Health warning: if you have no interest in newspapers or the people who work for them, this posting may not be for you.
What follows is just a list of names, really. The names belong to some of the people who assembled in a London drinking hole to bid farewell to Paul Eccleston and Graham Tibbetts, until recently parishioners of the extended reach of St Bride's, Fleet Street.
Both were casualties of the cuts that have been a feature of life at The Daily Telegraph in recent times.
But what names they managed to draw to their joint leaving party.
Journalists get a bad press. They sometimes earn it. But among those present at the bash for Paul and Graham, I recognise some of the best I have worked with. What is more, they are all real characters in a trade that desperately needs real characters; the party must have been a classic.
Sadly, I could not be there and, at a distance of more than 3,000 miles, I must rely on photographs taken by another former colleague, Kelly Scott.
Paul, whom I have known for most of my 36 years in and since “the Street”, is an outstanding, all-round professional as well as being the uncle of a former Dr Who and a member of that rare breed - Manchester United fans who grew up in or near, or have even been to, Manchester. I know Graham, too, but less well; he is somewhat younger than both of us. I do believe, however, that he is an honest, tenacious reporter should such things still be needed anywhere. Both carry Salut!’s warmest wishes for the future.
And who was there to see them off?
Stan Blenkinsop was the northern night news editor who, responding to a reader’s tip, telephoned the home of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, to be greeted by a male voice announcing: “West Yorkshire Police.” The officer, Robert Waterhouse recounts in his book The Other Fleet Street, eventually realised with a horrified “f---” that he was talking to Her Majesty’s Daily Express. Not before he had babbled away for just long enough to ensure that news of Sutcliffe’s arrest would be shared with the world.
David Wooding was one of a great band of confreres and consoeurs brought together for the inquest in Gibraltar in 1988 on three IRA members. The deceased were martyrs, according to republican Irish folklore, gunned down by Maggie’s assassins in British-occupied Spain; to others they were would-be mass murderers. They had been killed by the SAS in circumstances that were questionable whatever view is taken of their mission to blow up an Army band and anyone of any age and nationality who happened to be nearby.
Paul Harris I have known since I was the chief reporter of the Harrow Observer, a function some way short of the loftier heights of journalism, and he was a junior covering Stanmore.
Guy Rais is a giant of Fleet Street, a man who covered major events from the Great Train Robbery to coup d’etats in Africa and whose stage whispers from the press benches of the assizes, and the crown courts that succeeded them, still bear repetition when older reporters meet.
“What’d the silly old weazlebag say?” he was heard on occasion to ask (heard, once, by a judge who promptly invited Guy to sit with him so that he could follow the proceedings more clearly). “Anyone can tell the man’s a liar!”, usually referring to the accused or any defence witness, was another favoured remark.
Syd Young was an exemplary district reporter, covering part of the West Country for the Daily Mirror (get the “part of”; the Mirror had a generous approach towards staffing levels in those days) though he also served in New York and, before that, Northern Ireland in the hairy early days of the Troubles. One of the Price sisters was the office secretary; dark humour had it that if she rang in to say she was poorly, it was perhaps a good day to keep away from windows and anything else that might shatter in a blast.
George Jones, as the Telegraph's political editor, was an indefatigable provider of authoritative, often exclusive reports from Westminster; Roger Highfield and Roly Gribben were the sort of specialists (science and business) whose expertise gave the paper’s news and features pages their distinctive strength and flavour. Roger, who won respect from as many academics and boffins as fellow journalists is now the editor of New Scientist. Matt Pritchett is Matt, his genius displayed daily in the Telegraph’s page one cartoon. Hughie Davies, David Sapsted, Will Bennett, Richard Savill, Nicole Martin, Caroline Davies, Sally Pook, Paul Hill, Mike Smith, Patsy Dryden, Richard Stickland, David Millward - names and faces I spotted when perusing Kelly’s pictures - are hero(in)es of the Telegraph newsroom and foreign desk of the present or relatively recent past.
Whether or not included here**, all were there to wish their departing colleagues well.
It won’t have been the last such occasion (people thought that when Syd Young retired from the Mirror, though it was a sign of those times that his paper paid for the party to be held at the Ivy).
But those still to come will do well to attract the sort of crowd that turned out for Paul and Graham: men and women whose talents and eccentricities still manage to slow the steady greying of Fleet Street.
** A further look at Kelly Scott's photo album forces me to extend the list to impossible proportions. In no special order: Sean O'Neill, Sandra Barwick, Pat Clark, Liz Lightfoot, Tom Utley, Keith Hoggins, Neil Tweedie, Andy Lines, Andy Young (son of Syd, failed brewer but hugely successful news agency boss), Mike Kerr, Paul Stokes, Ben Fenton, Nigel Bunyan, John Crowley, Chris Buckland, David Twiston Davies, John Steele, David Harrison, Thomas Penny, John Crowley, Matt Born, Christian Gysin, Rosie Murray West, Amy Iggulden, Dick Bates, Richard Edwards, Tracey Jennings, Dot Brown, Veronica Hale, Toby Helm, Catriona Davies. Any I've still overlooked will be added when I transfer this list to the Salut! Files offshoot with more of Kelly's pictures (some are already there at this link. But it means that the following list of newspapers (in terms of people employed there now or previously) is also quite long, and includes the Telegraphs, The Observer, Sunday Times, The Times, Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard, Independent, Daily Mirror, Today, Sun and Daily and Sunday Express, plus the good old Press Association (not to mention the Harrow Observer and the current employers of both Mr Sapsted and M Salut, The National, Abu Dhabi).