Sat, 20 April, 2024

Harry Arnold

Posted: November 12th, 2014

Remembering HARRY ARNOLD – Funeral details: Monday, November, 24 (2014) at noon, St Mary’s Church, Chilham Square, Chilham, Kent CT4 8DE, followed by a celebration of Harry’s life at The Woolpack Inn, Chilham, CT4 8DL.
The funeral is being arranged by Country Funerals, Westwell, Ashford, TN25 4LE, tel: 01233 712222. Flowers are welcome, but there’s no obligation. Alternatively donations can be made to Cancer Research (
Colleague and friend Charles Rae said: “We hope to see you all there to give Harry the send off he would have wanted, and he deserved. He’ll just be miffed he’s missing it.”

By ANDY LINES, Daily Mirror: Veteran Daily Mirror reporter Harry Arnold died on November 8, aged 73, after a long battle with cancer. He will be remembered as one of the greatest journalists of his generation. The former chief reporter was best known for his Royal stories, and his contacts book was “second to none”.

Mirror editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley said: “Harry was a true Fleet Street legend. He was a tremendous journalist and one of the best reporters of his generation. As chief reporter of the Daily Mirror he was an inspiration to many younger journalists over that period. He will be sorely missed.”

Close friend Philip Mellor said Harry was a “dapper charmer” who faced his illness with bravery and good humour. He recalled: “When Harry was in hospital he was asked if he would undertake a dementia test, which he agreed to.

“He was asked the date, which he answered correctly, then the county he lived in. He answered that correctly.

“Then he was asked who was on the throne and he answered, ‘Of course, Queen Elizabeth the Second – I had lunch with her last week’. Which of course he did – at a charity event.”

Another pal, Charlie Rae, said: “A few months ago at the Journalists’ ­Charity’s 150th celebration I was with Harry when we met the Queen.

“She told us it was nice to see us again and then said, ‘This charity has been going a very long time’. I told her, ‘Yes ma’am, it is almost as old as Harry here’. With that we all burst out laughing.”

Photographer Roger Allen told how he was working in Kosovo with Harry when they hid in a ditch to escape Serbs who were “on the verge of shooting us”.

Then the reporter’s mobile phone rang. Harry answered and the speaker said: “It’s Notcutts garden centre here, your rose arbor is ready for collection.”

Roger explained: “Harry, always the gent, replied, ‘I’m sorry, I’m a bit busy at the moment, could I call you back?’”

HARRY ARNOLD was regarded among popular newspaper journalists as one of the finest reporters of his generation. He spent more than 35 years in Fleet Street, working for The Sun and Daily Mirror, and was responsible for countless scoops. He did not stoop to stunts or subterfuge, preferring to use straightforward journalistic practices – cultivating sources, wearing out shoe leather and exercising charm. Credited with inventing modern royal reporting, Arnold was described in a 1998 Vanity Fair article as “the Jack Russell of Fleet Street”, which he often quoted with pride.

Arnold was noted for his Savile Row suits, a sharp nose for news and a keen sense of humour. He was the subject of several anecdotes and the teller of many more. After Lord Lucan vanished in 1974, he claimed that he and a group of rival reporters assigned to the story agreed to report sightings of the missing peer in St Tropez, the Amalfi coast, Cape Town and so on. It enabled them to fly off to exotic locations “looking” for Lucan. Their editors realised Lucan was never sighted in cold climates and the foreign trips were halted.

Arnold was born in Chatham, Kent. His mother, Ann, died when he was a baby and he was still young when his father, Harry, also died. He was then brought up in the town’s poorest area by an uncle and aunt. A bright schoolboy, he won a scholarship to the Rochester Mathematical school. His headmaster recommended he go on to university but, because of a shortage of money, he left and joined the local paper, the Chatham Observer.

By 21, he was in Fleet Street at the Exchange Telegraph (Extel) news agency. He joined The Sun, then owned by Mirror Group, soon after its launch in 1964. Like many of the staff, he stayed with the paper after its sale in 1969 to Rupert Murdoch. He was among the reporters sent to Derry in 1972 to cover the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday shootings.

From 1976, he was The Sun’s royal correspondent, reporting initially on the activities of the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, and later concentrating almost exclusively on the relationship between the Prince of Wales and his wife, Diana. He was the first to break the news of their romance and went on to provide The Sun with scores of stories about the couple, especially as their marriage fell apart. But Arnold was not especially enamoured with royalty. He was always polite in his dealings with the family while keeping his journalistic distance. Although he enjoyed the global travel, he always hankered to return to hard news.

As one of the most skilled reporters in the paper’s newsroom, he was often called upon to step out of his royal beat. One such occasion came in 1989 when he was handed news agency copy in the aftermath of the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy. According to the copy, police alleged Liverpool fans had been responsible for the crush in which 96 fans died, and had prevented officers from going about their work and stolen from victims. Arnold went to pains to present the story as a set of allegations and later said he was “aghast” when he realised The Sun’s editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, was running them under the headline “The Truth”.

It was the culmination of several clashes between him and MacKenzie, and within a couple of months he left The Sun, where he’d worked for 14 years, to join the Daily Mirror as its chief reporter. “I was rescued,” he said later of the switch. At the Mirror, he blossomed into a roving reporter, covering the Gulf and Iraq wars, the conflict in Serbia, and floods in Mozambique.
Arnold is survived by his fourth wife, Mary, four children, Daniel, Rachel, Rebecca and Katya, and six grandchildren.

• Harry Alan Arnold, journalist, born 28 March 1941; died 8 November 2014

*There was a feature about Harry in the Autumn, 2008 issue of Mirror Pensioner magazine.

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