[Eric Newson served as AMP’s treasurer from 1991 until he stood down in 2002, when he was replaced by Roy White. Eric moved from AMP vice-president to life president following the death of Ken Hudgell in 2007. Eric Neson died in 2012.]
WHEN I first heard of the Maxwell affair, Tony Boram, Ken Hudgell and Don Wood, “the three musketeers”, were already meeting. Don Wood phoned me, early in 1991, and asked me to join them. I had known Don since he started at the Daily Mirror in 1943. I had been on the Sunday Pictorial since 1941, and Ken had been there a couple of years earlier. Tony came to Mirror Group from Odhams. When I joined the trio – they had also co-opted Bob Avery and Keith Waite – the save-our-pensions campaign was well under way. And in May that year they engaged a solicitor, Giles Orton, well known for his work on behalf of the pensioners of WD & HO Wills.
Also engaged was Geoffrey Topham, barrister, and Willie Stubbs, QC. At that time the pensions actuary confirmed the fund had a surplus of £149.3m and had told Maxwell he could take a contribution holiday for about 11 years.
Numerous meetings had already taken place regarding the High Court case against Maxwell. Tony insisted he be the only one named in the court papers, and he put his home in Nayland, Suffolk, at risk as a guarantee against court costs.
At the first open meeting of the fledgling association, held at the London Press Club, about 50 people turned up.
Most of those attending were current employees of Mirror Group who were possibly due to become pensioners, or were just concerned about Maxwell.
By now, other people had joined the committee, among them Pam Duveen and Ernie Musselbrook.
At one of our early committee meetings in 1991, the constitution of the AMP was drawn up, Tony Boram became chairman, Don Wood deputy chairman, Ken Hudgell secretary, and yours truly treasurer.
How did the word get around about the Association of Mirror Pensioners? As we could not use company pension-department records, we contacted personally everyone we could, in turn asking them to do the same, and handing out Ken Hudgell’s home address.
This soon produced a few hundred members, with some very generous donations. Once we got the newsletters going, which by then had my address on them, our numbers increased steadily. My postman would normally knock and hand me the bundle of letters. Once his curiosity got the better of him and he asked me if I was the secretary of a famous pop star’s fan club. I put him wise!
In the early days we would issue three or even four newsletters a year. They were run off on a Roneo machine for the first few issues, but later on Don Wood persuaded a school in Harwich, where he lived, to print the copies, for which we paid very little.
As treasurer I had set up an index card file of members’ names and addresses, and over many hours, I would write an envelope for every one, remembering to keep overseas separate for different postage.
Three or so committee members would come to my house, where the newsletters were folded, put into envelopes, sealed, and had stamps stuck on.
Later on Tony found a company in Sudbury, Suffolk (near his home in Nayland) and it was agreed they would send out our newsletters as and when required.
Cartoonist Keith Waite, a friend of Tony’s, would always produce a humorous cartoon relating to the main item.
In our newsletter in May 1993 we were able to publish the result of our court case – we were to have our pension funds restored, the money to come from Mirror Group Newspapers if not recovered from the various financial institutions who had accepted pension fund securities in the first place. This took six or seven years, and made some members of the legal profession quite well off!
The other ruling from the judge was that our costs in fighting the case should come from the Trustees, which in fact meant the company. This news was well received by everyone, especially Tony Boram. His and Sylvia’s fine old house was safe!
Now my tribute: without the hard work Tony, Ken and Don, we would not have the Association of Mirror Pensioners as we know it today.