So why do so many of us now look back and say we had the very best of days in newspapers?... Well, because we did. – Gordon Amory







Issue # 161A
27 August 2010


Gordon Amory died on Tuesday August 21.

A constantly cheerful, conciliatory and loyal friend. Not a guy to complain about life or anything really, Revel Barker remembers. Except, one afternoon…

‘You won’t get a chance like that again,’ Gordon’s headmaster told him. And, as Clive Crickmer, chronicling Gordon’s chaotic professional life, says, there is now absolutely no likelihood of anybody else ever getting ‘a chance like that’.)

And the last time you’ll see the by-line, and it isn’t even on a picture – By Gordon Amory.

Finally, we have added the eulogy by Philip Aris, delivered at the funeral.

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Gordon Amory

By Revel Barker

As his old boss, Brian Hitchen, put it in a private email a couple of weeks ago, when your wife and your best friend die in fairly rapid succession, much of the zing is apt to go out of your life.

So it was for Gordon Amory. His loving wife Beatrice died unexpectedly in hospital and shortly after the inquest Stanley Blenkinsop – with whom he had spoken virtually every day for more than half a century – had a fall at home and also died.

Last photocall: Stanley and Beatrice. Picture by Gordon Amory

Almost immediately, Gordon started suffering breathing problems (in case you’re wondering he never, in the 45 years that I knew him, smoked a cigarette) and experienced difficulty in moving about. ‘I need to keep sitting down a lot,’ was how he explained it. It was a nuisance, that’s all – he wasn’t complaining.

The eternal optimist, when doctors at North Tyneside General said there was nothing more that could be done for him, Gordon conceded that it was probably better for him to remain in hospital – ‘for the time being’.

With nothing better to do, he wrote a last piece – of course, he didn’t expect it to be his last piece – for Ranters, for whom he’d been a supporter and contributor from the start.

He then faded away quite quickly, so his death was a shock to his close friends.

Ian Skidmore said: ‘He was such a merry soul. I feel as though a light has gone out.’

Daily Mail managing editor Robin Esser said: ‘I was very sad to hear of his death. Gordon was a great professional and a man with a great deal of human kindness.

And former photographic colleague Tom Smith remembers him as: ‘As nice a man as you could wish to meet. I have still got his kind letter to me when, along with the rest, I was shafted by the Express. Not only that, he kept in touch when other so-called colleagues conveniently forgot.’

That’s how he’ll be remembered – as a constantly cheerful, conciliatory and loyal friend. Not a guy to complain about life, or about anything, really.

Well, except…

There was one afternoon when a chief superintendent in Newcastle upon Tyne called a press conference about a major crime, then refused to say anything. He was not only uncooperative, he was downright obstructive. The reporters all sighed and stared at the blank pages in their notebooks. Suddenly, Gordon, of all people, rebelled.

‘You…’ he told the Superintendent, ‘are useless. You’re a disgrace to the uniform you’re wearing.’

Astonished by the outburst, Stanley said: ‘Nobody has ever talked to a chief superintendent like that. But, by God, Gordon, you are right!’

Equally astounded, the cop asked: ‘What do you mean?’ And Gordon told him. As a result, the guy changed his attitude and police-press cooperation was suddenly restored.

Recalling that incident a few weeks ago, Gordon told me: ‘I think drink may have been taken… but it helped… it worked…!’

Oh happy days. When you could enjoy a long lunch then go to a press conference and deliver a bollocking to a top copper.

I wonder whether it ever happens these days.

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End of an era

By Clive Crickmer

Like an old soldier, Gordon Amory, seasoned campaigner in the combative world of national newspapers, simply faded away. Admitted to hospital for what he hoped would be no more then an overnight stay, a degenerative lung condition was found to be beyond cure and all that could be done was to make him comfortable as the end approached. There was no pain, and that was a blessing, as he slipped away late on Saturday night – as his daughter Denise and her husband Paul hurried to his bedside at the North Tyneside Hospital.

Coming just a few short months after her mother Beatrice’s unexpected death, Denise deserves the very deepest sympathy. And as it is only a month since his long-standing colleague and chum Stanley Blenkinsop died, much gloom has been cast over newspapermen of a certain age on the Express and in their native north east. Two exceptional journalists, cheery and colourful characters and delightful companions, they will be greatly missed by many.

Gordon’s entry into journalism was as a lad of 14 when he got a Saturday afternoon job on the Blyth News, his local paper, taking copy and photographs by bus and ferry to the offices of the South Shields Gazette, which was then the Northern Press’s printing centre. The enthusiasm that was to be a hallmark of his entire career must have been evident as he was soon offered a full time position as an editorial assistant. His wise headmaster advised him to leave school early and take it, telling him: ‘You won’t get a chance like that again.’ (And there is now absolutely no likelihood of anybody else ever getting ‘a chance like that’.)

And so, with a weekly wage of 13 shillings, rising to 18 shillings – 90p – after three months, he was on his way. An enduring memory of those early days just after the end of the war was of a youthful and eccentric editor, John H Bell who, attired in jodhpurs, would ride to the office, tethering his horse in the back yard. Gordon believed it was to irritate older, starchy and disapproving staff that he would sometimes jump onto the table in the reporters’ room and dance a jig, slapping his thighs with a horsewhip. Doubtless this early encounter with eccentricity held the teenager in good stead for his long association some years later with the inimitable Blenkinsop.

His tasks at the outset were menial, running errands, carrying the staff photographer’s bag and mixing his developer, though he was allowed occasionally to write up weddings and church fetes. Then came in rapid succession the demise of three snappers – one who died after falling down the steps of the hotel where the mayor’s ball was being held, and the departure of two others to more lucrative pastures. And so, at just 17, Gordon found himself the sole cameraman. He must have made his mark because soon afterwards he was switched to the North Shields Evening News, now a weekly giveaway but then a vibrant newspaper of repute, and it was to there that he returned after his two years of national service.

It was just before his 18th birthday that due to his initiative and that generous measure of good luck that all journalists need from time to time, that he happened upon a major sporting scoop. From the upper deck of a bus he spotted soccer ace Len Shackleton and two other men – who turned out to be his Newcastle United teammates Jack Fairbrother and Tommy Pearson – teeing off on a golf course. Seeing it as a back page picture, he jumped off at the next stop and they were happy to let him snap them. After rushing the film to the office, he ran off extra prints to give to the trio before they reached the 18th hole as a gesture of thanks (and also, as he confessed, to get their autographs). And the legendary Shack told him: ‘You’ve got an exclusive there, son, I’ll be signing for Sunderland this afternoon for a world record fee.’ And so he did, at a cost of £20,050. As Gordon was to reflect: ‘Could you imagine the £20 million prima donnas of today confiding in a local newspapermen like that?’ As it happened, Len and he were to become good friends and colleagues on the Daily Express and would meet up on holidays in Tenerife.

The Northern Press was a fertile producer of journalistic talent during Gordon’s tenure and most of those who went on to bigger and better things were to remain his friends for life… Terry Wynn, Daily Sketch then Tyne-Tees Television’s first news editor and then chief press officer to the Lord Chancellor… Brian Park, Daily Express then Daily Mail chief reporter… Peter Woods Daily Mirror, then BBC news… John Robson, Sunday Express… Norman Baitey, editor of the Sunday Sun in Newcastle before becoming an executive job with Murdoch’s newly-born Sun where Dick Parrack, another North Shields émigré, became managing editor… sports editor Jack Peart, whose father was a Fulham manager, rose to sports editor of the Sunday Pictorial (now Mirror) while Neville Holtham held a similar position on The People… Bert Stimpson, Daily Mail copy taster… Dennis Brierley, chief parliamentary sub at the Daily Express… photographers John Wardhaugh (Daily Express) and Johnny Learwood (Sketch and freelance)… William Hardcastle, editor of the Daily Mail and then BBC World at One.

There were also the bizarre. One freelance who did reporting shifts could write Pitman’s shorthand with both hands at once. A lady reporter who arrived just after the war would drink, smoke and curse to a remarkable degree. As the Evening News and the local borough council shared a centenary they joined forces to stage a celebratory dinner in the aptly-named Grand Hotel on the Tynemouth seafront. Even by her own standards the lady had let her hair down and after beginning to undress herself she leapt onto a table where, doubtless to a mixture of horror and appreciation, she danced while shedding yet more garments. Finally, she dashed down the winding staircase and through the main door into a wind-lashed snowstorm reputedly wearing only her hat. Gordon has already related this tale to Ranters readers, adding: ‘She was never seen again. If she ever received a P45 it must have been sent by post.’ Oh, how one hopes such stories are true!

But as things were to turn out, by far the most significant recruit from Gordon’s point of view was Alan Baxter who joined the paper as a messenger boy at 15. He had graduated to junior reporter by the time Gordon’s national service had ended and they were dispatched together to greet the first Polish ship to come into the Tyne since the war. A hospitable captain plied them with vodka and they ended up slumped and sleeping it off on a grass verge beside the Albert Edward Dock at North Shields. Alan was to reflect: ‘It taught us a salutatory lesson.’ It was also the start of a warm friendship that was to last 60 years, many of those as Newcastle-based colleagues on the Daily Express. Each week in retirement they would meet for a few beers in the city and last raised a glass together after Stan Blenkinsop’s funeral in Macclesfield. And I am so pleased now that I met up with them last month in The Forth (once the Mail district men’s pub) in Pink Lane when we strolled together far along memory lane.

Gordon’s own rise to national newspapers was pretty chaotic. He was appointed chief photographer of the Blyth News and Ashington Post but as he has explained: ‘I got involved with a couple of girl friends and found that Blyth was not big enough for the three of us, so I needed a quick exit.’ It took just one week on the Hertfordshire Mercury, where he had taken refuge, to decide that was not for him, and so he went to London, walked into the Sketch office and asked picture editor Len Franklyn for a job – leaving with the promise of a three-month trial. He immediately tendered his resignation to the Mercury, but celebrations in the White Hart in Hertford proved to be premature. For next morning a letter from Franklyn arrived (Royal Mail being very efficient in those days) in which he cautioned: ‘Do not leave your present employer yet as I am unable to confirm your appointment with the editor.’

Studying Worlds Press News he saw a photographic vacancy in Sheffield advertised and, after a phone call, was given an expenses-paid interview and got the job. But then Sketch editor Bert Gunn confirmed his trial appointment and he had to tell a much chagrined Sheffield editor that he would not be coming after all. He was put on the Sketch’s permanent staff and acquitted himself well, being made their Newcastle-based cameraman. It was from there that he moved to the Express where he spent 38 happy years before his retirement in 1998.

Alan Baxter said: ‘Gordon was a superb operator who could turn his hand to anything. He was as good doing glamour or fashion as he was taking hard news action pictures. The quality was always excellent and when it came to door-knocking inquiries it was like having an extra reporter with you. As well as a terrific colleague he was also a wonderful friend. Few friendships lasted as long as ours and I value every day of it.’

Gordon was the instigator and sole organizer of the Pens and Lens Club which each November since 1991 had brought together veteran scribes and snappers from all over Britain – the editor, indeed, made the annual journey from his Mediterranean bolt hole – to a lunch in the plush dining room at St James’ Park, home of Newcastle United. This was, in fact, the only function of the PLC (not inappropriately sometimes referred to the Pissed and Legless Club) and what a merry gathering it was, of up to 70 journalists, including ex-Fleet Street editors, who had in common the fact that they had all at some time worked on Tyneside.

To assemble such an array of disorganized humanity in one place at one time, as well as getting their money upfront and persuading Scottish and Newcastle Breweries every year to foot the pre-lunch booze bill, was something of a mini-miracle. Year after year Gordon did it, although on the last occasion there was a foreboding that the jolly jamboree had come to the end of the road. Beatrice, who had always given him so much support, was ill – though her death soon after came as a shock to everyone – and he announced that he was stepping down. And there does not seem to be anyone else prepared to take up such an onerous baton.

Word had preceded the event that the end of the era was probably nigh and Gordon was presented with an inscribed tankard as a token gesture of the gratitude we all owed him. John Knill, his old picture editor on the Express, had created a montage of photos and prints recalling the PLC luncheons down the years which, as John was unable to be present, was presented by Stan Blenkinsop. He read the following message from John: ‘A million thanks, Gordon – you are a legend in your own lunchtime. The great organization over the past 19 years has brought together many old friends who during that time have travelled thousands of miles down Memory Lane via Tyneside…’

#

The last picture show

By Gordon Amory

Arthur Christiansen made it the World’s Greatest Newspaper – and Harold Keeble, the most innovative newspaperman of his time, was credited with making PhotoNews and in turn creating the world’s biggest picture team.

Throughout the fifties the paper to work for was the Daily Express, always full of new ideas. They didn’t invent pictures but this was the time when they decided to project photographs in the paper. News pictures were big.

It nearly backfired when Keeble saw a picture in Life magazine of all their photographers and he did the same, half a page under the headline, ‘the picture power in the Express’. Beaverbrook counted them over breakfast and was immediately on the phone. ‘Sixty-two photographers? Am I paying for all these? You’re all quite mad on the Express!’

Gerry Cook was the chief picture editor but the man behind all the activity was Frank Spooner, THE picture editor. Not only did he have a big picture team but he wanted all to be stars, the younger the better. George Stroud, a veteran Fleet Street man was given the delightful job of covering all things moving at London Airport. So Frank brought in his eighteen year old son, Michael.

He was delighted when Michael got his first PhotoNews, the vicar of Woodford who was having an extra marital affair was hiding in the boot of a car and when the lid was opened Michael got his picture.

Not to be outdone, Norman Midgley, then the chief photographer in the Manchester office, was also choosing his staff carefully and in came Barry Henson, another 18-year-old who had worked in the darkrooms of the two evenings in Leeds, before going out with a camera and producing excellent work for Jimmy Waite’s freelance agency.

Barry’s first day at the Express in Manchester coincided with a royal visit from the editor who wanted to entertain as many of his staff as he could at the Midland Hotel, a great hotel then. He had his picture taken with several groups and then it came to the turn of the photographers who gathered around him. Barry stood to aside not wishing to be presumptuous. ‘Come on Barry,’ said Norman, ‘You’re one of us now.’

So Barry got on the left of the picture. Next to him was Dave Cooksey, we used to call him the Commander as he had been in the Royal Navy during the war, as was Bill Gregory, next to Arthur Christiansen, who really was a Lieutenant Commander during the war. Laurie Lee was in the Navy too, Aubrey Matthews had been called up in 1938 and Norman Midgley was with the Army Film Corps and photographed the signing of the Peace treaty on Luneburg Heath.

Barry was in exalted company! Later three of us joined the Express picture staff from the Daily Sketch, much to the chagrin of Len Franklyn who was building his own staff. Len Treivenor and Harry Benson (not to be confused with Barry Henson) who went onto great things in New York, and beyond, joined the London staff and I went to Manchester.

Frank Spooner wanted us all to be ‘his’ men and many times on a Sunday morning when I was eventually based in Newcastle he would take a Gregory Air Taxi (wonderful days!) from Heathrow and come and see me.

His daughter married John Lyth who was with us in Manchester and had various executive picture jobs later in London including picture editor of the Mail. Alas we’re all well retired now.

The fifties were the days when floodlit football came in for the first time and that created new problems as we would struggle to get an image on a plate and when we started using two flashes instead of one, reporters had to learn how to hold the extension flash. Not all were even efficient at that!

We started using film instead of plates but it was a long time before we eventually got rid of darkroom tents. Yes darkroom tents. They were six feet by five feet and three feet high all in black and the photographer would be accompanied by a printer and a wireman. The printer would develop the photographer’s plates and the telegraphist would wire the pictures from a Post Office.

Not all of them, but some would have disappeared when you had a picture for them to wire and it was then a search through various Chinese restaurants to find them. Sometime there would be half a dozen tents installed in a single post office – useful if someone had missed a picture and there was a friendly mate working for the opposition!

How we would have loved to have produced some of the amazing colour images we saw from the World Cup. It would have been a picture editor’s dream then to have so many perfect pictures to choose from.

So why do so many of us now look back and say we had the very best of days in newspapers – well, because we did. We celebrated a by-line by buying large rounds of drink and on many occasions in Manchester we would order a round of Tia Marias (yes, Tia Marias) swallow them in one then throw the glasses in the back of the fireplace of the Crown and Kettle. Then we would then have to pay for the glasses we broke. Happy days!

Drinking and being in the pub until the first edition appeared was part of the job and not many went home before the First Irish just after 9.00pm.

The picture of all those Daily Express staff photographers would hang on the wall behind the many picture editors we had in London from 1960. Long before I retired I mentioned that I would like it when I finally went from the paper. Chris Djukanovic my last picture editor gave it to me and it hangs in my lounge at home.

#

A romance with newspapers

By Philip Aris

‘1930 must have been a good year… For that’s when I was born.’ Not my words. But Gordon’s own, taken from a wonderful document he created on his computer, called: MY LIFE.

He writes: ‘My father and mother were living in Blyth with my five-year-old brother Tony when I made my debut. They were by no means affluent but neither was anyone living around us’.

I thought I knew quite a bit about Gordon, who I got to know well over forty years ago when I moved (as a raw junior) from Manchester, to work with him and Alan Baxter in the Daily Express district office, then in Dean Street, in Newcastle. We worked together for eight fascinating years. But one thing I never knew (until his daughter Denise told me last week) was that he was… a prolific writer.

Not only did he write MY LIFE- but editions of a publication called MODASSA CHRONICLES (all lavishly illustrated and carefully laid out in newspaper format) appeared regularly in his computer files. These tell the story of Gordon. Of his more than 50 years in journalism. Of the high points in his life and some low points. Of his many scoops and a few failures. And of the massive network of friends and colleagues he built up during the eighty years of his amazing life.

This autumn – 2010 – will be the first time in almost 20 years that there is to be no meeting of the Pens and Lens Club. Founded by Gordon. Organised meticulously by Gordon. And run, hugely successfully year after year through the efforts of this one special person.

Before the final PLC, held as usual in a big room overlooking St James Park, Gordon announced that he felt he could no longer undertake arranging the annual gathering of newspapermen. Every year, despite the loss of treasured friends, the PLC had grown, as more and more people (including Fleet Street editors past and present ) made the journey, many from afar, to attend.

Gordon’s decision was against the background of the worsening health of his beloved wife Beatrice.

Who among us at the last PLC in November could possibly have imagined that within a month Beatrice would have died? Or that only nine months later his close friend, Stanley Blenkinsop (who was Denise’s godfather) would have also be dead. And that now only three weeks after that, Gordon himself would be gone. So suddenly. So sadly. Many of us found Gordon, sorrowful of course but in pretty good shape, at Stanley’s funeral in Macclesfield on August 2. Indeed… He and I arranged to meet up in London on Sept 7th, which is next Tuesday.

I think none of us can really believe what has happened. Our thoughts now of course are very much with Denise and her husband Paul, who have had a truly horrible year…

Gordon reckoned he was about eight when he first thought of becoming a newspaperman. In one edition of Modassa Chronicles named after Gordon and Beatrice’s house) he recalls that his parents then took the Daily Mail every day, the Blyth News twice a week and a give-away called the Blyth Weekly Observer whenever it came through their door.

Young Gordon – as he was nicknamed at the St Cuthbert’s Church Choir and often to be called throughout his life – couldn’t get enough of newspapers ‘I would read them all from cover to cover,’ he writes. At secondary school, during the war, Gordon never lost his ambition to become a journalist.

But only by leaving school he reasoned could he get into newspapers. His first step, aged fourteen, was to become a messenger at the shipyard. But almost immediately he spotted the opportunity he’d dreamed of… as a Saturday afternoon runner for the Blyth News, taking copy and pictures across the Tyne to the South Shields Gazette, where the paper was printed. His keenness was quickly rewarded. F L Johnson, then editor in chief of the Northern Press appointed him an editorial assistant. And so, as Gordon puts it modestly: ‘In one easy step I left school and with thirteen shillings a week, took my first step into journalism.

This was the beginning of what he calls his ‘romance with newspapers’ that was to last for the rest of his life.

‘It wasn’t long before I was putting my messenger duties behind me,’ he says. ‘When a photographer went out, I would carry his case. When a reporter went to court I would go with him. Because I had helped in the darkroom, I became a trainee photographer.’

By the war’s end staff were returning from fighting. And all the while Gordon’s career was progressing.

In January 1947 he recalls the then Blyth News chief reporter Doug Blackhall and he trudging together through giant snowdrifts to get copy and pictures to the printer. Before he was eighteen Gordon transferred from the Blyth News to its sister paper the Shields Evening News.

‘This was great,’ he writes. ‘There was a terrific staff of reporters and subs there and I never looked back’…

In July 1948 he became a private in the Royal Army Ordinance Corps at Aldershot. On briefly to an Army paper in Shropshire. And then to postings in York and Germany. The following April, demob, and Gordon, now twenty ,went straight back to the Shields Evening News where there had been many changes and new appointments. One was of a junior reporter called Alan Baxter, aged sixteen and a half. He’d joined the year before as a messenger but had soon been promoted.

Gordon flourished. But a minor disagreement with the editor led to a move back to the Blyth News as chief photographer, aged 22.

After 18 months, itchy feet again. So first a brief spell at the Hertfordshire Mercury …and then the big break. A job on the Sketch at the then massive pay of eighteen guineas a week. It was soon back from London to Newcastle as the Sketch’s youngest staff photographer where his reporter colleague was Terry Wynn, who he’d worked with at both the Blyth News and Shields Evening News. Terry went on to be Tyne Tees TV news editor and chief press officer to the Lord Chancellor. He has also been another PLC regular over the years.

About his time on the Sketch, Gordon writes: ‘I got splendid shows in the paper such as when I was attacked by a tiger, which a butcher kept in a cage at the bottom of his garden in Chester-le-Street and much later when a young Wallsend woman became the first deep freeze mum. In my first few weeks I took a picture of a young beauty queen and we were criticised by the Bishop of Bradford for showing off her legs. Her knees could be seen…’

Three years on and Gordon, then almost 27, was lured by the Express to Manchester where there was, as he puts it, ‘an abundance’ of big stories such as pit disasters, air crashes and prison escapes. He was the first pressman allowed into Strangeways, where he recalls the faces of the inmates had to be painted out.

Gordon was covering big stories as well as sporting events and political conferences. But when the Newcastle staff photographer died suddenly, Gordon asked for and was eventually reluctantly allowed a return to his native North East.

Now this is where Beatrice enters the story. ‘It was time to get my love life together,’ Gordon writes.

‘I couldn’t go on sowing my wild oats for ever’ adding: ‘Oops I shouldn’t have said that.’ But those who knew Gordon as a bachelor will, I believe, know what he meant.

‘One day’ he writes, ‘I was visiting an old friend at the Blyth News and he introduced me to Beatrice. I next met her at a dance in Whitley Bay and then in September 1962 we came out of Horton Parish Church as husband and wife.’

They lived all their immensely happy married life at Modassa in Hamilton Drive where Denise was born in 1967. Many of us were entertained royally at their home. Many times. They were fabulous company.

For thirty three years Gordon covered thousands of major events in Britain from Newcastle. For eight years in the seventies, as I’ve said, with me, but mostly with reporter Alan Baxter. And for seven years in the sixties with Stanley Blenkinsop. Both of them, colleagues and lifelong close friends. Stanley of course left to become the Express northern news editor in Manchester. In the last months of Stanley’s life this year, Gordon and he spoke by telephone every day. They’d been in touch very regularly for many years. In last week’s tribute to Gordon in the Evening Chronicle, Alan recalls how on Gordon’s eightieth birthday in May the three men met in Newcastle at the Forth in Pink Lane, once the regular haunt of colleagues on the Daily Mail and then later on the quayside, where the Express office used to be. ‘I am so pleased I met up with them both. It was a wonderful day,’ Alan says.

Gordon’s work, for the Daily and Sunday Express, in news, in sport, in fashion took him all over Europe and often to Northern Ireland.

Many people will remember the Seaham Lifeboat Disaster. The sinking of the Alexander Keiland off Norway. The great HMS Glasgow fire. The Piper Alpha disaster The Vickers mini-sub story. Fiona Cummings. Linda Desramault. The Lambton scandal. The Ripper hoax tapes and the Ripper arrest. Some of these events are a big part of my past as well. But Gordon was involved in them all, and thousands more.

Gordon’s Modassa Chronicles have some graphic descriptions: ‘One winter’s night,’ he writes, ‘we got a call to say an RAF air sea rescue boat had turned turtle in Amble harbour and although some members of the crew had been rescued- others were trapped inside the hull.

‘We were on the dockside for fully four hours as the upturned boat was bashed against the harbour wall by the heavy seas. Then we heard a tapping sound from the boat. Rescuers sawed through the hull and eventually the first man came out. Then another and another. This was midnight.’

Midnight it may have been but Gordon’s pictures were in the Express in the morning.

So what was he like? This newspaperman, husband to Beatrice, father to Denise and friend to so very many of us for so long.?

Well he was very loyal. Many of his friends were his friends for half a century. Some even longer. We have already mentioned Alan and Terry. Gordon himself singles out other half century plus friends: Dennis Brierly, with him at the Shields Evening News. The wonderful John Learwood who succeeded him both at the Evening News and the Sketch who was sadly yet another old friend to die in 2010. Bert Stimpson, Vernon Addison, Stan Oliver. The late Bert Horsfall. John Brownlee of course, a mentor to Gordon at Blyth as to so many others later. Just as Gordon was a mentor to me. I shall always be grateful.

He was loyal and generous.

Robin Esser, former Express editor, now with the Mail writes: ‘He was a great professional and a man with a deal of human kindness’.

John Knill, his picture editor at the Express for years created a montage of photos for the final Pens and Lens. And because he was ill, asked Stanley to read the message: ‘A million thanks Gordon. You are a legend.’

No-one else has come forward to run the PLC in Gordon’s place. Gordon can’t be replaced.

Express picture editor Mick Lidbury wrote last week to Denise with feelings that I think sum up those of all of us who knew and loved him: ‘Gordon was an absolute pleasure to be with,’ he wrote, ‘and I regard it as a privilege to have known him both socially and professionally’ .

We are all much richer people for having known him.

Philip Aris moved to the Daily Express in Newcastle in 1970 and left in 1978 to join first the BBC and then Tyne Tees TV. In the mid eighties he produced Face the Press for Channel Four. For the last twenty years he has run a media training business.

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