I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts, but I can't stop eating peanuts
 — Orson Welles


Daily Express news subs' Easter wayzgoose 1969


Today's papers

Cartoons of the Day




BOB MORAN, Daily Telegraph


DAVE BROWN, Independent


CHRISTIAN ADAMS, Evening Standard



JONATHAN PIE on Election Week One



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today in your super soaraway Daily Drone


Overheard in Waitrose Part 3

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


That doughty Miss Dimont rides again


Former Expressman Christopher Wilson has written a fourth book in his excellent Miss Dimont Mystery series. Dead and Gone to Devon is published tomorrow, 14 November, but can be preordered HERE.

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

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

“From all good bookshops, etc."

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

11 SALE TOZER.jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


SLIGHTLY FOXED: Tony Fowler’s memo from 1973


Statistical analysis by S. MULDOON (trainee)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least most of us had the passport.

Here, for the record, is the list: 


Cyril Aynsley, Paul Dacre, Norman Dowdy, Lin Edgson, Michael Evans, Bernard Hall, John Hamshire, John Harrison, Frank Howitt, George Hunter, Jill King, Norman Luck, Colin MacKenzie, David Richardson, John Sanderson, Brian Steel,Frank Thompson, George Webber, Alastair Wilson, Arnold Latcham, Frank Goldsworthy, Richard Wright, Jack Hill, John King, Colin Pratt, David Thurlow, Declan Cunningham.

Michael Charleston, John Christopher, Kingsley Squire, David Jack, Wilfred Sendall, Daniel McGeachie, Roy Blackman, George Lochhead, Walter Partington, Alexander Kenworthy, Keith Thompson, Percy Hoskins, Chapman Pincher, Bruce Kemble, Barrie Devney, Terry Pattinson, David Benson, Leslie Nichol, James Wilkinson, Frank Robson


Andrew Fyall, Peter Chambers, James Davies, Douglas Orgill, Adella Lithman, Bruce Kemble, James Murray, Alan Cass


Victor Davis, David Wigg, Judith Simons, Martin Jackson, Ian Christie, James Thomas


Herbert Kretzmer, Noel Goodwin


Sandy Fawkes, Sue Hayton


David Ash


Mary Collins, Jean Rook, Hugh McIlvanney, Sheila Hutchins


Charles Benson, John Santer, Steve Curry, Roy Ullyett, John Davies, Crawford White, Norman Dixon, Alan Williams, Pat Gibson, Jim Gould, 

Norman Giller, David Emery, Clive Graham, Desmond Hackett, Ronald Heager, Jim Hill, Philip Hodges, Sydney Hulls, John Lloyd, Pat Marshall, Derry Meade, John Morgan, Peter O’Sullevan, Frank Rostron, Mark Wilson


Victor Blackman, David Cairns, Harry Dempster, Terry Disney, John Downing, Ronald Dumont, William Jones, Jack Kay, William (Bill) Lovelace, Stanley Meagher, Michael McKeown, Hillaria McCarthy, Douglas Morrison, Norman Quicke, Robert Stiggins, Albert McCabe, George Stroud, Michael Stroud, Leonard Trievnor, Brian Laister, John Moran, Chris Wood, Reg Lancaster, Robert Chapman


John Alley, John Bell, Alan Bennett, Donald Blankly, Tony Brooks, Gerry Burke, Derek Hornby, Don Mackay, Carole Newton, James Price, Harry Pugh, Brian Ratcliff, Trevor Reynolds, Maurice Richards, Peter Welbourn, Robert Wilson, Frank Welsby, Philip Aris, Alan Baxter, Robert Brady, Peter Doyle, George Hill, Leonard Holliday, William Hunter, John Ley, Neil Moran, Leslie Poole, Peggie Robinson, Leslie Clare

CONCLUDING TOMORROW WITH: The six feature writers and 15 photographers in Manchester

Reflections on the First Tuesday Club

The First Tuesday Club of former Express staff is still going strong. After years of meeting at the Old Bank of England pub it has now moved across Fleet Street to The George.

If you look closely at the picture you can discern the reflection of the club’s organiser David Eliades who reserves an area of the historic pub every month for the get-together.

Why not join David and the others? The club’s next meeting will be on Tuesday, 3 December.


It’s Mad Mat as you’ve never seen him before

ONE of the brightest young men to have passed through the hallowed portals of the Daily Express is former news sub-editor Mat Ward.

A fine journalist possessed of a great sense of humour, Mat has since moved to Australia where he now makes music.

He wrote on Instagram with tongue firmly in cheek: "Thank you Cadbury! I'm happy to announce that, like many of my favourite artists, I have now hit the big time and have found a sponsor! 

"This is a great partnership as I have loved Cadbury products since the day I was born, if not way before I was born. Except for Dairy Milk. 

"I am open to other offers so hit me up at — all products considered — 'climate-damaging' fossil fuel vehicles, foodstuffs that others consider ‘unhealthy', I'll hock any old shit for cash, because everyone knows musicians make no money so it doesn't damage your cred these days! Thank you." * sponsored post *

Find out more about Mat’s music here



3FS 1907.jpeg

The Daily Express was just seven years old when this picture was taken 112 years ago.

Note the steam engine crossing the bridge over Ludgate Hill. Many small alleys were swept away in the late 1860s to build Ludgate Hill railway station between Water Lane and New Bridge Street, a station of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. 

The station was closed in 1923. The railway bridge and viaduct between Holborn Viaduct and Blackfriars stations survived until it was demolished in 1990 to enable the construction of the City Thameslink railway station in a tunnel. This also involved the regrading of the slope of Ludgate Hill at the junction.


STILL RECOGNISABLE: The same scene today


Downing launches book 

of his life’s work at an emotional ceremony


PROUD: John Downing with his wife Anita at the launch

FORMER Daily Express photographer John Downing has proudly launched the book of his life’s work at an emotional ceremony.

Reporter Kim Willsher, who accompanied Downing of many news assignments, wrote on Facebook: “We laughed. We cried. We saw old friends and colleagues. but most of all we celebrated the life and work of John Downing and his book Legacy.

“It was a moving, humbling, sad but also joyful evening.

“I am thinking of this short poem by Raymond Carver. I think we showed John that he is beloved."

Late Fragment

And did you get what you wanted from this life even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.

John is suffering from terminal lung cancer.

FEELING BLUE: Sometimes the job can get you down as John found when he covered the Tories’ Blackpool conference in 1987

My best photograph, by Express star Downing

Patients from Molesey Cottage Hospital, who were rescued by police and soldiers during flooding in Surrey, 17 August 1968. Photograph: John Downing/Getty Images

CELEBRATED Express photographer John Downing considers this picture of flood victims being rescued to be the most definitive of his massive portfolio.

Former Express reporter Kim Willsher, writing in The Guardian, quotes Downing as saying: “There’s such a lot happening in it; every part of it tells a story and you don’t need any words to know what is going on. 

“As a news photographer, you’re the eyes of the reader, so you’re always trying to catch the defining moment. For me, the defining moment in this image is the elderly woman lighting a cigarette for another elderly patient while they are being rescued.”

John’s book, Downing: The Legacy, is published by Bluecoat Press.

The big picture, by Kim Willsher

The Downing Legacy



In an astonishing breakthrough in the world of data management, Mail Online has unveiled a daring new concept in the dissemination of information.

Nearly News.

This week the website, which has a huge global reach, announced to its millions of readers that the wife of a Hollywood star had nearly fallen over in the street.

Yup, you read that correctly. Amal Clooney, wife of superstar George, was reported to have missed her footing in a cobbled street in New York and almost went arse over tits. But didn’t.

There’s more. Mail Online’s Brian Gallagher (sorry, mate, there’s no hiding place from this even if you did file it at 2.43 in the morning) contrasts Amal’s experience with that of her sister, Tala, who actually did fall down in similar circumstances four years ago.

Incidentally, all praise to the website’s archives. Imagine sending Messenger Jack to the Express library in Fleet Street to retrieve a tattered envelope marked: Hollywood Stars’ Relatives (Falls).

In an attempt to catch up, the Editor of the Daily Drone, a bit miffed that he didn’t think of this innovative way to massage a news schedule, sent trainee S. Muldoon to rummage through the dustbins at Derry Street for other examples of Nearly News. Here’s a selection:

Frank Bruno nearly passes

Latin GCSE after intensive

tuition in his lunch hour

Diane Abbott nearly appointed

Waynflete Professor of Pure

Mathematics at Oxford University

Julian Clarey nearly called

into England front row


John Bercow nearly winner of

Donald Trump-Piers Morgan

Shrinking Violet Award For

Modesty And Self Effacement 


Canvey Island nearly named

Europe’s coolest surfing spot

by readers of Big Board Bugle


S. Muldoon (trainee) nearly

voted Digital Journalist of

the Year by Press Gazette


Pop poppet Lulu nearly

chose Careless Whisper

as her debut disc - report



Tories on war footing 



Psst! Wanna buy the Telegraph?


The Barclay brothers’ empire includes Shop Direct, the Telegraph, delivery firm Yodel and the Ritz

The billionaire Barclay brothers have put the Telegraph newspapers up for sale as they review their family empire.

Aidan and Howard Barclay, 63 and 59, are reportedly evaluating the family’s businesses on behalf of their father Sir David Barclay and his twin Sir Frederick, who also own The Spectator magazine, The Ritz Hotel, and online retailer Shop Direct.

The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, which the wealthy 84-year-old brothers have owned since 2004, have been put on the market after months of speculation, according to The Times. It has been suggested Sir Frederick may have been keen to sell the business, but this has not been substantiated.

Potential buyers could include Daily Mail and General Trust, owner of the Daily Mail, and Alexander Lebedev, owner of the The Independent and Evening Standard.

It comes following reports the family has also received offers of about £800million for the five-star Ritz in Piccadilly, London, which they bought for £75million in 1995.

According to the hotel’s latest financial filings, profit before tax almost halved last year from £12.8m to £7.9m, while turnover increased by £1million, The Times reports.

Shop Direct, which was created when the family merged Littlewoods and GUS and has annual sales of more than £1.9 billion, could also be sold off.

It is understood The Spectator is not part of the strategic review, which is thought to have been sparked by a difference in interests within the family.


Headline in the Daily Sport:

My boyfriend left me so I am now marrying a fish finger, See her tits on Page 5



Three Express amigos

NO wonder they’re smiling — these three former Expressmen managed to escape from the Black Lubjanka for the more journalist-friendly and lucrative Mail group.

Enjoying lunch at Wholefoods in London's Kensington are, from left, diarist Peter Mackay, who is now retired; John McEntee, editor of the Daily Mail’s Ephraim Hardcastle; and Peter Hitchens, who writes a column for the Mail on Sunday.

McEntee wrote on Facebook: My dear friend Peter [Mackay] worked with me on the Express when he shared an office with Peter Tory overlooking the Thames at Blackfriars. The pair watched the slow construction of what became the wobbly bridge from St Paul’s to Tate Modern.

When it was half finished the Queen walked out into the Thames on the incomplete structure. I recall going into the two Peters’ office and joining them and we stared at HM at the end of the half-finished edifice in the middle of the river.

None of us spoke. 


Zack gets em-rule back after 33 years

PICA RULES OK: Pat Pilton, left, presents Jon Zackon with the prized em-rule at Joe Allen yesterday

Back in the old days em-rules were prized possessions and locked away securely at the end of the night.

So you can imagine Jon Zackon’s dismay when his disappeared from the Fleet Street offices of the Daily Express back in 1986.

Later, the rule reappeared on Pat Pilton’s desk and the dispute over its ownership has been the subject of much light-hearted debate for the ensuing 33 years.

That was all settled at Joe Allen’s London restaurant when the World’s Greatest Lunch Club convened with Zack as it’s guest.

And there was a touch of the 1970s as he sat at the lunch table with the rule poking out of his jacket pocket.

LIKE THE OLD DAYS: Jon at the lunch table with his em-rule poking out of his pocket as Pat and Dick Dismore look on



Muldoon’s Overheard in Waitrose (Part 2)


One of the highlights of the digital publishing year (Oh, come on! — Ed) was the Daily Drone’s hilarious series Overheard in Waitrose featuring fascinating snippets of conversation which revealed so much about the people who shop in that up-your-bum grocery store.

Since then the Drone has been inundated (? — Ed) with pleas from readers for more of the same.

Even our proprietor, Lord Drone, a keen fan, has been approached in the luxury mixed gender Turkish baths that he patronises in a cellar in a side turning off Curzon Street (Stop! On no account must this be published before I check with Lord D — Ed).

So, by popular request, our witty, incisive trainee Muldoon, the Drone’s very own unexplained item in the bagging area, passes on more gems Overheard in Waitrose:

“You’ll like potato, darling. It’s what gnocchi is made of.”

“Simon, don’t get the basic hummus - you’ll make me a laughing stock.

“Horry, put down that Daily Mail this instant. Horatio, I said now!”

“Please take that out of the trolley, Lavinia. I’ve told you what kind of people eat crisps.”

“George, run over and pop this little green token into one of those boxes. Nothing to do with the homeless or gypsies mind.”

“I just died when they offered me a Ferrero Rocher with my Bellini. Rough as tits it was. Rough as tits.”

“I told you they’re not people like us. Range Rover in the drive and a massive vat of Utterly Butterly in the middle of the buffet.”

“Oh, buggery botch wagons, Felicity. Do mummy a favour and run and get the organic quinoa before it’s our turn to be served.”

“Excuse me, do you stock the Earl Grey chocolate thins? I can’t remember for the life of me whether I got them here or at Fortnum’s.”

“I’d have a breakdown only I’ve got a facial booked for two o’clock.”

“Mummy, why are we getting Essential Waitrose carrots?” “They’re for the pony, darling.”

“The music teacher had the cheek to say that Eveline could do a Bach sonata at the end-of-term concert. I thought ‘Fuck this. I’m not paying through the nose for a piddling sonata.’ So I told him: ‘It’s the Elgar or nothing.’”

“No, the parking around there is horrendous, especially when the infants come out. I had to tell a couple of the new mums the other day: ‘Don’t parade around here in your Korean AWDs. This is Range Rover territory.’”

“Oh, she’s a jumped-up bitch all right but I brought her down a peg or two at the book club dinner. Imagine asking for chopsticks in a Thai restaurant!”

Overheard in Lidl: “Won’t be long, Felix. Just doing my Waitrose shop.”

And finally, Overheard in Aldi: “Hi, Tig. You’ve caught me in Waitrose despite the crap signal. Of course I’ll be at bridge tonight. Antigone, you know you can rely on me.”


The magical day I played football for a World XI

STARRING ROLE: Robin McGibbon with his medal and his story in the Charlton Athletic match programme     Picture RUSSELL JOYCE

Few amateur footballers get to meet their professional heroes, much less perform on the same pitch. But on one sultry Italian night, in the 1970s, I had the privilege of playing alongside arguably England's greatest post-war winger, in front of 10,000 spectators.

The unforgettable experience was courtesy of Eddie Firmani, the former Charlton Athletic striker and Italian international, whom I met when he was working as a PR for a life assurance company.

Once Eddie had forgiven me for admitting that my favourite Charlton player was not him, but his fellow South African team-mate Stuart Leary, we became friends and played squash and charity football matches together. He even showed me how to swing a golf club.

Over lunch, one afternoon in June 1973, Eddie told me he was taking a group of former England international footballers —including Finney, Newcastle United centre-forward Jackie Milburn, pictured right, and Tottenham's Welsh winger Cliff Jones — to Mestre, just outside Venice, to play in a World XI v Italy XI charity match.

"Why don't you come, too," Eddie said. "And bring your boots."

I thought he was joking but Eddie assured me wasn't. "Who knows," he grinned, "you might get on."

When we all arrived at Mestre Stadium, Eddie said it was okay for me to go into the Visitors' dressing room with the World XI players, and take part in the pre-match kickabout. I then sat on the subs' bench, marvelling at the speed and trickery of Finney, then 51, and the shooting power of 49-year-old Milburn.

I didn't expect, for a second, to play in the match, but, at half-time, Jackie Milburn plonked himself next to me in the changing room and said: "On you go, son — I'm bloody knackered."

So, on I went, announced over the Tannoy as: Robbie McGibbon, who once played for Scotland. And after the match, I was presented with a medal, confirming I'd played in a World XI.

I'm happy to say that Finney and I kept in touch and, as an in-joke between us, he signed his autobiography with some flattering — and totally unjustified — words about my performance in that game.

What a magical night! And what a gorgeous, modest gentleman Tom was.

I didn't appreciate the personal significance of  that night until years later when I was boasting about the match to former Express news sub Terry Ryle, who, as most of us know, is a Geordie.

Terry was so impressed he nearly knocked down the long row of cigarette butts lined up on his desk. "Good God, man," he exclaimed. "You substituted for Wor Jackie — our Tyneside legend!"

I'd honestly never thought of my appearance that way. But, after that, I told anyone who cared to listen!    


How Hickey ed Wilson saved this Fleet Street sculpture from crusher

SAVED: The Three Printers sculpture in New Street Square 50 years ago, left, and in its present position in Goldsmiths Sunken Garden, London   Pictures by CHRISTOPHER WILSON

FORMER Hickey editor Christopher Wilson has revealed how he saved an important sculpture from being destroyed.

The work, Three Printers by Wilfred Dudeney, is a misnomer as it depicts an editor, a printer and a news boy. 

It originally stood in New Street Square outside the Westminster Press offices off Fleet Street but now graces the sunken Goldsmiths' Garden in Gresham Street.

Christopher wrote on Facebook: "This day 50 years ago I came to Fleet Street as a young reporter. In one of the back alleys I explored in the following weeks, I came across this sculpture by Wilfred Dudeney — as far as I know, the only public monument to us and our trade. 

"A dozen years ago, after the diaspora, it was in pieces in a builder's yard and destined for the crusher. I saved it, and since I never became an editor, I count it as my greatest journalistic achievement. 

“I wanted it to be re-sited in St Bride’s Churchyard but Goldsmiths' belatedly decided to claim ownership — even though until I said ‘ Oi!’ they were content to let it go to the crusher.

"They were the landlords of New Street Square but the sculpture was commissioned and paid for by Westminster Press [a now defunct local newspaper group].

“We compromised because Goldsmiths' offered to have it restored at considerable cost in return for it being placed in their garden.

“Anyway, like us, it’s still around!”

The Goldsmiths' Garden is on the site of the churchyard and medieval church of St John Zachary, which was damaged in the Great Fire. 

The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths had acquired land in 1339, and built the earliest recorded Livery Hall. After part of the Company's property was demolished in WWII, the site was first laid out as a garden in 1941, redesigned in later years. 

The former churchyard is to the west, a raised garden with a number of gravestones and trees. Steps lead down to the excavated site of the church, laid out as a sunken garden with lawn, hard surround and seating against the retaining wall. 

The Three Printers sculpture, dating from around 1957, relocated there in 2009.

Westminster Press was sold by parent company Pearson to Newsquest in 1996.


Slope off to the cinema, smoke a pipe … then make a story up


TAKING IT EASY: Evelyn Waugh had sage advice for reporters 

EXPRESSMAN Geoffrey Mather, writing on his website about Brideshead Revisited, recalled an amusing anecdote about the book’s author Evelyn Waugh.

Quoting Waugh’s biographer Philip Eade he wrote: "Waugh spent several weeks ‘working' at the Daily Express. Having been fired in 1927 he gave advice to budding reporters.

"When assigned a story, 'the correct procedure is to jump to your feet, seize your hat and umbrella, and dart out of the office with every appearance of haste to the nearest cinema'.

"At the cinema the probationer was advised to sit and smoke a pipe and imagine what any relevant witnesses might say.

We on the Drone reckon this was an excellent policy which was followed 50 years later by eager Expressmen, although at that time pubs were more de rigueur than cinemas.

And the moral? Never take work too seriously.


From Hickey to Hardcastle, McEntee gets the diary date

CELEBRATING: McEntee at lunch in London with Barry Cryer

FORMER Hickey editor John McEntee had good news for his friends on Facebook.

He wrote: "Today I signed a new contract with Daily Mail editor Geordie Grieg to continue as Ephraim Hardcastle in his esteemed paper.

"It makes me the longest serving gossip columnist in Fleet Street surpassing Seb Shakespeare, Ross Benson, Nigel Dempster Kenneth Rose and all the rest.

"From Londoner's Diary via Times Diary and Wicked Whispers to be the last William Hickey on Express and now succeeding my mentor Peter McKay as Effy.

"And who better to celebrate with than Barry Cryer at an Oldie lunch in Simpson’s-in-the Strand.

"Thank God for my health my children my grand children my Morven oh and Geordie!

Paul Callan commented: “Congratulations John! I think I’m not far behind you. 

"My gossip column years are: Londoner’s Diary, 1965 to 1971; Daily Mail Diary which I started with Dempster as my Number Two, 1971 to 1973; Punch (for which I wrote a weekly gossip column), 1973 to 1975; Daily Mirror, Inside the World of Paul Callan, 1975 to 1982.

"That’s a total of 18 years at the coalface of gossip before turning to the relative purity of features and news colour."



GARY JONES has brought decency back to the Daily Express by banning anti-migrant and anti-Muslim stories and ending the paper’s obession with dodgy weather stories.

But is this former Mirrorman the right person to be editing the paper? A lifetime Labour voter, Jones appears uncomfortable in the role in this 45-minute interview with Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy.


His name was Hawkey, Raymond Hawkey and he had designs on Bond and the Daily Express ...

raymond hawkey1.jpg

THRILLING THREE: Express design guru Raymond Hawkey, far right, with Len Deighton and Bond author Ian Fleming

RESEARCH by the Daily Drone has unearthed one of the forgotten stars of the Daily Express from the 1950s and 60s.

That man was Raymond Hawkey, design director of the paper from 1959 to 1964, who later designed acclaimed book jackets for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and Len Deighton’s thrillers.

Clive Irving wrote in The Guardian after Hawkey’s death aged 80 in 2010: "I was features editor of the Daily Express when Raymond Hawkey arrived at the paper, which was then at the height of its success in the late 1950s.

"It is hard to convey to those who work in the relatively sanitised newsrooms of the digital age the bawdy zoo that was the editorial floor of the Express. 

"Banks of cut-and-paste subeditors yelled commands to the copy runners, a single backbench of senior editors shouted at the subeditors, muscular reporters bargained for column inches, and in a far corner of the black glass building was a bear pit of competing claims for the severely rationed space in the ‘soft’ end of the paper.

"In this Fleet Street madhouse Hawkey, who was always impeccably barbered, confronted visual barbarians. His title of design director seemed optimistic, since there was a rigid template of typography and page layouts, imposed from on high, that nobody had the power to circumvent. 

"But Hawkey chose to work in discrete elements, combining feature headlines and simple, strong images in bold panels.

"His style, which later came to full expression in his wonderful book jackets, was the first and one of the most consequential if furtive steps in the long and too-slow advance of newspaper design that eventually culminated in the transformation of The Guardian in the late 1980s."

Hawkey was design director of the Daily Express from 1959 before he was appointed presentation director of The Observer in 1964 where he led the design of its colour magazine. He died in 2010 aged 80.

In 1962, Hawkey was chosen by Len Deighton to design the cover of his first novel The IPCRESS File, which some regard as the template for the covers of all subsequent airport novels. He went on to design covers for Deighton's books, including Horse Under Water, Funeral in Berlin and The Action Cookbook (where the IPCRESS revolver reappears, this time with a sprig of parsley in the barrel).

Hawkey designed covers for works by many other authors, including the Pan paperback editions of James Bond published from 1963-1969, which the Financial Times described as having "a stark elegance ... consistently menacing and memorable. Each has a single photographic image on a plain or textured background. Blurb is dispensed with. It's the visual equivalent of a cruel, sardonic smile.” 

A key element was Hawkey's bold use of lettering — the sans-serif James Bond wording is far larger than the book title or the author's name. 




A day at the Daily Express in 1979

The BBC took its cameras to the Daily Express offices in Fleet Street in August 1979 to film the production process. The film centres on writer James Davies who interviews a couple with a daughter suffering from Down’s Syndrome. 

As a sign of the changed times, the little girl is referred to as a Mongol — the word, now considered inaccurate and unkind, is even used in a headline.

Also featured in the film, which runs for 19 minutes, are editor Derek Jameson, features editor Bill Spicer, photographer Bill Lovelace, news editor Arliss Rhind, Andrew Harvey, Geoff Compton, deputy editor Arthur Firth, Gaby Fagan, Jeremy Deedes and Esther Harrod.





TWO NICE BOYS: We asked who you thought these two young Expressmen were. We can name them as Roger Watkins, left, and Terry Manners who both went on to senior positions on the Daily Express and other publications. They are pictured on holiday in Tenerife some time in the 1970s.

Roger Watkins breaks off from a Tibetan yoga-based fitness session with his personal trainer Chailai to recall that at the airport on the way home he remarked that it was a pity their holiday was only a week long. “Oh no, mate,” said Manners, “ I couldn’t suck my gut in for longer than that.”

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LOTS OF BOTTLE: Evening beers with the two Carols



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Actress Raquel Welch sets out for a walk in Curzon Street, Mayfair, London on March 4, 1966    Picture: JOHN DOWNING

THE work of two Daily Express journalists has been featured in The Guardian in a tribute to the illustrious past of the World’s Greatest Newspaper.

A fascinating collection of photographs taken by the celebrated photographer John Downing can be found HERE.

Reporter Kim Willsher visited the site of the Chernobyl disaster with Downing in 1986. Her eyewitness account is published HERE.




Beaverbrook as you’ve never seen him 

THE Drone has uncovered an extraordinary home movie featuring Daily Express proprietor Lord Beaverbrook and the novelist H G Wells.

The silent film, filmed in 1924 at the peer’s home Cherkley, near Leatherhead, Surrey, takes the form of an amateur black comedy and also features the writer and feminist Rebecca West, who had a long affair with Wells and later reportedly with Beaverbrook. 

Beaverbrook, who died in 1964 and widowed in 1927, is pictured above wearing a top hat with some of the cast.

The film is fascinating also as a social document, revealing the mores of the time which are considered very politically incorrect today. 

You have been warned!

The film, entitled They Forgot to Read the Directions, runs for 20 minutes and there is no sound. 

Watch it here



Christiansen Chronicles

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THE editor most revered by Express men and women is Arthur Christiansen, even though it is doubtful if anyone alive today worked for him.

He died in 1963 but his name is still spoken of in hushed tones by many.

Christiansen became editor of the Daily Express in October, 1933, a position he held for 24 years until 1957, a longevity in office that has never been beaten. 

During his editorship, sales peaked at two million in 1936, more than three million in 1944, and four million in 1949. 

Each day he wrote a bulletin. It was compulsory reading for members of editorial staff. 

Christiansen also expected them to read the Daily Express from start to finish daily and in addition, one other newspaper. Heads of department were expected to be familiar with the content of all morning newspapers by the time of first conference (around 11am). 

Only one editor since Christiansen has attempted to write a daily bulletin. That man was Christopher Ward (1981-83). His attempts were widely ridiculed by staff who risked their jobs by posting rival bulletins in the display box outside the editor’s office in Fleet Street.

These cod bulletins are in the possession of the Daily Drone (don’t ask!)

The World’s Greatest Website is proud to be able to print the best of the Christiansen bulletins when he was in charge of the World’s Greatest Newspaper.

There will be a new one every day.

Read them here

TERRY MANNERS writes: "Dear Lord Drone, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading the story of Editor Arthur Christiansen's famed bulletins. And examples too ... what  a magnificent piece of investigative Drone journalism. 

"I shall look at his original, cream bulletin case hanging in my study between the picture of Elvis and the Beatles with renewed fondness. I may even polish the glass. 

"Meanwhile, I rather think your public is also waiting to be entertained by extracts from the outstanding bulletins published in the box long after the great man's death. Will they ever be found? Get my drift?”

Drift received and understood — Ed

JEFF CONNOR writes: "You suggest that 'no-one who worked with him will still be alive'. Last I heard Michael Caine is still going strong and he appeared with Chris in the 1961 movie, The Day the Earth Caught Fire. 

"Chris played a hard-boiled national newspaper editor and the filming took place in the Express offices in Fleet Street. Michael was cast as 'Checkpoint Policeman (uncredited)' which is proof that everyone has to start somewhere! 

“Also, I know you were probably discussing the history of the Express, but in his spell at the Star Lloyd Turner also posted a daily bulletin, nominally a herogram but pretty unusual back then!”

Point taken! — Ed

*The 1961 movie The Day the Earth Caught Fire is available as a DVD on Amazon for £9.92. Details here


Christiansen playing ‘The Editor’ in The Day the Earth Caught Fire

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RELIC: Christiansen’s bulletin board remained on the wall outside the editor’s office until the move to Blackfriars in 1989. It was rescued by Terry Manners and now adorns his study wall



How editor McColl came to be known as Basil Brush (possibly)


               MR BRUSH                             MR McCOLL
Former Express and Mirror man
TERRY PATTINSON has entertained his friends on Facebook with two great anecdotes about the Daily Express

I was once delegated to escort Tory Minister Norman Tebbit around the Daily Express building in Fleet Street.

Editor Ian McColl, not long out of Scotland, insisted on joining me although I knew the building like the back of my hand.

After showing Tebbit around the newsoom, picture desk, and fashion department, I decided to take him to the features writers' room.

As we walked down a long corridor McColl suddenly stopped and said to Tebbit: "This is the features department, accommodating the best writers in Fleet Street."

With a grand flourish he threw open the door.
 Out fell buckets, brushes and mops. It was a store cupboard.

McColl apologised and Tebbit said he had to 'get back to the House of Commons.'

I escorted Tebbit to his chauffeur-driven limo, parked outside the Express office.
 As he got into the car Tebbit said to me: "Why don't you Express chaps drink more lemonade?"

Private Eye loved the anecdote.
 After that McColl was dubbed 'Basil Brush.”

*But there’s no denying that McColl (my first DX editor) did look like Basil Brush — Ed

True story. Freelance journalist Frederick Forsyth ventured into Fleet Street in the late 60s when he was 31 years old and tried to persuade the legendary Chapman Pincher (Daily Express) to look at his manuscript for a new book.

Pincher had asked his faithful secretary, Yolande, to get rid of the 'nutter' from the front hall (as we used to call people who dropped in without an appointment. Most were time-wasting nutters).

Instead, Yolande took Forsyth upstairs to meet the great man and made a pot of tea.
 Pincher was busy with his latest blockbuster exclusive and was as polite as possible before throwing the hungry freelance back on to the street.

Pincher felt sorry for Forsyth because, said Pincher, the proposed book had no chance of success.
 The book? The Day of the Jackal.
 The rest, as they say, is history.

Pincher revealed this anecdote in his autobiography published four years ago.



 WE on the Drone are not particular fans of the comedian Freddie Starr, who has died aged 76. But this recording of him trying to mime to a broken tape shows him at his best.

Expressman ROBIN McGIBBON met Starr in the 1980s when he took the spiritualist Doris Stokes to the comic's Berkshire home for a Sun story about him giving the medium a horse.

Robin reports: "A Sun photographer had already arrived and Freddie nodded towards the kitchen, saying: 'Yer mate's in here — having a wank,' then ushered Doris through to his lounge  where they stayed, chatting, until Freddie was ready for photos, 40 minutes later. 

"The photographer and I weren't even offered a cup of tea. A funny man? Certainly. But coarse, rude and obnoxious, too.

"I went back to Bouverie Street with the snapper and typed the story in the Sun newsroom before trotting over to the Express for my afternoon subbing shift.

"Oh, happy days!





HARD LABOUR: Gary Jones has toned down the racism

DAILY Express editor Gary Jones has proved himself to be part of a grand tradition — a square peg in a round hole.

He has confessed in an interview with The Guardian that he is a lifelong Socialist who believes that immigration has been good for Britain and that we should remain in the European Union.

In other words his personal beliefs do not match those of his newspaper. There is nothing new here — the Express has been edited by an eclectic assortment of characters.

Does that make Jones the wrong man to edit the Right-wing Brexit-supporting Express? Not a bit.

It has never been a requirement of the job for the editor to be a Tory. Bob Edwards, who edited the Express twice, certainly wasn’t and Lord Beaverbrook once hired Left-winger Michael Foot for the Evening Standard.

Lord Drone, before his ennoblement, spent 32 years on the Express and served under 12 editors. Only three of those were worth their salt — Lord Drone's old chum Chris Williams, Derek Jameson, who was the only one to actually increase circulation, and Sir Larry Lamb, who could have been even better if he had shown more enthusiasm.

The other nine editors are mostly too awful to mention.

So can Jones make a success of it? Who knows. But if things go on as they are with circulation tumbling (see below) he could be the last to hold the top job on this once-great newspaper.

Read the Guardian piece here




Industrial editor Barrie Devney at his desk in the Daily Express offices in Fleet Street on 9th March 1969

          Picture: Norman Quicke/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

DAVID THOMPSON, former Chief Parliamentary Correspondent of the Daily Mirror, has a great anecdote about his days as a trainee reporter on the Mansfield and Sutton-in-Ashfield Reporter with his friend and rival Barrie Devney, who worked for the opposition.

The most boring job they had to do was to collect the names of mourners at funerals but often the earnest young reporters were arrogantly waved away by the town’s bigwigs.

One day Barrie, who went on to become the respected Industrial Editor of the Daily Express, got his own back.

Devney’s revenge


Lament for the death of the gossip column


TEA FOR ONE: Writer David Lister contemplates another slice of cake at Cliveden,1999  Picture: ©The Independent

DAVID LISTER, a writer and columnist for The Independent, has written a masterly account of the slow demise of the Fleet Street diarist, including the death and resurrection of the William Hickey column in the Daily Express.

The rise and fall of the Fleet Street diarist



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Former Daily Express and Daily Mail star features writer Geoffrey Levy has celebrated 50 years of marriage with his wife Stephanie … and Alan Frame was invited to the Golden Wedding party of his old friend.

Levy’s golden day


To Russia with booze and a spare bath plug


Ian Benfield dies at 84

Lord Drone is personally greatly saddened to report the death of his good friend Ian ‘Bunter’ Benfield at the age of 84. 

Ian had been suffering from vascular dementia for two years, as as his son Guy reports below in The Journalist.

Bunter was a top news sub-editor on the Daily Express for many years where his agreeable nature and good humour made him a popular and valued member of staff. 

He was never happier than when he was drinking beer in the pub with his colleagues. 

Ian died last December but news of his death has only just reached Drone Towers. His funeral was in January.

DICK DISMORE remembers:
Bunter, the man who subbed the Yorkshire Ripper trial single-handed — and the Printer didn’t bother setting the running copy. This was much to the consternation of the Night Editor, one K. MacKenzie, who monstered the culprit so badly he had to buy him a bottle of whisky to ensure publication of the next day’s paper.  

And Bunter just kept subbing and let it all wash over him. Happy days.

*Ian's brother, Derek Benfield, pictured above, was an actor, best known for his role as transport company foreman Bill Riley in the TV series The Brothers.



C’est Jim sur le TV


Your eyes do not deceive you, this is Sunday Express sub-editor Jim Humphries appearing on BBC Breakfast TV. 

Jim, who has lived in the Dordogne region of France for the past 15 years, was interviewed  about his attitudes to Brexit with a fellow villager in Corgnac-sur-L’Isle.

As you perceive from his expression he is not keen on it. Jim said he was worried about continuing to receive free health care after he had undergone three recent operations in France.


Expressman David Laws gets full-page treatment

Long-serving Expressman David Laws is busily publicising his latest novel Brexit Day, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the Bury Free Press in his native Suffolk.

The paper gave David the full-page treatment with an interview with writer Barbara Eeles.

The book, a thriller, involves an out-of-favour journalist who tracks down a group of spies intent on sabotaging Brexit — and an assassin who is stalking the Prime Minister.

It’s a cracking read and is available as an ebook or paperback on Amazon. BUY IT HERE



GREAT TIMES: The Observer has republished a fascinating piece about Fleet Street watering holes written at the time the paper left for new pastures in 1988. The picture shows the conviviality continuing despite a power cut.





Lower Thames Street 1905

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As the Daily and Sunday Express news operation prepares to leave its Lower Thames Street offices in London for Canary Wharf here’s a pic of the road in 1905. 

Lower Thames Street is just as busy then as now as carts queue to collect fish from Billingsgate Market on the left. This scene looks west with the spire of St Magnus the Martyr Church, which still nestles next to London Bridge, visible in the distance.


Lower Thames Street today with the old Billingsgate Market building on the left. The Express building is the grey structure further up


Craig parties with Fleet Street royalty on his 70th


Just a few of Craig's editor pals: From left, Eve Pollard, Sir Nicholas Lloyd, Wendy Henry, Craig MacKenzie, his brother Kelvin, Judy McGuire and Piers Morgan  


Tabloid royalty turned out in force for Craig MacKenzie's 70th birthday bash last Saturday.

Ex-editors and many others from across the newspaper spectrum descended on the party in Weybridge, Surrey.

Craig started as a sub on the Daily Express and went on to become deputy editor of the Daily and Sunday Express. He also edited titles for the Murdoch and Mirror groups.

He thanked guests who had made him welcome when he first arrived in Fleet Street.

Presenting him with a spoof Sun Page One, Piers Morgan paid tribute to his incredible loyalty. 

He said whenever he had problems, Craig would be in the trenches alongside him. 

Piers described him as "mad funny" and said he loved Craig's passion for life and work.

He added: "All the MacKenzies are like that. Everything at 100mph." 




FINAL EDITION: The staff of the Daily Star in London posed for a final picture as they prepared their last edition in Lower Thames Street. They have now moved to the Mirror building in Docklands.

Note the mouse held aloft top left, a reference to the rodent problem in the LTS building.

The Daily and Sunday Express news operation has now joined the Star at Canary Wharf.

Mirror sport and the magazines have switched in the opposite direction from Docklands to LTS.

The Star and Express titles had been based in Lower Thames Street since 2004.


Spot the Expressman

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FOUND HIM YET? Look closely and you will see Terry Chinery hard at work on the Luton News back in the 1970s. Terry, first left, went on to greater things and became Night News Editor on the Daily Express. And yes, that dagger in the foreground is his, we are reliably informed.


Nestling amid the sylvan folds of the rolling English countryside, the Grade 1 listed mansion now known as DroneHaven welcomes journalists, particularly sub-editors, from the Daily Express and other Fleet Street publications who are facing their “final edition” with ageless style and aplomb.

The 300-year-old mansion has been skilfully converted into one and two bedroom self-contained six-star cottages and apartments all lovingly finished to an enviably high specification. This iconic retirement village boasts lounges, a bar, dining room and library. There are lawns and lakes and ample parking. A  mini bus* is available to take guests into the nearby town where there are frequent trains to London.

The dedicated DroneCare staff have developed a series of residents’ activities aimed at Fleet Street’s finest. They include:


A former Night Editor and local radio disc jockey leads music aficionados in what he calls The Vinyl Edition, listening to, and discussing, the hits and stars of yesteryear. Legends such as Connie Francis, Bobby Vee, Conway Twitter and the Big O. Our host will reveal fascinating facts about the icons he discusses. For instance, did you know what Chuck Berry was referring to when he sang about his dingaling? All meetings will feature state-of-the-art sound systems* and will close with our popular SingalongaTel karaoke sessions.


The group is given the chance to relive the glory days of Fleet Street sub-editors by helping to produce a genuine parish magazine (St Nicholas Church in the village) in real time against the clock. Guided by an experienced parish magazine editor, our “subs” will work on copy paper with a pen and use spikes, scissors and glue*. Crumpling up crap headlines, which have been rejected, and throwing them on the floor is encouraged as is randomly shouting “Stop the press!” “Hold the front page!” and “Cooking on gas!” These sessions traditionally end on “Press Day” with the “editor” shouting: “Make it sing!” and the “subs”replying in unison: “And make it a song I like!”


Remember those Fleet Street days of salacious, scurillous scuttlebut? Whispers behind the hands? Secrets guaranteed to shock? These popular sessions are dedicated to the legendary Les Diver, the one-man rumour mill who coined the slogan “Goss is King; Goss is Power”. Your host is the Daily Drone’s resident royal expert, our very own PopBitch. He will pass on the very latest rumours from the Palace and Parliament. Be prepared to be teased and tormented.

The House of Drone wishes to thank the Press Association for its assistance in delivering this programme.


In the evenings it’s time to slope down to the Bertie Brooks Memorial Bar for an attitude adjuster or two. Whatever the weather, gentlemen are expected to be in shirt sleeves as if they had just “gone to the library” or “popped to the loo”. Offering toasts is very much de rigeur in Bertie’s. Apart from the popular “To Wives And Girlfriends - May They Never Meet”, Drones often utter the memorable “Lagers Till We Lurch”, “Swans Till We Swoon”, and “Pils Till We Puke”. 

Members of DroneDram*, our amateur dramatic and re-enactment team, will be on hand to assume the roles of famous Fleet Street characters. Mrs Moon will humiliate you by banning you from “Falstaff’s Dive Bar” and a sinister black-cloaked character will sweep in shouting: “Flood the bar!” Highlight, for some, is the florid, irascible Scotsman who pins you against the bar, invades your personal space and demands why the fuck he hasn’t been made Chief Sub.

More to come

Other programmes we are working on include DroneDown! in which “subs” compete for the Jack Atko trophy by being judged the best at asking for their copy to be delivered to the printer. A DroneDram* team member will act as Messenger Roger. DroneDrone enables residents to start their own beehives aided by apple-cheeked Mrs W* from the village. We have high hopes for DroneEscape in which the fitter members of our community form a Colditz-style Escape Committee and start to dig a tunnel, nicknamed Larry, under the West Wing bin store. 

*Extra charge.

Your retirement dream

Find out more about DroneHaven by sending for our information pack containing detailed specifications, plans and photographs of our apartments and cottages as well as comprehensive costings. Write to: Drone Enterprises, House of Drone, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, KT12 1AD or visit our website

A Drone from Home with the House of Drone 


Help cheer up John Downing

CHUMS: Downing, centre, with the late Danny McGrory, left, and Tom Stoddart celebrate England’s 5-1 win over Germany while attending Kim Willsher’s wedding in 2001

THE many friends and colleagues of star photographer John Downing are being urged to rally round him today.

John has been diagnosed with incurable lung cancer, according to his wife, the pianist Anita D'Attellis.

She said John was ill over Christmas, culminating in an 

operation to remove liquid from his lung.

Anita added: "At the same time they took a biopsy, which sadly turned out rather bad news.  He has a particularly virulent cancer, which is incurable. He’s in good spirits considering, and full of gallows humour. 

"He's happy for you to mention it to any of his old colleagues, but would appreciate emails only, because he’s not up to taking phone calls at the moment."

John's great friend, Tom Smith, reported that the surgery John underwent last week at London Bridge Hospital will, in John’s own words, only "delay the inevitable a short time”.

He added: "Most of old-time Fleet Street and all of the London Welsh Choir have our fingers crossed. Please pass this on to all who knew him and worked with the 'best snapper of his time'.”

Understandably, John is not up to phone calls at the moment but Anita said you may contact him by email at


John writes in an email to friends:

The operation has gone well and will, I hope, extend my time a little longer.  In fact I feel pretty good. 

I am very lucky to have such a lovely wife Anita, who has been a true stalwart. I have had a great life full of excitement, fun and had the pleasure of befriending all of you.  Throw in a handful of tablets each day (the most important of which is the morphine I suspect) and how could I fail to feel good.  

In passing, watching two nurses trying to part me from my underpants whilst I was attached to tubes and wires would have had you in fits and would have made a great Jacques Tati film.

Well, must away and write a epitaph.

All the very best to you all, and thank you.

IS THERE MUCH MORE OF THIS? John Downing waits for reporter Kim Willsher to finish filing her story 

BELOW: Downing documentary, 34:15 runtime

Downing's study of a young Sue McGibbon

FORMER Daily Express news sub Robin McGibbon is justly proud of this Downing photograph of his wife Sue taken when she was aged 17.

Robin told the Drone : "In the early 70s, my wife, Sue, worked at the Daily Express, selling classified advertising. Her boss was John's wife, Jeanette, who felt it would make the girls' regular sales calls more personal if clients knew what they they looked like. 

"She primed John on each girls' personality and he chatted with each one — to relax them — before taking their photograph, which was stuck on compliments slips sent to prospective advertisers.

"The attached pic of Sue, aged 17, is displayed in our study, assuring that, for her, John will never be forgotten.


Legendary sports writer McIlvanney dies at 84


THE greatest sports writer of his generation, Hugh McIlvanney, has died at the age of 84.

McIlvanney spent most of his 60-year career with The Observer and The Sunday Times and worked briefly for the Daily Express.

He leaves a wife, Caroline, son Conn and daughter Elizabeth.

In 1996, McIlvanney was awarded the OBE, was given the Lifetime Achievement Award 2004 by The Scottish Press Awards, and is the only sports writer to be voted Journalist of the Year. 

McIlvanney was great friends with fellow Scotsman Bill Montgomery, a Daily Express news sub who was never reluctant to give someone a thump whether they deserved it or not. 

An Expressman who prefers to remain anonymous, recalls:

"I am reminded of the night I was chief sub and, for no reason, didn’t give Bill Monty a story. He thought he was getting the freeze. Later in the Press Club, Bill told me there was a call for me. Remember those phone booths in that dimly-lit hall?

"I went out and picked up the phone which was hanging off its hook. The line was dead. It was a set-up. 

"I felt the grip of  death on my throat. It was paranoid Monty, demanding to know who’d instructed me to give him the freeze. I couldn’t plead my innocence owing to asphyxiation.

"Just then Hugh McIlvanney appeared through the gloom. 'Need a hand there, Billy?' he said. 

"You don’t forget moments like that.”

PATRICK COLLINS, sports writer and friend of McIlvanney’s summed up the man, saying: "When his countless admirers speak of Hugh’s writing, they recall the rolling phrases, the astute insights, the dramatic sense of occasion. 

"But those who worked with him — and especially the heroic subs who placed paragraph marks on his copy — will tell of the tireless perfectionist, the man whose Sunday would be spoiled by a misplaced comma or a wayward colon.”

ALAN HILL, former Express Chief City Sub, writes: One of my former bosses, Roy Mackie, City Editor of the Daily Express for some years, was a good friend of Hugh McIlvanney’s. I spent many a convivial night in their company, usually in The Old Bell.

My friend Iain Murray, formerly of Daily Express features and The Observer, told a Hughie story some years ago. 

Hugh was becoming a wee bit stressed by someone in the pub. Seeing what was coming our good friend Bill Montgomery placed his hand on the back of Hugh’s neck. 

The squeeze on the McIlvanney neck was said to be tighter than a Scotsman’s grip on a tenner. And it was accompanied by Bill, saying in his warmest Glaswegian tones: “Now Hugh, we’ll nae be havin any of your nonsense tonight.”

Iain claims Hugh’s feet came off the floor.

Calm was restored. And as Roy Mackie said: “Strong drink was taken, and we all went home good friends.”

ROGER WATKINS: I was a features sub in Manchester in 1972 when a newly-appointed McIlvanney came into the office to write up a featuremin time for the first edition.  He was taciturn and uncommunicative and I recall thinking at the time that he did not seem happy to be on the World’s Greatest Newspaper and, especially, not to be camping in a branch office wrestling with a battered Olympia.

When his copy came I’d  like to say I subbed it with all the attention of a Cliff Barr or a Roy Povey but, to be honest, I didn’t sub it at all.

JIM DAVIES: The fully-deserved paeans of praise for the work of Hugh Mcilvanney prompted some fond memories of our time together.  When he — I thought inadvisably — came back to the Express in the early Seventies (he had been on the Scottish Daily Express earlier in his career), we were having a jar or six in The Old Bell.

I said the Express was a tightly-subbed paper which might fit ill with the lengths he had been accustomed to at The Observer.  "I decide what a piece is worth," he said with what, in anyone else would have sounded like rank pomposity.

I teased him.  "I doubt they have a type face small enough so what do they do?”  'They hang it in a strip below the page,' he said with a look that almost challenged anyone to disagree.

His return to the Beaverbrook fold was not a match made in heaven and did not last.  But happily it did not derail an illustrious career the like of which I doubt we will see again.

Hughie and I were both among the class of '34 who arrived in Fleet Street in the late 50s and early 60s and, sadly, we are a rapidly dwindling bunch.  But boy, did we have the best of it! 

DRONE EXCLUSIVE: My last meeting with Hugh

Guardian obituary 

 3 Donald Trelford’s terrific tribute in the Sunday Times

Hugh’s tribute to Pele last year

Hugh McIlvanney’s address to the Football Writers’ Association at The Savoy, London on 21 January, 2018 


Private Eye reports:

Veteran Daily Express hack John Chapman, who refers to himself as a “Fleet Street survivor” having stuck with the paper through its Desmond doldrums and on to the new Mirror-managed era, left last month with an old-school retirement party at El Vino.
He had an admirable valedictory message for his assembled colleagues: “I have witnessed the slow, sad decline of a once-great newspaper … but I was earning an old-style Fleet Street salary so I don’t give a fuck.”




Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend, left,  holds a riverside conference with deputy editor Dick Dismore, right, and Andy Hoban at the Lower Thames Street offices in London some time in the mid-Noughties.



Stamfords Wine Bar was the favoured watering hole for Daily Express journalists in the 1990s and early Noughties, mainly because it was but a short lurch from the Blackfriars offices. 

Pictured among an impressive array of empty beer and wine bottles are the usual suspects … picture editor Chris Djukanovic, editor Chris Williams, backbencher Nick Dalton and sub Sheila Molloy.


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STAMMIES again in a snap provided by MIKE HUGHES, who is on the far left. Also pictured are Chris Williams, John Twomey, personal finance writer Jessica Bown, and Luke Felton, who is sadly no longer with us.



WHO'S that woman with Expressman Ashley Walton? And why does he have that devilish look on his face? 

We do not know … but we think we should be told.

This picture of Margaret Thatcher with the Drone’s chief reporter comes from the BBC TV programme Icons.   

Walton explained yesterday: 'The shot was taken somewhere in the UK during Mrs Thatcher's first election campaign in 1979 before she became Prime Minister. 

'I covered the whole three weeks of the campaign travelling the length of the UK and having a great time. It was certainly the most gruelling three weeks of my life. Where did all that hair come from? Mine not hers.'

He added: 'Now I know what it feels like to be a legend in my own lunchtime.’



Guess who trousered the redundo jackpot?

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All three of them! 

This charming study of Daily Express features subs Norman ‘Normal' Cox, Dave ‘Squiffy’ Searby and Mike ‘Trouser’ Snaith shows them at a lunch to celebrate their redundancy in the 1980s.

Yes folks, thanks to excellent contracts, journalists once rejoiced in getting the sack, as JEFF BOYLE explains in the …

The Great Golden Wheelbarrow lunch


The day Jean Rook came gunning for Express subs

THERE is no doubt that Jean Rook was a great columnist who well deserved her title of the First Lady of Fleet Street.

But it is no secret that her column in the Daily Express needed careful subbing. This would of course lead to a certain amount of friction between Jean and the Features Department.

An executive, Geoff Compton, was assigned by Features Editor Alan Frame to be a ‘human firewall’ between the First Lady and the hard-pressed features subs.

One famous day he received two scathing memos from Jean complaining about the editing of her column. 



Deep in thought, the late, great Paul Carter

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IF there was one man the Daily Express should never have let go it was Paul Carter. He was the finest journalist many of us have ever worked with — and not only that he was a delightful person.

Here he is meticulously checking the first edition proofs at the Express offices in Blackfriars, London, in 1999 or 2000.

Paul, who went on to be a brilliant deputy editor of the Daily Mail, was forced out by editor Rosie Boycott  mainly because she failed to understand the culture of a middle market tabloid.

Paul died in 2017 aged 54 after a long battle with cancer.

Also in this pic is the back of production editor Bob Smith’s head and Nick Dalton.

In his own words: Paul bids us farewell


The Roaring Eighties

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IF ever there was a decade for partying on the Daily Express it must have been the 1980s — and here is the proof. 

Pictured at a Roaring Twenties evening are, from left, the late and much lamented Ross ‘Crommers’ Tayne, Robin McGibbon and his wife Sue, and Jan Barden who hosted the party at her home in Penge, South-East London.




ONE of the great features of the old Daily and Sunday Express was the people. And one of the most cheerful was Peter ‘Pinky’ Floyd of the Picture Desk. A truly lovely man, here he is in 1998, lighting up the SX picture desk in Fleet Street with his radiant good humour.


A quiet Saturday night on the Sunday Express

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Here’s another snap from the old days, this time at the Sunday Express offices in Lower Thames Street, London, circa 2005.

On the far left is Tessa Evans, then Roy Povey arriving in his overcoat. In the distance, trying to mind his own business, is Alastair McIntyre, then from left on the middle bench is Mark Hoey, Rod Jones, Brian Izzard and on the backbench, Andy Hoban.


I had that Tim Shipman in the back of the cab ...


You know the feeling, you’ve had an enjoyably heavy lunch and then, in the cab back to the office, the news desk calls, jolting you back to reality.

This was Sunday Express politico Tim Shipman back in the day, trying to sound lucid after a liquid lunch at the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping, London. An amused Andy Hoban looks on.



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IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES: Daily Express features subs having fun in their break some time in the 1990s are Elaine Canham, Norman ‘Normal’ Cox and Jeff ‘Mine’s a Toby Light’ Boyle. The blonde in the foreground is features desk secretary-cum-nurse Alison Greenacre, who, according to one member of staff, 'dispensed our morning hangover cures’. 


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 




WHERE’S HE GONE? Jon Zackon tears his hair out as a thirsty Kipper Keeling slips out to the pub again

ONE of the great legends of the old Fleet Street Daily Express in the 1970s and 80s was Ted ‘Kipper’ Keeling who, although an excellent news sub-editor, was mostly noted for his ability to slope off to the pub in a cloud of cannabis fumes without the Chief Sub noticing.

Reading on the Drone of Kipper’s exploits, former sub Nick Pigott climbed into his loft to retrieve this sketch he drew at the time of Assistant Chief Sub Jon Zackon tearing his hair out as his nemesis slipped out to the pub.

The original story is here:

The Grey Ghost, Forgotten Hero of the Lopés Cup




Here, in glorious black and white, is another trip down memory lane. This pic of Sport and General Press Agency staff was taken at the retirement in 1980 of John Macnee, centre standing. Back row, fourth from left, is Tony Sapiano.

Stuart Clarke, editor of The Moorlander in Devon, fills in some of the gaps: Middle row, Dave Ofield, Scoby Riggs, printer, Alistair Loos, Dennis Jones, Hugh Routledge. 

Front row: Neville Mariner,  Stuart Clarke, Roy Chaplin,  Julian Parker and Dave Benett.


Daily Express news subs 1960s


This snap, provided by David Eliades, shows the Express newsroom in London some time in the early 1960s. 

In the foreground is foreign sub Jack Atkinson and next to him in his customary white shirt is splash sub Peter Hedley. The man to Hedley’s left on the middle bench is Ted Hodgson who later became night editor.

Opposite Jack is Ken Macaulay and next to him is Ralph Mineards. 

The man seated under the pillar in the white shirt and dark tie, is Eric Price. This would date the pic as before 1962 as Price left the Express that year to join the Western Daily Press in Bristol.

The backbench is the long desk on the left, second left is Bob Edwards, (the only man to be made editor of the Express twice) next to him is Eric Raybould and Morris Benett.

Thanks to TONY BOULLEMIER  and ROGER WATKINS for help with this caption.

RICK McNEILL reports:  I would date the picture pre-1965, before I joined. I recognise those you mention but others are unknown to me. 

I think the man in the far right background, on the telephone, is picture supremo Frank Spooner and the man seated looking up at him Jim Nicholl. I seem to recall the picture desk and foreign desk shared the same space around then. 

Facing Ted Hodgson is Welshman Harold Jones wearing his signature cardigan, look you. Apart from Morris and Raybould the Backbench is populated by strangers. I’d love to know who they are!

ALAN HILL, Chief City Sub from 1968 to 1996, who identified Bob Edwards, recalls: Bob gave me my job on the Express City staff. When I arrived, six weeks later, he had gone … again!

I believe he sacked Frank Spooner in the morning. Frank’s staff took him for a long lunch and when he returned to clear his desk … Bobbity had been sacked himself.  Frank continued as Picture Editor for years.

Click pic to enlarge


SIR — How nice to see a photograph of my late father, Ralph Mineards, deputy father of the Daily Express chapel, in your illustrious organ.

When he retired in 1979, getting the honor of being "banged out" by the printers, he estimated he had travelled more than a million miles commuting from his Northampton home to London Euston, whiling away his hour-long ride doing the Times crossword.

I always remember him telling me that when he sat on the committee that helped launch the Daily Star, its audience was considered "the Millwall supporter who rolls his own cigarettes”.

An extremely capable journalist and wonderful father.

I followed in his footsteps as an Express trainee on the Falmouth Packet, where my colleagues included Nick Coleridge, now the head of Conde Nast UK, before joining Paul Callan's Inside World on the Mirror and then moving to Nigel Dempster's Diary on the Mail, leaving for the U.S. as an editor on New York Magazine, eventually becoming an anchor for CBS and a commentator on ABC News.

I have now lived in Santa Barbara for 11 years, where I write a weekly column for the Montecito Journal.




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They look glum but these Daily Express women were in fact putting on an act. They were actually having fun, mourning the death of the paper’s William Hickey gossip column. 

Back in 1987, the Express decided to replace the long-dead diarist with a real person in the shape of Ross Benson. Fleet Street gossip columnists led by the Daily Mail’s Nigel Dempster held a mock funeral for Hickey whose  name was revived following Benson’s death. 

This picture is supplied by Kim Willsher, second left, with Louise Court on her right.

The day they buried Hickey

The rise and fall of the Fleet Street diarist



SIR — On a flying visit to London recently I took my family for dinner at the new Joe Allen, fondly expecting to wallow nostalgically in its uniquely cool and quietly clubbable atmosphere.

Imagine my surprise (as they say) to find myself in a overcrowded characterless bistro full of shouting tourists off the street and an expensive menu with little to remind me of its bygone Exeter Street heyday. Even the signature cheesecake tasted like Tesco’s!

Perhaps you chaps have a different perspective at your regular get-togethers there. Probably it’s the company not the place? Maybe also night times are a no-no. Too close to the Strand.

You know what they say . . . never go back.

Greetings to all Express Persons of Good Standing!



Tweet of the Year




Stan McMurtry, better known as Mac of the Daily Mail, has now surpassed Carl Giles of the Daily and Sunday Express as the longest-serving cartoonist on a national newspaper, serving from 1968 to 2018, reports Tim Benson of the Political Cartoon Gallery in Putney. 

Mac has now retired from the Mail and has been replaced by Paul Thomas.

Giles, who died in 1995, drew his last cartoon for the Express in 1989.


Reflections on Cummings, a great Express cartoonist



They way we were


Production editor Bob Smith, left, and artist Fred Boyce inspect the first edition of the Daily Express at the Blackfriars offices in the 1990s


It’s the Duke, caught on camera in the 1970s

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There’s a few familiar faces in this pic of the London Evening Standard backbench in, at a guess, the 1970s. In the background gazing into the middle distance is Chris ‘Duke’ Djukanovic, later to become picture editor of the Daily Express. 

Seated on the right is Charles Wintour, famed editor of the Standard, and next to him in the striped shirt is Roy Wright, who later became the editor of the Daily Express before disappearing without trace.

PETER STEWARD has filled in the gaps. He writes:

I believe the picture was taken before I joined the Standard (in the long hot summer of 1976) and for some reason I think it was a pre-Budget meeting. At that time the Evening Standard was part of the Beaverbrook empire and housed in Shoe Lane.

As you say, to the left of Charles Wintour is Roy Wright who returned to the Standard while I was there. I think he was deputy editor when Simon Jenkins was fired and Wintour returned for a short time before Lou Kirby arrived and Associated took half a share in the paper.

Seated centre is Bill Sharp, the splash sub.The chap back left in beard and specs is Cyril Raper, who enjoyed a White Shield Worthington. I think he was once chief sub, but during my time there he was like an executive revise sub. 

In those days subs sent copy direct to the printers below via a conveyor belt down the middle of the desk and a hole in the floor. The first opportunity to get it revised was when galley proofs arrived upstairs or when the stone sub got a chance to read it.

On the left is the legendary political editor Bob Carvel (with pipe) and Michael King.

Perhaps the person furthest right could be David Henshall.

I left the Standard on December 29 1983 after being kidnapped in the Poppinjay by the sweet-talking Terry Manners. I was working a five-day week as the Standard's chief sub at the time but Terry held out the prospect of a four-night week for more money. 

Six months later Mr Manners showed me the way to the escape tunnel (or perhaps he regretted tempting me in the first place) and I left to join the Sunday Express under that dynamic liberal editor Sir John Junor.

Click pic for larger image


The faces look familiar to anyone who was on the Daily Express in the 1970s and 80s. But who are these two youngsters? The answers are here


Day the long Fleet Street lunch died


COLIN DUNNE, a former feature writer for The Sun and Daily Mirror, has written a superbly nostalgic piece in Press Gazette about the death of the Fleet Street long lunch. It will ring a distinct bell for many readers of the Daily Drone.

Dunne’s story inevitably involves Kelvin (no surname needed) storming around the office trying to get his staff out of licensed premises. 

The Drone’s own ASHLEY WALTON has a similar recollection. He reports: Shortly after Kelvin left the Express to edit The Sun I was taking a lunchtime glass in the Wine Press and joined four Sun reporters who were all sitting at the bar with one eye on the window and Bouverie Street.  

In the middle of some convivial chat the foursome suddenly fled from their stools and disappeared into the back of the bar. Kelvin came through the door and joined me at the bar.

After about half an hour of picking my brains about life on the Express he stood up to leave. At the door he turned round ... 'Oh by the way can you tell those cunts in the bog to come back to the office.’

I went to the gents, there was no sign of them but four closed doors. Looking underneath the doors, nothing to see, so I shouted: 'He  knows you are here!

The foursome got down from the toilet bowls and fled to the office — but not without finishing their drinks still on the bar.

There was a good deal of late evening merriment going on, too, at around that time, not least at the Mirror.

On one famous occasion chief sub Vic Mayhew rolled back from Barney's about 20 minutes after the last bell to be confronted angrily by night editor Mark Kahn.

'Pissed again,’ said Kahn to Vic.

'Yeh Mark,' said Vic. 'So am I!'   



Hold the front stage! It’s Christiansen the film star


1961: Legendary Daily Express editor Arthur Christiansen demonstrates that as an actor he was a very fine journalist playing himself in the cult sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Caught Fire. 

Chris, pictured with Edward Judd who played a maverick reporter (aren’t they all? — Ed), spent most of the time spouting lines like: “Hold the front page!” and “Make it sing and make it a song I like,” (or was that another legendary Daily Express editor?) 

The film was based on the Express in its heyday and many shots were filmed in the office and Fleet Street. Behind the scenes there was also rumoured to have been a piquant play within a play starring an Express executive (still there in the seventies) and the luscious female lead Janet Munro, who, after a hard day’s filming, were encountered discussing bold intros and splash heads in the lane behind the Old Bell (mem to Night Lawyer Cocklecarrot: It’s OK: they’re both dead now)



We think this may be a pic of the Express subs

but could it be the Mail?

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This fascinating pic of sub-editors in, at a guess, the 1950s has been taken from the website of Hugh Dawson, who was chief sub and production editor of the Daily Mail for more than 40 years. Hugh, pictured right, died aged 73 on 24 June after a long fight against motor neurone disease. He started in journalism on the sports desk of The Journal, Newcastle, in 1962 and left the Daily Mail in 2010. He also worked on the Hemel Hempstead Post and Echo.

Hugh identified the picture as of the Daily Express. That being the case, we think the man on the far right of the pic is Dan McDonald.

But Rick McNeill, who joined the DX news subs in the 1960s, thinks the picture may be of the Daily Mail newsroom. He said: "Inspecting your fascinating DX subs picture with my Sherlock Holmes © Magnifying Glass, I think the man you ID as Dan McDonald is cutting a copy of the Daily Mail. See masthead. Which leads me to suppose that (a) it is not Dan McDonald but a lookalike, and (b) this is a pic of Daily Mail subs. Did Dan ever work for the Mail?

"Also the room, windows, ceiling lights and clock on the pillar are wrong the Black Lubyanka subs’ room I joined in the mid-1960s looked nothing like this and was unchanged since at least before the war.

"Maybe the real mystery is why Hugh Dawson mistakenly identified the picture on his website? He was after all Mail chief sub for yonks.

"I’m happy to be proved wrong, however.

Chris Chalke, an Express news sub in the 1970s, wondered if the picture is in fact of the Daily Express in Manchester. Dan McDonald was a Scot so he could well have worked there before moving down to London.

Chris added: “The skull on the left opposite Dan McDonald reminded me of Ted Hodgson.”

Roger Watkins has his doubts too. "I don’t think that’s the Daily Express. When I moved to Fleet Street from Manchester in the seventies the back bench was parallel to Fleet Street facing north (it later turned 180 degrees when it moved to be closer to the news desk).

"In Hugh’s picture there are windows behind the back bench. For that to be the Express they would have to be on the Shoe Lane wall (where the art desk and reporters were situated when we left the Lubyanka)

"Unlikely, especially when you consider there was a huge supporting pillar (by which the Manchester Desk sat) which would have been in the middle of the subs desk.

"I don’t know much about lookalikes but I think Rick’s right about Dan.”

Last night further forensic examination of the photo throws up more doubts. Could the pic date from the 1930s?

Rick said: "Since when did subs (Mail or Express) ever look so respectfully buttoned up with suits and ties and Ernest Bevin specs? Pre-war I reckon."

What do you think?

Tribute to a true gentleman

Hugh Dawson’s website


The amazing life of Bain, a fantastic story well told

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The idea of launching a public relations company in a desert country where they’d never heard of PR, especially when you couldn’t speak the language and had no experience in that business, might  seem more like insanity than entrepreneurial vision. But that’s exactly what former Express sub IAN BAIN did in the United Arab Emirates.

After an understandably shaky start, he built it into one of the biggest consultancies of its kind in the Middle East with clients that included General Motors, Airbus, Intel, Samsung, Emirates Airline and many others. 

At the time, Ian was well used to risk-taking, having been a reporter, a merchant seaman, a big-time booze smuggler in India, and Buenos Aires correspondent of the Express and The Economist — all before the age of 24. 

How he achieved success without the benefit of an education (he attended nine schools in 10 years and was thrown out at the age of 15 without a single exam pass) is beautifully described in his memoirs, Singing in the Lifeboat, available on Amazon.

Amid a multitude of other adventures, the book relates how Ian battled alcoholism, checking himself into a psychiatric clinic in Dubai where he was shocked to find patients handcuffed to the water pipes, and guards with batons. “It wasn’t the kind of rehab I’d had in mind,” he said.

"I'm grateful to a few of my old Express colleagues who read the manuscript and produced some lovely words for the covers," he added. 

"Right now I'm trying to figure out how Amazon's sales charts work. With pre-orders alone, the book hit No 1 in UAE history and No 1 in motor rallying when these subjects are only loosely connected. Of course, that's only on one particular day but not everyone knows that.

Singing in the Lifeboat is available on Amazon for £8.99 



In remembrance of Bob

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Bob McGowan was one of the great reporters on the Daily Express. Now, exclusively on the Drone, his widow Pauline has issued some pictures of our esteemed colleague, who died in 2011 aged just 67.

See the pics and read TERRY MANNERS’ tribute here



Nick Lloyd’s tribute to Jean Rook in 1991

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Our man Ashley on ITV news

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Ashley Walton out on the Fergie story, early 1990s 


Daily Star Sports Desk 1980

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Former Daily Star sub Jeff Connor, pictured front right, sent this snap of the paper’s Sports Desk in Manchester circa 1980 before they moved to new offices. 

Pictured, second left, is sports editor Arthur Lamb, to his left is deputy sports editor Gordon ‘Geordie’ Burnett (long departed), the secretary was named Sue. In the background between Gordon and Jeff is the backbench with deputy night editor Chris Davis, later Royston Davis, who went to The Sun, and leaning over him is copy editor Mike Hughes. 

Next to Chris is night editor Andy (mine’s a Bell’s and a light ale) Carson, then Ian Pollock. On the extreme left is Jack Ronnie (probably). Also on the backbench is Robbie Addison.

To the left of Chris Davis is Ian Pollack and standing is a guy called Robbie who we think was deputy to editor Peter Grimsditch. Behind secretary Sue is the DS newsdesk. Thanks to Mike Hughes and John Edgley for help in identifications. 

Read Jeff Connor’s potted history of Ancoats from 1976 to 1988. ONLY ON THE DRONE!


One in the Eye

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No 103

Volume 15: 1986

THE history of the Daily and Sunday Express as told 30 years ago through the columns of Private Eye (Lord Drone does not necessarily agree with the sentiments expressed although, from memory, they seem reasonably accurate.) 

New readers: The Eye referred to the Express as the Getsworse, the Getsmuchworse, or the Getsevenworse or sometimes even worse than that.


25 July 1986

Street of Shame

When an Englishman was sentenced to hang in Malaysia for drug-running, the Getsmuchworse swiftly dispatched ace newshound Norman Luck to cover the pleas for clemency, death-cell agony and grisly end. Unfortunately the grisly end took rather a long time coming.

Worried about the cost of this jaunt, the Getsmuchstingier’s news desk ordered the luckless Luck to return home. While he was in midair, though, it became clear that the editor, “Nick” Lloyd — who had not been told of Luck’s imminent return — wanted him to remain in Kuala Lumpur.

In panic, the news desk decided to keep the return of the prodigal wordsmith secret. As soon as he touched down on home soil he was whisked off to a hideaway and continued filing stories as if he was still in Malaysia.

Thus it was that a series of graphic eyewitness accounts of the days leading up to the hanging which appeared in the Express under the byline “from Norman Luck in Kuala Lumpur” actually came from no further afield than Tunbridge Wells where Luck was holed up in a luxurious flat while involved in discussions of a Malaysian nature.

19 September 1986

Street of Shame

Just as United boss David Stevens removes one source of sleaziness, Roger Boyes, so another pops up. Fleet Street's most repulsive yob Ray Mills, now has a column in the Star. 

Eye readers will remember Mills from issue 635, in which his habit of peeing in office wastepaper baskets, to the distress of cleaners, was disclosed. Mills’s new column is the journalistic equivalent of peeing in public.

At the Star he is known to one and all as BIFFO — Big Ignorant Fucker From Oldham.

The most recent Mills story involves his teenage son who, trying to please the elderly delinquent, baked him a birthday cake. Mills threw the cake at the lad’s head, shouting: “Are you a queer or something?”

3 October 1986

Street of Shame

When word was brought to dynamic Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie that Pat Phoenix was dead, his reaction was swift. “Get Doris Stokes [a clairvoyant] on the phone,” he screamed at a subordinate. “I want the first interview from the other side.”

A few minutes later the trembling subordinate reported back. La Stokes said that it took some time for for the spirit to move from earthly form. Even with her talents she could not yet make contact with the departed star.

“Well tell her to make it up,” shrieked MacFrenzie.

14 November 1986

“Hindley Freedom Move” screamed the Daily Getsmuchworse on Monday, labelling the story as “exclusive”. Its gullible readers were informed that Myra Hindley was to be sent to an open prison, and there were assorted quotes expressing the appropriate shock horror.

The Home Office denied the story as being untrue, for a very good reason — it was.

Step forward yet again Mr Michael Rocco Ryan who, posing as a prison nurse on escort duty, conned the gullible hacks. They can, however, almost be forgiven — for Rocky has become more sophisticated in the last twelve months. He has a fun-loving female accomplice who leads the hacks into his traps.

28 November 1986

Blood is running in the gutters at the Sunday Express, following the takeover by new Editor Robin Esser and his personally-appointed deputy Brian Hitchen.

Assistant Editor James Kinlay, once touted as the next editor, finishes at the end of the month. Photo editor John Dove has been given his cards and finishes up at the same time. Foreign editor Terry Foley returned from sick leave to be told he was no longer needed and has moved out of his office.

The latest office notice board announcement is the demotion of News Editor Michael Dove to reporter, apparently for his remark in the Poppinjay pub: “Brian Hitchen wouldn’t know a news story if it was shoved up his nose. He’s a beer-bellied idiot.”

“Inspector” Michael Watts has been axed after 27 years on the paper after telling Esser: “You can’t change the character of my column, old boy. I won’t stand for it.”

Travel editor Lewis de Fries has been chopped and now the Esser/Hitchen Punch and Judy act have turned their sights on Features Editor Max “Fuhrer” Davidson because of his continual complaining within the office: “All I get are inane features from Esser’s talentless Yuppie friends and Hitchen’s old drunken American-based cohorts.”

Assistant editor Ted Dickinson has been told to leave because when Esser tried to get back on the Daily Express after the closure of the Evening News he wrote a memo, still on file, reading: “On no account should Esser be given a job. He’s a total incompetent.”

Assistant editor Henry Macrory has been demoted to News Editor and one of his deputies, Ted Gartell, leaves at the end of November after being axed. Political editor Keith Renshaw has volunteered for early retirement at Christmas.

So of all departmental heads, that leaves just Diary Editor Lady Olga Maitland. The terrible duo backed off at the last minute when she befriended and started lunching with Lady Stevens, wife of Express supremo Sir David Stevens. Now she’s organising a counter-plot, jabbing her poison pen into the backs of her would-be executioners.

But that has not stopped Punch and Judy from targeting their next victim: the great Sir John Junor himself, who keeps bad-mouthing Esser and Hitchen to his spies still on the Sunday Express.


The Daily Express, it seems, is still under the impression that its rightful owners are the Beaverbrooks. Lady Beaver has recently taken to ringing the paper’s executives to complain of items she finds “offensive” or “anti-Tory”, to wit one poor hack’s reference to “booze and fags”.

The hack was summoned to Deputy Editor Leith McGrumble’s office and told to empty his desk and collect his cards. As stunned as were his building society and family, the minion duly complied, but first informed the Father of the Chapel. A ruckus ensued between various heads of department and, 24 hours later, the hack was reinstated. Later he was told that he had also been guilty of anti-Tory sentiments and had better keep his nose clean (ie brown) in the future.

Lady Beaverbrook is 94.

Christmas issue

Letters to the Editor



Less blood has flowed on the Sunday Express than you claim. Only one member of the News Desk is leaving the paper, entirely of his own volition. The only change in my own position is that my duties have been expanded.

Yours unanaemically, 

Assistant Editor,
Sunday Express 

121 Fleet Street, London



Your piece about me (Eye 651) is wrong in every detail.

I was not demoted from News Editor. I came off the desk in order to write for the new lively Sunday Express. It was entirely my idea and the move was approved by the editor.

Neither have I ever criticised Brian Hitchen in the Poppinjay or anywhere else. The remarks you attributed to me are a complete fabrication.

Your article was untrue and highly defamatory. I thought you had learned your lesson about checking facts after your recent High Court experience. 

Kindly publish this letter. I know better than to expect an apology from you.


Senior Reporter

Sunday Express

121 Fleet Street, London

















ONE IN THE EYE 1966-1971



Who put the lights out?


NOTHING stopped the Daily Express in 1972, not even the miners’ strike. It was the year of constant power cuts instigated by Prime Minister Edward Heath to cope with the lack of coal to fuel the power stations. And as the clock hit 4.14 on a winter's afternoon the Express news sub-editors slaved away by gaslight. Lord Drone recalls that the gas lamps on the ceiling were still there when the Fleet Street office was vacated in 1989. 
Who’s in the picture? We put a few names to faces HERE


Farewell to Fleet Street

Fleet Street was full of journalists for the first time in many years when the London Press Club held a long lunch to mark the departure of the last newspaper from the Street of Broken Dreams. Watch the YouTube video of the event above and read the Guardian report


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.


DroneTube Exclusive

The Crusader Years 1900-1990

Only in the Drone: This video was supplied to Express staff in 1990 and is now published on the web for the first time. 


© 2005-2019 Alastair McIntyre