MONDAY 20  MAY 2024



Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns;
I am thankful that thorns have roses

— Writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr



Morten Morland, Sunday Times

ONE OF THE GREAT WHAT IFS How a charismatic Irish rugby star was barred from buying the Daily Express

Tony O’Reilly

David Stevens was just one of a long string of proprietors who presided over the decline of the Daily Express, but it could all have been so different. 

Back in 1993 Sir Tony O’Reilly, the Irish and Lions rugby superstar and chairman of Heinz, had been suggested as a potential buyer of the paper.

But Stevens vetoed the idea and the deal was never made.

ALAN FRAME played a part in the affair and tells the story exclusively in the Drone.



TEALE                                                    WILDERS

Can ubiquitous devil-may-care Welsh actor Owen Teale, of Game of Thrones et al, be morphing into the more serious Dutch far-Right firebrand Geert Wilders? Ik denk dat het ons verteld moet worden.

Now the i overtakes Sunday Express

The i’s print circulation is now higher than the Sunday Express for the first time in its history, according to the latest ABC data.

In April the circulation of the i, which launched in 2010, stayed steady compared to the previous month and fell by 5% year-on-year to 126,266.

The Sunday Express fell by 2% month-on-month and 17% year-on-year to 125,990, resulting in it falling one place down Press Gazette’s monthly table.

From the notebook of Daily Express founder and first Editor Sir Arthur Pearson who gave up the newspaper he loved because he went blind.

When Pearson arrived at Winchester College in 1880, he was a small, dark boy in spectacles with a curious jerky manner and abrupt speech. One afternoon at Commoner Singing Time a prefect shouted out: “Sing the beer song!” Pearson, pictured, always alert, thought he was called on to sing to everyone, and mounted the table amid roars of laughter. He was bewildered and stood jerking his head from side to side just like a pigeon as he peered with his bad eyesight at the sea of laughing faces below him. From that day on, his nickname at school was Pigeon.


Kind-hearted Pearson’s philanthropic ways began with children. One year, he raised money from readers to provide Christmas dinners for hundreds of poor children in the East End. The children were so full up after the turkey they left all the Christmas puddings. Pearson hated waste and wondered what to do next time, remembering how sick and pasty faced they had looked. The following year he launched his Fresh Air Fund instead, sending hundreds of poor children to holidays in the countryside. More than 20,000 children were sent in the first year and half a million youngsters from 42 areas packed their bags, within three years.


Pearson once revealed: “The minute I think of anything to be done, down it goes in my little pocket notebook and my mind is free of it. The first thing my personal secretary does when he comes to me is to say 'Notebook!’ Then we work off all the entries accumulated. He is my memory.


Competitions were the lifeblood of Pearson’s Magazine. In fact, nearly half of it were contests but none were more successful than The Missing Word. For a shilling stake, readers were invited to provide the missing word in different verses each week. Only 815 readers entered the first competition and the winners each received 9d (nine old pence). Within a year there were 473,450 entries, representing £23,628 in prize money. By the turn of the century, Pearson was a wealthy man.


Peason married in December 1887 at 21. He and his first wife, parson’s daughter Isobel Bennett, first lived over a tailor's shop in the Ridgeway, Wimbledon and soon he was the father of two daughters and struggling with the country’s cost of living crisis. He supplemented his TitBits income by selling freelance stories. The first was how to kill a colony of rats and appeared in the Cornhill Magazine. It told how rats made good friends with each other but if you tricked them into thinking their friends were trying to kill them, they would kill their friends first. Eventually, they would all kill each other.


The first issue of Pearson’s Daily Express on April 4, 1900, carried a report of a British attack on the Boers near Bloemfontein and a message to the new readers saying: “We will be the organ of no political party nor the instrument of any social clique …Our editorial policy will be that of an honest Cabinet Minister …Our policy is patriotic; our policy is the British Empire!"




The First Crusader


How Eddy hit the Post

EDDY Shah found fame by taking on Fleet Street’s Bolshie printers by opening Today newspaper but it is perhaps forgotten that he opened a second title, The Post.

The paper was based in Warrington and edited by former Daily Express and Star man Lloyd Turner. It lasted just five weeks, closing in December 1988. Shah later admitted that it was a big mistake.

GEORGE DEARSLEY was there at the start.


By Hermione Orliff, our catch-as-catch-can grappler who can’t be caught out

News that girls’ name  Ottilie is making a comeback induces misty-eyed nostalgia. Let’s recall Ottilie Patterson, the great Northern Irish blues singer (and that’s not something you get to write often). Who can forget her seminal hit, Make Me A Pallet On The Floor ?

Biden’s not keen on Chinese EV imports threatening US jobs. Because of huge government subsidies, the vehicles cost $28,000. Similar EVs in the States are $47,500. What to do? Quadruple the import tariff to 100%. Ouch! 

Improbable as it sounds, it’s illegal to get rat-arsed in a pub, warns Food & Wine mag. 1872 Licensing Act, still in force, says that chaps who do ‘shall be liable to a penalty’. Don’t say I didn’t  warn you.

Britain’s largest colony of parakeets (est 7,000) flocks to Hersham, Surrey.

Melinda French Gates steps down from Gates Foundation after disbursing $77 billion over the years with ex-hubby, Bill. She takes $12 billion to continue own charity work.

Drone trainee emeritus Rosalie Rambleshanks appointed Visiting Professor of Journalism at University of Princes Risborough.

Taco stand in Mexico City awarded Michelin star. Bollocks, isn’t it ?

Florida removes the phrase ‘climate change’ from state laws. Offshore wind power also banned and rules on gas pipelines relaxed.

Mixed reviews greet Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis: ‘visionary’ or ‘batshit crazy’. Take your pick. Sci-fi epic, 40 years since inception, cost him $120 million of his own moolah to make.

The Great Salt Lake in America is, er, Great again after shrinking earlier this century (That’ll have been Global Warming then —Ed). Heavy rain since has expanded it by 150 square miles and water level has risen six feet.

Reach’s Birmingham Live  most popular media newsroom, says Press Gazette. Staff of 30 journos compares with 300 working for print newspapers covering same patch in 2008. But who’s counting?

Two giant portals erected in O’Connell Street, Dublin and New York’s Flatiron district link the two cities with 24/7 video feed. Me, neither but see Portals.org

People who can run four-minute mile live five years longer than them as can’t, research reveals.

Crims ain’t what they used to be. Japan’s yakuza, once feared organised crime gang, has been hit by tough new laws, says Business Insider. One mafioso reduced to stealing  25 Pokémon trading cards to get by.

Following last summer’s attacks near Gib, pod of orca killer whales (Is that tautological, BTW?) sinks yacht off Morocco.

After showing little interest initially, Netflix has started pouring cash into live sport in the US. Britain next?

Minister for Common Sense Esther McVey bans civil servants from wearing rainbow lanyards plus MPs making duck noises and shouting ‘Here, down please!’ in Commons.

Venezuela’s last glacier melts enough to be downgraded to ice field. First country to lose all its glaciers to climate change.

French government postpones conference to promote four-day working week - because most invitees are on day off.

Grey (Ash Blond, surely — Ed) Economy tightens grip: 110 million Americans are aged over 50.

Police to trial devices, developed by MoD, which will fire electromagnetic rays to cripple e-bikes whose riders are up to no good.

Last serving of lady journos’ silly bylines: Florence Reeves-White, Kim St Clair Bodden, Julie Pannell-Rae, Amy Davies-Adams, Charlotte Horsfall-Page, Anna Lao-Kaim, Ellie Allen-Eslor and, preposterously, Sue Smith (chief sub, Good Housekeeping).

Former owner of Washington Commanders (né Redskins) football team Don Snyder, fed up because he can’t sell $34.9 mansion, donates it to American Cancer Society. Largest gift in charity’s 110-year history.

Woman in Massachusetts wins $1 million lottery prize twice in 10 weeks.

Son of pharmacist unlikely to remain prime minister after General Election, polls indicate.

Back Passage Sport (Sure that shouldn’t be Page? — Ed): Top Romanian club disappointed that expensive signing, ‘former Barcelona player’, is useless. Then it’s discovered he has identical twin who’s never played top level footie.

Paris Olympic village installs cardboard anti-sex beds: they’re designed to collapse under weight of two, three or, if you fancy it, a relay squad.

Internet slang guide: BFD - Big fucking deal; C&V - Chapter and verse; CYS: Check your settings; FOAF: Friend of a friend; G2G: Got to go; GAGF: Go and get fucked; GJB: Good job, buddy; HAND: Have a nice day;

Jack, the messenger, strains back carrying latest copy by Drone so-called columnists to office Gravity Feed Distribution System, aka The Hole.

John Crease
Do you have memories of Daily Express compositor John Crease, who has died aged 91?

His cousin Ben Conroy is hoping to find information about him.

He writes: ‘He spent most, if not all, of his working life working for the Daily Express in Fleet Street. 

‘I am pulling information together for a obituary at his upcoming funeral. W Some information about his working life and what he did would be very useful.’

Graduation Day

By PAT PRENTICE, Drone Resident Bard

High above East Anglia

In Norwich football ground

A seagull soared above us

Without making a sound

Beneath was noise and bugles

Berobed in hat and gown 

Professors plump and certain

Students' fake renown

In batches called to honour

Receiving their degree

That cost a little fortune

Mass knowledge isn't free

Then out to life and hope to earn

A wage above the rest

Except it will not anymore

Honours have failed the test

False promises and doctrines

Will fail to cut the mustard

Out in the proper market place

You don't season with custard

Strutting, posing, marionettes

The young can call them heroes

The main lecture that they pursued

Was how to ban sombreros 

Puffed chests of the faculty

Proud parents looking on

Fat pay for mediocrity

An academic con

Yet high above the UEA

The circling seagull flies

Ignoring dons and masters

And their thieving lies

Did uni teach it how to glide?

A clever master's caper?

The seagull rose above them all

With nothing writ on paper

Twins and coincidence are well known. For a start, the likelihood of conceiving them is only 33 in a thousand. 

And there is something uncanny about identical siblings. 

Take the Jim twins. 

Two brothers, separated at birth, were raised by different families in the Midwest of the US.

Their adoptive parents named them James , usually shortened to Jim. They each had a dog called Toy and both grew up to work in security. 

The brothers married twice. Their first wives were called Linda; their second wives were Betty. They each had one son named James or Jim. One had the middle name Alan; the other Allan. 

When they finally met, aged 37, they found that they drove the same make of car and frequently holidayed at the same place. 

Make of this what you will (you’ll soon realise what I just did there) but the seemingly meaningless phrase Here was I, like a psalm is an anagram of William Shakespeare. 

But is it meaningless?  The 46th word in Psalm 46 is ‘shake’. The 46th word from the end is ‘spear’. What was the Bard’s age when the King James Bible was completed in 1611? No kewpie dolls for guessing.

News in Brief

Redbird IMI has confirmed it will sell its option to buy The Telegraph after the Government intervened to bar foreign state ownership of UK media assets. (Financial Times)

Eight US daily newspapers have brought a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft demanding compensation for the use of their content in the training of AI tools. (Press Gazette)

Newsletter platform Beehiiv has raised $33m to "expand its business as well as the technical capabilities of its platform". (Techcrunch)

High-profile Intercept journalist Ken Klippenstein is leaving the site, claiming it "has been taken over by suits who have abandoned its founding mission of fearless and adversarial journalism". He says he will "pursue a new kind of journalism" on Substack. (Klippenstein’s Substack)

Yahoo is reportedly getting rid of its editorial and social media teams in Singapore, affecting 17 people. The company is apparently changing its editorial strategy to focus on syndicated content and no longer create original content in Singapore. (The Edge Singapore)

Pursued by a Bear

Six-second Shakespeare (Beware spoilers)

7 All’s Well That Ends Well

Helen saves the King's life, he gives her his son, Bert, to marry. Feckless youth runs away from her but leaves list of tasks she must do before he will acknowledge her. Tricky tart fools him into impregnating her, completes all the tasks and implausibly, you might think, everything turns out OK. (I may be wrong but I think the clue’s in the title — Ed)

With thanks to Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Why we weren’t ready for Eddy


FORMER Daily Star reporter ALLAN HALL has written a coruscating piece on the late Daily Star and Daily Mirror reporter Don Mackay, who was also known as Zit Macnasty.

Hall tells of Mackay’s expletive-ridden last stand at the Daily Star when he threw  a 2,700-page edition of Who’s Who at the newsdesk. It landed in a ‘Hiroshima of waste food, ciggies and drink’ coating its targets in a tide of filth. He was sacked.

NEW BARRY GARDNER relates his experience with Macnasty.

Read the sobering tales here


Fleet Street history in 18 minutes

Palaces of the Press

This pic of the Daily Express building in Manchester was posted on Facebook by Pat Wooding.

The photo, probably taken in the 1950s, was spotted by Nick Jenkins who commented: ‘At least the Express building is still there — unlike the fine old Mail building on Deansgate. The DX offices have been converted into flats.

Nick has written a fascinating account of ‘newspaper palaces’ for the British Journalism Review. READ IT HERE

By George, it’s our George starring as, er, Boy George (pity about the moustache)


It’s April 1984 and I’m squashed with several other Fleet Street journos in a doorway yards from the Libyan Embassy in St. James Square, where a day earlier WPC Yvonne Fletcher was fatally wounded by an unknown gunman.

The adrenaline is pumping. Could we also be shot? We’ve just had a row with television’s bouffant newsman Michael Cole who tried to push in and was roundly told to Foxtrot Oscar and find his own doorstep. 

Suddenly a colleague hands me a message from the Daily Star newsdesk ordering me to go to another location. I’m excited. Have we been given some secret information about the Met Officer’s murder? It could be a front page story. 

I’m whisked away in a black cab to the address … which turns out to be a top beautician’s salon. Apparently Boy George has just launched a new make-up range and because we share the same name I’m to be made up like the androgynous singer. 

I was fuming to miss out on the world’s top news story. When the woman wanted to shave off my moustache I adamantly refused. The stunt made nearly a full page. 

And two years later when I left the paper my colleagues framed it as a leaving gift. Looking back, maybe I should have been Karma (Chameleon) and lost the tache.

Proof that crime is nothing new

If you think crime today is bad and getting worse you might find reassurance from this front page of the Daily Sketch from December 1945.

A man shot dead in a Glasgow railway station and bandits escape during a ‘fantastic chase’ in Leatherhead. Yes, that’s Leatherhead in quiet, leafy Surrey.

The tabloid Sketch was founded in Manchester in 1909 by Sir Edward Hulton. It was owned by a subsidiary of the Berrys' Allied Newspapers from 1928. The company  was renamed Kemsley Newspapers in 1937 when William Berry, Lord Camrose, withdrew to concentrate his efforts on The Daily Telegraph.

The paper, which supported the Conservatives, struggled through the 1950s and 1960s, never managing to compete successfully with the Daily Mirror, and on Tuesday 11 May 1971 it closed and merged with the Daily Mail.

How Sefton Delmer of the Express fought Nazis with Black Propaganda

Expressman Sefton Delmer created Black Propaganda on behalf of the wartime British government and used fake news to fight the Nazi regime.

Through postcards, court documents, and pirate radio programs, Delmer and the rest of the secret service infiltrated the minds of the German people, using violence, sex, and death in their stories to subtly break down the morale of the Nazis. So, who was Sefton Delmer? And why was he the only man who could have become the true master of Black Propaganda? His story is told in a new book How to Win an Information War.


What possessed Dearsley of The Sun to dress up as a woman?Pursuit of a good story of course



Fiona Loakes, daughter of form er Express managing editor STRUAN COUPAR is organising an 80th birthday party for her father. She told the Drone: ‘I would love to contact people from his past to see if they’d like to send him a “Happy Birthday” greeting we can present him with at a ‘This is Your Life’ style surprise at a family gathering. I found the following article on the Daily Drone (https://www.dailydrone.co.uk/moyas-tim-holder-originals.html) and was thrilled to find a cartoon of him, but I also thought it might be lovely to see if Moya, his secretary, might want to send a message.’ Fiona’s email is available on request

In praise of the Cheshire Cheese, a Pedigree pub
if ever there was one

Nightmare at the Daily Getsworse

TERRY MANNERS has had a dream, well more of a nightmare really, that he was present at a board meeting of the Daily Getsworse, although it bears an uncanny resemblance to another newspaper of our acquaintance.

Like every good journalist, Manners remembered to take his pen to bed and has written a hilarious report of the imaginary meeting.


Paranoid, Kelvin? Not our Joe, he’s a creative soul who writes poems

Who can ever forget  Kelvin MacKenzie’s loud welcome to our beloved Stone Sub, poet and spiritual dreamer, Joe Neal, pictured, one night back in the day, when he popped his head around the yellowing door of the Express newsroom, at the start of his shift, writes TERRY MANNERS.

“Eh Joe,” Kelvin shouted from the backbench, “how’s yer paranoia?” Joe’s head disappeared, quick as a flash. He had encountered a typical Kelvin welcome, straight out of the talented hack’s book of quick quips, somewhere on the page with “It’s a reverse ferret!”  But really, I mean, didn’t our Backbench superhero Kelvin, soon to be Editor of the Sun, realise that he was speaking to a much-loved, tender and creative soul who carried a world of hills, rivers and seas around with him on his shoulders and not just a chip as some thought?

The reason I say this is that I came across some of Joe’s poems this week … and was quite moved by the depth and feeling of some of them. Here is an extract from one: ‘The Savage Sea.’ It won first prize at the ‘Write by the Sea’ International Poetry Competition in Wexford, Ireland. Perhaps Kelvin in a quiet moment, reflecting on life, might find comfort and enjoyment in it. I loved the stuff ... 

We carve to heel and catch the wind

while green-flash light parts curtain mist

and schooner judders past the rock’s grim

grin; the warning buoy lets out its whistle

sigh – annunciation of our own

significance, of others whom we mourn.


THE MYSTERY of an unpublished book detailing the early history of the Daily Express, has been solved by TERRY MANNERS. 

Letters, memos, interviews, memories, notes and records compiled with the approval of Lord Beaverbrook have been unearthed packed into a box file.  The documents were intended for editing and publication but never saw the light of day.


Me and Mr Methane

GEORGE DEARSLEY has used his PR skills to help several people up the ladder of fame and none stranger was Paul Oldfield, also known as Mr Methane, whom you might have been unfortunate enough to see plying his windy trade on Britain’s Got Talent.

Oldfield did have his uses by giving George useful story tips but eventually this dwindled … along with his fame.


Funny Dud, I thought, funny, another bloody Tory MP’s been caught with his trousers down

Pete: I was in bed last night, just about to drop off, when suddenly, 'tap, tap, tap' at the bloody window — you know who it was?

Dud: Who?

Pete: Bloody Mark Menzies, all chained up, yelling ‘Peter, Peter, l've got in with bad men and I need £5K out of petty cash, please help.’


How the rot set in at the Express and made the paper a laughing stock

THESE front pages sum up how the Daily Express became a joke — an affliction from which it has never recovered. They date from the era of Richard Desmond who decided that the weather (not to mention house prices and Madeleine McCann) were the best way to sell the paper. Well, it beats quality journalism doesn’t it? 

The crazy policy was led by Peter Hill and his successor as editor Hugh ‘ Nice But Dim’ Whittow, who were just obeying orders from a chairman who knew nothing about how to sell a once great paper. At the time the backbench and the subs despaired of the madness.

The present editor Gary Jones, who calls himself a Socialist, has taken the paper even further right down the S-bend with its unstinting support for the most unpopular government in living memory. Next stop the sewer.

Beaverbrook and Christiansen must be turning in their graves.

How lucky I am to be old, by Hitch, 72

OUR MAN IN MOSCOW: Express correspondent Peter Hitchens in 1984

One of the ways my many social media critics try to insult me, says PETER HITCHENS in the Daily Mail, is by calling me old. They seem to think this is a “brilliant point” – that because I am old, I must be stupid. I respond by telling them I hope they will “one day be lucky enough to be old themselves”. 

Because in my 72 years, I’ve seen and done a fair amount. I’ve marvelled at the “deep blue stratosphere” from a Concorde flight deck, and seen the “fiery red and orange” of an express steam locomotive on a winter’s evening, back when that was normal. I’ve crossed the International Date Line backwards, between Siberia and Alaska, from Monday morning to the previous Sunday afternoon. I met Margaret Thatcher, who made it clear I wasn’t to “linger in her presence”, and was told by Tony Blair, at a press conference, to “sit down and stop being bad”.

I passed many times through the Berlin Wall and “stood in the freezing snow, warmed by a pair of Communist-built long johns, as Marxism-Leninism collapsed in Prague in 1989”. I’ve been frightened out of my wits by Islamist gangsters in Somalia, attended divine service in a nuclear missile submarine, and wandered amid the radioactive dust of a nuclear test site. 

I’ve seen “chain gangs at work, two American executions, one Soviet massacre and several Nazi concentration camps”. I’ve been chased down the street by the East German People’s Police – they weren’t as fast as me – and been refused entry to a “rather interesting-looking bar” in North Korea. So yes, call me old all you like. “Don’t you wish you were old too?”

Drone howling: nul points

The smug pride on Alastair McIntyre’s face says it all, he has received high points from fellow news sub and good friend Bob Smith.

The trouble is we  can’t quite remember what the contest was. The pic was taken at night (the clock says 11.23pm) in the Daily Express London newsroom in the late 1970s. 

It could be the Jack Atkinson Howling Competition in which contestants yelp  some of the chief foreign sub’s sayings, such as ‘HERE DOWN PLEASE’ or ‘I THANK YOU MOST KINDLY’. (Atkinson, a collector of antique guns, once threatened to use one on McIntyre). Alternatively it could have been a vowel howl. 

In the background, the less important work of competing the third edition is proceeding.

How different it must be to newsrooms today where subs don’t wear ties, let alone a monocle. Mostly, they work from home in their pants. 

Daily Drone replies to the Getsevenworser


In 1905 a young MP called Winston Churchill abandoned the Conservative Party to join the opposition just before that opposition scored a crushing election win which put it in power for 15 years.

Shortly after the Conservatives returned to power… Churchill rejoined the Conservatives. We thank you.


Beaverbrook at home

A rare video of Lord Beaverbrook at home, Cherkley Court, near Leatherhead, Surrey. It includes shots of Beaverbrook in his garden, with the journalist and political activist A.K. Chesterton, a member of the British Union of Fascists. 

A second film of our favourite peer acting in a 1924 black comedy in the Cherkley garden with H G Wells and Rebecca West can be found HERE

More fascinating Express movies are on Drone TV

A tale of lost photos, and rat-like cunning 

Former Mailman GEOFFREY SEED was ready for action as a young Daily Mail reporter in 1969.

He was part of a large contingent of Mail journalists attending the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle.

After checking that Vincent Mulchrone was OK for Scotch and cigarettes, Seed  managed to sneak into the castle with photographer Gordon Priestley who took some unauthorised snaps.

But this is the only photograph came out of the developing tank. It shows Lord Snowdon and, in the background, our man Seed. A triumph snatched from disaster!


The Daily Drone is published, financed and edited by Alastair ‘Bingo’ McIntyre with contributions from the veteran journalists of old Fleet Street, London’s boulevard of broken dreams, Manchester and points North. Dedicated to scribblers everywhere.

©Lord Drone, Whom God Preserve 2005-2024