings show Desmond had intended to hold on to his shares as recently as December but subsequently made the “strategic decision” to sell.

This was put down to two reasons: an approach made to buy Northern & Shell’s shares, and a significant increase in Reach’s share price.

The shares were sold for £62.5m, which together with dividend income of £3.7m meant Northern & Shell made profit of £46.2m with a 213 per cent return.

According to the Companies House filings, the shares were valued at £35.2m in 2019 and £38.7m at the end of 2020.

Northern & Shell will focus instead on its bid to take over the National Lottery licence in 2023, earmarking about £20m for the project. It already runs the Health Lottery.

Calculations by the Guardian in 2017, five months before the sale to Trinity Mirror was announced, showed Desmond had made almost £350m in pay, dividends and rent from Express Newspapers over 17 years.

Reach’s share price jump is likely due to confidence in its customer value strategy, which means users are now asked to register with their email. Reach said recently it was “well on track” for its target of 10m registrations by the end of 2022.

Drone media commentator ARTHUR CAKES writes: If Tricky had made £350m from the Express by 2017, and has made a further £62.5m by selling Reach shares, he is presumably ahead by £412.5m so far — while still sitting on the land in Docklands earmarked for hundreds of flats which must also be worth north of £50m.

He paid £125m for a “busted and valueless” group in 1999, with Deutsche Bank stumping up most of the money … and presumably then got dear Rosie as Editor included in the baggage free of charge!



Don’t Talk To Me About...

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

No 2: That fucking right turn off the Eastern Avenue outside the Moby Dick

By HENRY T FORD-SHANKS, Motoring Correspondent

Regular petrol-head readers of the Drone will recall not talking about the Hogarth Roundabout in West London in the first of this exciting series. 

But Hogey has got nothing on this deathtrap of a road which leads from the East End of London to the Sylvan fields of Essex (Eh? — Ed). And don’t talk to me about the fucking right turn into Whalebone Lane, Chadwell Heath. No! Just don’t talk about it.

Ok, there’s lights. But if you think they’re going to save you, then my cock’s a kipper. Talking of which, if you do make the turn without mishap, the iconic hostelry, the Moby Dick, is right there. Now a Toby Carvery (the Home of the Roast), it has admittedly seen better days from when it was a convenient meet for the ‘faces’ of Essex and London. 

Whalebone Lane takes its name from a whale washed up in the Thames in 1658 the evening before Oliver Cromwell died (if you don’t believe me, check out Daniel Defoe). A couple of years later the locals erected the whale’s jawbone either side of the lane which ran down to Dagenham. It remained there until 1870 when it was sacrificed for a cycle lane.

Picture research: Awards Nominee Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)


Hours after the Drone hinted that all was not well in the Goves' marriage, the couple announced they are to split


THE Curse of Drone struck again last night when Cabinet Minister Michael Gove and his wife, Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine, announced they are to part.

Regular readers will recall that we have been hinting for some weeks that all was not well in the marriage.

Hours after our latest story the announcement of the split was was made. The couple plan to divorce.

A friend of the couple told the Press Association they had "drifted apart" and "no-one else is involved".

"This is a difficult and sad decision for Michael and Sarah after 20 years of marriage," the friend added.

"It is an entirely amicable separation. They have drifted apart over the past couple of years but they remain friends.

"Their absolute priority is the children.”

We understand that Mr Gove has not yet come out (of the Cabinet Office).

Below is the story that we published yesterday against, it should be said, the advice of Mr Justice Cocklecarrot (whom God preserve).

(We’re sorry chums but the Editor is advised by M’learned Friend Cocklecarrot that we couldn’t possibly say it’s Michael Gove)


By CHARLIE CAKES, Our Man in the Tea-Coloured Mac

You don't need to have done a stint at Bletchley Park to be able to crack the code of Sarah Vine's recent Mail On Sunday column.

The headline read: “The problem with the wife who's been with you for ever is that she knows you're not the Master of the Universe you purport to be".

We have to take our hat off to her. As old hands at the write-it-without-writing-it routine, it was a masterpiece of the genre – leaving very few readers in any doubt as to who the real target of the piece was. 

Broadly seen as a warning shot at her own MP husband, Michael Gove, Vine has apparently been itching to write on the topic for quite some time.

Liberally lacing your columns with innuendo is not without its drawbacks though. Any hint that there's some subtext at play and things can quickly spiral out of your control, with readers drawing all sorts of unintended inferences from what you've written.

So let's just hope the other men who got a mention in that column have lawyers with a good grasp of irony…

Can we get away with this Cocky? — Ed



Large glass of red or R White’s, sir?

DISPUTE broke out in the ranks of sozzled old hacks last night over whether it is right to add lemonade to red wine.

Foul! Cried one side of the back bar of the (Who Gives a) Flying Fuck pub.

Sangria! Shouted a lone voice seated at a table next to the lavatories.

The Lunchtime O’Booze-style row started when the following letter, mysteriously headlined BAD MANNERS by a Daily Drone sub, was sent to the Editor: 
Sir — Did you see the story about the girl who used her father’s £2,000 bottle of vintage Petrus to make sangria? Imagine anyone putting lemonade in red wine!


This evinced the following reply:

Sir — As a connoisseur of fine drink I was startled to read criticism of Tinto De Verano, a wonderful drink for hacks with a more sensitive palette. This enhancing combination of red wine and lemonade, particularly with a large splash of Tesco's diet 2021, is particularly admired in the finer restaurants of Tenerife and more commonly known as sangria.   

I once enjoyed a pleasant evening at the Roux brothers' La Gavroche riverside restaurant, where I introduced puzzled chef Michel to the drink. But Tinto de Verano is particularly enjoyable when it compliments a Watkins' slimline cheeseburger and French fries at the tables on the seafront of Playa Las Americas. Heady days eh? 

I can only imagine that critics of this nectar (translated summer red wine), have not experienced its delights. I am currently writing to the Covent Garden wine tasting society, of which you are a member my Lord, extolling the results of my new drink enhancement trial of red wine and ginger beer, which your own cellar expert Mr D. Dismore might like to try. I found Schweppes ginger beer puts back body into a 1997 light pinot noir.

Cheers Amigo,


Sir — I’d disregard Tenerife Tel’s contribution to the red wine/lemonade debate. Anyone who can write the words ‘Watkins’ and ‘slimline’ in the same sentence obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Much Blending




FORMER Daily Express Sports Editor Ken Lawrence has died at the age of 90. He had been suffering from dementia. Ken, pictured with Jean, his wife of 66 years, also leaves two children, Gillian and Andrew, and four grandchildren.

Gillian, who says Ken would have wanted you to raise a glass in his memory, has sent the Drone a moving tribute to her father.



Let’s hear it for the truly great Express subs of the North

Manchester newsroom with Sam Prince, deputy editor on the backbench in glasses. Standing looking at the backbench is sub Bert Howes and behind him a tieless Tony Fowler

THE great debate about the supersubs of the Daily Express in the 1970s and 80s moves on today to the Manchester office. Our previous story concentrated on London. Now DICK DISMORE, who served at Ancoats before moving to London, redresses the balance.

Interesting debate about the greatest subs on the World’s Greatest Newspaper. Allow me to add my two penn’orth.

As Jeff Connor rightly points out, Manchester had more than its fair share of brilliant sub-editors. Peter Hedley’s counterpart up there was Bert Walton, a quietly authoritative, unflappable figure, considered so important that he even had a deputy.

This was Peter Beardsley, who took the role extremely seriously and, when Bert was in, was always reluctant to sub anything but the second story on the broadsheet Page One. Peter was one of those canny characters who served as Father of the Chapel and caused management so many sleepless nights that they were prevailed upon to accept shedloads of cash and become Managing Editor. (Another was Mike Deane).

I can’t remember if Bert and Peter were both working the night the Express decided to reveal that we had found Ronnie Biggs. But it would have been handy, as the IRA chose that very evening to blow up a coachload of paratroopers on the M62 – their first attack on the British mainland. All of which made Back Bench supremo Tony Fowler – how can I put this? – somewhat fidgety.

But the list of good ‘uns didn’t end there. There were three subs who would travel together from Sheffield across the Pennines through the Snake Pass to sub on the Daily Express – Rex Sandrey, Dave Fenney and Angus Macleod (I hope I have spelled their names correctly; forgive me if not, it was almost half a century ago). Each was brilliant in his own way and watching them sub was an education to a young hopeful such as me.

Fenney had an encyclopaedic knowledge of beer and was ever eager to learn more, often in the Land O’ Cakes. Macleod was a pool player on a par with Paul Newman’s Hustler and relieved me of much cash as we battled it out on the green baize at 3am in the top bar of the Crusader Club.

There were so many characters, among them, a chap called Guy Waller who subbed while wearing a green eyeshade – yes, really! – and for that reason alone deserved a bit part in The Day the Earth Caught Fire. Though he never got one.

My old friend Mike Hughes was mouse racing on the Back Bench, laying out and chief subbing Page 2 and Page 4, the foreign page. It was Mike who tested me almost to destruction on one of my earliest nights in the Ancoats building by dumping the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on my desk. “Have a look at that, mate,” he said before scarpering to safety. I swear the pile of copy was 2ft high.

The Middle Bench wasn’t too shabby either. Chief Sub was Nick Griffiths, a lovely, deceptively laid-back bloke who hosted jolly parties at his home in South Manchester. Deputy, I think, was the great Dave Harbord, who years later was night editing the Sunday Express in London when Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash in Paris. I heard about the story on Sunday morning and hurried into the office, where Dave was still at his post, exhausted but triumphant.

Chris Davies, who later styled himself Royston-Davies, and went on to be leader writer on The Sun was there, too, along with Bob Cocksworth, who was Assistant Chief Sub and was later on the Back Bench in London. His battle cry – “Art Desk, stand by for a signal honour!” – rings out in my head even as I write this.

All of them were brilliant subs, part of a golden age, both in Manchester and London.

And, by the way, Jeff Connor’s mention of Bryn Davies on Sport stirs a vague memory of a Back Page headline, which I think belonged to Bryn.

Newcastle had transgressed some FA rule or other and were told that as punishment they could temporarily no longer play at their home ground, St James Park.

The headline, of course, was: Howay the lads.

ALAN FRAME adds: The great Bert Howes story (which for once I know to be true because I witnessed it) was when he was dashing to leave and threw his subbed copy in the tea slops bucket and his empty cup down the copy hole to the printer. The copy was rescued and the slops bucket moved further from the ‘down’ hole for safety.

The other great star of Ancoats, in my opinion, was Bob Staton, the art editor. Oxford graduate, neighbour of the great Brian Redhead and totally unflappable (unlike the delightful Tony Fowler.)

Happy days indeed.

Former Daily Express editor CHRIS ‘BEANO’ WILLIAMS told Lord Drone in an exclusive interview:

I thoroughly enjoyed the banter surrounding Peter Hedley and other Express supersubs. I would put your good self up there personally.

I have a Peter Hedley anecdote. On my first night at the paper, I was told by mischievous Les Diver to sit in the chair next to Peter’s and he would help me out if necessary.

Peter marched in just before 6pm, proffered a hand and said ‘I’m Hedley’. For some reason, perhaps because I’d already met a Lloyd (Turner) and a Craig (Orr), I assumed Hedley was his Christian name.

For the rest of the evening, I acted accordingly. ‘What time do we get a break, Hedley?’ ‘Is the canteen any good, Hedley?’ ' Is there a maximum number of words in a nib, Hedley?’

Unsurprisingly, Peter was not very communicative on any of those subjects. In fact, after my monstrous faux pas, the great one didn’t communicate with me at all for a full year.

PS: I assume I was the sub referred to as a matinee idol by your correspondent. I always regarded myself as more of of a character actor. Particularly when I was editor!

I was telling my kids about the Drones today. They thought it was hilarious, but expressed surprise that we kept our jobs. Changed times, eh?

Yours adoringly

Hedley leads in poll to find the greatest Express Supersub

Daily Express news sub-editors pictured on the front of UK Press Gazette in London, 1983. Peter Hedley, celebrating his retirement, is centre right in the dark jacket next to Les Diver, holding the newspaper bill


The recent Drone news item about Peter Hedley subbing six splashes in one night, all of which were used, raises the question: who were the greatest hard copy Express news subs in the last 15 years or so in London’s Fleet Street before pen and paper gave way to pesky machines over Blackfriars Bridge? 

Forgive me for consulting my colleagues, LP Brevmin and Revise Editor PE Dant, but this takes some thinking about. It certainly was a golden age and the Express was blessed with some elegant wordsmiths. 

But who were the best? Hedley must figure, of course. I wish I could recall details of the weather splash he subbed where a commercial salesman survived being stuck in a snowdrift because, as Peter wrote, ‘he travelled in ladies’ underwear’. 

Then there was Ralph Mineards with his equally wonderful turn of phrase; Ken Weller, the man for the big occasion; someone who made duck noises and the matinee idol who went on to become Editor. 

Out of left field, what about Alan Stein, who joined us from The Sun in the Eighties? If pushed, though, I would name five super subs but please don’t make me list them in order of merit. What about Peter Hedley, Roy Povey, Paul Carter, Pat Welland and, for those with a long memory, Cliff Barr?

RICK McNEILL* writes: I have known many brilliant subs on the Daily Express, but Peter Hedley was head and shoulders (should that be head and subdeck?) above them all. Throughout the Sixties and Seventies he was quite simply an astonishing one-man masterclass of the sub-editor’s art. Editors (and night editors) came and went, but Peter was the nightly genius who made sure the lead story was literate, word perfect and off-stone on time.

I was lucky enough to witness one of his many triumphs – possibly his greatest -- when the Aberfan disaster struck in October 1966. The unflappable Hedley sat quietly reading the outpouring of hard copy that flowed in throughout the evening – from the PA, stringers and the Express’s own Welsh Wizard on the spot John Christopher.

As the deadline pressed, he set the great pile aside, pulled over a blank pad and began to write the splash, as he always did, by hand. It flowed, page by page “down the hole” to the printers — 2,000-plus words powerfully capturing the shock, the anger, and the grief of that tragic night.

We’re a cynical lot but there was hardly a dry eye in the house when the first edition landed on our desks.

Hedley was one of the stars of the paper’s post-war subs room. He was said to have served in Special Ops, but ever-reticent, he would never talk about it. Among other vets were Morris Benett, Ralph Mineards, Ken Macaulay, Ewart Brookes and Ted Hodgson. Morris won the MC and lost a lung in Italy; Ted was flying Spitfires in North Africa at the age of 15, having lied about his age; Ewart was a submarine commander. And of course there was the urbane and witty chief sub Dougie Orgill, a tank commander in Italy.

Remarkable characters who made a substantial contribution to the success of the World’s Greatest Newspaper – as it once was.

 *Daily Express sub, chief sub and night editor, 1965 – 1981.

JEFF CONNOR speaks up for Manchester:  Just a reminder that there were one or two subs working for the Express in Ancoats during the period Lord Drone is talking about! (Lord Drone did not write this piece and does not necessarily share its views — Ed)

The best I have seen at any level (and Chris Gill will probably agree) was Bryn Davies on Express sport in Manchester. It's good to bring his name into this forum as he should be remembered. Bryn, as well as being unmatchable in the subbing arts, had a photographic memory as he proved when covering athletics. Olympic 100m champion Alan Wells, to quote one example, thought he was the best in the sportswriting business. Bryn was ghosting his column at the time. 

He loved his Guinness (bizarrely, always in a bottle) and used to live in Hollingworth, between Glossop and Hyde. Neighbours included Pat Phoenix of Coronation Street fame and her partner Tony Booth, father of Cherie Blair. 

Bryn, who had given up smoking and drinking in the '80s, died of a heart attack in the middle of Glasgow's George Square.

LP Brevmin writes: The Express was acknowledged as a well subbed paper but was unusual in that, unlike rival tabloids, subbed copy was not revised, amended or rewritten by the Chief  Sub before it went to the printer. Any revision was made (too late?) on proof by people such as Cyril Harman (remember him?) or, later, by Dennis Brierley or Dougie Mann.

The practice of subs dropping their own copy down the hole didn’t last long after a certain Kelvin Montmorency Shagnasty Gaylord MacKenzie joined as Night Editor in February, 1981.

On his first day he drew the Chief Sub aside and announced that the Express would adopt the revise system used by the Sun and the Mirror.

‘OK, Kelv. When do you want this to start?’

‘In about five fucking minutes!’

Awards nominee Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee) writes from the Flying Fuck back bar (Rule of Six still applies): I never knew Peter Hedley, of course, but Proddie, the gin-sodden ex Express hack who used to hang around the Drone newsroom before lockdown, says he had a unique casting off system. Not for him tedious word counts.

Instead, he wrote off splashes (he rarely subbed on copy) in tiny, well-formed handwriting with each line the width of an Express single column. 

Every 10 lines was an inch in minion. Simps!

More details on the subs pic


(Up to a point, Lord Copper)


By NANCY BOYE, Green Room reporter (transgender)

Anne Robinson has been doing a round of interviews to distance herself from her old "Queen Of Mean" persona ahead of starting on cuddly tea-time quizshow Countdown next week. 

The former Mirror columnist has promised to treat contestants more kindly, but will she extend that courtesy to production crew too?

Anne made a lot of extra work for people on The Weakest Link because of her reluctance to record pick-ups, something most presenters happily toss off at the end of filming to help editors smoothly cover any mistakes.

She all but refused to do them and was so disagreeable whenever she was asked to re-record a fluffed phrase that editors soon devised a workaround. They found it was marginally less painful just to wade through the rushes to find examples of her using similar sounds elsewhere in the recording, and splice together replacement words, syllable by syllable, to correct her errors.

A task which should be all the more fun on a predominantly word-based show.

One pick-up they did manage to squeeze out of Anne involved a question about the BBC's preschool channel. Her original reading, which editors felt needed a minor tweak, was: "CBeebies? Whatever the fuck THAT is…"


World’s greatest lunch club celebrates its 75th meeting


HAVING A MASKED BALL: From left, David Eliades, Alan Frame, Roger Watkins (chairman) and Dick Dismore


The World’s Greatest Lunch Club broke new ground as it celebrated its 75th meeting yesterday: the food cost more than the drink. 

Yes, Terry Manners and the Editor of the Daily Drone were much missed. 

As were Pat Pilton and Ashley Walton. All mainly victims of understandable Covid caution. 

It was left to Alan Frame, who had just celebrated hIs 75th birthday, Dick Dismore, David Eliades and Roger Watkins to celebrate the club’s auspicious anniversary. 

The lunch was held for the first time in Brown’s Brasserie, Covent Garden because the club’s traditional venue is still boarded up. 

Glasses were raised to absent friends, particularly Helene Costas whose sad death is recorded below. 

Alan Frame spent some time praising the Drone Editor for the quality of the material in the World’s Greatest Online Newspaper and for all his hard work. How does he do it all, he asked. 

(OK, Al send me that feature again and I’ll have another look at it. No promises, mind — Ed) 




RUPERT BARE: News UK boss Rupert Murdoch takes a dip with his wife Jerry Hall on the French Riviera

Our friend and yours Kelvin MacKenzie (No? Please yourself then) has written a terrific piece in The Spectator about the slow decline of  The Sun.

The paper, which Kelvin edited for 13 years, has had its value written down to zero by its owner Rupert Murdoch and is now believed to be selling around 500,000 copies a day, although News UK do not publish circulation figures.

Losses are reckoned to be around £200 million a year and Kelvin reckons that columnists have been told not to use the word “woke" in a disparaging way as it was "synonymous with racial injustice”.

Read Kelvin's article and The Sun’s rebuttal here

Scroll down this page for more on The Sun’s problems


Subs who misspell his name

MISCHIEVOUS subs can be absolutely wotten to Wootton.

When Dan worked on The Sun they used to delight in misspelling his name.

Now the problem has followed him to his new career as a TV personality.

Among the many teething problems GB News has faced in its launch week, the one that will have angered Dan Wootton most is the giant on-screen typo that introduced his flagship segment: The Big Question.

Dan, former executive editor of The Sun, hates typos, so much so that the paper’s online subs used to get under his skin for sport, deliberately misspelling his bylines just to see how quickly he'd send a snippy email about it. 

The record was just under ten minutes: "My name is spelt Wootton. Would be nice if some of the online people could show a small degree of respect or actually check something,” he wrote.

POPBITCH asks, somewhat provocatively and without providing any answers:

WHICH GB News host once spent the night in the clink after the police were called to cool down a domestic dispute?

WHICH GB News host was once locked in their dressing room by bosses at a previous job as they were visibly far too hammered to appear on camera?

WHICH GB News host once used a catfish profile on a dating site?

WHICH GB News host was once described by an admiring crew member as so hard-living he "hadn't seen anyone that fucked since my days touring with Joe Cocker in the 60s... and he had an arm full of heroin”?

We do not know, but we think we should be told. However, m’learned friend Cocklecarrot would certainly rule it out — Ed


The night Panorama’s Mangold was mangled by sneaky Martin Bashir

By ARTHUR TRILBY, He’s totally hatstand

BBC reporter Martin Bashir’s  interview with Diana wasn't the only one he sneaked his way into. 

Former Panorama stalwart Tom Mangold tells a great story about the first time he met Bashir in his memoir, Splashed. 

Mangold, pictured, remembers a then unknown Bashir approaching him meekly in the pub one night, apologising for interrupting his drinking but that he wanted to introduce himself because his brother had died recently and his dying wish had been for Martin to join Panorama. 

Bashir's brother had continued: "If you can, I want you to try to emulate everything that Tom Mangold has done. Learn from him, copy him and, like Mangold, you will become a great reporter."

After saying his piece, Bashir respectfully went to leave but Mangold, touched, asked him to stay for a drink, whereupon he introduced him to a load of his colleagues and made a mental note to do whatever he could to help grant the dying wish of this enterprising young cub's late brother.

Not long after Bashir left the BBC, Mangold was interviewed by an ITV reporter, Michael Nicholson. The two got talking about Bashir when Nicholson remembered a story about the time they'd first met. Bashir had meekly approached Nicholson in the pub, apologising for interrupting his drinking but wanted to introduce himself as his brother had died recently and...

Apparently he span the same yarn with John Humphrys too.



GOODBYE TO ALL THAT: Jean Rook writes the splash for the final edition of the Daily Express to be printed in London’s Fleet Street before its move to new presses in Docklands. Most of the staff had already moved to new offices over the river in Blackfriars, 17 November, 1989

Titles worth nothing, admits Murdoch as papers lose £200m

THE once mighty Sun and its Sunday sister are  now officially worth nothing.

Rupert Murdoch has written down the value of the titles to zero as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic helped to fuel a £200m loss at his flagship newspapers.

There was better news at The Times and The Sunday Times, which boosted profits to £10.3m.

Advertising and sales revenues at The Sun and The Sun on Sunday plummeted, with turnover falling by 23 per cent from £419.9m to £324m in the year to the end of June 2020.

The torrid market conditions, coupled with one-off charges related to ongoing legal action over allegations of historical phone hacking, led to pretax losses more than tripling from £67.8m in 2019 to £201.4m.

As a result News Group Newspapers, the subsidiary of News UK that operates the two titles, wrote down their value to zero. The £84m non-cash “impairment of publishing rights” essentially means the publisher does not believe the titles will return to positive growth.

More than 80 per cent of the Sun’s losses, about £164m, were one-off charges mostly related to phone hacking. They included £52m in fees and damages paid to civil claimants, double the £26m paid out in 2019, and a £26m in costs accounted for as “UK newspaper matters”.

The Sun paid a substantial sum on Thursday to settle a phone-hacking claim brought by the former Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, who claimed reporters wanting to out his sexuality had targeted him illegally.

“The company is exposed to libel claims in the ordinary course of business and vigorously defends against claims received,” News Group said. “The company makes provision for the estimated costs to defend such claims when incurred and provides for any settlement costs when such an outcome is judged probable.”

It was not able to stem losses despite cutting sales and marketing costs by 40 per cent, and cutting staff numbers from 605 to 546. “The company will continue to take various steps intended to offset the impact of Covid-19 by reducing variable costs and implementing cost-savings initiatives,” it said.

The Sun, which Murdoch acquired in 1969 and celebrated its 50th anniversary two years ago, lost its title of the UK’s bestselling newspaper to the Daily Mail last year. 

There was better news for Murdoch’s Times and the Sunday Times, which managed to boost pre-tax profits from £3.7m in 2019 to £10.3m in the year to 28 June 2020. The titles managed to minimise the annual decline in revenue to £20m, with the £330m reported in 2019 falling to £310m last year.

“The decrease in revenue was due to challenging market conditions, with declines in both newspaper circulation and in print advertising, in line with other businesses in the sector and wider economy,” according to Times Newspapers Ltd, the News UK subsidiary that operates the titles.

“This was partly offset by strong growth in digital subscription revenue as well as digital advertising revenue, supported by the implementation of price increases on the Sunday Times during the period.”



The book is obviously engrossing this former Expressman, but who is he?

He is reading Charlie Sale’s new book The Covers Are Off which tells the story of an acrimonious dispute over the redevelopment old railway tunnels under Lord’s cricket ground in London.

It is said to be a compelling read and has had excellent reviews.

But who is this handsome fellow on the balcony of his home in Bournemouth?


Yes chums, it’s CLIVE GOOZEE, formerly a stalwart of the sports department of Her Majesty’s Daily Express.

Details of Charlie’s book follow ...

Charlie lifts the lid on the civil war at Lord's

charlie book.jpg

ANOTHER great book by a former Express and Mailman is now available for pre-order.

The author is Charles Sale who worked on the Daily Express sports desk from 1983 to 2001 before joining the Daily Mail where he wrote a popular sports column.

Charlie told the Drone: "I have spent two years researching  the story of the railway tunnels under the Nursery End at Lord’s which have been the subject of  a 20-year Civil War inside the MCC — most of which has been played out without the knowledge of the majority of the 18,000-strong  membership.

"MCC  have turned down  numerous offers  — worth up to £150million to the club — from property developer Charles Rifkind to build residential flats over his tunnels. Rifkind bought the lease and later the development rights for the tunnels from under the noses of the MCC at an auction in 1999.

"An added interest for Express readers is that Rifkind’s country house in the Oxfordshire village of Denchworth was once the family home of Lord Beaverbrook."

The Covers Are Off, by Charles Sale, is published by Mensch Publishing. It is available now on Amazon and


Python apes bear


HIT IN THE WOODS: For reasons the Daily Drone picture desk cannot readily explain, this is the late Monty Python star Terry Jones dressed as Rupert Bear. Rupert, a Daily Express feature for 100 years, lives in Nutwood appropriately enough and is still delighting readers.


HOW FAKE NEWS WORKS The picture that claims to prove Farage is selling boats to migrants


What’s this? Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage setting up shop in Calais flogging dinghies to would-be illegal immigrants? It certainly looks like it.

And fellow Brexiteer MP Mark Francois (crazy name, crazy guy) appears to have set up shop next door.

But, as you may have suspected, all is not what it seems.

This picture has been widely circulating on the internet and, much as we would love to believe it, it is a fake.

It is actually a doctored photograph of a marine shop in Pevensey Bay. The original is illustrated below. It has been adjusted by someone who is skilled on the use of Photoshop. 

Clever isn’t it? It is obviously meant as a joke.

But it is a classic example how false stories — and pictures — circulate these days. 

The moral, of course, is to get your news from newspapers. They always get it right. Oh yes.


The life of James Cameron, great Daily Express foreign reporter and TV raconteur 

IF you have 47 minutes to spare this superb BBC2 documentary first broadcast in 1984 is well worth a watch.

It features the great foreign correspondent and former Expressman James Cameron talking about his distinguished career with candour.

Cameron, a Londoner, began as an office dogsbody with the Dundee-based Weekly News in 1935. Having worked for several Scottish newspapers and for the Daily Express in Fleet Street, he was rejected for military service in World War II. 

After the war, his experience of reporting on the Bikini Atoll nuclear experiments turned him into a pacifist and a founding member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He continued to work for the Express until 1950, after which he briefly joined Picture Post, where he and photographer Bert Hardy covered the Korean War. 

Tom Hopkinson, the editor of Picture Post, lost his job as publisher when he defended the magazine's coverage of atrocities committed by South Korean troops at a concentration camp in Pusan. Cameron wrote, "I had seen Belsen, but this was worse. This terrible mob of men — convicted of nothing, un-tried, South Koreans in South Korea, suspected of being 'unreliable’." The founder of the Hulton press, Edward G. Hulton, decided to kill the story. Hopkinson, Hardy and Hulton all appear in the programme.

Cameron then spent eight years with the News Chronicle which he described as his favourite popular newspaper.

In 1965, he wangled his way into North Vietnam for interviews and photos (with photographer Romano Cagnoni) of Ho Chi Minh and other top leaders.

Cameron became a broadcaster for the BBC after the war, writing and presenting such television series as Cameron Country, and numerous single documentaries. 

Seldom seen without a cigarette in his hand, James Cameron died of a stroke in his sleep on 26 January 1985, a few months after the BBC2 programme was broadcast. He was 73.


Out after 70 years of extra time, Giller’s great book on Spurs

SPORTS writer Norman Giller, of this parish, has finally finished his book on Tottenham Hotspur. It has only taken him 70 years.

It is, he says, “a collection of the most memorable (and lowest) moments of my Spurs watch from the push and run days of Arthur Rowe's team through to the trials, tribulations and triumphs (?) of José Mourinho's era". 

Giller adds: "It is introduced by my pal Steve Perryman, who wants you to know I'm sharing any profits with the Tottenham Tribute Trust to help our old heroes who missed the gravy train."

Skilful tour de force by
a master craftsman

ROBIN McGIBBON loves the book. Here is his review.

In trying to find a phrase that sums up Norman Giller’s awesome tribute  to the soccer team he has adored most of his life, tour de force springs to mind: a performance or achievement accomplished with great skill, says my Oxford dictionary.

 My Seventy Years of Spurs is, most certainly, that. But it is far, far more. Oh, yes!

 It is an exceedingly well-researched book, written with love, by the most prolific national newspaper journalist of his generation — or any other generation come to that!

 Giller’s literary output over the past 60 years is nothing short of phenomenal. He is a master craftsman of the written word, who clearly loves writing as much as he loves watching Spurs. The book is unique in that no one, in my opinion, could have pulled it off in such masterly fashion.

 Covering 70 years of a football life had its dangers. Giller could have got bogged down in facts and figures and given us a tedious tale, but not a bit of it: his narrative is bright and entertaining, crammed with revelatory inside stories that only a well-connected, trustworthy reporter could have obtained.

 And not once does his sentimental journey lose pace; not even at the end when he is describing events in real time to ensure that the book is as up to date as possible.

 As an author myself, I’ve always felt that if you mix entertaining inside knowledge with a personal passion, you will get a memorable book.

 This, unquestionably, is what Norman Giller has produced. And I hugely recommend it to everyone lucky enough to have thrilled to the magic played out on the field of dreams that was White Hart Lane. 




Pirates of Fleet Street 

The year is 1970 and a postal strike is crippling deliveries. Step forward journalist Victor Waters who helped keep the mail flowing from his Fleet Street offices.

He organised a rabble of entrepreneurs who took it on themselves to uphold Britain's proud traditions of private enterprise. Their endeavours kept the mail flying, floating and, very occasionally, dropping into letter-boxes. 

Unfairly dubbed pirates by some, they were truly privateers, working on Her Majesty's Service. And in the best traditions of their sea-going ancestors, they made a few bob wherever they could. 

Now you can read all about it in our serialisation of Victor’s book, Pirates of Fleet Street.

Chapters 1 and 2

 Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8


Dacre was a nightmare editor but he should still get the Ofcom job


FORMER Daily Mail splash sub MARGARET ASHWORTH, says working under editor Paul Dacre was a nightmare — but she believes he would make an excellent chairman of Ofcom.

"He would often be so angry that he could barely get the insults out,” she writes, adding, “he will take it as a compliment that he was a nightmare to work for."

Despite all the brickbats and insults Margaret believes he should still get the Ofcom job.

Dacre is understood to be Boris Johnson’s nominee for the post but the race to become chairman of the communications regulator is to be rerun after Facebook and Google lobbied to stop the former Daily Mail editor getting the job.




Who says the UK is a nation led by donkeys?


LET US BRAY: Education Secretary (yes, honestly) Gavin Williamson

Shush, we're in Continent

Dear Aunt Marje

This Covid roadmap uncertainty about holidays is really confusing me. Green, amber, red: what the fuck’s going on? Any advice on destinations?

Staycation Sue

Dear SS

It’s difficult, isn’t it? There’s always a temptation to sneak abroad on the quiet in which case a haven in Cognito might do; in Communicado is best if you want to keep it quiet. Best not to be in Cahoots with people who are used to being in Doubt or Sane. Much more preferable to be in Flexible. If you don’t want to be left in Suspense and are desperate, you’re best in Extremis.

Why not liven up Love Island proceedings in Flagrante Delicto or have a few sherbets in Capable?

But don’t delay. Time’s passing. Book now before you find you’re in Continent.



Daredevil snapper who took one of the world's most famous pictures

By GRAINNE E SNAPPES, Picture Editor

You will have seen the iconic picture Lunch Atop a Skyscraper many times before. But have you ever wondered who actually took the famous photograph?

Now the story can be told, and here is daredevil snapper Charles C Ebbets casually taking it.

The photograph depicts 11 men eating lunch, seated on a girder with their feet dangling 840 feet above the New York City streets. It was taken on September 20, 1932, on the 69th floor of the RCA Building during the last months of construction. 

The photograph was prearranged. Although it shows real ironworkers, it is believed that the moment was staged by Rockefeller Center to promote its new skyscraper. 

By thumbing its nose at both danger and the Depression, Lunch Atop a Skyscraper came to symbolize American resilience and ambition at a time when both were desperately needed. 

It has since become an iconic emblem of the city in which it was taken, affirming the romantic belief that New York is a place unafraid to tackle projects that would cow less brazen cities. 

Like all symbols in a city built on hustle, the picture has spawned its own economy. It is the Corbis photo agency’s most reproduced image. And good luck walking through Times Square without someone hawking it on a mug, magnet or

The photo was first published in the Sunday photo supplement of the New York Herald Tribune on October 2, 1932.


Brillo set to broadcast GB News from France 


GB News has finally announced its launch date, but it doesn't seem as if the project's frontman, Andrew Neil, is going to be back to GB in time for the grand début. 

Thanks to travel restrictions, he's been trapped chez Neil in the south of France for the last little while – a country currently on the amber list. 

The whispered workaround? Brillo's show is going to be broadcast from a studio somewhere on the French Riviera. 

Critics will no doubt scoff at the idea of GB News's flagship show getting beamed in from France, but in fairness it was always the plan to break the London media stranglehold. And besides, if you want to take on les élites what better place to find them than the glittering Côte d’Azur?

The channel launches at 8pm on Sunday, 13 June. It is already broadcasting test content on Freeview and YouView Channels 236 and Freesat channel 216.


Spiked! 'Biased' Dacre dumped from shortlist for new Ofcom supremo

By HAYLEY DALE, Fleet Street Reporter

FORMER Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has had his nomination to become head of Ofcom scrapped because of concerns over his impartiality. 

Dacre, 72, believed to be the personal choice of Boris Johnson, is said to have raised concerns that two of Ofcom’s main board members used to be employed by the BBC. He previously said that while he would “die in a ditch defending the BBC as a great civilising force”, it was too big and needed reform.

Although it appeared the process had been stitched-up for Dacre, when a panel of outside executives and a civil servant finally met to interview the final four candidates, they concluded that he  did not meet certain criteria for the job and was therefore “not appointable”.

The names of three other candidates who did pass the recruitment process were passed to the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, for a final decision; however, they were rejected.

Ministers could have given the job to Dacre but they would have had to publicly justify the decision to overrule the board. 

The new favourite for the job as  Ofcom chairman is Lord (Ed) Vaizey of Didcot, a former Conservative culture minister.

Dacre always did seem a bit of an odd choice. Renowned on Fleet Street for his profane newsroom outbursts (the notorious Double Cuntings) it would have been terrible for a man of such delicate sensibilities to be put in that particular post.

During his tenure at the Mail, the paper started gunning hard for Cherie Blair. Things got so bad at one point that Dacre had to publicly deny it was down to any personal vendetta, insisting that his only agenda was "good journalism". 

Behind the scenes though, one of the reasons it's always been suspected Dacre had it in for her was that she once dared to breastfeed in front of him at Chequers.


DroneTube Exclusive

Life After The Front Page

This rare and previously largely unseen film, unearthed in the annals of Lord Drone, recalls the grand old days of Fleet Street. It includes interviews with Ann Buchanan, of The Sun and Daily Mirror; Clem Jones, from the Wolverhampton Express; Eric Todd of the Manchester Evening Chronicle and The Guardian; and George Bell and Ted Townshend of the Daily Telegraph. 

The film, which was made by students of Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 1999, also includes someone called Alastair McIntyre (who he — Ed?) who addresses the public from the Daily Express offices in Blackfriars. 

Runtime is 16 minutes.


Tweet of the Year



Muldoon’s Lookalike


                     ESSEX                                     McINTYRE

By S MULDOON (trainee)

Can it be? Surely not. How is it that the world has only just noticed that the acting-singing heart-throb David Essex and our very own Drone clan chief Lord Bingo McIntyre of that Ilk bear more than a superficial passing resemblance? They’re not related of course: one’s quite high born, actually and the other is, at best, of artisan stock. 

Essex, OBE, a man of undistinguished looks, has made good through his showbiz talent. He almost became a professional footballer, though and was on West Ham’s books as a lad. He famously refused to answer a single question in his 11-plus so that he could attend a local secondary modern renowned for its footie prowess.

Lord B, the better looking of the two, comes from an ancient Highland clan (war cry: Flodden the bar!). The name McIntyre is from the Gaelic Mac an t-Saoir meaning son of the carpenter. The clan’s historic seat may have been Glen Noe in Argyll and Bute but it is now Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The chief is in pretty good form considering he has been on a slippery slope (geddit?) for years.

I’ll get you for this, Muldoon — Ed 


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

Transport Correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A toast to Victor


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

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

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

Victor, Doyen of showbiz writers


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

Our exclusive guide to virus speak

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

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

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

Lockdown: City/country shut off from outside world.

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

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

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

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

Epidemiological Action Plan: Proof of the above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Drone staff told to work from home


EARLY DOZING DAY: The editor hard at work last night


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Correspondent (freelance). 



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

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

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

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

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

Was he a Fifth Columnist?


History in Moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best of the best, eh?

R.R (t)



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

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

Fever pitch? Not quite


History in Moments


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R.R. (t)




                     MATT                                      MATT

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

How news of the war got through the Blitz

Shop front.jpeg

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



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

CURRANT BUNS: Craig reveals the news on Facebook


From Ancoats to Fleet Street with Andy Carson

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

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

I was Andy Carson’s interpreter


(Except for the chaps in this pic)


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

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

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


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

ancoats pic.jpg

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

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

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

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




Why do young reporters ask such silly questions?

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

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

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




Behind the Lens, a 2016 tribute. Runtime 34 minutes

ITV 2019 documentary on John Downing. Runtime 23 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










kim and downing.jpeg

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


Former Standard night editor Henshall dies


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

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

Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

East Anglian Daily Times obit



young sodmire.jpeg

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


All about Iris


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

'I didn't stay long.'



Design genius dies at 92


DOING WHAT HE LOVED: Vic at the Express

NEWSPAPER design maestro Vic Giles, the genius behind the Murdoch Sun who later worked his magic on the Daily Express, died on May 24, 2020, in a care home nine weeks after the death of his wife June. He was 92 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

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





Award-winning reporters return from embassy raid


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

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

But who are they and what were they up to?


History in Moments


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

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

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

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

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

R R (t)


An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, sloping entered the lexicon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional research: Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

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

HAPPY DAZE! Tom Brown’s Fleet Street pub crawl

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

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




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

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

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

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

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



Solemn moment Daily Sketch staff learned the paper was folding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Big Gunn who ruled the old Daily Sketch

may17 54.jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scroll down this page for more on the Sketch.

An Expressman writes ...


From The Times, July 13


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m stunned, says Steve Bell


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


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.







24emma graham nyc c88.jpeg


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.


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.



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.'


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?




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)



Daily Express, September 24, 1938

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.



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

May 11, 1926: Bold sans caps

May 8, 1926: An elegant light serif

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.



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Picture research by R.R.(t)

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?

FUDGE: This stereo plate was used for breaking news

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

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.


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).


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


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.


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



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 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 __________

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.



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!



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







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

Two pics from the 80s
to jog a few memories

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!

HAIR RAISING: Our man Williams, left, forges ahead


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



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

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


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!


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




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.


My fabulous night with the Fab Four

Beatles cover.jpeg

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


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


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.



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.

ann sidney2017.jpg



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.



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.



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. 





"Hi Ashley, come in. Max Clifford wants me to fire you!" Sir Nicholas Lloyd in his Express office overlooking Fleet Street was laughing! "You certainly seem to have upset him."

The odious Max Clifford, a PR who was one of the most influential men in  Britain, and holding more sway than most politicians and the celebrities he represented, was livid about what I had written.

Clifford said that my page three piece on O.J. Simpson's arrival in the UK was a pack of lies. Ironic coming from the man who made up "Freddie ate my hamster" and "Mellor in a Chelsea shirt".

 Clifford was masterminding O.J. Simpson's brief visit to the UK to talk to the Oxford Union. 

The previous day he had invited the Express and the Mirror to meet Simpson on a Surrey golf course believing he had total control over the May 1996 PR stunt. 

I was representing the Express and the late, legendary Don Mackay was there for the Mirror.

 Don, never a man to mince his words, beat me to the obvious question that the US media had failed to ask: "How does it feel to get away with murder Mr. Simpson?"

Simpson, stunned,  failed to answer, but the day made great copy. Clifford's reaction was to bring the so called exclusive to a sudden halt.

Clifford made the same sacking demand about Don to his editor and when both  failed he told Sir Nicholas that he was withdrawing Express accreditation for the Oxford Union talk.

"I'm sure that won't bother you," said Sir Nicholas. 

So I went to Oxford minus the suit and in a pullover and scarf and walked straight in.

I made sure Clifford saw me and I had the satisfaction of giving him a merry wave. 

The first class Channel 4 documentary, the Fall of a Tabloid King, this week showed what power Clifford had in the tabloids.

 Editors would always answer his call.  Don and I kept our jobs, there was never any danger of losing them, but Clifford did phone us both, using some very colourful threats and a promise that we would never be allowed to work with him again. I laughed which seemed to annoy him even more while Don told Clifford his fortune.

As far as I know neither of us did work with Clifford again.

In  2014 Clifford was found guilty of eight counts of sexual assault and jailed for eight years.  He died in prison in December 2017.


Press awards? I’ve never heard of 'em storms Lord Drone


Lord Drone was late last night forced to deny that any of his online newspaper journalists had been nominated for prestigious Society of Editors awards.

A spokesman roared: ‘This is nothing but outrageous rumour, scuttlebut and the ultimate in fake news emanating from drink-fuelled Fleet Street keyboard warriors and Back Bar WhatsApp gossip mongers.'

He was forced to deny that the Daily Drone’s Editor had to scrap a special edition celebrating the nominations of chief sub LP Brevmin, chief reporter Spike Diver, fashion team Pearl Nonpareil and Reynard Rambleshanks plus star columnist Rosalie Rambleshanks.

The spokesman said: ‘I woke him up and he confirmed that no special edition had been planned for the simple reason that no one on the staff had been up for any awards.

‘Our professional team now just wants to get on producing the World’s Greatest Online Newspaper in peace.’

BLOB* Last autumn Ms Rambleshanks was nominated for two Press Gazette awards but failed to win either. 

(Memo to CS: Can you start the final par with a blob: I’ve forgotten how to do it. - IRO)

*Will this do? — CS


Media Hits & Myths

An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Q. The late Sunday Express editor Sir John Junor regularly used the phrase ‘Pass the sickbag, Alice’ in his columns. What is its derivation? 

A. You don’t know but I think you should be told. Hah! Hah! Seriously, there are many fanciful theories such as it was the nasty disease Christopher Robin went down with. But, according to a note in the Grauniad in the mid 90s, written by someone called Roger Watkins, Alice was a real person, whom many at the Fleet Street Express will remember.

She was a small, bird-like grandmother with unconvincing blonde tresses who worked in what was laughingly called The Grill Room of the canteen. On Saturdays the Sunday Express hacks moved down to the Daily newsroom and had their one night living on the journalistic edge (Deadline Midnight, Hold the Front Page etc).

Naturally, they considered themselves far too important and vital cogs in the machine to be able to leave the office for such luxuries as lunch. So Alice was summoned to serve them Grill Room fare at their desks. Junor, who knew he really was an important and vital cog, suffered no such constraints, of course, and habitually sloped off to the Savoy or the Salieri in The Strand. 

But on seeing the eggs and chips or gurgleburgers on toasted buns being delivered to his staff he would oft utter the immortal phrase: ‘Och. Pass the sickbag, Alice.’

Watkins, ever the gentleman, sometimes used to take Alice home in the office ‘limo’ to her semi in Hutton, Essex, near where he lived, to save her a train journey in the early hours.

I woke him up so he could recall: “I’d be waiting with John, the office driver, in the Front Hall and Alice would burst out of the lift laden down with heavy carrier bags which she never let me help her with. Except on one occasion when I grabbed one which was so laden with contraband (allegedly) that I could hardly lift it.”

RICK McNEILL remembers: One afternoon in the Fleet Street newsroom, Managing Editor Eric Raybould, in his customary shirt sleeves and braces — and as usual, sucking on an unlit cigar — was sitting alone on the Back Bench reading the paper. Unnoticed by him, a wide-eyed group of members of the public appeared on one of the guided tours that were popular at the time. In hushed, almost reverential, tones, the management guide told them: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is the beating heart of the world’s greatest newspaper!”

At that moment Raybould spied Alice on the other side of the room and barked: “Alice! Where’s my fucking chips?”


Lord Drone cheered as he arrives at Cup Final, 1936

Er … Picture Desk, sorry chaps, but I’m not sure you've cropped this pic correctly — Ed


Old Express hands will recognise the words in this headline. They were uttered nightly by middle-bencher par excellence David Laws when he was dishing out stories to recalcitrant subs. 

And guess who sent this in? Why no other but David himself who now writes novels rather than disturbing subs from the night time reveries.


You couldn’t make it up! Woke fools want to ditch the Crusader

CALL for the men in white coats! The new woke owners of the Daily and Sunday Express want to #cancel the Crusader.

Reach, the renamed Trinity Mirror group which owns the Express, is holding a “brand review” of the title conducted by a consulting company. 

Express employees have been interviewed in pairs about their views on the paper and website. On a few occasions the interviewer announced himself as a North London Guardian reader, according to the Guido Fawkes website.

In a lot of the consultations employees were asked about the famous Crusader symbol and whether it should go. 

It’s not been a secret that the woke management of Reach hate the symbol almost as much as they hate the politics of the Express. It is an old management trick to get consultants in to blame for recommending a change you wanted to make anyway. It appears the Crusader could be axed from the title piece after 92 years.

This is part of a culture war in Reach and a war of attrition on the Express internally since it was bought up after the then Trinity Mirror assured then Culture Secretary Matt Hancock that they would not interfere in the politics of the Express.

So far they have launched a Guardian style green editorial campaign, quite a change in tone from the paper that started the mainstreaming of Brexit. According to an internal source they “initially stopped us from attacking BLM protests and statues being pulled down. Although after about a month we were allowed to”.

A senior figure tried to stop an online poll being published which showed about 80 per cent of Express readers supported Trump. The papers has softened its line on immigration and apologised to Muslim campaign groups for some headlines. Then there was the campaign to raise income tax by one penny.

A disgruntled source said: “The chief executive Jim Mullen sends round a weekly newsletter telling us how we need to support issues like BLM. He always praises the Mirror and Star but always ignores the Express unless we have done something very woke.

Mullen wrote during the BLM protests: “I’m hugely proud of the part our publications (and every single one of you) play in not only highlighting injustice and holding those in power to account, but also in celebrating our differences as well as our common humanity. Thank you to our teams for serving our communities by bringing them the news they want and need to hear about, and making it known that we stand with those speaking up and fighting injustice. Black lives matter and saying it matters.”

After this message the Express changed its editorial line on BLM to be nearly the same as the Mirror’s. 

History of the Crusader
The symbol was introduced to the Express by Lord Beaverbrook
. When he bought the paper in 1916, the titlepiece included the royal coat of arms. It remained until 1929 when Beaverbrook launched a campaign for free trade within the British Empire.

On 11 July 1929 Beaverbrook wrote the Express splash himself. "I have combined with the Daily Express," he declared, "to launch the Imperial Crusade.”

His motive was partly a wish to protect his native Canada from being annexed, in trade terms, by the United States and partly to push Stanley Baldwin out of the Tory leadership. The Crusader followed shortly afterwards.

In 1951, when Churchill had returned to power but given up on the Empire, Beaverbrook put the Crusader in chains.

Bob Edwards, Express editor from 1961, said he thought the Crusader was put in chains again when Britain was invited to join the Common Market.

*The Crusader was depicted holding a sword for decades. That changed when Richard Addis was appointed editor of the Express in the 1990s. Addis, a former monk, never liked the Crusader and considered changing it back to the coat of arms. In the end he changed the Crusader’s trusty sword to a spear apparently because it looked less aggressive. Not a lot of people know that — Ed.


What can the Express learn from Karl Marx, ask crazy consultants

THE lunatics really have taken over at the Daily Express madhouse.

As we have already reported, Reach, the renamed Trinity Mirror group which now owns the Express, is holding a “brand review” of the Express conducted by a consulting company. 

Now events have taken an even more bizarre turn.

The Guido Fawkes website reports that there has been a second round of consultations with a selected group including most of the senior staff of the Express.

The Exercise 7 consultancy company asked bemused Express hacks to evaluate a series of figures and brands with the questions:

What can we learn from these brands/leaders?

What is each one fighting for and against?

How can that apply to The Express?

One of the brands/leaders was Karl Marx. Perhaps they plan to replace the Crusader with Karl?

THE DRONE SAYS: Do these so-called experts know what the Express stands for? Answers on a postcard to the nearest wastepaper bin.


Some stories don’t always fit the bill


THIS looks like sensational news on these bills from South Africa … but all is not what it seems.

RICK McNEILL uncovered these jolly posters from his time as tabloid guru on South Africa’s top-selling black newspaper the Daily Sun.

Rick said: ‘They were happy days spent tapping skills honed on the Daily Express. 

"The POPE referred to, you’ll be relieved to know, was not the prominent Vatican religious personage, but the rather better known local rap artist. 

"The MUM was denouncing evil spirits who had wronged her. What other possible wording? Great fun, of which there isn’t much around any more. You’re the last bastion of insouciance, m’lord.

Lord Drone commented last night: I once tried stopping my inbred insouciance but I really couldn’t be arsed.


History in Moments


Memory of reporter Phil lives on — in a quilt of his bow ties

IF there is some part of a foreign bedroom that is for ever Philip Finn … then this is it.

Phil, for many years the doyen of the Daily Express bureau in New York, was instantly recognisable by his bow ties. And this quilt is made up of dozens of them.

Former Express foreign editor David Richardson, who supplied the quilt pic, reported from his bolthole in the south of France:  "Sadly, like many others, Phil, pictured, was discarded by the DX long before his sell by date.

"On retirement he and his wife Annemarie moved to Aiken in South Carolina where golf and their dogs was their passion.

"Their home also became a mecca for Fleet Street golf hacks attending The Masters, about 30 miles down the road in Augusta.

"Cancer caught up with Phil a few years ago and Annemarie was left with memories and a  stash of bow ties. A friend has turned them into his remarkable quilt.

"Miss you Phil Finn Junior as he always announced himself. I never met Phil Finn Senior.

Philip Finn died in 2015 aged 79.





Barmy bosses want to know workers' sexual preferences

THE Daily Drone’s spies have unearthed an extraordinary document sent to staff by the management of Reach, publisher of the Express and Mirror titles.

The survey, which asks employees details of their sexual preferences, was sent to us by an informer who writes under a pseudonym …

 Sir — I now have categorical proof that the ludicrously named Reach — and the world in general — has finally gone mad. Oooh, I’ve come over all Alan Duncan ...

This is a survey sent by Reach to all (few remaining) employees earlier this year. Apart from the obvious question Why, who knows what all these definitions mean? 

Is biromantic really bi-romantic or does it signify an imaginative use of a Bic? Best of all is Other, what Other? Surely there are no further options. 

In our day on the Express you were either gagging for it or, to quote Bogbrush, ‘You fuckin shirt lifter.’

For the record, I am Dronosexual.

Little Todger,


Our exasperating newspapers: Prince Philip’s view in 1967

VICTOR WATERS has unearthed a fascinating piece written by the Duke of Edinburgh in a foreword to a book published by the Press Club in London in 1967.

Prince Philip always had a strained relationship with the Press during his long life — he famously called the Express ‘a bloody awful newspaper’ — but he takes a reasonably conciliatory view in this piece.