Posted: November 5th, 2011
A sad farewell
By PAT WELLAND
DALE HARRISON, much loved and respected Daily Mirror sub-editor for 32 years and a true gentleman of Fleet Street, has died after a brief but valiant struggle against cancer. He marked his 60th birthday surrounded by his family in his hospice at Maidstone a few days before the end.
A complete professional, Dale was a craftsman of the old school who brought his immense talents to bear on every variety of story, through the era of hot metal when subs worked with pen, glue, scissors and spike, to today’s world of new technology.
Although he could transform anything thrown at him, he is remembered above all as belonging to that exclusive band of Fleet Street tabloid subs who made the light caption an art form of its own. Often working from the most slender scraps of information, he would confect delicate pieces of whimsy the ease of which to read belied the specialised skill of their creation. They became a hallmark of the Mirror.
Dale loved hot metal Fleet Street with its camaraderie and rivalries, its pubs and late night haunts, where subs from all papers would gather in the early hours to drink, dispute and debate in a close-knit conviviality that has all but disappeared today. With the Mirror’s move to Canary Wharf, he brought to the new world not only his well-honed and unique gifts but also a spirit of the old.
A man of unfailing courtesy, Dale is remembered for an utter lack of rancour and a determined integrity and sense of justice. Throughout the turbulent and painful changes resulting from Robert Maxwell’s catastrophic ownership of the Mirror, he was always among the first to support the interests of less fortunate or threatened colleagues and never afraid to articulate his protests.
Dale entered journalism in 1966 after leaving Oxford University with a history degree. By chance, his Oxford tutor knew Rupert Murdoch, who at that time was looking for British journalists prepared to work in Australia. He met Murdoch at the Savoy Hotel, was offered a job and travelled to Oz as a “£10 Pom”.
For the next two years, he learned his trade before returning to Britain, where a chance acquaintance told him of a job on the Mirror. Dale successfully applied and joined the Manchester liaison desk in Holborn for two years, before moving to the news subs desk. Dale was a committed racing enthusiast, a cricket fan and a founding member of the feared Mirror Badgers cricket team. As well as his loyal service on the Mirror, he also worked part-time on The People for 20 years, where he is remembered with huge affection.
After leaving the Mirror, Dale worked briefly on Daily Express features before his illness took hold. He bore it with astonishing fortitude and courage and was visited by a stream of friends.
More than 100 of those friends joined his family at Maidstone Crematorium last Friday to celebrate his remarkable life and pay tribute to a sorely missed colleague. Dale leaves a wife Chris, daughter Kylie and son Sam
Report and picture from FRANK THORNE
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