Posted: May 11th, 2011
By Ray Setterfield
One of the drawbacks of advancing age is the increasing likelihood that the Farewell to Old Friends page in Mirror Pensioner will carry a small headline, just a name, that will invoke an inward “Oh no”, produce a stab of anguish and, finally, open the floodgate of memories.
So it was when I saw the name Ann Pacey. And it took a few moments before I could bring myself to read the tribute by Madeleine Harmsworth. I should like to add my own.
Ann wrote TV previews for the Sunday Mirror and, when on form, produced flowing copy of sparkling originality that was a joy to read. It would require no intervention by the sub-editorial pen. Sadly, it was not always so. On bad days she could supply words that would leave the subs groaning in despair and notorious examples of Paceyisms were pasted on the walls.
For example, she previewed a play set in Cromer, Norfolk, with this intro: “I remember once sitting on the end of the small pier at Cromer wondering whether to throw myself off because my doctor had just told me to give up drinking . . .” Needless to say, subbing supremo Brian Checkley had scored through the words heavily before passing on the piece for a complete re-write.
Re-writing Ann had its dangers. Totally unpredictable as she was, your efforts could easily result in a screaming torrent of abuse, liberally littered with four-letter words, leaving you with no doubts about her assessment of your efforts. But quite possibly, the other Ann could surface, as it did one week when I had to perform major surgery on her copy. An envelope appeared on my desk . Inside was a card bearing a picture of sunflowers and inscribed: “Dearest Ray, Thanks a million sunshine flowers for rescuing my copy . . . I owe you a drink.” I didn’t take her up on the drink offer, but I have kept the card to this day.
Beneath the despairs thrust upon her by the craving for alcohol, Ann Pacey was a very intelligent, warm, honest, witty and irreverent journalist. And it is a tribute to the Fleet Street of old that her talents were allowed to flourish as far as they did.
Wherever you are now, Ann, I hope there are ‘sunshine flowers’. And a tot or two