Her Majesty’s



Weather: Mostly sunny, max 23C, min 14C





Hesitation is a crucial element of creation. If people would rephrase writer's block as hesitation, writers would feel better about it
— Ian McEwan


Today’s Papers


Steve Bell, Grauniad




By EVE STROPPER, she’s got her ear to the ground

NOW that the ink is dry on Piers Morgan's big new contract with NewsCorp, it might interest you to know how it all came about. 

Murdoch has been trying to nab Piers for a number of years now and has made him some serious offers. Piers only ever really used these offers as leverage to angle himself a pay rise at his existing jobs, as he never had much intention of leaving his high-profile, headline-generating gig at ITV’s Good Morning Britain — one which kept him in the centre of the national conversation practically every morning. 

When he drove that job into the dust though, Murdoch saw a chance to pounce. From this position of weakness, Piers could easily have been strong-armed into taking a much worse deal in order to spare him the indignity of total irrelevance (or worse, GB News). But Piers ended up coming to the table with a rather well-chosen negotiator acting on his behalf. 

Who? Elisabeth Murdoch: Rupert's once-favoured daughter, who was elbowed aside in favour of her dimwit brothers; now repping the star that the family firm was keen to hire – and taking a great deal of pleasure in using the deal to screw an especially huge sum out of her dad.



Papers in their heyday!  It’s proof that lying in The Sun is nothing new



Sales hold steady

The Guardian and Observer have joined The Sun, The Times and Telegraph in keeping circulation figures secret

Source: Press Gazette


Subbing on a G-string

Dear Aunt Marje,

Your colleague/alter ego, the well known awards nominee Rosalie Rambleshanks, still, amazingly, a trainee, mentioned ‘Mail Onlinespeak’ in a recent, rather good, History in Moments piece on Dame J. Dench. What did that mean?

Seeker After Truth

Dear SAT,

The Mail Online ‘subs’ team obviously has what Sir Larold Lamb used to refer to as ‘a stokers’ mess ethos’. They try to out-do each other describing the bodies and skimpy apparel of Z-list influencers and wannabe mummers and chanteuses. 

It’s a milieu of ‘thigh-skimming scanties’, ‘racing pulses’, ‘slender pins’ and ‘taut midriffs’. One young lady might be ‘sending temps soaring in a burnt orange bralet’ while another is ‘exuding glamour in a perilously low cut monochrome jumpsuit’.  Also look out for someone who ‘sizzles in plunging orange bikini as she puts on a giddy display with beau’ or ‘displays a fit figure in little red floral print dress’. You might also encounter what Prodnose used to call a bimbo who ‘exhibits her stellar style as she strips down to a lacy G-string to flaunt her pert derriere’.

As the great Peter McKay was wont to confide in the Back Bar of the Flying Fuck: ‘Isn’t life grand?’



Gentle, witty and whimsical, Roger Bryan, who set the Mail on Sunday on road to success 

roger bryan.jpg

Roger Bryan, one of the founding journalists of The Mail on Sunday, has died aged 73 after a short illness.

His friend and colleague Expressman RICHARD DISMORE said in tribute: 'I was saddened to hear of the death of my old friend, colleague and flatmate, Roger Bryan.

'We met on the Yorkshire Post in about 1973 and our career paths ran pretty much parallel ever after.

'We shared a flat in Crossgates, Leeds, and Roger, a gentle, whimsical guy, would strum his guitar until the small hours. He was the only man I ever knew to turn up late for a 6pm subbing shift, pleading that he slept in.

'A clever man, he had a disarming habit of staring at you, owlish and perplexed, as though he had no idea of what was going on, then pushing his glasses up on to the bridge of his nose just like Eric Morecambe. He was just as funny, too.

'When I got a job on the Daily Express in Manchester, Roger rang a couple of friends who shared a house just off the Bury New Road and got them to take me in. We became great friends and I stayed for months.

'Roger became night editor and assistant editor on the Mail on Sunday and was one of the paper's founding journalists. I became night editor of the Sunday Express and later deputy editor. It was the friendliest of rivalries.

'I last saw him at St Bride's Church where we were both attending a memorial service. He later sent me a copy of his book, It'll Come In Useful One Day, a book of tips to help you remember things.

'I'll certainly remember him.'





How to shut the door after the hearse has bolted


Diary date 

Invitation from Jessica Callan


By Awards Nominee ROSALIE RAMBLESHANKS (trainee)

Emma Raducanu, new A-list darling of the tennis world, may be invited to a lunch with former Expressmen.

The 18-year-old, who sensationally became the first qualifier to win the US Open, could be star guest at the World’s Greatest Lunch Club’s next meeting at Joe Allen in Covent Garden.

A tanned, hunky club spokesman said: ‘We would love to have Emma for lunch. It would not only celebrate her stunning victory but also the first time the WGLC has been to Joe’s since February, 2020 because of Covid.’

The spokesman brushed back his ash blond hair and added: ‘I admit that some members, alarmed at Joe Allen’s post lockdown menu price rise, wondered if we could afford it (lemonade mixers are now £4) but we decided to push the boat out.’

It is understood that an invitation to the club’s October meeting has not actually been sent but the spokesman said: ‘We’re working on it.’

A representative of Emma Raducanu could not be contacted.


Morgan to join Murdoch’s new NewsUK TV channel
as predicted by the Drone

START OF THE PIERS SHOW: Morgan and Murdoch


NewsUK boss Rupert Murdoch has signed up Piers Morgan and will launch a new TV network to challenge the BBC and GB News — as  predicted by the Daily Drone last week.

The company said talkTV would offer hourly news bulletins on current affairs, sports and entertainment from its journalists as well as "exceptional new talent". The company already has several radio stations including talkRADIO, Times Radio and Virgin Radio. 

Morgan, 56, has signed a global deal with Murdoch's News Corp and will present a weeknight show from early next year. It will be broadcast on the new British channel as well as on Fox News in the US and Sky News Australia.

He will also become a columnist for The Sun and the New York Post, which Murdoch owns. 

Morgan said: “I’m thrilled to be returning to News Corp. which is where I began my media career more than 30 years ago. Rupert Murdoch has been a constant and fearless champion of free speech and we are going to be building something new and very exciting together. 

Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corp, said: “Piers is the broadcaster every channel wants but is too afraid to hire. Piers is a brilliant presenter, a talented journalist and says what people are thinking and feeling. 

"He has many passionate fans around the world and we look forward to expanding his audience.” 





They say you can't keep a good man down. Nor, it seems, a roaring dickhead. 

Word around NewsUK is that Piers Morgan is contemplating a return to the Murdoch fold, ready for them to dust off their stalled attempt at breaking the TV market (which might square with the recent Private Eye story about Morgan having registered a new company with Companies House called 'Wake Up Productions'). 

A publicity machine like Piers won't come cheap, of course – and his salary won't be the only expense such a hire will involve. 

If he does climb aboard, and any of the fees that are currently being floated become more widely known, it'll only be a matter of time before the rest of the company's flagship talent (the Chris Evanses, the Graham Nortons, et al) will be wanting a pay rise.


Champagne at the Standard


Another picture from Jeremy Deedes, taken at the Evening Standard office in Shoe Lane, London, just before the move to the Daily Express building in Fleet Street.

Pictured left to right are: Peter Atkinson (who later became an later an MP); Stephen Clackson; Bob Carvel, who we think might have been retiring as political editor, hence the champagne; Philip Evans, picture editor; Richard Littlejohn; Charles Wintour, editor; Roger Bryan;  a man we can’t identify; and Jeremy who was then managing editor. 

PETER ‘STEWPOT’ STEWARD said: 'Roger Bryan died a few weeks ago aged 73. He was chief sub before leaving to become part of the launch team at the Mail on Sunday in 1982. The Standard moved from Shoe Lane into the Black Lubyanka in 1980 ( I think).'


Daily Express execs gather on back bench in late 197os


LLOYD SORTS IT OUT: It looks like an important story has just broken in this picture of the Daily Express back bench taken in, at a guess, 1976.

Lloyd Turner picks up the phone, maybe to talk to the Printer, with Ted Dickinson to his right. Looking on behind are deputy editor Jeremy Deedes, who supplied this pic, Rick McNeill, Tony Fowler and Ted Hodgson. On the far left is Chris Roycroft-Davis, who later became chief leader writer of The Sun.


Andrew Neil explains his reasons for quitting GB News on BBC TV’s Question Time


Guess who’s Baled out of News channel

Have you guessed? Answers on a postcard to Brillo’s pad, South of France


History in Moments 

1968: Who is this raven-haired temptress ‘flaunting her stunning, finely sculpted abs’ (in Mail Onlinespeak) in a daring designer frock? A Love Island floozie? An influencer who rules the lives of pre-pubescent girls on Instatokchat? Not a bit of it. This is an uncut diamond before she became a national treasure. Peer closer and it’s Dame Judi Dench, without doubt one of the finest actresses of her time. 

Here she is as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, an early example of her amazing versatility, switching, effortlessly, from musicals to Shakespeare, big budget Hollywood blockbusters and sweet, charming TV sitcoms. She made her debut at the Old Vic in 1957 and the raddled old hack and Greggs sausage roll habitué, with the sauce-stained cravat, who hangs around the Drone newsroom, recalls seeing her play Juliet opposite John Stride at the New Theatre, Cardiff, a few years later.

Since then, of course, the world has been her proverbial langoustine: awards from the Queen, an Oscar (six other nominations), BAFTAs, honorary university degrees (11 at the last count). 

Now 86, she’s still going strong and there are those who can’t forgive Ralph Fiennes for supplanting her as M, who not only regularly saved the nation but kept that cheeky Danny Craig in order.

AN R.R. (t)


Express NUJ journalists stage mandatory chapel meeting in the late 1980s


AH, THOSE WERE THE DAYS: Journalists from the Daily Express hold a mandatory NUJ chapel meeting in the old Fleet Street builing in, at a guess, 1987.

The meetings were regularly held in the features room and frequently delayed the paper but never actually stopped it coming out.

There are many familar faces. Bernard Workman, far left, is addressing the meeting with Jim Davies and Colin Bell by his side. Sitting facing them is Hickey sub Angela Brown who supplied this picture.

Further down the line is leader writer Derek Hill, and news sub Robin McGibbon. Seated next to him is the late Colin Margerison.

Also in the pic are Ted Daly, Bob Haylett, Frank Robson, Michael Brown, Clare Dover, Denis Brierley, Les Diver, Norman Luck, Steve Wood (art desk), Maurice Hibberd, Bruce Turner, Chris Williams and Mike Cowton, who is seated centre.

Angela says the picture was taken at the last chapel meeting in the Fleet Street building but Les Diver, who is pictured, died in 1987. The Express moved to Blackfriars in April 1989.

Roger Watkins said: 'I can identify: Mike Steemson, David Llewellyn, Bill Lovelace, James Murray, Danny McGrory, James Mossop, Peter Hitchens and I think it’s Uncle Tom Cobley half obscured by a pillar.’

Leon Symons spotted himself in the pic: ‘I am standing behind Ted Daly and next to Danny McGrory, with only a small part of my face visible to the left of Ted's face. To the left of Maurice Hibberd in the centre is Len Trievnor with his head bowed and Leslie Lee on the other side.

‘On the far right is Jeff Ives, a sports sub. I think the chap at the front, tall, small bald patch, light-coloured jumper, is another sports sub, a scouse whose name i can't recall.

‘This must have been either in early 1987 or before, because I was tapped on the shoulder in the middle of '87 and departed. So many in this pic have also departed, only with much greater finality.

Peter Steward added: 'Right, next to the Freddie Starr ate my hamster headline on the pillar, is Henry Macrory (striped tie) Sunday Express news editor at the time I would think, and Michael Toner, SX leader writer, political mastermind, and one-time NUJ chapel agitator. 

'The person half concealed by the post to the right could be Robbie Addison, who was probably on the SX mag at the time but I'm not certain of that one.’

Clive Goozee: More names — sports subs Lloyd Butler, head bowed, standing by the pillar to Jeff Ives’s right, the familiar profile of David Llewellyn and Colin Bateman just behind him. Colin became the DX cricket writer. The “Scouser” Leon mentions is David Clare, a Liverpool fan from Warrington. 

Rick McNeill: 'Is that George Lochhead next to Denis Brierley? And David Ross next to George? Could be.'


FRANK THORNE 1949-2021
The last picture

Former Daily Express reporter Frank Thorne was full of hope when he posted this picture on Facebook from his hospital bed.

One day later he was dead.

Frank, who was 72, had been in the Royal London Hospital for a procedure following a kidney transplant in July.

This was his final upbeat message to his friends on Facebook on Tuesday (7 September 2021):
Buster Bloodvessel - back in my second home,  the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel today, Tuesday, for what I hope will be a minor operation to expand a narrow blood vessel, which is not supplying enough blood to Sydney the kidney. My new kidney is working well, so the expert transplant surgeons are hoping this is just another small bump in the road. Nil by mouth overnight, awaiting scans & depending on what they find, I’ll be whisked off to theatre. Centre stage again, so you can tell me to “break a leg” (errr , not literally)! I’m feeling robust, fit & well, so BRING IT ON!

Frank also worked on the Daily Mirror, Sunday People and Today. Later he freelanced for most national newspapers for several years in Australia and also worked on TV’s The Cook Report.

BILL HAGERTY said in tribute: 'God bless you, Frank. Memories are made of people like you.’

SYLVIA JONES: 'Although it was a close run thing, I think Frank loved life even more than he loved a good story. He died trying to keep on living. If only he had made it to see his book published.

'I remember him in his prime, acting as my “ imp” when we went undercover to expose hookers working in Harrods perfumery department to pick up rich foreign clients. He was in his element wearing an eye catching shiny mohair suit — with a touch of lurex running through the fabric — flooding the Knightsbridge pick up bars with pink champagne using a generous advance from the Bank in the Sky.

'We can all entertain each other with his legendary and well remembered exploits. He was one of a dying journalistic breed who could always manage to write the splash — in Frank’s case probably in between his karaoke rendering of Roy Orbison hits and getting in the next round!

'But beyond all that booze and reporting razzmatazz, Frank was a kind, generous and loyal friend to a lot of people. He’ll be missed, not least by me.'

MARTIN PHILLIPS: 'Such a terrible loss. Memories of Frank belting out Three Steps To Heaven on the Vagabonds karaoke seem especially poignant right now.

NICHOLA MACKAY: 'Bless you Frank, you welcomed me when Don Mackay adopted me into Fleet Street. I hope he's in the Slug and Seraphim with threat of the heavenly host.

Frank Thorne’s funeral will be on Monday, October 11 at 12.40 at the South Essex Crematorium, Ockenden Road, Upminster, Essex. RM14 2UY

Afterwards there will be a reception at Henry’s, Romford Road, Aveley, South Ockenden RM15 4XB




King of showbiz, Donald Zec takes a final bow at 102

THE legendary Donald Zec, one of Fleet Street’s finest showbusiness reporters, has died at the grand old age of 102.

Zec, who worked for the Daily Mirror for 40 years, had extraordinary access to the world’s greatest stars in the 1950s and 1960s. This picture of him sharing a bed with John Lennon and Yoko Ono illustrates this point perfectly.

Thanks to his outgoing personality and sense of fun, Zec is regarded as perhaps the greatest showbusiness writer of all time.

His older brother Philip Zec, who died in 1983, was one of the foremost political cartoonists of his day. When his drawing of a shipwrecked sailor clinging to a wooden plank in an oil-saturated sea and captioned “The price of petrol has been increased by one penny” appeared, the government threatened to shut down the Daily Mirror for sedition.

Novelist and Expressman ROBIN McGIBBON has shared with Drone the following email exchange he had with Donald Zec in 2017.


Sent: 01 April 2017 18:15


Subject: Belated birthday greetings

Hi, Donald,

You probably don't remember me, because it's 40 years since we met (!), but I certainly remember you.

I've decided to email after speaking with my good friend, Don Black, who tells me you celebrated your 98th birthday last month.

Many, many belated happy returns, Donald.

Don says your memory is exceedingly, you might, just possibly, remember me as the managing director of Everest Books: we had a most convivial lunch in the Press Club when you were looking for a publisher for a novel - The Colonel - you'd written.

At that lunch, you gave me some advice I followed every time I went to Los Angeles. You said: "Never try to do any work for 24 hours - no matter how much you feel up to it." 

Don says you're in great shape, mentally, Donald: long may you continue to be so.

Warmest regards,

Robin McGibbon



Sent: 01/04/2017 19:07:08 GMT Daylight Time

Subj: RE: Belated birthday greetings

Dear Robin.

It’s a delight to receive your birthday greetings.  In my 99th year a convivial lunch forty years ago is, I regret to say, a shade beyond recall. But I remember the Press Club when journalists were not happy to call themselves hacks but preferred the title, Gentlemen of the Press ...before Murdoch and Maxwell pulverised Fleet Street and tossed the ashes over Canary Wharf. In brief; The Colonel did get published and occasionally I get 5p because someone in the village of Champing-at-the Bit, picked it up in a car boot sale. I’ve published a dozen books since then; and in my 90th year learned to play a Bach sonata’ took up drawing and due to an obvious aberration by the judges had a sketch of my grandfather selected for the 2013 summer exhibition. Since then I’ve enjoyed bad health, become a widower, look out of my window and wince at the name Donald Trump.

Forgive the nostalgia. You caught me in an agreeable moment before I retire to be enfolded in the arms of insomnia.

Best regards

Donald Zec

The Times has published an entertaining obituary of the great Donald Zec


How a crack Express team went on a wild goose chase to find round-world sailor 


The Express in its prime had a fine tradition of foreign cock-ups, but one has been swept under the carpet — until now, as IAN BAIN explains

AS EXPRESS fiascos go, it was far from the worst but something of an embarrassment nonetheless. Hence it appears to have remained buried in the let’s-just-forget-about-it-and-move-on file for the past 50 years and more.

When Sir Francis Chichester tackled Cape Horn in Gipsy Moth IV on his way to becoming the first sailor to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly, the British Press descended en masse on Patagonia.

It was March of 1967 and the Express sent a team of three led by David English, then head of the New York bureau. Setting up camp in Punta Arenas in Chile, they hired planes and boats as they prepared to brave the notorious storms of the southern seas in search of the intrepid sailor. They were determined to beat The Times which had signed up the 65-year-old Chichester. 

What they accomplished isn’t exactly known but in terms of column inches it amounted to absolutely zero. For the entire communications network in that part of Chile suddenly blacked out and remained dead for days.

I was night editor of the Buenos Aires Herald and stringer for the Express and the first I knew of this was a frantic cable from the foreign desk asking if I could make contact and relay copy. Sadly, all attempts to reach them failed. 

So I cobbled together a story from various sources, including the Argentine Coastguard, and whacked it off to London. In response came a cable from David Ross of the foreign desk saying: “MANY THANKS YOUR SPLENDID EFFORTS WHICH GETTING YOU MAJOR PAGE ONE STORY STOP IF YOU CAN CONTACT OTHERS COMMA TELL THEM GO HOME COMMA THE PARTYS OVER.” 

A year or so later when I was being interviewed for a sub’s job on the Express, I related this story to Eric Raybould, the managing editor, who called for English, recently promoted foreign editor, to join us and mercilessly took the piss out of him. I don’t think English ever spoke to me again. But it possibly got me the job.

I may not have left much of a mark in my five years on the Express but I've sometimes wondered if I might be one of the few subs – if not the only one – to have had a front page byline. 


Fleet St pays tribute to Jack the Snap as he loses fight for life

Former Daily Express photographer Jack Kay, a giant of the old Fleet Street, has died at the age of 79.

He passed away on Friday, 3 September at his home in Porlock, Somerset, which he shared with his wife Mij. He had been suffering from cancer.

Jack was an award-winning photographer for the Daily Express and covered major sporting events around the world, including several Olympic Games.

From the early 1990s, Jack ‘The Snap’ was a proud and active member of the Blackheath Rugby Club, in south-east London, volunteering to photograph 1st XV matches and provide match reports and club-related news stories to the match programme as well as to national and local media. 

He retired from his club media role at the last home game of the 2008-09 season.

A spokesman for the club said: 'Jack said that, for a great scoop or story, one had to make sure to be in the right place at the right time. He had the knack of doing just that. He was a great character and a fine raconteur, full of wonderfully interesting tales from his journalistic journeys. He will be remembered with huge fondness.

Colleagues paid tribute to Jack last night.

Former Daily Express writer JIM DAVIES said: ‘Jack was a reporter's dream on assignment. Always cheerful, imaginative — quirkily so at times — and ego-free. 

'Of the many jobs I did with him the 1980 Moscow Olympics stands out. With many countries boycotting the event and our athletes defying a prime ministerial decree from Mrs Thatcher not to attend, tension was high.

'Thousands of hacks  from around the world were closeted in the 3000-bed Hotel Rossiya where, in addition to sinister levels of surveillance, Soviet inefficiency meant our laundry was constantly being mislaid.  

'Each morning a hatchet-faced lady from the Politbureau would arrive in the breakfast room with some nugget of propaganda for us to consume with our black bread. One  morning she was almost exhilarated. ‘Gentlemen," she announced. "The Shah of Persia is dead.'

Silence ensued until a strong Blackburn accent enquired:  'Does this mean we get our underpants back?

DICK DISMORE said: 'How sad, Jack was one of our finest. I remember being on the backbench one afternoon when a story and picture came in of a boxing match at which Jack was taking photographs. One of the boxers was knocked out and fell into the ropes around the ring spark out and at risk of serious harm. 

'Jack supported his head until the doctor arrived to treat him. Roger Watkins was summoned to afternoon conference just as he was writing the headline. He had got as far as “Our Kay’s OK” and chucked it to me as he left. “Finish that off, mate,” he said. I wrote, “in a KO crisis”. What a team. And what a photographer.'

Former Daily Express secretary, ESTHER HARROD, who worked with Jack when on the Picture Desk said:  'Sometimes my late husband and I would have a drink with Jack in our mutual local near Blackheath. One evening in 1978, Barry and I had been to view our first house and although we loved it, we couldn't  really afford to buy it

'We didn't know what to do. Jack expansively waved his pint around and said: "If you want it, just buy it".  So we took his  advice and bought the house the very next morning. We lived there joyfully until 2002 when Barry died.  

'Cheers Jack for the support and encouragement to a couple of property greenies.

Former DX picture editor MICK LIDBURY said: 'Sad news indeed. Jack was part of the fabric of Fleet Street. He was part of the Express picture team when in its "world's greatest" prime, when Express Picture Power reigned in Fleet Street.'

TOM SMITH: 'Jack was the last of the old crew of rascal snappers I ran with on the Express. I feel like an orphan!’

GILL MARTIN: 'Another great photographer bites the dust of Fleet Street. He was a marvellous colleague to work with, always buzzing with positivity and quirky ideas to give stories a twist.  

'One of my favourite jobs was a lavish BBC pop fest (Bryan Ferry, Kate Bush and ABBA landing by helicopter to ski to the stage.)

'Jack and Gill fell down the hill, or into a snowy ditch. Drink might have been involved…

'Condolences to his family.'

There will be a private family funeral.


No hiding place



Sir — It’s nice to see old folk taking an interest, isn’t it? And what an apt photo!


I suppose you think that’s funny — Ed


Former Daily Telegraph Fleet Street building set for huge £90m refurb

Members of Qatar’s royal family are to spend £90 million on a refurbishment of the former Daily Telegraph headquarters in Fleet Street in what is being seen as a big vote of confidence in the post-pandemic London office market, according to The Times.

The Qatari investors have submitted plans for a redevelopment of Peterborough Court. The art deco building dates back to 1927 and was the newspaper’s home for 60 years. More recently it was rented out to Goldman Sachs, the investment banking giant, whose lease expired this year.

According to the plans, first reported by CoStar News, the Qataris want to remodel the building to create 300,000 sq ft of grade A office space, with shops on the bottom floor. There will be charging points for electric vehicles and room to store 600 bicycles.

JLL and CBRE, the property agents, have been brought in to lease the space once the redevelopment is complete. Subject to planning approval, construction is due to get under way at the end of this year, CoStar reported, with the first tenants set to move in during the second quarter of 2023.

The refurbishment is what is known as a speculative redevelopment, meaning that there are currently no tenants lined up.

WeWork, the serviced offices provider, was reported to have been in talks to take on Peterborough Court, but that came to nothing as it opted to rein in its expansion plans after its failed stock market listing nearly two years ago.



The words that you could and couldn’t say on TV in the 1980s

Many thanks to comedian Arthur Smith for this thoughtful guide to profanities issued by an unnamed broadcaster in the 1980s.

The addition of 'Jesus Christ' to the No Way column is a surprise as is the inclusion of ‘shit' in the OK list.

As our regular readers know, the Daily Drone has no guide to swearing in its stylebook and has been known to use the odd salty word here and there. 

Times change, of course, but it seems to us that not much has altered in the way of acceptability in the intervening 40-odd years.

One thing is for sure; none of the words listed above would have been acceptable in the Daily Express in the 1980s, or in 2021 for that matter.


Argy-bargy Marjie is largely cleared by Press watchdog  

POTTY: An artist’s impression of Marje


Aunt Marje, the Daily Drone’s controversial and outspoken columnist, has been cleared by an industry watchdog after a rigorous probe into her controversial and outspoken views.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation launched the inquiry following three complaints about remarks in two columns earlier this year.

They concerned criticism of the then Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Anneliese Dodds and Labour leader ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer. 

Aunt Marje wrote: ‘If Anneliese Dodds is the answer, what the fuck was the question?’ She also described ‘Sir’ Keir as a man who rose without trace.

The complaints, believed to be from Ms Dodds, ‘Sir’ Keir and a Labour press spokesman, were robustly rejected by IPSO.

It said that ruling against the columnist would be ‘an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression.’

Awards nominee Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee), who writes the Aunt Marje column, said: ‘So. This hasn’t like sunk in yet but it’s a resounding victory for freedom of speech.’

A spokesman for Lord Drone said: ‘We have always had the utmost faith in, er, Rosemary Rumplesheets and praise her outspoken and controversial views.’



Ye famous pigeon pie, anyone? The Cheese is pleased to serve you

August 21, 1914: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, nestling up a back alley off Fleet Street, has always been famous for its plain and simple food: maybe the original pub grub. Here is an example dating from the early days of World War 1 and hearty fare is definitely on the menu. Fast forward to the 21st century and not much has changed. Savoury pies, bangers and mash and ‘humongous fish and chips’ are still popular.

The Cheese is often thought to be the oldest pub in London. Not true, of course: it was built after the great fire of 1666 destroyed the original premises. The Tipperary, which escaped the blaze, is older.

Journalists and writers, including Dickens, Twain, Wodehouse and McIntyre, were regulars. The Cheese was also the ‘go to’ venue for Express Christmas piss-ups where running battles between subs and reporters, involving much sprout and bread roll throwing, often broke out. 

One Night Editor used to recommend turning jackets inside out to avoid culinary missiles ruining bespoke Savile Row whistles. Once the fighting died, weary troops filed back to work to slumber under desks until the first edition had gone. What larks! 

AN R.R. (t)


Old snappers never die, they simply star
in Specsavers adverts

After years of taking great pictures for the Daily Express, photographer Larry Ellis now finds himself on the other side of the lens — in a Specsavers ad.

Thanks to Jeremy Gates for spotting this in yesterday’s Mail On Sunday. It's further proof that the spirit of the old Express lives on in its greatest competitor, Lord Rothermere’s fine stable of newspapers.



Er, come again?


More magic from the Mail Online

11. The mischievous alchemy of grain and grape

Frame Hampton’s shrivelling and getting smaller by the day. It’s little Hampton now. No, don’t laugh: it could happen to anybody. Actually, it’s the census. A summary of the big count in March has revealed that the population in our darling village has fallen in the last 10 years. Well, says Ted, we’ve done our bit but, says I, is it enough? 

Anyway, demographics aside, the big news is the village fete held on Ryle’s Bottom on a magnificent summer’s day. We’d bumped into the new vicar outside the shop. You’ll recall Eduardo wasn’t too impressed with him at first sight. Now it transpires he is only temporary so Watch This Space! Anyway, he asked if we would help out at the fete he was (reluctantly) organising. We (reluctantly) agreed.  I immediately had the feeling  that we were going to regret that.

Have you noticed how the man (and it’s always a man) on the public address just can’t stop talking, hurrying people along, telling pathetic jokes? Trust Tannoy Ted to go dizzyingly over the top then. How he talked the temp vicar into giving him the job, I’ll never know. Talk about taking the mic. As for ‘Cinderollie’, I was condemned to overseeing Splat the Rat (imagine!) which involved hearty village lads trying to club a cricket ball wrapped in an old sock as it shot out of a pipe I was operating with my foot (no, don’t ask me either).

While there, though, we saw Billy the Ghillie for the first time since we last went fishing on the Nadar a couple of months back. He broke off from (literally) chiselling frozen burgers apart and throwing them into some noxious pit to tell us a rather sad tale. You’ll recall I told you he used to hold a senior editorial position on People’s Friend before leaving under something of a cloud. Something about stalled career opportunities. Well, he went back up to Dundee for some leaving ‘do’ determined to mend fences. Alas, the grape and the grain mixed their mischievous alchemy and he had a huge row, and fell out spectacularly, with the Needlework Editor. Was she crotchety? Ted asked, all faux innocence, but Billy didn’t get it (or if he did, he certainly didn’t want it).

It’s dreadfully remiss of me but I was so caught up in the ‘excitement’ of the vicar’s downfall last month that I forgot to update you on Teddy making a mess in the Mess, as it were. Actually, he doesn’t remember too much about his dinner with the lissom subalterns of the Kings Royal Hussars but, from what I can gather, it involved high jinks with a solid silver Queen Anne chamber pot and a rusty Crimea War cavalry sabre. Ouch! Nurse, screens here, please. See you in post op!




Sad farewell to my hero Don Everly 
(But I did get an interview with his little brother Phil)

CLIVE GOOZEE pays tribute to Don Everly, who has died aged 84.

Bye bye Don. Momma Everly outlives her boys (she’s 100-plus).

 When I was a very green, rookie reporter on a South London newspaper group, where I worked for a while with Paul Callan, I managed to get an interview with Don Everly’s younger brother Phil, courtesy of the Lew Grade organisation. 

I was told he would be available at the Strand Palace Hotel where I was directed to the ballroom. I stepped nervously inside. Phil was practising with his backing band. Don had gone home after having  a breakdown, leaving “Baby Boy Phil” to finish the 1962 tour.

The Express ran a page lead with a picture of a tearful Don and his wife in the back of a limousine and the headline: “The tearful exit of the brother Everly.” Phil was very polite if a bit put out by me interrupting the session. 

I was starstruck as he puffed away on a menthol cigarette and strummed his big Gibson guitar. He said he was six when he started playing and I said something like: "I wish I could play like that.” We spoke for about ten minutes and Phil apologised he couldn’t spare more time.

I learned a valuable lesson from that experience — a fan with a notebook shouldn’t interview his heroes. Chatting to the Fab Four at the Tooting Granada was easier.


John Downing’s 1967 pic of actress Diana Rigg


Daily Express Chief Photographer John Downing certainly knew how to take a great picture — and this study of a
29-year-old  Diana Rigg, taken in 1967, is no exception. Downing and Diana are no longer with us, but their work remains.


They seem like nice boys, but can you spot the three Expressmen, 55 years on?


WHO are these nice fresh-faced chaps pictured at a leaving do on the Folkestone Herald and Gazette in1966?

Three of them went on to make their names on the Daily Express. Recognise anyone? We can help...





The Sunday Telegraph has carried a distressing story about the death of former Daily Express star photographer Barry Gomer.

His widow Marthe has been unable to collect his body for eight months while the NHS “strings out” an investigation into his death.

Barry died of a pulmonary embolism last February while searching the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital for food, having allegedly been given nothing to eat or drink all day. He was 71 and had recently retired.

Read an extended version of the Telegraph report here

Original Daily Drone report


Fleet Street was once the site of London's biggest rail terminus
(Not a lot of people know that)


How to make a prat of yourself in one easy photo session



Face to face: King and Cudlipp two giants of the Press


Head to head: Hugh Cudlipp, left, confronts Cecil King at an IPC shareholders’ meeting in 1968 after King was controversially sacked

THERE was never a dull moment on the Mirror titles in the 1960s when two of the greatest names in Fleet Street enjoyed their heyday.

In the left corner was Hugh Cudlipp and in the right was Cecil King.

Hubert "Hugh" Kinsman Cudlipp, Baron Cudlipp, OBE, was editor of the Sunday Pictorial from 1937 to 1940 and 1946 to 1949. Between these two periods, he saw war service with the Royal Sussex Regiment, and was involved in the First Battle of El Alamein. 

On returning from war service he went back to the Mirror until 1949 when owing to disagreements with his then boss, Harry Guy Bartholomew, he left to take the post of managing editor of the Sunday Express for a two-year stint. 

By 1951, Bartholomew had left, replaced by Cecil King, who reappointed Cudlipp, and with whom Cudlipp enjoyed a good working relationship for many years.

In 1952, Cudlipp was made Editorial Director of the Sunday Pictorial and the Daily Mirror. Roy Greenslade identifies Cudlipp as the mastermind of the paper's editorial formula, responsible for design, choice of campaigns, gimmicks, stunts, and author of iconic headlines.

Cudlipp was Chairman of the Mirror Group of newspapers from 1963 to 1967, where he oversaw the 1964 launch, as a broadsheet, of the Sun to replace the failing Daily Herald. The paper was not successful and, in 1969, it was sold to Rupert Murdoch.

King was involved in, and may have instigated, a 1968 meeting with Louis Mountbatten, among others, in which he proposed that Harold Wilson's government be overthrown and replaced with a temporary administration headed by Mountbatten. 

He decided to override the editorial independence of the Mirror and wrote and instructed to be published a front-page article calling on Wilson to be removed by some sort of extra-parliamentary action. The board of IPC demanded his resignation. He refused, and was dismissed by the board.

Expressman JIM DAVIES remembers: Your picture of Hugh Cudlipp and Cecil King sparring at a Mirror board meeting revived a very vivid memory for me.  When King died in 1987 I was sent to try and interview Cudlipp for his recollections of the man and particularly about the long-held Fleet Street  rumour that he had tried to have the Labour government of Harold Wilson overthrown by military coup.

I set off to Sonning and the house near the Thames to which Cudlipp had retired with precious little expectation of a friendly welcome.

Imagine then my surprise to be greeted at the door by the great man himself and told that the family was just about to have Sunday lunch and would I like to join them.

During a very pleasant and well lubricated couple of hours Cudlipp not only confirmed the story but said that King had also approached the Queen Mother to see if she would graciously lend her support  to the plotters. “Personally," said Cudlipp in that strong South Walian brogue which he never lost, "I think he had gone mad".

Of course the Queen Mother had told King where to go but the subsequent Express obituary made no mention of it. Twas ever thus!

And here’s three more
Two other great men of Fleet Street are pictured below. William Rees-Mogg was editor of The Times from 1967 to 1981. He is seen below with other great editor, Harold Evans, who was at the helm of The Sunday Times, also from 1967 to 1981.

Hamilton became editor of The Sunday Times in 1959. He later became editor-in-chief and chairman of Times Newspapers and introduced the colour magazine to weekly national newspapers.

 All three men were knighted and Rees-Mogg was ennobled.


Men of their Times: William Rees-Mogg, editor of The Times, Harold Evans, editor of the Sunday Times, and Denis Hamilton, editor-in-chief of both titles, pictured in 1967


Oh lucky Jim!

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

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

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

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

TERRY WILLOWS writes from Aiken, South Carolina: Seeing the happy snap of Jim  Davies and his wife reminds me of the great times we had together both in Doncaster and on the Daily Express in Manchester and London, 60's and 70's.

Good friends like the late Phil Finn (a one time neighbour) the late Ivor Key, Mike Parkinson and Mary, George Gordon of the Daily Mail, reminds me that there are still those who are battling in the eighties (I am 86).

The charming lady with me in the picture above is widow Sharon Monette who took me under her wing five years ago after my wife, Eleanor, died seven years ago following 50 years of marriage.

 I get so much enjoyment following your news and seeing old faces.

Those were the days my friend.   



Trainee reporter Jameson, Reuters newsroom, 1946

Reuters newsroom in Fleet Street in 1946. The fresh-faced trainee reporter (front right) is Derek Jameson who went on to edit four national newspapers, including the Daily Express, and to host a long-running show on Radio 2. (Illustration from Jameson's entertaining autobiography Touched By Angels, Ebury Press, still available on Amazon HERE

Picture research: AN R.R.(t)


Are these the guys who ate all the pies?


By SWT JOCKSTRAP-SHANKS and the rest of the not inconsiderable Drone sports team

WHO are these two sporty chaps, all decked out in warm scarves in the middle of August?

Have you guessed yet readers? Why they are none other than Expressmen Terry Manners and Roger Watkins, who for reasons best known to themselves now reside in leafy Lincolnshire.

Apparently it is fashionable for adherents of Association Football to wear colourful scarves to games. And here are our two chums on the terraces at Lincoln City’s LNER Stadium where they are both season ticket holders.

We are reliably informed that it is customary to eat pies before, during and after matches (subs pse check). But it is not recorded how many Messrs Manners and Watkins consumed.

Lincoln City, who beat Fleetwood 2-1, are known as the Imps but the editor is struggling to find a joke about that. To be brutally honest he really can’t be arsed — but our chums do look in excellent elf after goblin all the pies.

Will this do? No, it's shite, you’re fired — Ed


History in Moments

1902: She may appear to be a typical Edwardian grandmother but Margaret Ann Neve is unique: she is believed to be the only person in recorded history to have lived in three different centuries (perhaps this is why she looks a trifle smug!).  

Margaret was born in Guernsey in 1792 and died a year after this picture was taken in 1903, aged 110. A long life looked remote when she was a small child: she fell into a coma after falling down stairs. She recovered though and claimed not to have been ill ever again, apart from a touch of flu when she was 105. Attagirl! 

AN R.R. (t)





The Daily Mail is a fine paper. Of course it is. But sometimes one wonders if anyone actually revises its content, writes Drone chief sub LP BREVMIN. 

You know: a second thought, an alternative view.

 Boris Becker may have captured the nation’s attention well before the Prime Minister when he won Wimbledon at 17. But there is only one Boris now! A simple adjustment to this headline and it would read ‘Becker serves up romantic … etc’. It could even be argued that the word Becker is actually more instantly recognisable in this case.

Likewise, Harry Styles should never be referred to as just Harry. And Cliff is Cliff, Clint is Clint, Kate is Kate and Esmerelda is Esmerelda (Eh? — Ed).

Pity poor, old Elvis Costello: he’s never been been simply Elvis all his professional career.



Put that fag out! Don’t you know there’s a war on? 
Daily Mail subs at work, 1944

THE world was still at war when this picture of the Daily Mail subs room was taken in 1944.

But as battle raged outside, including the Normandy landings,  all was peaceful in the London newsroom. The mess of papers, tea mugs and cigarettes were a common sight then and continued to be so for at least four decades.

We can’t identify anyone in this pic and we doubt if there is anyone alive who can do so.

Picture research: AN R.R.(t) allegedly


Lord of all he surveys, Sunday Express editor Sir John Junor with his team of loyal colleagues

DON’T they look happy? Well they might because these men produced one of the most successful Sunday papers of its times.

In its heyday the Sunday Express was hugely popular and the man responsible for this was its editor John Junor.

Junor, seen here in the centre with picture editor Philip Snowdon and other cohorts in 1963, took over as editor in 1954 and was so successful that the paper was selling 4,457,000 by 1961 but this had halved to around 2 million by the time he retired 32 years later in 1986. 

Sales had taken a huge hit when Lord Rothermere launched the Mail On Sunday in 1982. Sunday Express circulation slowly declined and now stands at 213,000.

Junor's Sunday Express column was noted for recurrent catchphrases, two of them being "pass the sick-bag, Alice" and "I do not know, but I think we should be told". He frequently mentioned the small town of Auchtermuchty in Fife.

Junor could be brutally forthright in his column. He once wrote: "With compatriots like these [the IRA Brighton bombers] wouldn't you rather admit to being a pig than be Irish?" Following complaints that the comment was racist, Junor was censured by the Press Council in May 1985.

Critics saw Sir John, who died in 1997 aged 78, as unpleasantly dictatorial and morally hypocritical, reflected in a tempestuous personal life characterised by often cruel infidelity.

Supporters regarded him as a natural leader who could inspire remarkable loyalty.

"I had never known such a dominating presence," said one of his journalists. 

Knighted in 1980, Junor was often lampooned in Private Eye where he was known as 'Sir Jonah Junor’.

We do not why he earned this soubriquet … but we think we should be told.


Neat and tidy, tidy and neat, not a drop of litter at their feet — the Daily Express newsroom 90-odd years ago

How times change. This, believe it or not is a snap of the Daily Express newsroom, dated at a guess in the 1920s.

Lovely shiny floor, elegant wooden furniture and chaps in collars and ties (with just the one woman) hard at work. There is even a man who appears to be giving his typewriter a severe talking to. Madness was always a feature of the Daily Express which made it such a delightful place to work.

A couple of nearly empty waste paper baskets would suggest this was early in the day.

Things were just as bonkers 50 years or so later, typewriters were often insulted and the waste paper baskets were half empty then too, because most of the litter was on the floor.

Plus ça change!



Mail Backbench, 1980s

We will take a wild guess that these Daily Mail executives were watching news unfold on the television in this snap from the 1980s.

It ill behoves an Expressman to identify the chaps in the pic but we can find a few.

On the far left with his chin on his hand is former Daily Express editor Arthur Firth who scuttled off to Northcliffe House after he was unseated by Daily Mirror columnist Christopher Ward (we lived in strange days).

Behind Arthur is, of course, the mighty Paul Dacre and in the centre of the pic in a short-sleeved shirt is Mail editor David English.

ALAN FRAME has stepped in to fill in the gaps. He writes: The chap on David E’s left is Peter Grover, the Dep Ed. Behind them is a youthful Harvey Mann from the pic desk and further back is the bearded Garth Burden, brother of Peter, the Mail’s excellent crime reporter. I remember the chap in the foreground on Grover’s left but not his name. I think he was prodnose.

Peter Grover was a delight and hired me in 1969 as a news sub on the Sketch, of blessed memory, after I left the DX in Manchester. He was Night Ed. When this pic was taken Peter was English’s deputy.

Fashion note: Grover told me on returning from a short holiday in Moscow that it was so cold he kept warm by wearing a pair of his wife’s tights under his trousers. Ooh comrade!

MARARET ASHWORTH has the definitive caption: Left to right, Firth, Dacre, leader writer Chris Nicholson (in bow tie),  news desk operative, Duchess of Argyll's headless man, English, Grover, Harvey Mann and Ken Brown (revise editor).


The chaps in the office are up to mischief while The Times editor is on holiday


TAKING IT EASY: Times editor John Witherow is 69

By ARTHUR CAKES, Our Half-baked  Doughnut

THE Times featured a prominent Op-Ed piece on Saturday entitled: The Times View On Knowing When To Quit. 

Ostensibly it was about Delia Smith, who revealed in an interview elsewhere in the paper that she had given up cooking completely, even at home. But Times staffers had a completely different reading of it.

The Times' long-in-the-tooth editor John Witherow (he’s 69) is currently on holiday – so putting this particular piece together were deputy editor Tony Gallagher,who edits on Saturday, and the paper's chief leader writer. 

Whatever could they have been trying to say? 

AT the start of the year, we told you that The Sun threw an illicit Christmas drinks party in breach of the very same Covid rules they so staunchly monitored whenever it was celebs like Rita Ora or Kay Burley stepping out of line.

The party might never have been placed on our radar had it not been for one spicy little incident, where a married senior executive took an assistant 30 years his junior into his office for a drunken fingering – seemingly forgetting that the rest of the party would be able to see it happening on account of his office being glass-fronted.

The incident has caused all manner of professional and personal fallout for him, with his marriage, his dignity and any respect that he once commanded over staff. But we're pleased to report there's a happy ending to it all.

Six months after the fumbling, word around the watercooler is that the couple are now official. Bless.




Daily Drone trainee Rosalie Rambleshanks has again been nominated for a prestigious award.

She has been shortlisted in the Rising Star category in the Press Gazette British Journalism Awards. Last year Rosalie was nominated for two ‘gongs’.

Media guru Terry Manners commented: ‘It’s most unusual for a trainee to be nominated and unprecedented for one to be short listed twice because they have usually graduated to a more senior position.’

Rosalie is a former head girl of Hampton School where she was also a sergeant in the Combined Cadet Force under Gunner Phyllis Fortescue-Pirbright, BEM.

She contributes to the Drone across a broad spectrum, particularly as the prescient and perceptive advice columnist Aunt Marje.

Rosalie said: ‘So, it still hasn’t, like, sunk in. I’m over the moon.’

A spokesperson for Lord Drone said: ‘We wish, er, Rosemary Rumplesheets every success in her new career.’

The awards will be presented at a star-studded ceremony on December 8.



Facts the papers dare not print
(because they’re fake)

By VENUS MERCURY, She’s on another planet

YOU couldn’t make it up — but actually we have!

Here is what we discovered:

Scottish nationalist MP Ian Blackford has won “Most Promising Tosser” at the annual Highland Games caber-hurling event of 2007.

The Hancock Handshake — the Single-Handed Arse Grab (SHAG) pioneered on CCTV  by the former Health Secretary — has been adopted as the preferred gesture of greeting by members of the Orpington & District Over-60s Sex Club.

Boris Johnson models his bluff-and-bluster PMQ tactics on his Eton house master JGM Lanyard, who suffered frequent bouts of Tourette’s Syndrome.

Labour’s Shadow Everything, Angela Rayner, a self-taught brush artist, is looking for an gallery to display her 2ft triptych of Wonder Woman in oils.

A young Lord Drone (then Viscount Hackwood) bet a chum he could kick a policeman’s helmet from El Vino to St Paul’s. Unfortunately he stopped for refreshment at the Punch Tavern, where the angry copper found him several hours later. Bow Street magistrates gave him a conditional discharge.

At prep school a young Jacob Rees-Mogg once had to write out 50 times “I must not interrupt the head master during prayers”.

An original drawing of Desperate Dan eating a cow pie by legendary Dandy cartoonist Dudley D Watkins hangs in the foutoir* of rock icon Rod Stewart’s Burgundy bolt-hole.

*Colloq: A room where French people go for a spot of rogering.

 © Fake News International




STAR ON THE STONE: Humphrey Bogart played an editor in the 1952 film Deadline USA

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



Bunk! What a load of rowlocks in the Mail

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

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

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

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

Is there one L or two in bollocks?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

How Hollywood sees us ...


… and the knackering reality


Above and below: Exhausted staff asleep at their desks


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

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

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

Former BBC TV and Sky News correspondent KEITH GRAVES told the Drone: 

I was saddened to read of Anne Morrow’s death. My first day in The Daily Express London newsroom in 1963 I found myself sitting between Anne and Rita Marshall, a pretty nerve-racking introduction for a 22-year-old doing holiday relief from Manchester.

They were two very hard-nosed reporters but a delight to work with and learn from.

We young male reporters lived in fear of our brilliant news editor Keith Howard. Far worse though was a tongue lashing from Kenny (as was) and/or Marshall. A visit to Poppins usually put things right.

In later years it was my pleasure to cover a few HMQ overseas tours with Ann. It was always a pleasure to watch her put overbearing and pompous courtiers firmly in their places.




Daily Mail subs 1960s


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Much Boasting



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


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

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

The cartoon is signed ‘Steadman after Giles'



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

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

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

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

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

Next: Why Dandelion and Burdock makes nuns blush


Giancarlo Esposito

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

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




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

Picture: London Express/Getty Images

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

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

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

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


TalkRADIO staff are pinged off


By CHUCK HAMMER (He’s ever so sporty)

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

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

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

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



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

Picture: Print Collector/Getty Images

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

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

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

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


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

Picture: PA

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Dollis Hill,
Home of Twiggy


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



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

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

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

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

Curious, Andy began investigating his Mark Twain moment.

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

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

She had meant to write, “Andy’s Dad…”

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

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





THE BABY SHARD, also known as The News Building

By MUSTAPHA JABBI, Medical Correspondent

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

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

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

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


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

Picture: Raymond Kleboe/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


Desmond quits the newspaper business after nearly 50 years

Picture: Dan Chung/The Guardian

By PEARL BREVIER, Lord Drone’s minion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Don’t Talk To Me About...

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

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

By HENRY T FORD-SHANKS, Motoring Correspondent

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

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

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

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

Picture research: Awards Nominee Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

"Their absolute priority is the children.”

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can we get away with this Cocky? — Ed



Large glass of red or R White’s, sir?

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

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

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

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


This evinced the following reply:

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

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

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

Cheers Amigo,


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

Much Blending




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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy days indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours adoringly

Hedley leads in poll to find the greatest Express Supersub

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘In about five fucking minutes!’

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

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

Every 10 lines was an inch in minion. Simps!

More details on the subs pic


(Up to a point, Lord Copper)


By NANCY BOYE, Green Room reporter (transgender)

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

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

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

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

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

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


World’s greatest lunch club celebrates its 75th meeting


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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


Subs who misspell his name

MISCHIEVOUS subs can be absolutely wotten to Wootton.

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

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

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

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

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

POPBITCH asks, somewhat provocatively and without providing any answers:

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

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

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

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

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


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

By ARTHUR TRILBY, He’s totally hatstand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently he span the same yarn with John Humphrys too.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

Details of Charlie’s book follow ...

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

charlie book.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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


Python apes bear


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Skilful tour de force by
a master craftsman

ROBIN McGIBBON loves the book. Here is his review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Pirates of Fleet Street 

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

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

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

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

Chapters 1 and 2

 Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8


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


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

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

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

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




Who says the UK is a nation led by donkeys?


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

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

By GRAINNE E SNAPPES, Picture Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Brillo set to broadcast GB News from France 


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

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

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

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

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


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

By HAYLEY DALE, Fleet Street Reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DroneTube Exclusive

Life After The Front Page

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

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

Runtime is 16 minutes.


Tweet of the Year



Muldoon’s Lookalike


                     ESSEX                                     McINTYRE

By S MULDOON (trainee)

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

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

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

I’ll get you for this, Muldoon — Ed 


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

Transport Correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A toast to Victor


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

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

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

Victor, Doyen of showbiz writers


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

Our exclusive guide to virus speak

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

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

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

Lockdown: City/country shut off from outside world.

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

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

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

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

Epidemiological Action Plan: Proof of the above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Drone staff told to work from home


EARLY DOZING DAY: The editor hard at work last night


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Correspondent (freelance). 



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

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

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

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

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

Was he a Fifth Columnist?


History in Moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best of the best, eh?

R.R (t)



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

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

Fever pitch? Not quite


History in Moments


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R.R. (t)




                     MATT                                      MATT

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

How news of the war got through the Blitz

Shop front.jpeg

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



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

CURRANT BUNS: Craig reveals the news on Facebook


From Ancoats to Fleet Street with Andy Carson

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

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

I was Andy Carson’s interpreter


(Except for the chaps in this pic)


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

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

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


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

ancoats pic.jpg

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

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

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

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




Why do young reporters ask such silly questions?

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

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

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




Behind the Lens, a 2016 tribute. Runtime 34 minutes

ITV 2019 documentary on John Downing. Runtime 23 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










kim and downing.jpeg

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


Former Standard night editor Henshall dies


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

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

Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

East Anglian Daily Times obit



young sodmire.jpeg

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


All about Iris


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

'I didn't stay long.'



Design genius dies at 92


DOING WHAT HE LOVED: Vic at the Express

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

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





Award-winning reporters return from embassy raid


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

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

But who are they and what were they up to?


History in Moments


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

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

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

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

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

R R (t)


An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, sloping entered the lexicon.

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

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

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

Senior boys on the Back Bench, who were allowed to stay up very late, rarely drank during normal licensing hours. They had to make do with ‘afters’ chez Jean at the Harrow or the soulless Press Club an