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Peter Stone

Posted: May 18th, 2010


Hundreds of former Fleet Street colleagues, friends and family will be gathering in Wraysbury next Friday, June 18, for the funeral of Peter Stone.

Stoney, as he was popularly known (and he really was popular), died last week aged 61. All over the country, and in many countries abroad, hacks and snappers have been remembering him and warmly exchanging anecdotes about him.

Revel Barker summed up the feelings of most when he described Peter Stone as a genuinely good-natured guy whose smile could light up a room or a bar, and a bear of a man in appearance. Paddy O’Gara, Art Editor of the Daily Mirror in Stoney’s days on the paper, once remarked: “Stoney has always been devoted to me – since the day I removed a thorn from his paw”.

Stoney sure was built like a beer truck, which was a great advantage. It meant he hardly ever had to raise his voice to persuade a reporter to do it his (Stoney’s) way. His career across the globe spanned 40 years and his images from Vietnam won him the coveted Photographer of the Year award.

Stoney said he learned a lot from covering Vietnam, especially on how to stay alive. He said the great Don Wise had advised him in Saigon never to wear army uniforms. “Dress neatly in civvies. This confuses both sides and they hesitate before shooting you.”

Like so many of the great Mirror photographers, he was totally versatile and if he did specialize in any one subject towards the end of his Mirror days it was the pop scene. He produced a book about his exploits with Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats, and became mates with the likes of Paul Young, Keith Moon, Rod Stewart and all the top bands.

Ray Weaver, (former Group Picture Editor and Assistant Editor), remembers Stoney’s first meeting with Robert Maxwell.

“In 1987 Peter and I worked together on the launch of Maxwell’s London Daily News. Peter arranged with the actor Michael Crawford to do a montage shot of him before the opening of Barnum. The picture worked out well and when Maxwell saw it he exclaimed, ‘ That’s a f…..g good page three picture! That’s how I want all my page threes to look!’. Maxwell then turned to me and said, ‘Who took it?’. I replied ,’You are standing right beside him Bob, this is Peter Stone’. He gave Peter a bear hug and announced, ‘I am going to give you a thousand pounds bonus. What do you think of that?’. Peter thought about it and asked me later, ‘Do you think I’ll get it?’ I said I doubted it. And he never did !”

The Mirror’s most famous reporter, John Pilger, knew Stoney very well. Here is John Pilger’s memory of Peter …..

I worked with Peter Stone all over the world: in South East Asia, Biafra, Ghana and, most memorably, Timbuctoo. Peter and I were assigned to cover a hovercraft expedition on the great rivers of Africa. It was one of those stupendous, pointless ideas spawned in the 1960s, and the Mirror was one of the sponsors.

Having heaved and splashed our way up the Senegal River, we were moored near Timbuctoo when Peter spotted the expedition leader, a fevered figure called David Smithers — ‘Smithers of the River’ — throwing the last of our grog overboard, including a whole crate of Scotch.

“Just lightening the load” was his cursory explanation for this insane act. I put it down to the particularly vocal attack of dengue fever he had had the night before. For perfectly understandable reasons, Peter had developed a powerful antipathy for Smithers and every morning would mutter to me: “I think I’ll kill him today.”

The crunch came when he spotted Smithers throwing the Bells and Johnnie Walker overboard. In shallow water, Peter waded — no, ran — to retrieve what he could of all that stood between us and the terminal boredom of eight hours a day on a hovercraft. I managed to catch him just in time to save Smithers and one bottle of Bells, which we consumed that night. Smithers could count himself lucky.

Peter Stone was a superb press photographer, and a lovely man to work with. He was the embodiment of the old Daily Mirror at its best: professional to a tee, and a big-hearted comrade who, in his struggle with illness, demonstrated such courage. Here’s to you, Pedro …”

Bryan Rimmer’s memories:

Traveling with Peter Stone was never dull. Once, at the height of the Cold War, we found ourselves in a wooden shack in Siberia, several miles north of the coldest town on earth. The plan was to spend the night – but not before being comforted by some gallons of Siberian hospitality.

At around 3 a.m I watched Peter bounce off two walls before heading for his bunk. Two hours later we were both dragged out of our pits for breakfast before the next leg of our journey.

We looked blearily at the breakfast spread…bread, berries – and bottles of beer and vodka. Watched over by two babouskas I nodded at Stoney to say: There’s no way I could drink this stuff.

He looked back, red-eyed and said: “Drink the bloody stuff or they might nuke the Bank in the Sky.” A uniquely Mirror reference to the Holborn Circus tenth floor home of the drinking vouchers otherwise known as expenses.

Later in the same trip the pair of us had ventured into the middle of a frozen river so that Peter could get the snap he wanted. But on the way back, Peter, never a lightweight, yelled that the ice was cracking. I, a lot smaller, leapt onto a rock and then leaned out to take his hand. He snarled back: “Don’t be a prat – grab the cameras.”

With Stoney, the job always came first.

Nearer home, he once wiped the smile off my face with a well-aimed fist. After a long lunch in the Cheshire Cheese his fist connected to my face after I’d cracked one Mirror Monkey joke too many. But he didn’t mean it. I know, because otherwise I wouldn’t be around to tell the tale.

I’ll miss him, the old bastard.

Alasdair Buchan’s memory ….

IN 1978 the English, yet again. failed to qualify for the World Cup. So naturally the Scots, who did, went bananas. The Great Trek to Argentina began and Peter and I were sent to accompany them – overland!

A group including William McIlvanney, a novelist and brother of Hugh, two Glasgow bus conductors Gerry and Charley, and a barman, Alistair, went through eleven countries over three months and through several adventures.

Naturally, Peter functioned superbly as a photographer, but he was just as exemplary as a peacemaker as all the Scots fell in and out of love with each other. Which takes some doing as the only Englishman in the party!

The peacemaker was sorely tested though when we ended up in Lima with Willy suffering from pneumonia and me from a fever and the runs. Peter propped me up in a chair and dragged the needed article from me by holding a cold towel against my forehead and asking me questions that he converted into paragraphs.

Next morning we awoke to discover Charley and Gerry were missing. Eventually the embassy told us they were in the nick after doing a runner from a nightclub without paying the bill.

(Did I mention there was a civil war going on in Peru at the time and we had to get out of there PDQ).

So Peter and I went to down to the prison to find the two of them lounging on the governor’s couch. (They had complained about the cell they had been put in, so the governor let them sleep in his office on the basis that Peru was playing Scotland in the first round the World Cup.).

All along Peter had been telling me to stay calm and not hit them. So it wasn’t just the two miscreants who were stunned when he suddenly stood up pointed first at Willy them me and shouted: “What the f… are you doing? He’s Tom and Dick (sick), he’s got the Tom Tits (diarrhoea) and you go missing?”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

So after all that we finally got to Argentina where Peter and I were to collect out tickets and watch the games. The Mirror sent my tickets but told him to come back immediately without seeing the games. An indicator of times to come I now realise.

When Peter, who was also a qualified soccer referee, left the Mirror he set up his own successful publishing business in Wraysbury and ran the Village Echo, which was featured in Press Gazette.

He leaves a wife, Jan, a son, Lee, and a daughter Alexandra.

by Garth Gibbs

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