Sat, 20 April, 2024

Syd Young

Posted: March 7th, 2020

Former Daily Mirror reporter SYDNEY YOUNG died on March 6 [2020]. Syd had been in hospital for a few days with pneumonia and also had other health complications. He died peacefully in his sleep with his wife Jackie and their children around him. You can read the Daily Mirror’s obit here:

MEMORIAL DAY POSTPONED. Message from the Young family:  It is with the greatest regret that we have to postpone the memorial for Syd Young, in light of the Coronavirus outbreak. This decision was not taken lightly, but it would be irresponsible for us to risk friends and family to exposure at this time.

It would be heartbreaking for us to feel people felt pressurised into coming against medical/Government advice. Worse still, it would be a tragedy if many felt they couldn’t risk it and stayed away, and the party, as Syd described it, were anything short of epic due to poor attendance.

We know many will have already booked transport/hotels etc, but we think it best to put the memorial off to a safer date in the late summer. The family hopes you will all support this decision and look forward to giving Syd the send off he deserves at a later date.

We will, however, proceed with the immediate family only cremation service. Details of the rescheduled memorial to follow when we all know where this bloody virus is going to end up!

Much love – The Youngs

WORDS from Syd’s son Andrew: SERVICE POSTPONED – SEE ABOVE: The memorial service for the legend that was Syd Young is to be held at the Memorial Woodlands, BS35 3TA (full details/directions below), from 12:30pm, on Wednesday, March 25.

Woodlands is a beautiful setting and one the great man chose to say his final farewell to those he held most dear. It will be a memorial service only. The old curmudgeon did not want anyone wailing over his coffin in a ‘depressing, soulless’ crematorium.

Syd wanted this to be a true celebration of his life, as do we all.

He insisted it be a party, where his much-loved family, friends and colleagues share plenty of drink, and many more stories.

The family will hold a very short, private service at a nearby crematorium, before joining you all at the Woodlands. Believe me, we had to force Syd to allow us this one ‘indulgence’, as he simply did not want ‘all the fuss’.

The Woodlands hold only one service a day, so there is no conveyor belt pressure, or the need to rush things along. We have it for the day, so we can meet, have a drink, a cry and a chat in the main building, before the service in the chapel next door.

It is hoped we can all congregate in the chapel at around 1:30pm. Seating in the chapel will be at a premium, but there will be PA system to spread the love to the other building. Syd’s close friend Alastair Campbell has graciously agreed to read the eulogy, so please bring plenty of tissues (or a sick bag).

We will then adjourn to the main building to eat, continue the revelry, laugh and cry, as those who loved Syd recount endless tales of his antics around the world. The family hope that as many of you as can possibly attend, come to the west country to help us make it a truly memorable day.

Please no flowers. Dad wanted any donations to go the two charities he was passionate about. These are the Journalists’ Charity and the Fibrosis Trust (please see links below). Dress code – whatever makes you feel comfortable. Several major breweries/chateaux/distilleries have offered their services.

Much love to all, Jackie and all the Youngs.



Andrew Young

Tribute from JOHN SMITH – (obituary by MAGGIE HALL follows below):

By PLAIN JOHN SMITH: If anyone asked Syd Young what he did for a living he would simply say: “I’m a reporter.” Not “journalist” or even, in his New York days, “foreign correspondent”.

Syd was a reporter and damned proud of it. He held little ambition for executive posts or stifling desk jobs.

He was happiest out on the road, ferreting for the facts, cultivating coppers, using his genial, cheeky-chappie approach to charm his way across many a hostile doorstep.

We first met more than 40 years ago when Syd joined the Daily Mirror bureau in New York. His northern-bred, down to earth attitude was the perfect antidote to the boastfulness, pretentiousness and often downright silliness of the American way of life.

In particular he could never understand why American journalists took themselves and their profession so seriously, particularly if they sneered at the British tabloids. “He might be a big noise in Cleveland but he wouldn’t last five minutes in Fleet Street,” was one of his many spirited rejoinders to such patronising criticism.

We were once talking to an American reporter in Los Angeles in the heady days when Daily Mirror sales topped five million, a circulation which Syd suggested was the biggest in the world.

“Not true,” said the American. “Pravda, in Russia, has a bigger circulation.”

“Ah yes,” said Syd. “But ours is voluntary.”

Syd was not quite politically correct – I’m afraid the following anecdote will have the “woke” generation reaching for the racist button on their Twitter feed.

One sunny summer afternoon, Syd and I were strolling along the boardwalk in Coney Island, often described as New York’s answer to Blackpool. Coming towards us was a big black man whose striking dark features were akin to ebony.

As the bloke passed by, Syd said: “By ‘eck, he must be in his second week.”

When Syd returned to the UK from New York he became district man for the Daily Mirror in Bristol, a move which some suggested smacked of being put out to pasture. Having chosen to live in rural Chelwood there were even rumors that, instead of a company car, he had been given a tractor. Seldom has a pasture been so fertile, the crop of major news stories seemingly endless – the Jeremy Thorpe affair, the monstrous Fred and Rosemary West Murders, the Cecil Parkinson baby scandal and countless other front page splashes.

Syd always fiercely defended his “patch,” but that didn’t stop him offering friendly advice and local knowledge to the armies of floundering Fleet Street hacks parachuted in by rival news desks to cover these major assignments. “Ask Syd,” was the constant advice to those who found themselves struggling in unfamiliar territory.

Such generosity of spirit was constant. After I had moved from the Mirror to roam the world for The People as Plain John Smith, Syd rang me up and said: “Hey, Smithy, I’ve got a great one for you. I’ve tried to get it in the Mirror, but they don’t want to know.

“There’s this town in Montana, with a population of one. The bloke who lives there runs a little shop and post office for the local cattle farmers, the nearest of which are 30 miles away. On the wall of the shop is a noticeboard listing his civic duties.

“He’s the town mayor, the police chief, fire chief, dustman, dog catcher, milkman, taxi driver and anything else you can think of. He’s got a different outfit for each of them. Oh, and he’s also the local traffic warden, because although he sometimes only gets one or two customers a day he’s installed a parking meter outside his shop.

“It’s a great tale, right up your street. You’ll love it.”

I did. And so did my editor, Geoff Pinnington, who splashed it across two full broadsheet pages of The People.

To visit Syd in Chelwood was to visit a contented man. His love for his wife Jackie and their three children was palpable, and my wife June and I shared many happy hours sitting around their kitchen table trampling Memory Lane, re-telling Fleet Street war stories and laughing at old jokes, of which Syd and I had an abundant store.

In retirement, Syd would get an annual call from Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, asking him to come to London to sift through the thousands of applications for the Mirror’s “Pride of Britain” award.

It was the perfect choice. There was nobody with a bigger heart than Syd and he never lost his common touch. Who better to spot the inspiring stories which would turn everyday people into heroes?

So goodbye Syd Young, reporter. You put your foot in the door of so many of our lives.

RAY WEAVER: Sad news about Syd Young. Such a lovely man and always happy. He will be greatly missed.

CARO: Syd was a marvellous man, professionally and personally. Another great, gone to the newsroom in the sky.

MAGGIE HALL writes: There can be only a handful of Mirror folk that that didn’t feel the magic impact of having Syd Young in their lives.

To so many he was more than “just a colleague”. He was a friend, a mentor, a confidante. He was the guy, who, whether it was face-to-face, on the phone or via e-mail, you could rely on to help you out, point you in the right direction, offer spot-on advice. And if you didn’t need anything on that list, he would have a great chat – and sign off with a cracking joke, or a wry observation on life. In other words a truly lovely man.

Hang on, I am forgetting something. He was also a brilliant reporter. Make that a Mirror Legend.

Syd, 82, died on March 6 [2020] of pneumonia, brought on by complications of pulmonary fibrosis, which was probably connected to the long-time rheumatoid arthritis he had had to cope with. He suffered the pain and tribulations of that debilitating condition for decades.  But who knew?  Very few. Only those really close to him. And it never got in the way of him doing his job in a terrific way – for which he was so admired – or getting on, with undiluted enthusiasm, with the DIY projects for which he was also famed.

The stories Syd covered in his days in Manchester, Belfast, New York and finally Bristol, covered every aspect of life. The sort of yarns that most reporters can only dream of having on their resumé. Just two examples from so many: if you research the Jeremy Thorpe saga and the Fred and Rose West horror, both long-running assignments forever in the headlines – there’s Syd’s byline, leading the coverage into the history books. And let’s not forget the exhaustive investigation he did in Vietnam, in 1980, exposing the horrendous health fall-out of Agent Orange, which was used by the Americans during the Vietnam War.

Born in Ancoats, Manchester, on Bonfire Night – “I arrived after a ‘rip-rap’ went off close to my mother” he always joked – he started his working life not as a cub reporter, but as right-hand man to his uncle, the local firewood trader. While still at school, Syd tied firewood in bundles, loaded them onto the horse-drawn cart and helped deliver them. He was 14 when his uncle let him drive the horse and cart on his own. Which he did with pride and the feeling “I’ve got the best job in the world.” Of course, that best job was yet to come.

Syd was only 23 when he joined the Daily Mirror in Manchester – after starting out as a teenager on what was then the classic path to journalistic stardom. His first job was with the Norman Edwards Agency, followed by the Bolton Evening News, the Salford and South Lancs News Agency and the Manchester Evening News.

Then, in 1965, Belfast beckoned. From a galaxy of Mirror talent he was chosen to open the paper’s first office in Northern Ireland. A sensitive appointment that needed skill and insight to ride the tough wave of The Troubles – which were building-up and finally descended with crushing violence.

In 1971, after a brief sojourn in Stoke-on-Trent, he “got” New York. The plum job for any reporter on any paper. His three years in Manhattan – with tons of “away jobs” around North America, South America and The Caribbean – gave him a treasure trove of front-pagers, memories and long friendships.

When he came back after three years he was given three choices – go to London, Manchester or into the Bristol office. His decision was easy. Bristol. And when searching with his wife Jackie for yet another home for them and their children, Andrew, Allison and Jonathan, there were certain criteria: their new house had to be close to water, with a big garden where Syd could keep ducks.

The delightful Chelwood Lodge, in the village of Chelwood, nine miles from Bristol, became the Young family’s haven. A stream that ran through the huge land mass of a garden became a huge pond – after Syd dug it out – and eventually home to 34 ducks. If Syd wasn’t racing around the South West with notebook and pen in hand, he could be found wielding a shovel, shears, hammer, saw – whatever – somewhere in the rambling grounds of The Lodge. And when he was racing around in his spare time, it was literally so, in his beloved convertible Austin 8 (pictured below), which to this day his seven grand-children call the “Noddy Car”.

Right up to his death, Syd was still the old Syd. Only last year he built, virtually single-handed, what can only be described as the garden shed to end all garden sheds. And that his death was a shock is underlined by how, just a couple of weeks before he died, he went with his two sons on a jaunt to Ireland to spend time with old pals.

No wonder he was considered a Legend. And behind that Legend was Jackie, his wife.  They met in Manchester in 1959 and married a year later. Being a Mirror spouse was not always easy. The late-night, the crack-of-dawn “Is Syd there?” phone calls were a constant in her life – and, with three children, something of a challenge. But nothing that swayed Jackie away from providing full support to the lovely and talented man in her life as they carved out their several lives, in very different and sometimes dangerous spots. As the tributes and letters poured in after Syd’s death, Jackie said: “He could not have been more loved and respected. Wonderful to know he touched the lives of so many people in such a positive way. We were blessed.”

Syd retired from the Mirror in February, 1999.  And he was afforded what was probably the last of the old-Mirror style farewells. Then-editor Piers Morgan made sure Syd was sent off in a manner that reflected his career.  The stunning bash was held at The Ivy, the iconic restaurant in London’s Covent Garden. The printed, very formal, invitation stated the recipient was to “Celebrate Sydney Young’s 37 Glorious Years with The Mirror”.

Such a true statement. Glorious times indeed. Thank you Syd for sharing those special years – and those that followed – with all of us.


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