Sun, 19 January, 2020

We wish you merriment and good health

Merry Christmas and a

happy and healthy 2020

to all our members

and their families

Tom Brown’s short retirement

This year’s Scots’ annual meeting was followed by a celebration lunch for Tom Brown (see below).

Tom is stepping back from day-to-day involvement in AMP so as to spend more time looking after his wife Marie, so he won’t be attending meetings. BUT as life vice-president he will remain very much involved in committee matters via email and phone. Sighs of relief all round.

It’s not often in life that you have the pleasure and privilege of working with a man of the calibre of Tom Brown, so your AMP committee, on both sides of the border, was aghast when he announced he would have to stand down as deputy chairman. So we are genuinely relieved, and very pleased, that Tom’s experience and wisdom – and his contacts book – will not be lost to AMP.

The annual meeting itself was attended by about 30 members, and since independent trustee chairman Quentin Woodley had been unavoidably detained at Stansted airport, his speech was delivered by David Astley, MGNPS secretary/trustee director and group pensions manager.

Trustees Andrew Watson and Chris Rushton both spoke at the meeting, and the possiblity and desirability of appointing a woman trustee was raised.

Tributes to Tom came from AMP chairman Deborah Thomas, and from ex-Daily Record showbusiness editor, John Millar. The chairman also delivered further tributes to Mirror great and former AMP committee man Brian Bass, who died in August, and a minute’s silence was observed.

And then came the unanimous vote to elevate Tom to life vice-president.

Tom’s lunch at La Lanterna, a friendly Italian dive in the middle of Glasgow, was attended by AMP chairman Deborah Thomas, secretary Gerald Mowbray, treasurer Ray Evans, Scots committee members Malcom Speed, George Easton, David Tattersall, Rob Cunningham (who took the pictures) and Russell Stewart, plus trustee Chris Rushton and Tom’s mate John Millar. And Tom, of course! (Committee member Isabel Mulligan couldn’t attend as she has a broken shoulder.)

Gifts to Tom from committee collections included a £100 Amazon voucher (as he is a regular purchaser of books/cds/dvds), a rather special 15-year-old malt whisky, a fun hip flask with the inscription: “Thomas, the man, the myth, the legend”, and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne for Tom’s wife Marie.

Aftwerwards, Tom said: “I was deeply touched by the tributes and presentations, particularly the speeches by my old friend and colleague, former Daily Record showbusiness editor John Millar.

“I had not realised how long my connection with the Association of Mirror Pensioners has been (especially since I was not elected but press-ganged into service on behalf of my Scottish workmates!) and how much has been done over the years.

“There may be those who regard the AMP as having only nuisance value, but it should be recognised that those of us who had our pensions stolen by the arch-crook Robert Maxwell will never take those pensions for granted, particularly as incomes dwindle the longer we live – and that applies especially to widows.

“The pensions world, not only occupational but State, is now in turmoil and it is vital there should be an organisation that is vigilant on our behalf. That is why I felt it important we should be part of an umbrella organisation such as the Occupational Pensioners’ Alliance, which includes some of the biggest pension schemes in Britain.

“While remaining on guard, the nature of the AMP has changed. When I first joined the committee we were consulting legal advisers more often on behalf of individual members who felt they were receiving a raw deal. Today’s task is more about liaison, consultation and communication with the membership – and the trustee and company.

“These days, perhaps the most important aspects of the AMP are the highly professional (what else could it be?) newsletter and the website informing the membership about pension developments and keeping old colleagues in contact. My hope for the AMP’s future is that it will continue doing just that, perhaps with more female participation – particularly of widows who do not seem to have a voice on the pensions that are so vital to them.

“For myself, I will always retain a keen interest in the AMP and will help in any way I can, especially in the use of political contacts, so that the pensioners’ voice continues to be heard where it matters.”

50 years in the business – Paul Henderson

Report and picture from FRANK THORNE

THE great and the good – and some not so good – of Fleet Street turned out en masse on October 23 [2019] to help celebrate a remarkable 50 years in the business of Mirror associate editor PAUL HENDERSON. However, pint in hand, a smiling Henderson insisted: “I have to keep telling people that I’m NOT retiring, I just wanted to mark the occasion.”

“Hendo” as he is affectionately known by friends and colleagues, refused to give his age and joked: “I was like a boy chimney sweep – I started very young. I was about twelve…”

STILL dedicated to the job, Paul was nearly an hour late for his own party because he was editing the Mirror that day, when the big news story was the tragic discovery of the bodies of 39 migrants in a refrigerated container truck on an Essex industrial park. Hendo was delayed arguing with the office lawyer about the legalities of identifying in Irish truck driver who had been arrested at the scene.

I call Hendo an “everywhere man” because he has been practically everywhere in his career, including evening, daily and Sunday newspapers. A real all-rounder and consummate professional.

Paul joined the Mirror team in September 2011. His guest list for his big night at the Oyster Shed near Cannon Street read like a Who’s Who of old and new Fleet Street journalists and photographers.

Those who happily raised a glass to Hendo included plenty of Mirror names including Mark Ellis, Kent Gavin, and myself, along with many current Mirror staff. Another notable guest was Brian Steel, former Daily Star news editor who later joined the Daily Express, where I worked alongside him back in the mid-70s. Brian, who now spends his retirement sailing his yacht round the world, gave Paul his first job in the Street soon after the Star was first published.

After a period at the Evening Standard, Paul moved on to become chief investigative reporter and later executive news editor of the Daily Mail from 1989 to 1996. He moved on to the Mail on Sunday, where he had a stint as news editor and when he suffered repetitive strain injury from signing his own expenses, Hendo became investigations editor. He needed the rest!

After eight years, the time came for another change of direction after his long association with the Mail group, and he moved to the USA to become American correspondent for the Mail and MoS in 2005. Some years later he worked for the Stateside News Inc. agency before finally moving back to London to become a Mirror executive.

It was standing room only in the top bar of the Oyster Shed. Among the guests I chatted to were former Sunday Mirror writer Susie Boniface, former Sunday Mirror associate editor Nick Buckley, Tim Miles and his wife ex-News of the World editor Wendy Henry, Daily Mail Royal reporter Richard Kaye, David Ofield, retired Evening Standard picture editor, and long-time friend of Hendo, veteran Daily Mail photographer Clive Limpkin, Sun crime reporter Mike Sullivan, former Daily Star reporter and ex-Sunday Telegraph news editor Chris Boffey, who was also on the Mirror news desk for a period.

Others present included ex-Express features editor turned radio personality Mike Graham, present Mirror staff Tom Carlin, Dominic Herbert, Dean Rousewell and Chris Hughes. Mirror chief reporter Andy Lines was absent because he was on his way for a combined work and holiday trip to Japan to watch England at the Rugby World Cup finals.

Exclusive to members – Mirror Pensioner

GET READY FOLKS – your awesome 16-page Mirror Pensioner is on its way and should drop through your letterbox over the next week.

Inside your magazine of the year: plenty of pension news and data; full coverage of AMP activity and finances; Bill Berentemfel’s first OPA report; Trustee chairman’s thoughts; website update; far too many heartbreaking obituaries…

On the features front, there’s a marvellous spread all about Bill Rowntree and his mate, round-the-world yachtsman Robin Knox-Johnston. We’ve got a retrospective on the First Male Nude in Fleet Street, plus High Jinks in Jarrow, each with a bespoke Charles Griffin illustration. How lucky are we?

And you can read all about AMP life president David Thompson and his new job. Thought he’d retired? Have another think!

And there’s much, much more, so… enjoy!

Remember, Mirror Pensioner is exclusive to AMP members only. If you are a member and your Mirror Pensioner doesn’t arrive, please let us know via the website Contact Us form, or by sending us a letter. If you’re not a member and are kicking yourself for missing out on Mirror Pensioner (there are two issues a year) you can join AMP via this website – and if you’re quick about it, we’ll send you a copy of this autumn’s super 16-pager.

And if you have a story to tell, or a suggestion for additional help or information in Mirror Pensioner, let us know.

AGM and Scots’ annual meeting

London: St Alban’s Centre
London: Tuesday, October 29, 11.30am 

GLASGOW: Scottish Record office, Tuesday, November 12, 11.30am

Last year’s attendances at both the AGM and Scottish annual meeting were down on the previous year – despite our sending letters encouraging members to come and join us. So, if you can, please come to this year’s meetings and fill the empty chairs!
Venues, times and dates:

Tuesday, October 29: COME and join your pensioner colleagues at the annual general meeting on Tuesday, October 29, at the usual venue – St Alban’s Centre, Baldwin Gardens, off Gray’s Inn Road, London – with the traditional start time of 11.30am.
Members will be updated on all the AMP business of the past year, plus ongoing problems and projects. Please remember to sign the attendance book.
Speakers will include: Quentin Woodley, independent chairman of the MGNPS trustee board.
Reach plc group pensions manager David Astley and group pensions DC manager Carol McNamara will aso attend.

Tuesday, November 12: The Scottish annual meeting is on Tuesday, November 12, at the usual venue, the Daily Record and Sunday Mail offices in Glasgow, with an 11.30am start.
Speakers will include Quentin Woodley, independent chairman of the MGNPS trustee board.
Reach plc group pensions manager David Astley will also attend.

Your pension payslips

All MGNPS members will have received a letter regarding their pension payslips from David Astley, secretary to the Trustee, together with a personal data form.

Currently, paper payslips are sent out from the Reach pensions office in the post every month, but there is a plan to change to electronic payslips from May 2020.

AMP officers are in discussion with group pensions operations manager Tony King about the implications of the proposed change, particularly in relation to members with no e-mail address and no recourse to electronic communications. We will update this post in due course.

Meantime, please get in touch via the Contact Us form if you have a query or problem.

Simon Fox shock departure

With thanks to Press Gazette:

Reach chief executive Simon Fox is stepping down in August, the Mirror, Express and Star publisher has confirmed. Fox will be succeeded by Jim Mullen, a former News International (now News UK) director of digital strategy, and more recently chief executive of betting firm Ladbroke Coral.

Fox has spent seven years with Reach. He said: “There is never an ideal time to leave an organisation, but if there were it would be now. The integration of the Express and Star has been successfully completed, digital growth is accelerating and our trading and cash positions are strong.

“I am proud of what has been achieved and will provide Jim with whatever support is required to ensure a smooth handover.”

Mullen said: “I am delighted to be joining Reach at such an exciting time and look forward to building upon its digital transformation.”

Reach reported savings of £11m for the year so far, £6m of which is the result of “synergies” following the merger of the Mirror, Express and Star. It is on track to made £15m in annualised savings this year, and £22m in 2020, as well as £10m in structural cost savings for the year.

Reach chairman Nick Prettejohn said Fox “leaves Reach in very good health, with a strong balance sheet and real progress in developing the business for the future”. He added: “We have an excellent successor in Jim and I am pleased to have a seamless transition.”

Celebrating the l-o-n-g lunch


With echoes of Mirror long lunches of yesteryear, a few of the retired “usual suspects” gathered recently for an Editor’s Lunch at the Bleeding Heart brasserie, not far from our old Holborn Circus building. Owner Robert Wilson threw the inaugural Editor’s Lunch three years ago when I was lucky enough to be on holiday in London from Australia, where I was based at the time.

Robert decided to renew the gig and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. He treated former Mirror Group guys and gals to a sumptuous meal of melt-in-the mouth smoked salmon, followed by perfect Chateaubriand. Robert, ever grateful for the days of unlimited expenses which helped establish his restaurant and wine bar as one of the finest in London, also served up fine Champagne, followed by his own label New Zealand white (Robert and his wife have a vineyard Down Under) and an Aussie red.

Our glasses never ran dry on one of the hottest days of the year and we toasted our host for his generosity. We also raised our glasses to Bill Hagerty, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday.

Former Sunday People photographer David Graves organised the invitations. Joining David, a Bleeding Heart regular, were Plain John Smith, John Kimble, Bill Hagerty, Tony Purnell, Frank Thorne, Brendan Monks, Jill Palmer, all smiles and looking in great health, Sue Bullivant and the lovely ex-Mirror promotions girl Lesley Hutchins, resplendent in a bright yellow summer dress. And me, of course.

Tales of old newspaper characters abounded, many from Plain John, including the hilarious tale of how the late People reporter Shan Davies went off the radar for days on a bender with singer PJ Proby after he was cleared of shooting at his girlfriend. During their drunken escapade, Proby confessed to Shan that he HAD shot at his girlfriend and had duped the jury.

However, when Shan eventually turned up at the office on the Saturday, she mentioned Proby’s confession only in passing. More important was her revelation to all of us on the gobsmacked People newsdesk: “PJ’s dog ate my knickers!” Of course, we asked in unison whether the poor dog was still alive – Shan’s exclusive of the shooting made the Splash. That’s showbiz!

However, Sue Bullivant – a close friend of Shan back in the day – was more impressed to hear that Robin Parkin once met Marilyn Monroe when he knocked on her door, and that Plain John had shaken hands with Elvis Presley. Other famous names dropped included Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and Frank Sinatra. Our traditional Fleet Street-style lunch lasted from 1pm till about 5pm, when somebody mentioned those immortal words: “Shall we go on?”, and we adjourned to the nearby Castle pub for over an hour. We were well and truly lunched.
*** Don’t let these party animals hog all the limelight. If you and your ex-MGN chums – any title, any department – have a reunion or other social, do send in the details via the Contact Us form and we’ll let AMP members read all about it.

How I captured the moon


WHEN I joined the Daily Express in October 1965, aged 23, I was blissfully unaware that within five months I would play a pivotal part in landing one of the most exciting exclusive stories in the history of journalism. The famous Daily Express headline was: “The Express Catches the Moon.” The Sunday Telegraph very kindly said it was “The scoop of the century.”

The big event happened in February, 1966, just four years after the Cuba crisis and bang in the middle of the Cold War.
I was so fascinated by the post-Sputnik era I begged the newsdesk to send me to Jodrell Bank, the famous radio telescope founded by Sir Bernard Lovell in 1945 at a site in Cheshire, 15 miles from the Daily Express building in Manchester.

The story: The Russians had landed a craft on the Moon’s dark side and was taking the first pictures of the surface for the Russian audience only. The world’s press flocked to Jodrell Bank for the many press briefings hosted by Sir Bernard.
What surprised me was the fact that nobody appeared to be interested in how the Russians were receiving the pictures.

How were they being transmitted, I wondered. Because I knew nothing about photography I decided to collar Sir Bernard on his own, out of the hearing of rival hacks from home and abroad. My luck was in when I saw him crossing the room late at night. To my astonishment he told me the images from the moon were being transmitted “with the same technology used by newspapers, a form of morse code, all dots and dashes etc”.”

When I asked if my newspaper could obtain the pictures he replied: “Of course not, they belong to the Russians, and you are not a radio telescope.” I asked him whether Jodrell Bank could intercept the pictures and he replied: “No, because we are not a newspaper office.”

So I said: “So how are the Russians getting the pictures?” He said: “Because their telescopes will have your newspaper equipment, a sort of fax machine.” I said: “So if we had the equipment here at Jodrell Bank you could intercept the images?” You could have knocked me down with a feather when he replied: “Of course.”

You can imagine my delight when he accepted my offer to get the essential equipment to Jodrell Bank. I rushed to a telephone (no mobile phones then) and spoke to my news editor, who was gobsmacked. He telephoned the London office and the London editor called me back for a full explanation. He said: “Go home immediately and tell nobody. Do not file a story. Enjoy your day off. Well done.”

During the night my colleagues at the Ancoats, Manchester building knocked down the wall of the dark room and put the heavy machinery on a lorry for its 15-mile trip to Jodrell Bank.

While I was taking part in BBC Breakfast I met Ian Morison, who was a 22-year-old student astronomer at Jodrell Bank at the time of my scoop. He is now an author of six books and is a professor. He told me: “I was the First Man on Earth to see those images coming through, thanks to your newspaper. It was awesome. I was lucky to be there that night.”

* Fifty years later I was told by an old Express picture desk colleague that the Press Association had put out a story early in the morning that the Russians were transmitting their photos with traditional press equipment. Fortunately for me, my rivals did not act upon that information. In any case, the Express had a great head start.
The rest, as they say, is history.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.