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Friday, August 17, 2007

Letters to the editor

In what old Mirror colleagues insist on referring to as my ‘less than glorious’ period of editorship of the Daily Mirror I was ‘required’ to farewell a large number of journalists: some of them Big Names, some of them Good Operators, some of them eminently losable.
Anne Robinson (Misfired, by Brian Bass, last week) fell into a couple of those categories, as did Paul Foot and Alastair Campbell.
My recollection of Annie’s departure, however, does not coincide with the claims she made when interviewed on TV by Piers Morgan.
Bulimia? A big, fat porky, if you ask me. Annie wanted a pay rise which I was loath to grant, given that she already out-earned the editor and the Mirror Group was in receivership.
We conducted a gentlewomanly negotiation but my resolve was irrevocably firmed when a little bird on Mahogany Row told me that ‘certain employees’ were paid an extra salary, kept secret from the editor, from Bob Maxwell’s purse (or, as we soon discovered, from the pension fund!).
Princess Diana was never mentioned. Neither I nor, as far as I know, anybody, ever took irate calls from the Palace.
The only bulimic activity that occurred was mine when I puked at the thought of staff making a mint while the Mirror followed Maxwell to the seabed. – David Banks
I enjoyed your rants last week – none more than Eddy Rawlinson’s tale (Pubs and publishing) of the Motoring Gazette. I recall those happy days of the late fifties when we were colleagues at the Daily Express and he would talk with great enthusiasm about publishing a motoring freebie – and I would be invited to make an investment.
These were the days before give-away newspapers took off and I had my doubts as I saw a couple of printers go bust in the forties when they tried to compete against local paid-for publications, such as those owned by the Westminster Press and Kemsley’s.
I eventually moved to Newcastle and Eddy took over the pub so neither (?) of us became millionaires.
The story of Bill Rowntree and Knox Johnston (Gentlemen, that reminds me, Revel Barker, July 27) also reminded me of a story told to me by Harry Benson during his early days as the Express staff photographer in New York.
He got a call from the London picture desk one morning: ‘Get a plane down to Chile, you should be in time to get Francis Chichester coming round the Horn…’
But London would do that: ‘Well it’s only a couple of inches on my map, old boy!’ - Gordon Amory
Does anybody remember a young sub on the back bench of the Manchester Evening News in the mid 1950s - a guy who even in those days we realised was going places?
I ask because he asked me to take pictures for what was to be his first book. It was about Ken Stanley, a renowned table tennis player in those days.
I would love to find out whether the book was ever published, and if so how it sold.
He left the MEN for the Northern Echo then I heard he went to London. Harry something. Welsh-sounding surname.
Anybody heard what became of him and if he is still around he could let me know by writing to Gentlemen Ranters? - Eddy Rawlinson
Remembering Tony Wilson
I see the late Tony Wilson is hailed as Mr Manchester by the Sunday Times. He was an even worse TV presenter than that master of self indulgence, Bob Greaves, who had been a fine reporter. I once heard Wilson begin an interview with an author by saying ‘Of course, I haven’t read your book...’
Of course?
I do not know what Granada did to its presenters. There were those two newspaper brothers (Daily Sketch and free lance), nice Jewish guys whose names I forget whose heads were turned by working for Granada. Even Smithies, a man of extraordinary talents as a photographer, singer and crossword compiler, had delusions of grandeur.
He told a priest to whom I introduced him that Bernstein hired him to revamp Granada and never made a decision without first consulting him.
But Wilson Mr Manchester? Not Lowry, Howard Spring, Walter Greenwood, or that whole school of Manchester writers? Not Barbirolli, Charles Halle?
Not Lord James the educationalist and former High Master of Manchester Grammar; not Gerald Illes or indeed the Founder of Belle Vue, John Dalton, Alan Turnig who virtually invented the computer, Chaim Weizmann who won World War One with the invention of artificial nitrate and was given a new kingdom, Israel as a prize.
Not the Guardian’s own C P Scott or Neville Cardus, not Harry Evans. Not stars like Robert Donat, Alan Bates, Pat Kirkwood.
Not those lovely gangsters who started the Manchester night club scene and kept the London bosses at bay – in one case tying one naked in a tree with his face pointing south?
Not the little man , double barrelled name with a Smith in it somewhere (another name that escapes me) who gave us the Unnamed Theatre and a host of other amateur companies that were better than the professionals ?
Not the man who first brought London shows by people like Novello, Coward; and shows like West Side story?
The guy, Paddy ------ (yet another whose surname I forget) who started wonderful jazz clubs, superb chefs like Roland Genty and a score of others and pastry cooks like the genius in Sinclair’s whose chicken pies used entire farm yards. Whitney Rowlands, George Harrop, Strangler Lewis, Bob Blake, Albert Clarke Storey, Ronnie Jeans, Frankie Charmain…
Wilson was not to be mentioned in the same breath. His contribution? - A record label and a night club? Both went bust.
If he was responsible for turning Manchester of the 40s and fifties with its orchestras and little theatres, wonderful pubs, talk-fests and out of town premieres, regular visits by all the musical greats, Basie, Brubeck, etc and jazz clubs into the puffs paradise it has become he should be rotting in hell. – Ian Skidmore
My best memory of Tony Wilson was in a pub in Holyhead where all the scribes had gathered covering a story about the arrest of a former RAF pilot for spying. Wilson left the company with his crew but then dashed back into the pub where he breathlessly announced: ‘I forgot my handbag.’
Howls of laughter all round. – Harry Pugh