Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Here come the girls

Had a fabulous catch-up in Tavistock with four former colleagues (left). It may have been more years than we care to remember since we first met in a portakabin in Plymouth, but we look darned good!  Back then, we were embarking on our journalists' training, and on Saturday night as we reminisced, we realised how fortunate we were to do  it and what a marvellous training it was.

One of the questions we asked at the weekend was "who still has their cuttings book?"  I still have mine, and the stories are typical of a small local paper of record. The South Devon Times cost twelve pence in 1980 and carried stories about local organisations, weddings, dog shows, the WI. We were sent on "prowls" of our particular patch, which I hated with a vengeance. In these pre-Google days, journalists were expected to go and find news.

One of my biggest stories was about a railwaymen's social club which forgot to renew its alcohol licence and was "dry" for a month. This story was picked up by the sister paper, the Daily Mirror.

Another of my most memorable stories was about the Yealm harbourmaster coming under fire at a local council meeting. I was sitting at the back of the room, unnoticed by the councillors, and came away with a story about "what had he been doing on the night two boats sank?!"

When the story was published there was a local outcry, and the next story was "Harbourmaster defended." The story ran for weeks and was even discussed at a public inquiry which I covered. I was persona non grata in the village of Noss Mayo, populated by a good many surgeon rear admirals and people with double barrelled names.

I was lucky enough to have my own column in the paper every week, where, as a 19 year old, I expatiated in pompous vein on a range of topics including cats, men's socks, and - right - defending parents from smug and silly teenagers.



Anne @ The Frump Factor said...

This made me smile because I did some time with a local paper, too, in my early twenties. I did arts features, mostly, so no local scandals were unearthed. But I, too, displayed youthful pomposity that now makes me cringe. I'm very impressed that you went out and got real news as an actual beat reporter! I was always too shy and fearful to do that.

Maddie Grigg said...

Gail,is your banner picture how us five girls used to look, when we set out on the journalism journey all those years ago?
I remember going into great detail in a feature piece about a cat being sick.

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