A classic is something everyone wants to have, but nobody wants to read — Mark Twain


Today's papers


Dave Brown, The Independent


Picture of the day

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London’s Oxford Street yesterday. Our weather forecast said it would be damp underfoot Picture: JEFF OVERS, BBC


News you may have missed

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They change every day, you chump

A Christmas gift from the House of Drone

Curtain Twitcher’s


Ever get bogged down writing wordy Facebook chatter group posts answering the perennial question: Hi peeps: anyone know what’s that noise outside? 

Instead, reach for this handy library of Drone PostPix which really proves that a picture paints a thousand words.

What’s that Noise?
Also in development:

Mutt from No.9 mating noisily with next door’s cockerpoo

Girl on Lidl checkout rowing with boyfriend on corner Infidelity alleged

Bloke opposite coming home pissed again (who the fuck is Nellie Dean?)

Spurs would seem to have won again

Carol singers open repertoire with We Wish You a Merry Christmas

And many more...


Sweep her off her feet!


Come on you weeds, be a trailblazer and set fire to your plants


Hello weeds! I open this week's gardening column with some sound advice from the Weekend section of Saturday’s Times — now is the time, er apparently, to take a blow lamp to your plants.

Following the advice in the headline to add a little flare to my winter pots I doused them in petrol and set light to them. I look forward to the results. 

I must confess, however, that my horticultural endeavours are not looking too good. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, they are all bloody dead.

As a trained horticulturist I am left wondering whether The Times, has made a small error in the headline. What do you think weeds? 

Answers on a postcard to your nearest compost heap.

Picture research by the Rev Mrs Azalea Hedgerow-Corduroy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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


Country Boys
with Oliver and Teddy (they seem very nice)


Part 2

Hello again. I’m not sure Teddy’s settling into our new country life as well as I am. I think he misses Parsons Green and, more particularly, the West End. 

I’ve told him that’s all over now; his days in the theatre are finis: exeunt all. It’s his own fault. Lighting directors should be seen and not heard, I said. Throwing that hissy fit with Judi before lockdown made him practically persona non grunta. 

Well, he’s done the retraining, is good with computers and can work from home. So that’s why we moved to Frame Hampton. Just fucking deal with it! Course I don’t tell him that.

Me? I’m like a pig in, actually. I love the peace and serenity here in Wiltshire and it’s so dark now the clocks have gone back. I’m settling into a routine keeping things nice but I’m insisting that Ted and I go for a long walk at some point during the day. Sometimes he’s not that willing but I can be quite firm when I want to be!

The other weekend we drove over to Cerne Abbas and that was nice. Later I overheard Teddy Zooming his old mates at the Colly and saying what fun we had climbing all over the Giant’s you-know-what. Sometimes he can be so unbelievably schoolboy smutty. I just let him get on with it.

The leaves have almost gone now. Our darling village, so green and luscious when we viewed the cottage in the summer, is ghostly and bare. The only splash of colour is from the leaves of the variegated Paranoia Magna on our south wall. The early frosts remind me that it’s nearly Christmas.  

We’re in Covid Tier Two so we have decided to keep ourselves to ourselves and I guess it will be turkey crown a deux this year. Truth is we’ve not been out too much mixing with hoi polloi. We venture to the village shop, of course (Sikhs are lovely people, aren’t they?) and already I hear that villagers refer to Teddy and me as The Boys. Would that that were true, darling! 

Till the next time and try to have a jolly Christmas despite the pandemic.


Missed Part 1 luvvy? It’s here




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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Memory Lane
Dollis Hill.

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



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

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

Read the fascinating tale here


Steve Bell’s cartoon banned by the Graun

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

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

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


My fabulous night with the Fab Four

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

A pleasing night with The Beatles




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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"So unlike him to want to keep anything quiet!

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

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

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

"He would have loved that.”

Farewell to a Fleet Street great, by ALAN FRAME

Daily Telegraph obituary


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Elton John revealed as Sturgeon’s mum
(Not a lot of people know that)

ROCKET MUM: Nicola Sturgeon and her mother ‘Joan


        WEE JIMMY KRANKIE                     STURGEON


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


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

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

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


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


Deux amis sur Le Continong

(Gay Paree actuellement)


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As ever,


Funny you should say that Dick ...

Former Mirror and Expressman John Clarke writes:

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

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

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

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


Dear Aunt Marje Rambleshanks

(still a trainee and still in dentures)

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

Quantum of solace

Dear Aunt Marje,

These latest three-tier Covid restrictions are doing my fucking head in. Have you any words of solace?

Best Boy

Dear BB,

I think it's fair to say, universally, we've all had a challenging year. 

No matter our culture, colour, or corporate disposition, I believe challenging times present critical opportunities to reflect on the gift of life and precious memories it brings to each of us in small moments of interaction, encouragement, and storytelling growth.

Every second, each thought, and every breath you spend sharing your stories with others is a gift.

Please be safe. Enjoy each breath. Write a letter (with a pen - even if you don't mail it). Watch a foreign movie. Cry shyly at how far you've come as a parent, partner, or pioneer. 

Give a meal - just one this time, you give so much already.  Blast some music and dance to your achievements: you've earned it.

Hug virtually, code with a smile, listen to the point of pain, divorce any shame or unforgiveness, then be thankful. Why? Because you are a gift to the universe, and the world needs more gifts, like you!

For some reason and for what it's worth, no matter the pain or problems, I've learned a thankful mind frees the soul from the chaotic constraints of the unknown and stimulates an unspeakable  peace despite all that has been lost or feels missing.

What a Wynner

Dear Aunt Marje

Is it OK to be a Peter Wyngarde lookalike?

Dirk Doppelgänger 

Oh, come on, DD, this is no time for second thoughts, regrets. So an online newspaper has obtained a picture of you in industrial retro mode. So what? Think of it as part of your unique back story; a life choice to be proud of.

After all, darling Peter was a marvellous actor, wasn’t he? Truly a big star on a small screen who appeared with the likes of Burton, Leigh and Garrick (Eh? - Ed). Let us remember His Royal Hirsuteness Jason King with affection and respect; that poise, that panache, those wide-lapelled three-piece suits. Let us savour, still, the rich timbre of his soothing voice. Truly a role model for any questioning youth trembling on the brink of adulthood.

And let’s forget once and for all, shall we, that messy, unseemly incident with a sweaty crane driver in the public loos of Gloucester railway station.

Frame up

Dear Aunt Marje

I’ve got a professional problem and I need your advice (and please can we keep it ‘off the books’ vis-à-vis the Editor). An old friend of his wants me to interview him in the Back Bar of the Flying Fuck when LD2 ends. Apparently, he’s written a book about Dorothy’s dog in the Wizard of Oz and a clown (just imagine!). Trouble is, Mummy heard him on the radio and, to be honest, he sounds like a bit of an old ronny (do you mean roué, dear?) What shall I do?

Awards Nominee Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

Dear ANRR (t)

First, on no account must you meet him, especially in the Flying Fuck: the Back Bar is the slippery slope to perdition for any young girl on a winter’s afternoon. No, if you must interview him, insist on a telephone chat citing Coronavirus restrictions. The subject? I do sympathise, darling. It sounds just the sort of thing they get the poor, bloody trainee to do. Here’s a tip: after a bit of preliminary flim-flam let him get on with it, make the occasional grunt and, when he’s finished, don’t forget to say how marvellous it was. You know the drill.

Just so.




How to rubbish a costly promotion in one easy step


THE Mail On Sunday took a mighty bite at the hand that feeds it last Sunday.

The paper’s hugely expensive YOU magazine wraparound, bought by Netflix to promote The Crown, was countered by editor Ted Verity's rubbishing of the The Crown TV series with his splash.  

Will Lord Rothermere look quite so benevolently on Verity when the advertisers ask for their money back?

Asking for a friend.


Two pics from the 80s
to jog a few memories

HAIR RAISING: Our man Williams, left, forges ahead

PUFFY BUFFY: Roger Watkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy times!


How an Expressman came face to face with Sutcliffe in Broadmoor

FRIENDS: Maureen Flanagan and Charlie Kray


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, what is your real name?”

“Ray Kray,” he said.

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

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

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

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


Author Frame looks back to the future

Yesterday’s Belfast News Letter


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Steve Bott’s World

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

Part 2

Part 3




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


Former Express legal chief is Times Lawyer of Week



Great pictures of Daily and Sunday Express in the 80s

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

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








Who’s that with Sue?

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

How to be sensible


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

It’s game raising time, Mac!



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


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

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

From: James Mellor

Date: Monday, 19 October, 2020  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Hitch makes his crisps last as he flouts mask rules

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


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

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

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

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



THE exodus of staff from the London Evening Standard has begun following the Covid crisis and the curious appointment of George Osborne as editor. 

At least 16 journalists have announced their departures online in the past week from teams including video, showbiz and sport.

They are part of an anticipated 40 per cent cut to newsroom staff after the Standard’s business model was one of the worst hit in the media industry by Covid-19, relying as it does largely on free pick-up by commuters and advertising revenue.

It is believed that up to 115 staff in total will leave in the current round of redundancies, including 69 in editorial.

The journalists to have left the newsroom include:

Chris Stone, executive producer for video and audio

David Lynch, Liverpool FC correspondent

Emma Clarke, SEO and audience development manager

Fola Olorunselu, video journalist

George Fenwick, showbiz reporter

Jack Webb, gaming and tech writer

Joe Krishnan, sport journalist

Kimberley Bond, showbiz reporter

Lucy Pavia, Insider editor

Mathilda Mallinson, video journalist

Rachel McGrath, digital showbiz and TV editor

Rich Parry, deputy head of sport

Rob Le Mare, video producer

Sally Biddall, head of social

Tony Mogan, digital production assistant (sports desk)

Zoe Paskett, arts writer.

The Drone says: Even before the Coronavirus crisis the Standard became almost unreadable thanks to job cuts and the appointment of a non-journalist as editor. 

Most people never bothered to pick up their free copies, preferring to get the latest news from their phones.

Despite this, George Osborne is still employed at the title as editor-in-chief.

Sometimes we are at a loss for words at what some managements are doing to our beloved newspaper industry.






times subs.jpg

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



Daily Mail edges back over one million copies
Daily Express up two per cent

The Daily Mail’s circulation has topped 1million for the first time since Covid-19 hit the UK in March.

The latest ABC figures show most of the UK’s national newspapers saw marginal sales growth in September but continued year-on-year decline of between 10% and 20%.

The Daily Mail, which had dipped below 1m for the first time because of the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown on footfall, returned to average sales of 1,007,181.

The Daily Express saw a two per cent rise and the Sunday title one per cent.

The Mail on Sunday and Observer saw the smallest year-on-year decline (both 10%).

The Financial Times once again recorded the biggest month-on-month growth (10%) and the largest year-on-year decline (-38%).

The ABC figures published above do not include The Sun, Times or Telegraph titles, which have chosen to keep their circulations private.

The Telegraph does publish its subscriber figures monthly and said in September it reached 524,412 in total, of which 323,917 (62%) were digital and 200,495 (38%) were print.

Its net new subscriptions were 12,914, almost double the figure from August.


Expressman Laws has another book out

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

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

The synopsis reads:

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

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

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

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

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

Order from Amazon

Video trailer

Davids website


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

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



(Up to a point)



Read all about it, listeners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) The job is mine.

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


The following message has been passed to Lord Drone:

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

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


Our trainee Rosalie joins the Gong Show in awards bonanza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


History in Moments


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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Some chicken. Some neck!’

R.R (t)


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

No1: The Hogarth Roundabout

By IZZY K. BRUNEL-SHANKS Motoring Correspondent

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

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

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

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

Picture research: Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

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



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

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

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

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


Whatever happened to silver serpents in Daily Express foyer?


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

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

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

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

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

Can anyone throw light on this mystery?

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

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

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


Fresh from sacking 550 staff, Reach plans to shut offices
as it trousers £28.9m profit

TWO stories summed up the dire state of the newspaper industry yesterday.

Reach plc, publisher of the Express, Mirror and Star titles, revealed  profits of £28.9million after a “strong recovery” in digital advertising. 

The announcement came as the company was busy sacking 550 employees, most of them in editorial.

The second story revealed Reach was surveying staff on the future of working arrangements post-pandemic as it looks to become more “agile” and make savings on its portfolio of offices.

In the short term, staff have been advised to continue working from home if they can until at least early 2021.

Offices, including its headquarters in London’s Canary Wharf,  will continue to be maintained as Covid-secure premises for those who need them, but the majority of staff, including journalists, have been staying at home.

Reach chief executive Jim Mullen said: “We want to challenge traditional ways of working and create an agile, efficient and inclusive working environment that helps us all be our best and work together as a team brilliantly.” 

In other words the company is looking to sell off its portfolio of properties, leaving what’s left of the workforce to pay their own heating and lighting bills.

Lord Beaverbrook, Hugh Cudlipp and Arthur Christiansen must be turning in their graves.


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

Drone Media Commentator

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional research by Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee).


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Guttersnipe's Dick pens another novel

23 dick durham.JPG

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

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

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

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

Here’s the synopsis:

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

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

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


One snapper and his dog Flossie record
a town in lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ludgate Circus on a foggy night in November, 1922




An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER

Picture research by R.R.(t)

FUDGE: This stereo plate was used for breaking news

Q. Was The Fudge a piece of confectionery provided by the management to keep the late sub awake? 

A. Sweet thought but No. The fudge is jargon for the more confusingly named Stop Press, a device by which a newspaper is able to print late news on the run without, er, stopping the press. On the Express, where it was used until the newspaper went tabloid in1977, it usually consisted of a very short short “printed” on a mini stereo plate (See picture. Rosalie, ahem, this is a fudge from the Evening Standard — Ed) which was inserted in a gap in the full-size Page 1 plate (do try to keep up!).

It was considered a bit of a sin to run with an empty Late News slot even though it was often completely inconsequential, and it was one of the duties of the Late Sub to fill the voracious maw that was the fudge box. 

Trying-to-be-helpful printers were also forever using (and, tiresomely, re-using) any old fudge plate they could find littering the stereo room floor regardless of how old it was.

Thus, a veteran Express hand recalls seeing the classic, all-purpose:

Forty killed as bus plunges into ravine near Lima, Peru on at least three occasions. 

Late Sub was not a popular shift. Downtable subs and the Express editorial management, although they didn’t appreciate it, were lucky that the paper’s fortunes in the hours after drinks had been taken were in the hands of the calm, gentlemanly, multi-skilled Bob Haylett for many years.

The shift ran from 9pm until 4am (no break) and could easily lull anyone into a sense of false security. Most of the time, of course, it was fairly quiet. Just the odd Lima Ravine Plunge. But after the Back Bench had buggered off for beer and bagels, all hell could be let loose. 

It is said that one stand-in Late Sub blames the first silver hairs in his thatch on one incident in the rapidly changing  Toxteth riots of July, 1981 at 2.15 on a Monday morning when he was very much alone. 

Simultaneously trying to copy-taste, redraw Page 1, sub a new splash, write a new head and stone it in while copy tasting another new splash (Cops Fire CS Gas For First Time On British Mainland) certainly kept him awake.

Alternatively, one could always while away the time by composing fantasy fudges for major historical events such as:

Gravity discovered as apple falls on boffin near Grantham, Lincs

Doomed monarch fails in bid to swap kingdom for horse at Bosworth near Leicester

Star-crossed lovers die in suicide pact after family feud in Verona, Italy

One-armed, one-eyed admiral killed as Navy routs French in battle off Cadiz, Spain

Next in Media Hits and Myths: Is it possible to grow your own rough ends of green pineapples in the UK climate and will Rosalie Rambleshanks ever graduate from being a trainee?

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

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

May 8, 1926: An elegant light serif

May 11, 1926: Bold sans caps

May 13, 1926: Traditional Gothic

The General Strike lasted nine days, from 4 to 12 May, 1926. It was called by the TUC in an unsuccessful attempt to force the Government to act to prevent wage reductions and worsening conditions for 1.2 million locked-out coal miners. 

Some 1.7 million workers walked out, especially in transport and heavy industry and the printers joined them, reducing newspapers to single news sheets. 

The government was prepared, and enlisted middle class volunteers to maintain essential services. There was little violence and the TUC gave up in defeat.


Last night in Fleet Street on the Daily Express backbench

FINAL EDITION: The year is 1989 and Daily Express night editor Terry Manners speaks on the backbench telephone during the paper's last night at its iconic offices in Fleet Street, London. Also pictured are art supremo Tim Holder and backbencher Dick Dismore. The circulation manager is in the background.

This picture, along with six others, have been unearthed by former night news editor Terry Chinery.




8 Daily Express, September 24, 1938



CARLIN                                   PARRY

So … spooky or what? Not Mike Parry, although, to be honest, he can be a bit scary. No, I mean his resemblance to fellow journalist John Carlin. 

Both are in their mid-sixties, went to good schools and are university educated. 

Carlin, born to a Scottish father and Spanish mother, started in journalism on the Buenos Aires Herald writing about football, politics and film. He has enjoyed a successful career writing in both English and Spanish and has won many awards. 

He is best known for his work on The Times, Sunday Times, the Independent and the Toronto Star as well as broadcasting for, alphabetically, ABC, BBC and CBC. A book he wrote on Nelson Mandela formed the basis of the well received 2009 film Invictus.

Parry, more correctly Michael Alan Newton-Parry, is, by comparison, more of a journalistic grunt, although he enjoyed a respectable career in Fleet Street notably as an industrious news editor on the World’s Greatest Newspaper. 

For a time he was press officer for the Football Association and went on to make a name for himself on talkRADIO and, later, talkSPORT, forming amusing double acts with the likes of Alan Brazil and another former Express exec, Mike Graham. 

Indeed, he and Graham even toured the halls with their live Two Mikes show but later fell out and went their separate ways. Parry had serious health problems in 2004 but fought back admirably and resumed his radio and TV work. He left talkSPORT a year ago and now inhabits somewhere he calls Planet Porky. Nuff said. 
R.R. (t)


Express and Mirror subs ordered to work an extra night for no pay increase 

STAFF at Express and Mirror newspapers have been outraged by an order to work an extra night each fortnight for no increase in pay.

Sub-editors and other production workers have also been offerred the ‘opportunity’ to continue working from home. 

Express subs are already on a nine-night fortnight, but now the title's middle-benchers, who have been on four nights until now, have been asked to work the extra day. There will be no increase in hours actually worked.

Mirror subs have not been working the nine-night fortnight but are being told to now. Understandably there have been objections.  

These were answered by Lloyd Embley, editor-in-chief, who reportedly told a meeting that parent company Reach had just made extensive redundancies on the regional titles so those sacked workers would be willing to work on the national titles. But he said he did not want to do that.

This threat could reasonably be interpreted that the company is willing to draft in cheaper labour to replace experienced national newspaper journalists.


The mad world of Andy ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Carson


HERE’S a picture that sums up the fun of the national press in its heyday.

The print was found among the memorabilia at art genius Vic Giles’s flat in the Barbican, London, by his son-in-law Expressman Stephen Wood.

Dated October 1981, it is an intriguing snap from Vic’s time at the Daily Star in Manchester.

We can’t fill in all the spaces but pictured, from left, are: Bob Coole; unidentified; Jeff McGowan, Daily Star news editor; unidentified; Vic Giles and Ray Mills. Grovelling on the floor is Andy Carson. 

The caption on the back in Ray Mills’s handwriting reads: “Andy ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Carson in typical pose.”

Can anyone throw any light on the mystery men?




TWO elderly gents rest their weary bones by the riverside in Lincoln. Discerning folk may recognise them as former Expressmen Roger Watkins, left, and Terry Manners.

It was, we suspect a social visit, not that you would deduce that from the caption supplied by Mr Watkins: 'Former Express hacks during rehearsals in Lincoln for a socially-distanced production of Waiting for Godot (“Dire: do not bother” — Q Letts, Sunday Times) and, below, in their back bench days.'

Mr Manners put it differently: 'Observing social distancing with my grandad in Lincoln today.'


Massed ranks of Fleet Street’s finest, 1997


FORMER Daily Express photographer TOM STODDART posted this picture on Twitter last night to celebrate World Photography Day. It shows Fleet Street's photographers in action as newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives in Downing Street on 2nd May, 1997 after winning the General Election.

Rupert keeps it up


It's rare we feel much sympathy for any of the Murdoch family, but we had a slight pang of it in 2016 when we heard this story, remembers POPBITCH.

Wanting to check that her dear old dad was keeping fit, one of Rupert Murdoch's daughters bought him one of those wristbands that track your activity. 

She started wearing one too so that the pair of them could check each other's activity for the day – to keep each other motivated to stay healthy.

The daughter eventually decided to turn off the sharing function when Rupes got himself a new girlfriend though as she kept being reminded, at around 9pm each night, that his 'activity' would shoot right up*.

*Fnaar, fnaar — Ed



HAVE you worked it out yet? Yes chums it’s Mike Graham, formerly of this parish and now a celebrated radio broadcaster.

This picture was taken in New York in the 1980s where Mike ran a news agency.

He later joined the Daily Express where he rose through the ranks from reporter to assistant editor. After a spell as editor of the Scottish Daily Mirror he moved into radio in 2006.

Mike now hosts the mid-morning weekday show on TalkRADIO, taking over at 10am from his former Express colleague Julia Hartley-Brewer, who helped him celebrate his 60th birthday, below.

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Daredevil Tom, forgotten hero of the Daily Express 


The extraordinary wartime exploits of Expressman Tom Dobney can be told today.

Tom became the youngest airman in the RAF when he lied about his age and signed up at the age of 14.

Thirty years later, when Sunday Express editor John Junor heard of the young pilot’s derring-do, he instructed his reporters to scour the country to track Tom down.

The investigators drew a blank … but in an amazing twist of events it turned out that the answer to their quest was on their doorstep.


History in Moments

1953: So … stop sniggering at the back there, you down-table subs. We’re about to embrace a serious topic, a first for the Daily Drone: lesbians. 

This rather sweet picture of some pretty girls dancing and drinking was taken at the Gateways Club, a haunt for ladies who batted for the other side in a dingy, windowless cellar-like room in Bramerton Street just off the Kings Road, Chelsea. 

The club, founded in the Thirties, flourished in the war and quickly became notorious for its edgy clientele. It even had a Green Door, said to have inspired the hit song of that name recorded by Frankie Vaughan and, later, Shakin’ Stevens. 

The club really became famous when it was the location for scenes, involving regulars as extras, for the 1968 film The Killing of Sister George, starring Beryl Reid, a youthful Susannah York and a sexy crop-haired Coral Browne. 

It was one of the first to explore lesbianism which, although never illegal like male homosexuality (it is said that Queen Victoria never believed it could happen and declined to sign off the proposed legislation), certainly was confined to the shadows of British life.

Gateways limped on until complaints about its loud music led to its closure in 1985. It was run for many years by Ted Ware, said to have won it in a poker game, and his Italian wife, Gina. They were joined (and I’m not making this up) by a woman, demobbed from the American Air Force, called Smithy.

The Drone’s resident former Express hack, Proddie, says she reminds him of the cast list of the celebrated BBC radio series Round the Horne which included, memorably: ‘burly, moustachioed former bomber pilot Betty Marsden’. Atta girl!

R.R. (t)

Shamefully omitted from the BBC documentary, Kelvin gives his side of Rupert Murdoch story

FORMER Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has come out fighting in defence of Rupert Murdoch following an extraordinary TV snub.

Inexplicably left out of the BBC’s three-part documentary on his old boss, he has written a brilliant article for The Spectator about his experiences working for Murdoch.

And, as you would expect, he has not held back, accusing the programme makers of peddling one-sided bile.

There's more ... Craig MacKenzie revealed yesterday that his brother is writing a book entitled Murdoch and Me and Other Madmen. 

"A movie is in the works — it’s going to get messy,” says Craig.

You have been warned.

Beat the paywall and read Kelvin’s Spectator article free of charge on the Drone. You’re welcome.

The real Rupert Murdoch




BEGUM                                    LOREN

So … OK, it’s a bit of a stretch but, come on, they do look alike, don’t they? One is the doyenne (o dovrei dire la decana?) of Italian cinema; the other a rather pathetic wannabe terrorist. 

Sophia Loren, nee Sofia Villani Scicolone, is pushing 86 now but is still a celebrated beauty, famous for her sultry roles in well regarded films: she won an Oscar for the iconic De Sica movie, Two Women.

This dramatic still is from The Black Orchid, currently in the Talking Pictures TV portfolio. Her love life was a bit tangled. After a notorious affair with Cary Grant she ‘married’ the director Carlo Ponti, 21 years her senior. Trouble was he hadn’t actually divorced his first wife. So he and Loren had to go through a rather messy annulment to avoid bigamy charges. They did eventually marry and, in classic romantic style, lived happily ever after.

There hasn’t been much happiness in Shamima Begum’s short life. Now 21, she fled the UK at 15 and became an Isis bride in various Syrian hellholes. She had three children all, tragically, now dead. She was back in the news this months when the Court of Appeal ruled that she should be allowed back here to appeal against being stripped of UK citizenship. This decision, too, is the subject of an appeal.

However it all turns out, you may be sure that her life will never be as fulfilled and satisfying as her illustrious lookalike.

R.R (t)

History in Moments


February 5, 1953: So...what are these little reprobates up to? Stuffing their faces with sugarlicious sweets: don’t they know it’s bad for their teeth? 

Actually, by the look of  'em this trio is too young to be used to sucking gobstoppers, sherbet lemons, liquorice comfits, dolly mixtures (Get on with it: we get the message — Ed) because for all their lives they had been rationed. 

But today wartime rationing on sweets has ended after 11 years so it’s a feeding frenzy. Toffee apples were the big sellers today along with nougat and liquorice strips. 

One London firm gave 800 kids 150lb of lollipops; another doled out sweets to allcomers. Even adults joined in with many men taking a box of choccies home for their wives, most for the first time. 

An attempt to de-ration sweets in 1949 failed because demand far exceeded supply and rationing was reimposed after just four months. But this time all went well and the sugar rush led to a £250 million boost to the confectionery industry in one year (today the UK spends £5billion annually).

Curiously, rationing of sugar itself continued for another seven months. Old Proddie, the former Express hack who hangs around the Drone newsroom (and, increasingly, over me as I type, I might add) recalls, as a tiny tot, being placed in a ration queue by his mother to keep her place while she did other shopping. Common practice, apparently. 

I asked Granny Rambleshanks if she ever did this. ‘No, dear,’ she said, we had maids for that sort of thing.’ Oh, Granny, those were the days! La dolce vita, indeed.

R.R. (t)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m stunned, says Steve Bell

An Expressman writes ...


From The Times, July 13


Shock as Daily Star’s reporting team is set to be slashed by half 

THE Daily Star is expected to bear the brunt of redundancies in the latest cutbacks at Reach group newspapers. 

Its reporting team is set to be nearly halved from 17 to nine.

Sports journalists, reporters and subs are also believed to be in the line of fire.

It is also understood that six of the 17 photographers on Reach’s national titles are at risk, with the company planning to use photographers on its regional newspapers to cover national jobs.

Bosses have announced plans to axe 550 jobs — 12 per cent of the workforce — and have ordered subs to work a five-night week.

But they have agreed to end the 10 per cent salary cut instituted at the start of the Covid crisis and restore full pay. 

The cuts are blamed on falling income amid reduced demand for advertising in its titles.

Reach said its group revenue had tumbled by 27.5 per cent during the second quarter, compared with a year earlier, as newspaper sales and advertising plummeted during the coronavirus crisis.

The cutbacks, thought to be the biggest round of layoffs in the company’s history, are part of changes intended to deliver savings of £35million a year.

One insider told Press Gazette there was real concern among regional papers “because they believe the nationals will suck up their resources”.

There are further fears that in an attempt to create one combined editorial team, Reach’s regional titles will lose their individual identities, particularly online where some fear celebrity news may be favoured over local news.

The well-placed source also said that under the plans for one editorial team, sub-editors would become “brand publishers” and “page publishers”. An example of cutbacks being dressed up as a “transformation”.

Under the plans, one editor-in-chief and a deputy would be appointed to cover both of Reach’s celebrity magazines – OK! and New! – and its seven newspaper supplements, with staff working across all nine titles, they said.

The Express Newspapers’ union chapel said: “Despite accepting taxpayers’ money for what was meant to be a job retention scheme, Reach is now proposing to do away with many of these jobs."

The union said that despite Covid-19, “Reach is still predicted to make a pre-tax profit of £100million this year and emerge from the crisis with a £20million cash reserve, similar to where it was at the start of the year”.

Reach made a pre-tax profit of £150.6million on turnover of £702.5million in 2019, which included a full year of trading with the Express and Star titles.

A company spokesman said: “The changes at Reach are aimed at maximising the company’s business model and will protect its trusted national and local news brands for the long-term.

“Structural change in the media sector has accelerated during the pandemic and to meet these challenges we have completed plans to transform the organisation to create a more streamlined and efficient operation.”

As former Express and Star owner, Richard Desmond is Reach’s biggest single shareholder. Press Gazette was told staff feel “we are being asked to pay with our jobs” to fund Desmond’s “billionaire lifestyle”.

The insider also said there’s a sense that staff are paying for “past errors”, notably the Mirror group’s payments to historical phone-hacking victims, which has run into the tens of millions of pounds.



Big Gunn who ruled the old Daily Sketch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scroll down this page for more on the Sketch.


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

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

A virtual first for the Tuesday gang


THWARTED by their bid to meet again following the Covid crisis, the Daily Express First Tuesday Club held a virtual meeting on Zoom yesterday.

 Members had hoped to gather in The George in Fleet Street for the first time since lockdown, but their plans were wrecked by the fact that the pub was still closed. 

Pictured above are David and Lamar Eliades,  Tony Sapiano, Bill Orchard, Gill Martin and Jim Watson, Frank Thorne’s pic vanished into the ether.

Also joining in were Tom Brown in Scotland and Chris White in Belgium.

Wartime cartoon which spoke a thousand words


This Punch cartoon by Leslie Illingworth is regarded as one of the most famous of the Second World War. 

Entitled The Combat, it features an evil-looking Nazi wearing a gas mask and wings threatening an RAF fighter plane bearing the slogan Freedom.

Drawn in 1940 the cartoon prompted hundreds of heartfelt letters from readers of the magazine.

Illingworth, who died in 1979 aged 77, was chief cartoonist of Punch and also found fame with the Daily Mail.


Drone sub-editors relax in mufti after a long shift





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

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

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

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

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


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


Solemn moment Daily Sketch staff learned the paper was folding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gad Sir! How Low hit heights with his pompous Col Blimp  

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DAVID LOW was one of the most famous cartoonists of the 20th century and his greatest creation was Colonel Blimp who first appeared in the London Evening Standard in 1934.

Blimp, pictured here in the deckchair, was a pompous, irascible, jingoistic, and stereotypically British character, identifiable by his walrus moustache and the interjection "Gad, Sir!"

Low developed the character after overhearing two military men in a Turkish bath declare that cavalry officers should be entitled to wear their spurs inside tanks. The character was named after the barrage balloon, which was known as a blimp.

While working for the Standard, Low earned fame for his merciless satirising of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin which led to his work being banned in Germany and Italy.

Born in New Zealand in 1891, he emigrated to London in 1919 after his work attracted the attention of Henry Cadbury, owner of The Star newspaper.

The Star sympathised with Low's moderately left-wing views but in 1927 he accepted an invitation from Lord Beaverbrook to join the conservative Evening Standard on the strict understanding that there would be no editorial interference with his output. 

There he produced his most famous work, chronicling the rise of fascism in the 1930s, the policy of Appeasement, and the conflict of World War II. 

Low was knighted in 1962 and died at his London home the following year aged 72.



My lament for iconic
Weekly News as it folds after 165 years


Sir — I think this may have slipped the radar in the midst of all the hullabaloo in the UK and worldwide but this was certainly an iconic and extremely sad occasion for many. 

Personally, I was absolutely devastated to hear that The Weekly News has closed after 165 years. The last edition (No. 8,600) went out on 30 May. I know for a fact that several former staff members of Express Newspapers (some quite famous) began their careers on the WM and will mourn the passing as much as I do.

I was 17 when I began work in the Chapel Street, Salford offices (now no more) and even after five decades miss it dreadfully. I was tutored by two legends of sporting journalism, Len Noad and Jimmy Arthur who must have helped hundreds of young journalists attempting to get on in the business. Len was what we know as 'a good operator' and first spotted the teenage Lee Sharpe and suggested to Alex Ferguson that he should sign him, which he did. 

As I remember it, the pay was £7 a week which somehow went a long way. Luxury! The difficulty, as on every other weekly, was finding a unique story and keeping it away from the dailies and nationals until Wednesday when it went to Press. 

I wrote a weekly column titled See Them on TV this Weekend which more or less speaks for itself. Most of the interviews were with wrestlers who all turned out to be the most charming of men and that included the so-called 'villains’. 

Like the Economist all writers on The Weekly News were anonymous. My moniker was Goggle Box. The most difficult interviewees, believe it or not, were cricketers who invariably expected a fee. 

As DC Thomson were based in Dundee this was a no brainer so the likes of Sir Geoffrey Boycott and the South African opener Eddie Barlow went unpaid. Boycott (and his mum) simply showed me the door, immune to the plea that I had spent half a day on the train from Manchester to Fitzwilliam and my sports editor (also Dundonian) was not going to be happy. 

Few people had phones in the early '60s so a lot of the newspaper work was all hit and hope.

Tonight I drink a glass to The Weekly News and all who sailed in it.





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

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

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

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

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




The 75th meeting of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club, due to have been held at Joe Allen, 2 Burleigh Street, London, WC2, on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, has been postponed because of the Coronavirus restrictions. Principal guests were to have been Sarah, Duchess of York (the guest of A.Walton, Esq), the Lord Drone (the guest of A. McIntyre of that Ilk), Ms Amanda Redman, actress and presenter (the guest of P. Pilton, Esq),

Lorraine Chase, actress (the guest of T. Manners, Esq), Onllwyn Brace, rugby player (the guest of R.Watkins, Esq), Jess Conrad, singer (the guest of R.Dismore, Esq), Roy Hodgson, neighbour (the guest of D. Eliades, Esq) and Ms Rosalie Rambleshanks, journalist and ingénue (the guest of A. Frame, Esq).


Sir — I know that no one likes a smart arse and that it’s none of my business and that I’m not a club member and that Onllwyn is a pretty common name anyway, but are we sure that the Onllwyn Brace, rugby player, listed as a guest at the postponed 75th meeting of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club isn’t the talismanic Oxford University, Newport, Llanelli and Wales scrum half of the same name who passed on to the Great Communal Bath in the Sky seven years ago? Just askin’.

Much Shoving

Could be — Ed



Sir — That Emily Maitlis, you know the one with shiny legs off the telly, she’s a snippy, hard-faced little piece isn’t she? She often seems to be irritated or irritable but she’s always definitely irritating.

My other half reckons she suffers from a major chafing problem which comes to a head at the end of a long day on Newsnight.

But could it be that she’s pissed off because she always seems to have a cheap ballpoint super-glued to the fingers of her left hand? (See pictures) Just a thought.

Much Interrupting




History in Moments

1925: So...who’s this letting it all hang out on a helter-skelter at the Wembley Exhibition? Bertie Wooster? Lord Drone on dress-down day? 

No, in fact, it is the Duke of York, proving that, long before William Hague’s log flume baseball cap, prominent people could be persuaded by craven PR hacks to perform the most inappropriate tricks to prove they’re just like us really. 

The duke, who went on to star as Colin Firth in the well-received film The King’s Speech, was then a decent enough cove content to paddle the inconsequential backwaters of royal life.  Truth is, he was a bit of a wuss, said to be ‘easily frightened and prone to tears’. 

Eleven years later, as we all know, the abdication by his fancy dan elder brother, David (Edward VIII to you and me) thrust him and his family into the unforgiving spotlight of history where he performed very creditably as King George VI

His early death in 1952 ushered in the magnificent reign of his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, a constant, reassuring figure in all our lives, whose service is such a contrast to her dilettante uncle.

The Duke of Windsor, as he became, was a keen, if indulgent, golfer. He forever incurred the wrath  of my uncle, Bunny, who played off 10 on a good day, by hitting 3,000 balls into the Med off the deck of Britannia during his honeymoon with ‘that woman’. What a prat (although Bunny said far worse).



Who’s the masked man arriving at the Mail?

Scroll down this page and we’ll tell you




1944: So … here’s a classic case of keeping calm and carrying on as London again faced the might of the German war machine. That plume of smoke behind the law courts looking west up Fleet Street is the result of a deadly V1 rocket exploding after crashing into Drury Lane. 

Yet these young women ignore it and go about their business. Maybe they were two Daily Express news subs hurrying to work. Alas, no. An old Express hand, who has taken to hanging around the Drone newsroom, tells me it was another 40 years or so before the first woman was admitted, as staff, to that exclusive all-male club. Even now, those who worked with her remember genial New Zealander Maggie Thoms with affection. Yet, I’m told that, to their shame, some entrenched misogynist subs were less than welcoming to her but let’s not linger there.

Germany started its V1 onslaught in retaliation for D Day (the V stands for Vergeltungswaffen — vengeance weapons). Between June 13, 1944 and October when the last V1 launching site in range of Britain was captured by Allied troops, 9,521 of the early cruise missiles were fired at London and the southeast. More than 6,000 people were killed  and nearly 18,000 injured; thousand of homes were destroyed.

The V1s, also known as buzz bombs or doodlebugs, brought genuine terror to beleaguered Britons who thought the tide of war had turned. Survivors recall the chilling moment when a bomb ran out of fuel, the engines stopped and it glided to its unknown random target. The silence, like waiting for a clap of thunder after a flash of lightning, was agonising.

R.R (t)

Who’s the masked man?

WE asked who was the masked man arriving for work at Northcliffe House in London.

Yes chums, it’s former Expressman and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter ‘Bonkers’ Hitchens taking no chances with Coronavirus. How did you guess?

Peter was snapped by his colleague John McEntee, a former William Hickey editor who now writes the Ephraim Hardcastle column in the Daily Mail.

McEntee told his friends on Facebook: "Who should I encounter outside Northcliffe House today but my delightfully daft colleague Peter Hitchens en route to work wearing his Day of the Triffids mask.

"We couldn’t even raise a glass at the ham counter. Worse, security and nurse wouldn’t let me past the atrium. They couldn’t locate my filled-in health q&a. I felt like borrowing Peter’s mask and storming the third floor.”


Help, why on earth are there so many badly shaped headlines?
(and, for that matter,
so many commas)

By L P BREVMIN, Chief Sub

The Sunday Times is a great newspaper: we can all acknowledge that. But sometimes it ignores the basic rules of good journalism. Often it exasperates sub-editors (but apparently not its own) with its disregard for headline shape and even the words that go in them.

Take this week’s offering (£2.90 to you, squire). This page lead head with a generous count would never have appeared in the World’s Greatest. Look at it for fuck’s sake. Imagine offering it to Lloyd, Kelvin or, especially, Pat. Piss-poor.

It took me five seconds to knock it into (a better) shape.

         Fifth of staff
         to stay home
         as schools
         open again
Then we were always told not to repeat words in headlines. Look at this sub-deck with more words than an average intro. ‘His’ three times. Fucking lazy.

Again a few seconds’ thought:

Boris Johnson was furious at his top aide
for flouting lockdown rules yet refusal
to sack him has divided the Tories and
flushed out rivals with leadership ambitions

And please don’t get me started on the ST subs’ bonkers obsession with inserting redundant commas into heads. Here are some mad examples from this week. Poor old Jeremy Clarkson, who can turn a phrase or two, suffers the indignity of being hit twice.

And what about splitting pork and pies?

Why not ...

Farmers tell pork pies
about US food quality

What’s going on? Who’s in charge of the clattering train?

I think, we should, be told.



An occasional series by SPIKE DIVER


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus, sloping entered the lexicon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional research: Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

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

HAPPY DAZE! Tom Brown’s Fleet Street pub crawl

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)


Rosalie’s Art Attack

By Rosalie Rambleshanks (trainee)

The Ricotta Eaters: Vincenzo Campi

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

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



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?




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.




Those old jokes were the best and so were yesterday's funny men

Another of our Friends in the North

Well done, Daily Drone for publishing my old mucker Ronnie Rawntenstall’s reminiscences about The Comedians. About time the World’s Greatest Online Newspaper became less South-east-centric and reached out to the North. 

Manning, Roper, Goodwin et al were, of course, only part of a fantastic comedic tradition in the region. 

Remember Arthur (Hello Playmates) Askey, Ken (I Won’t Take Me Coat Off, I’m Not Stopping) Platt and Al (You’ll Be Lucky, I Say You’ll Be Lucky) Read who all enjoyed successful careers before The Comedians was first shown in, bizarrely, a casino in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1971. And, of course, we’re not forgetting Tarbie and Doddy. 

The “turns”, such as comics, earned their money in the traditional clubs which sprouted all over the north, parts of the Midlands and South Wales under the auspices of the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union.

They were usually owned and strictly organised by the members as a co-operative which is where the all-powerful committee comes in. Think the Phoenix run by Peter Kay (as good as, if not better than, any of them) in TV’s Phoenix Nights.

The best comedians went on to headline seaside shows or to appear at the northern super clubs such as the Golden Garter in Manchester or the Batley Variety Club in Yorkshire both long since closed.

Batley, dubbed the Las Vegas of the North, had 1,600 seats and attracted stars from around the world. Not Dean Martin, though. When he was offered £45,000 to top the bill his agent replied: “Dean wouldn’t get out of bed to have a piss for that.”

The Comedians’ house band, Shep’s Banjo Boys, were resident at the Garter, unglamorously sited in Wythenshawe, known as the largest council housing estate in Europe. More than 1,000 could sit down for a three-course meal (15s) before watching the international acts.

Which reminds me of the club secretary who announced: “The committee has decided to introduce chicken in a basket as well as th’ot pies. If you don’t like the chicken you can always eat the basket.” It’s the way I tell ‘em.

Scroll down for the gags


Have a laugh on us

the Drone’s Friend in the North

Heard the one about the TV comedy show which inspired a generation of stand-up club comics but wouldn’t get a screening today?

Too edgy, love. Not PC enough by half. Best not.

Yet The Comedians, a low budget Granada TV offering launched nearly 50 years ago, was just the tonic Britain needed then (after all, Ted Heath’s Tories were in power) and now.

The format was simple: a bunch of working class comics with dodgy suits and even dodgier haircuts leaning on mic stands telling jokes.

But, as it was the Seventies, the gags often featured words like “Paki” or “coon” and traded heavily on racial and social stereotypes.

The overnight stars mainly from the Northern club scene had, in fact, been plying their trade in front of tough audiences, replete with Federation Ale, for years.

Among the other regulars were the laconic George Roper, the manic Frank (“It’s the way I tell ‘em”) Carson, Charlie Williams, the black Yorkie who threatened to come to live next to you if you didn’t laugh, Stan Boardman and Mike Reid, later of EastEnders.

My favourite, though, was Ken Goodwin, so different from his self-assured, cocky contemporaries, with his zany, camp, gushing delivery. 

He always laughed uproariously at his own very funny jokes and would punctuate his set with: “We’re having a good time, aren’t we?” Or: “We’ll all have bellyache soon, won’t we?”

Bernard Manning, an overweight Mancunian from Ancoats, where the Northern Black Lubyanka still stands, was a regular. A former crooner who once appeared at the Ritz Hotel (London not Levenshulme), he ran the Embassy Club on the Rochdale Road. 

And some of his best humour was based on the “Notices” the club secretary had to give to members before the “turns” came on (a format which itself inspired The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club TV spin-off)

Here are some examples:

We’ve had complaints about t’accoustics in this club. Don’t worry, we’ve put down poison and set traps.

T’pies have arrived. A word of warning: some came on their own so make sure you use plenty of pepper.


Feller shouts after his best mate running down the road.

Oi, pal, what’s the hurry?

I’m going to the doctor: I don’t like the look of my wife.

I think I’ll join you: I can’t stand the sight of mine.


I’ve got a terrible headache. I was sprinkling toilet water on my hair and the seat fell down on me.


A feller knocked on our door and said he were collecting for t’local swimming pool. So I gave him a bucket of water.


‘My brother’s just joined the Army. Already he’s been made a Court Martial and he’s going away for six months to give Her Majesty pleasure.’


Building site foreman says to Irish labourers: The shovels have been delayed, lads. Can you lean on each other till they arrive?


I answered the door and there’s a fella there who says: Your dog’s just bitten my mother-in-law causing her great pain and distress. 

Sorry about that but it’s no use coming to me for compensation. 

I’m not: How much do you want for the dog?


So what about this fella who was off sick and went to the doctor. The quack says: Put your tongue out and walk over to that window. 

Will that make me feel any better, doc? 

No but I can’t stand that bloke opposite.


‘We were so poor  when I were a lad. I remember Mam sending me to butcher’s for a sheep’s head for us tea. Ask him to leave the legs on’

They’re so posh in Lytham St Anne’s they wear yachting caps when they eat their fish and chips.


I won’t say me dad was a drunk but when he blew on my birthday cake he lit all the candles.

The Daily Drone would like to thank its Friends in the North for their contributions during this challenging time of lockdown, distancing and furlough. Especially to Ronnie Rawntenstall and Charley Chorley for their histories of The Comedians and to Lenny Longsight for his amusing reminiscence of eating black balls in the Crown and Kettle. 

And not forgetting, in strictly alphabetic order: Andy Audenshaw, Barry Bury, Charlie Chadderton, Dougie Doffcocker, Eric Ellesmere, Frankie Frogbrook, Garry Grassington, Harry Hazlerigg , Irene Ince-in-Makerfield, Jimmy Jervaulx, Kelly Kirklees, Larry Levenshulme, Mal Monkwearmouth, Nellie Nuns Moor, Ollie Ormskirk, Peter Pendleton, Quentin Quelchtrossall, Richie Rossendale, Sonny Skelmerswick, Tommy Tadcaster, Vera Vimbottom, Wally Wombwell, Ernie Exwickthistle, Yolanda Yeadon, Zoe Zackonthwaite.

And members of the Accrington and District Weavers, Winders and Warpers Friendly Association too numerous to mention.


The grateful dead

Headline hand-crafted by NICK HILL



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.'


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.  




FORMER Daily Express reporter FRANK THORNE remembers his first meeting with photographer JOHN DOWNING on the sun-drenched Cote d’Azur as they hunted for the missing earl



DX art desk salutes festive season in traditional style

RIGHT-WING? US? They knew how to celebrate on the Daily Express art desk back in the day. Here Dave Marvin and clerk Dobby salute the camera as Fred Boyce gets on with his dinner some time in the 1980s.

For more over-exposed snaps, click HERE



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


Hunk Rock Hudson’s secret bath nights at notorious gay haunt

SO HETERO: Rock Hudson and Yvonne de Carlo in London, August 1952. They were promoting the film Scarlet Angel


Once upon a time, in the heart of London's West End, there was an establishment which had a notorious reputation for being a magnet for the capital's homosexual intelligentsia.

The infamous, round-the-clock den of iniquity was the Savoy Turkish Baths, in Jermyn Street, and its marbled steam room and massage slabs, ice-cold plunge bath and quaintly-termed bachelor chambers attracted eminent musicians, playwrights, poets — and even a future British Prime Minister.

However, the Savoy's most egregious client was not one of the renowned glitterati of the day. Indeed, he was not even British: he was Rock Hudson, a handsome, charismatic, young American film star, destined to become an international heart-throb.

During Hollywood's Golden Age, the 6ft 4in hunk from Cook County, Illinois, was sold to millions of unsuspecting cinema-goers throughout the world as the epitome of masculinity. Women lusted after him; men wanted to be him.

Not surprisingly, Hudson became the movie industry's most popular leading man, starring in a series of blockbuster romantic comedies with Doris Day, as well as tough-guy Westerns with Kirk Douglas, John Wayne and James Stewart.

Behind this He-man facade, however, Hudson was a predatory gay who spent hours cruising Hollywood bars, looking for casual sex.

No wonder that when he came to London, in 1952, to promote Scarlet Angel, with Yvonne de Carlo, he didn't take long to find his way to 'poofs' paradise, a short stroll from Piccadilly Circus, and to spend nights there, prowling around, chatting up naked hunks.

Maybe it was because he was relatively unknown that made him take such a risk. Whatever it was rebounded on him because the management considered him a pest, and bad for business, and he was thrown out and banned for importuning.

The Daily Mirror got on to the story, but could not substantiate Hudson was homosexual, and the actor's Savoy shame was never exposed until the summer of 1985 when he was diagnosed with Aids and became the first A-List celebrity to admit to being gay,

Historical note: Before the Savoy closed, in 1975, Hunter Davies wrote, in New London Spy, a trendy guide to London: "Staff mostly turn a blind eye to much of the midnight prowling — if the activity is not too blatant.


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


A poem what I wrote by RICHARD McNEILL

A Stiffener for Straitened Times

(to the tune of Bye Bye Blackbird).


Pack up all your social plans

Now’s the time to wash your hands

Bye Bye Covid

Sanitise the things you touch

Exercise (but not so much)

Bye Bye Covid

Lockdown is the way to save the nation

Everyone must practise separation


Shut that door and close that gate

Isolate! Isolate!

Covid Bye Bye


Verse 2 (for there is another)

 Keep your social distance, chum

That is now the rule of thumb

Bye Bye Covid


Hugs and handshakes are taboo

Bump the elbow, tap the shoe

Bye Bye Covid


When it ends we’ll party up at your house

Unless of course we end up in the Poor House


So cheer the heroes, raise a glass

Kick that virus up the arse

Covid Bye Bye

Wordsworth, eat your heart out — Ed


Jobs axed as working from home becomes new norm

Additional research by L.P. BREVMIN

The Drone’s piece highlighting the do-or-die challenges facing the Press because of Coronavirus was a warning to us all.

The medium we love and which has been part of our lives is no more. How it will change no one knows but one thing is clear: it will be less diverse and a lot smaller.

Tragic isn’t it? 

Yet maybe the gravy train had to pause, as if at Adelstrop, before it hit the buffers. 

Gravy train? you say. Not if you’d been a sub on the Express titles, for instance, where staff numbers have been dramatically reduced over the last 20 years.

But what about those twee, up-your-bum, glossy fashion and lifestyle magazines which slip out of the weekend heavies? Are they not heading for a fall?

Take, at random, last week’s Sunday Telegraph Stella mag, an “award-winner”, don’t you know?

Its staff cast list on Page 3 contains new fewer than 40 names ranging from the Editor-in-Chief (who appears to be subservient to the Editor), through two deputy editors and two assistant editors, two directors of photography and three senior fashion editors (presumably answerable to the head of fashion and style, the style director and the fashion news and features director).

What, you may ask, does the poor fashion editor (be sure there is one) do?

Let’s not forget the beauty director, the beauty editor-at-large, the food and interiors editors and sundry assistants.

By the way, there are just three with sub-editor in their titles.

Can you imagine the cats-in-a-bag editorial conferences at 111 Buckingham Palace Road, the lair of this particular coven?


Of course, pagination is down and I appreciate that Stella also has an on-line offering, but this lot last Sunday produced a magazine with just 40 editorial pages.

I say “produced” but, in fact, 15 more by-lined people assisted them including someone credited, I kid you not, with Food Styling.

Enjoy it while you can, gels, the tumbril is about to replace the gravy train.

Another huge change as a result of Coronavirus is the introduction of home working for all national newspapers.

Our mole at the Daily Mail reports that Northcliffe House is completely empty apart from one IT man who is there in splendid isolation. 

Everyone else works from home, all departments, not just editorial. Editor Geordie Greig holds morning conference from his no doubt bijou London home at 8.30 and off they go. 

Even the switchboard staff work from home. Even Dacre has to rage from one of his grand houses.

The same is happening at the Express and Mirror groups.

It raises the question: will this be the new way of working? It would certainly save a fortune in office rent, canteen and support staff. And chauffeurs!

Strange times indeed.



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'

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.










ITV 2019 documentary on John Downing. Runtime 23 minutes

Behind the Lens, a 2016 tribute. Runtime 34 minutes


History in Moments


1987: So … it could be anyone’s old nan, popping down the frog to Doggett’s for a nice pig’s or two in the rub-a-dub. Hang on a cock, though, this old nan sampling a pint she pulled herself in the Queen’s Head battle cruiser in Stepney, was more partial to the odd vera, gay and frisky or even a didn’t ought and sometimes, it must be said, became ever so slightly brahms. But never truly elephant’s.

S’welp me, guvnor (Rosalie, dear, you must be careful not to over-do the cockney sparrer trope - Ed) the Queen Mother was known to like the odd tincture or twain. 

Before the Abdication, when she was thrust into more limelight than she would have liked, Elizabeth was a bit of a party animal. She and Noel Coward were drinking buddies and she was patron of a posh drinking society, the Windsor Wets Club, motto: Aqua vitae, non aqua pura (spirits, not water). 

Her Maj was also notorious for her £7 million overdraft at Coutts (she once also bounced a £4million cheque) and getting that designer chappie, Hartnell, to run up a special gown for her to wear in the Palace air raid shelter. 

Even in widowhood, as the years advanced, she liked to maintain an imbibing routine: Dubonnet and gin at noon, red wine (heavy clarets preferred) with lunch. Then a couple of sturdy Martinis at 6 (the Magic Hour) and then some Veuve Clicquot with dinner. 

Yet she could be waspishly reproving over others’ drinking. When the Queen, no less, asked for a second glass of red at lunch, she said: “Is that wise, dear, you know you have to reign all afternoon.”

R.R. (t)


Circulations in freefall

REACH, parent company of the Daily Express, Daily Mirror and regional titles, has announced pay cuts and furloughs as the coronavirus pandemic hits income.

The news came as informed sources reported last night that the Daily Mirror sold just 300,000 copies a day last week, The Guardian 62,000 and The Sun 800,000.

All members of the Reach board and some of its most senior editorial and management team will take a 20 per cent reduction in salary. All company bonus schemes for 2020 have been halted.

There will also be 10 per cent pay cuts across the rest of the company, although this will not fall below the Living Wage, while 20 per cent of staff will be furloughed.

The Mail group, which includes the Metro, is taking a different and possibly fairer approach. 

Staff who earn more than £40,000 a year are being asked to take a pay cut of between 1 per cent, for the lowest earners, and 26 per cent, for the highest earners.

Those who agree will be offered a monthly grant of shares in DMG Media parent company DMGT to the same value as their pay sacrifice.

They can then sell these for cash at the end of the financial year, when they will take possession of all of the shares they have accrued, or keep them as an investment.

The share price offered will the market price on the day that the shares are issued, it is understood.

Should the share price be lower than when the shares were awarded when staff come to sell at a later date, the company said it will compensate them so they “will not have lost a penny”.

Reach, will  no longer propose a final dividend for the 2019 financial year.

The move follows JPIMedia, which produces a number of regional titles including The Scotsman, furloughing 350 employees and rolling out a 15 per cent pay cut for the rest of the company "after a significant reduction in advertising volumes".

Evening Standard owner ESI Media has also placed a number of staff on furlough and introduced a 20 per cent cut in salary for those earning at least £37,500. It has also paused publication of the ES magazine supplement



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:

I hope you get the drift.

Fact is, in my view, young reporters today are highly intelligent and bristling with media degrees but have no real experience of life like they used to coming up the hard way. The pain and heartbreak of it all. They go straight to top papers from Academia

I remember the legendary Bernard Shrimsley of our Parish who once told me: “Trouble is that these graduates are good, highly qualified people but have no understanding of the troubles that life brings or how to comfort children when their rabbit dies. So they can’t reflect it with feeling in words or questions.”

There, got that off my chest. I won't continue about their tutors many of whom have only ever lived in Academia.

Yours truly

University of Life and other things.


Sir —  Your correspondent Mr T. Manners speaks on behalf on many of us with his excellent letter in today’s edition of your mighty organ.

I have now got to the stage where as soon as the nominated Minister ceases waffling I immediately reach for the OFF switch and the gin bottle in one well-practised movement.