Letters

  gerry_kreibich@hotmail.com

 

  Letters from former Richmond trainees are always a delight to receive, after all
  these years . . . but I'd welcome a few lines from anyone with anything relevant to say.
 
  (REMEMBER . . . the fascinating letters that appear below have been
  trickling in over the past five or six years, so the writers' workplaces
  are not necessarily the same today. And note that you scroll the
  letters up and down by means of the little boxes at the
  bottom-left of the text.)

  R

Andy Rutherford writes from Newport, South Wales:

I’ve been meaning to drop you a line for ages. You probably won’t remember me , but I was at Richmond during 1983/84.

I was in FJ1A with the likes of Deana Morris, Ian Bevitt, Kevin Pick, Liz Warner, Graham Moorby, Paul Bolton, Judy Rees and Andy Heading. I remember the first day, when we were set a fictional task in the hotbed of news that was Oxdown. Most of us missed the point, or barely grasped it, and I realised we had a long haul ahead of us to learn the craft.

It was a fantastic year though, lots of great times in and out of the classroom, with some great people. I’ve caught up with a couple of my classmates through Twitter, and finding your website, even a little bit late, has been a revelation.

I had four years at the Gateshead Post weekly on Tyneside after leaving Richmond, then moved down to south Wales (1988) with my Geordie partner and after a short stint on the South Wales Echo, I moved to the South Wales Argus in Newport, where I have been for 27 years, 18 as health reporter. I’ve stayed here because it’s a great patch with great people, and I still love the feeling of coming to work and not knowing quite what is going to happen.

I’ve had a look at your website photos from my year. I remember the day in London when we went to the House of Commons. I’m not in the photo on the train (pic gallery 5) because I made a last minute decision to go to a concert at the Royal Festival Hall instead and got a very late train back to Derby, kipped on the station, and got back to Sheffield in time for lectures the next morning.

Also, I’m not on the colour photograph at the top of pic gallery 3. I can only assume I was having one of my anti-social days and didn’t want to be snapped for posterity. The photo was taken one sweltering afternoon in June 1984, shortly before we all went our separate ways.

It’s hard to believe, looking at that photo, that 32 years have passed. We’ve all come a long way since then, and much of that is down to you, Pete, Ron, Lyn and the rest of the teaching team. Best wishes.

Chris Myers writes from Kenley, near Croydon:

I was at Richmond College in 1970/71, on a pre-entry course. All happy memories. Sheffield changed my life - I met Sue, got married and had a son all within the space of a year or so! And we’re STILL married. We left Sheffield for London in 1972 when I got a job on a science magazine. After that I joined what was the world’s oldest motorcycle newspaper, rising to assistant deputy editor.I went into PR in 1987 and have just retired, more or less.

I learned a lot in Sheffield from you, Ron and Frank (the difference between ‘blackbirds’ and ‘black birds’, among other things!). But then there was the key stuff like ‘getting the guts of the story by the scruff of the neck’ and what news was, and still is - these are things that have served me well, in all sorts of situations. The day at the abattoir was something I will never forget; similarly the colliery visit.

I had forgotten lecturer Mr Staniforth’s name until I read his post (scroll down for Martin Staniforth’s letter). Great stuff. What an interesting career. And the classmates . . . what happened to Peter Lee, Peter O'Connell, Erica Snow, Jane Howroyd (Holroyd?), Marilyn Gubbins, Celia Gosling, Roger Stansfield, Ruth Sealy, Lynda Render and Peter Ferguson?

GERRY ADDS: Who knows, one of them may see this
and get in touch. I'd like that. .

Keith Hamer writes from the Press Association:

It's more than 40 years since you helped me on the road to a career in journalism. I would just like to say heartfelt thanks to you and to Ron and Frank who gave me the platform to life in journalism.
The website is great. I wish I'd come across it earlier. (It was my wife Pat who found it.). I’ve already seen mentions of quite a few people I know - and I'm sure I will discover others. I'm on your Picture Gallery 1 pic - smack in the centre on the front row. And I'm on the Markham shot too (Picture Gallery 3) at the back, sandwiched between Alan and Ian.
I'll be surprised if you remember much about me, if at all, but I thought you might like to know how I got on following my year in Richmond (1971-72). I am on the racing editorial desk of the Press Association, for whom I have worked since 1996.
My career dates - Hemsworth Express (1972-78), Doncaster Evening Post (1978-79), Sheffield Morning Telegraph (1979 until its closure in 1986). I refused to go to Wapping. Next came the Sheffield Star (1986-91), Daily Sport (1991-96), then the Press Association.
I have worked exclusively in sport since 1978 and on horse racing for just about all of it. I've also done shifts on The Sun and The Times. Thanks for the website. It brings back so many memories.

Glyn Evans (Daily Mail sub) writes:

This website reminds me of the very happy times I had on block release courses in the summer of 71/72. For a junior reporter from a Mid Wales weekly (callow would be an over-statement), it was a great adventure with some excellent people. And, apart from the joyously boozy social life, it gave me the skills and confidence to move on to evening papers, into subbing, then PA and, finally, for the past 33 years, to Associated Newspapers. Most of that time was spent on the Mail on Sunday, including some years as chief sub and on the backbench. For the past five years or so I've been a casual on the features subs' desk at the Daily Mail, working among several other Richmond College alumni.
I'm sure we all remember what we owe you, Ron and the redoubtable Frank.
Thanks for everything,

Former lecturer Ron Eyley writes from 'Geordieland' . . .

Phil Round’s letter (below) sparked memories of the good old days when we would spend Friday mornings at the School of Art and Design in Psalter Lane with printing lecturers John Richardson and Fred (whose party trick involved stroking his hand across the surface of a red hot pot of lead, tin and antimony). I never understood how he managed to avoid frying his fingers. It was there that a young Phil demonstrated his entrepreneurial skills by designing and printing his own postage stamps at a time when the real posties were on strike. Did he ever make any money?

It’s 22 years since I left journalism-training to start my own PR agency. The world was changing and educational opportunists throughout the UK were offering media courses of all kinds in both FE and HE establishments to compete with the traditional NCTJ programmes. Coupled with the development of new technology and drastic cuts in editorial staffing levels, newspapers changed – and not always for the better. Dear old Frank Littlewood would have had a field day with the howlers seen in some of today’s publications.

Just for the record, I shall be 74 later this month. We moved to the North East from Derbyshire just a year ago and are now enjoying some wonderful adventures in and around Geordieland. I’m still scribbling (five pieces about our local church and community used in the Northern Echo and sister papers in the past week) and hear fairly regularly from former trainees. We had some good times in Sheffield and I’m proud to think that the journalism team there helped a fair few young people on to the first rungs of their chosen career ladder.

Phil Round (a 1970-71 student) writes from Canada:

Just a quick note from Canada to let you know that I have finally retired from full-time journalism here on Vancouver Island , and on my last day on the Comox Valley Echo was very pleased to receive a traditional mock front page which included a serious quote from Editor Debra Martin that I wanted to share with you - “Philip was what I call an ‘old school’ reporter, drilled in the excellent British training system…”
You and your colleagues certainly set me up for a successful career, and now, more than 40 years on, it has ended on another continent where, as well as reporting, I was assigned to mentor numerous raw Canadian recruits in the newspaper group to which we belonged, perpetually drawing on the lessons learned in Sheffield all those years ago. Thank you. So the career circle is complete (admittedly having veered off tangentially at various periods into radio, television and public relations, but always building on the solid foundation of that full-year pre-entry course gave me).

My wife Judith and I made a return visit to the UK immediately after my retirement, and we met up with two former Halifax Evening Courier colleagues who were also sponsored to be on Richmond courses in the very early 70s — David Hanson and Helen Maskill. There was a long evening of reminiscing that night!

Alan Oakley writes from Australia:

Trust this finds you well. I just Googled Richmond College (I've no idea why) and found your site.
I had two NCTJ blocks at Sheffield around 73/74. I was at the Leighton Buzzard Observer at the time (it remains my favourite masthead name).
I went on to work at the Daily Express in Manchester and then moved to Australia in 1985. I've since edited five papers here (which makes me a serial editor), including The Sydney Morning Herald and the Herald Sun. I've spent most of my time (17 years) working for News Corp and now work mostly on digital strategy.
I've many fond memories of my time at college (and too many memories of the Stonehouse pub, bad nightclubs and cheap digs). Very best wishes.

Jonathan Baker writes from Colchester:

A visit to a conference in Sheffield recently put me in mind of probably the last time I was there, on block release in your tender care at Richmond College at the start of 1975. I remember the college well in its bizarre windswept setting; and our course, which coincided with the Tory leadership election that brought Mrs Thatcher to power I remember it being bloody cold, I can still recite the first few lines of the passage which formed our shorthand test (and a good memory is the principal reason I passed it), and I remember you and Ron Eyley putting us through our paces.

I was there with three fellow graduate trainees taken on in late 1974 by the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo at the start of a new scheme, and they sent us all to Sheffield a few months later, having parked us for a while on their weeklies up the Lancashire coast. I was on the Southport Visiter (correct!), which was then the country’s only tri-weekly newspaper.

Having found my way to your website, I see that none of our names appears on your list of former students, so I thought I would fill in a few gaps.

I myself stayed at Liverpool until 1978, as general reporter and then sub on the Daily Post (now sadly defunct), when I left to join BBC Radio in London. I ended up staying there for 36 years, retiring in the spring of this year. Rather late in the day I have now entered academia, designing a 3-year BA course at the University of Essex which will welcome its first students in October 2015.

With me on the course from the Post and Echo were . . .

Douglas Lowe, a Scot who worked on the paper for some years and then went back up north to work for the Glasgow Herald, where he specialised (ahead of his time) on environmental issues. He was also something of an expert on the esoteric Scottish sport of shinty, a sort of licensed GBH. Sadly, Dougie died a few years back.

Sue Emmett, who stayed in Liverpool for a while and then joined me at the BBC where she worked variously in television news and then in the business department, where she specialised in consumer affairs. Sue left the Beeb about 5 years ago and divides her time between London and her flat in Paris.

Jayne Gardner, who has also just packed up, after a career working mostly for The Times.

Also with us was John Bottomley of the Visiter, but I lost touch with him some years back

I’d be pleased to hear from other people on the course, but to my shame, I can remember only one - Robin Aitken, who was a member of a detachment from the Birmingham Post and Mail. Robin also washed up at the BBC later on, and was a TV reporter, notably on the Breakfast show.

Keith Hursthouse writes from Stroud:

I've been visiting your website for a long time and meaning to write to you. and I've finally managed to put fingers to keyboard! The website is a great read - and I love the archive photos.

I was on the pre-entry course in 1979-80. My group of friends during that year included Ruth Pullin (who is featured on your letters page), Charlotte Nicol (former Radio 5 Live football reporter), Steve Caddy (now running his own magazine, Pure Buxton) and Tim Dixon (now editor of the Western Daily Press).
Great memories - crawling along a coal face, interviewing striking steelworkers on fraught picket lines, touring the local brewery (!!), visiting the Yorkshire Dales, and lots more. And I'll always remember nights at the Limit Club, seeing the Specials and Madness at the Top Rank, supping pints at the Brewer on the Bridge, enjoying the warmth of Sheffield folk.

My first job was on the now defunct Kidderminster Times, where I started the week after leaving college. I had to sleep on the chief reporter's floor until I found somewhere to live.

I am a Mancunian, but I have always worked in the Midlands and West Country, mainly as a sub-editor. For the past 24 years, I have lived in Gloucestershire and I was deputy chief sub of both the Gloucester Citizen and the Cheltenham-based Gloucestershire Echo.

I am on a different path these days. I took redundancy two years ago and went to college to pursue my passion for photography. I finish an HND shortly and will be going to university this autumn to top it up to a BA degree. I still do some editing on a freelance basis. One of my clients has been the Western Daily Press and it has been a real joy working in Bristol for my old Richmond College pal Tim.

The education I received at Richmond College is still proving its worth all these years later. Where would I be without Frank Littlewood's grammar lessons and Margaret Maxfield's shorthand tuition, for example?!

(GERRY'S NOTE: I've just been looking at Keith's pictures and they are well worth a visit. Go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/khpictures/ )

Alan Whitaker writes from Leeds:

Reading your website, I am (almost) overcome by nostalgia. There are a few familiar names among your lists who I worked with in the 1970s/80s - Mark Witty, Ian Bevitt, Tim Blott, Simon Bradshaw, Chris Holland and Bill Marshall, to name a few.

The photo of our group at Markham Main Colliery in the Spring of ’72 brings back memories. I remember crawling on hands and knees to the coal face, immediately downwind of Andy Knowles! It was very claustrophobic and the passage became so low and narrow that we could hardly advance, let alone turn round. It also became very warm and oppressive. I thought about this quite a lot while covering the NUM strike in the mid-80s for the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.

I reduced my hair length back to the shoulders within a few weeks of leaving Richmond, having decided that the full-on “John the Baptist” look might deter potential employers. I then grew a beard! Facial hair proved my undoing when I went for a job interview at the Harrogate Herald. In his rejection letter, the Editor commented that he preferred his reporters to be clean shaven. I wrote back to point out that removal of facial hair was easily achieved but that he would be unlikely to find a better prospect than myself. The arrogance of youth!

I then headed South to secure my first job. The Editor of the Maidenhead Advertiser in deepest Berkshire hailed from Wharfedale and wanted another Yorkshire accent in the office. I suspect that was the only reason I got the job. We had a great team down there, but I could not afford to live on the 15 quid a week they were paying me so moved back north within a year to continue my training with the Morley Observer, taking over as Chief Reporter in 1974. I remained there until 1978 when I joined my home town paper, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus,

I left mainstream journalism in 1994 and have had some interesting and rewarding jobs in PR since then, but I won’t bore you with the details. I do occasionally muse on my year at Richmond. I met some fine people there and remember them all - but I am no longer in contact with any of the group.

Inspired by winning the Richmond College poetry competition in 1971, I continue to practise the art (three collections published, two of which are still available on Amazon). I have also written a few books on railway history but my long awaited novel will remain long awaited for some time yet.

Your website is wonderful. So many great memories. I’ve had an enjoyable and varied career – and it all began at Richmond College in September 1971. The efforts of Ron Eyley, Frank Littlewood and yourself gave us all a good start. So, a belated thanks!

Margaret Hicks-Clarke writes from Howden, Yorkshire:

I've just been looking at the group picture of the 1973/4 year at Richmond. Forty years ago and it seems like yesterday. I met Neil Benson last week and of course neither of us looks any different!

I was Maggie Wordsworth when I was at college. I began my career at the Grimsby Evening Telegraph, moving back to Sheffield as a sub on the Morning Telegraph in 1977. When the paper closed down in 1986, I moved to the Yorkshire Post in Leeds, where I became Assistant Editor (Production). Richmond lecturer Frank Littlewood still took an active interest in his old paper and was a regular correspondent, pointing out the grammatical failings of our subs.

I’ve been with the Press Association since 2002 and spent two-and-a-half years in India, establishing and running our Operations Centres there. I launched a training programme for journalists while out there and many of my ex-trainees now hold senior positions in the Indian media. Their enthusiasm and sense of fun reminded me of the old days at Richmond College.

I remember Richmond with great affection. It was a wonderful time, with a fantastic bunch of students and lecturers. Glad you’re still writing and playing Scott Joplin. Thanks for everything,

Ian Spindley, now a marketing consultant, writes:
My abiding memories of Richmond are: skiving off to Fleet Street on the Parliament away-day and somehow finding ourselves chatting to Sir David English in the Daily Mail newsroom; travelling every day from home in Leeds to Sheffield and back on the train (I could not get a lodgings grant) and trying to do my shorthand drill over bumpy points; and having to sit all my Proficiency Test exams alone because a train delay made me an hour late (but I passed first time!)

I started on a free-sheet in Blackpool but moved to the Lincolnshire Standard Group in Boston with editor Geoff O'Neill, himself a former Richmond student. The chief sub was 'Uncle Doug' Moody - a real professional and a father figure to so many cub reporters and fledgling subs. (He was a Mexborough Times contemporary of Michael Parkinson.)

I moved to the Evening News & Star in Carlisle so I could live near mountains. But, along with 90 per cent of other subs and some reporters, as soon as new keyboards were introduced I began suffering with RSI - a really nasty bout of golfers' elbow which the NUJ briefly considered as a legal test case. I was assigned lighter page-design work . . . which led to a job as project editor with a publishing company in London. Their birds magazine failed to launch, but I did meet the RSPB's ex-director of communications - and that led to a visitor-information post at a nature reserve in remote North Wales, and subsequently to a brand new major reserve in Sussex.

I later got a job marketing the Body Shop International HQ Tour - and worked briefly with Anita Roddick - but my passion for communicating the value of birds, wildlife, and the countryside called once again and I became the first-ever communications officer for the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Kent and Sussex. My wife and I eventually chose relocation and a quieter life in Wales - best thing that ever happened to me.

I got a job with the RSPB, began learning Welsh, and moved back into local weekly newspaper reporting - to broaden my network of contacts - on the Caernarfon & Denbigh Herald and Cambrian News. I then did two fascinating years as a roving researcher for a small independent TV and radio documentaries production company, travelling around Wales with eminent presenters.

I now do marketing-communications and some part-time freelance consulting from home for small businesses. Thanks to the lecturers for making a huge difference to our lives, and all the very best from me.

Chris Holland, Bradford Telegraph and Argus business editor, writes:

As I approach my 61st birthday this week (Dec 20 2012), the Richmond College days have become a distant yet still fond memory. (I was a trainee on the now defunct Shipley Times & Express and attended two block-release courses close together in the early days - 1972-3, I think.)
Your interview-technique class was the first time most of us had seen a video recorder (about the size of a small car!) and we were able to view our efforts at interviewing a pools winner. You may recall that I also hijacked the video to record some impressions of Harold Wilson, Robin Day, Dennis Healey, Eric Morecambe and Ken Dodd!.

Ben Sharratt, editor at large for PricewaterhouseCoopers, writes:

Just had a quick look at your site and pleased to see that you get 20 nostalgia-fuelled visitors (I guess I'm one) taking a peek every day. Well done!

Iain Carter and I (college and flatmates from the 1985-86 course) both had sports books published in the same month this autumn. His is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Montys-Manor-Colin-Montgomerie-Ryder/dp/0224083317. Mine is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bring-Me-Head-Trevor-Brooking/dp/1845966619

Guess we couldn't have done it without traipsing up and down those steps at college every Tuesday looking for Richmond Reporter scoops! Cheers.

(Gerry writes: notice that Ben has cleverly slipped a couple of free
ads into his message! They are not clickable links, but they are
easy enough to follow up. And see Iain's own letter a little farther down the page.)

Ian Duncan, the only person in the country (probably!) to have two NCE passes in journalism, writes from Scarborough . . .

Just a quick line in response to your request for emails from your readers. I have been a journalist for almost 20 years and went to the college, which by that time was known as Stradbroke, in 1991. I was on the press photography course under the guidance of Paul Delmar.

I enjoyed my year in Sheffield and went on to work at the North West Evening Mail and a news agency. But in 2002 I had the crazy idea of training as a reporter in Darlington. Went on to work at both the Scunthorpe Telegraph and Scarborough Evening News, where I work now. I find I prefer reporting, but I still take the odd photo for my stories.
 
I got my reporting NCE last year and I believe I am possibly the only journalist in the country to have two NCEs because I passed the photo one in 1994. The NCTJ had no records!

Paul Whyatt, Derby Evening Telegraph, has been commended by grieving parents for the 'caring and sensitive' article he wrote about the death of their 19-year-old son. Paul has since read Chapter Six of these memoirs, and he writes below . . .

I've just read Chapter Six and found it both interesting and helpful. I'm only 23 and still have a heck of a lot to learn, so I will certainly be printing off the other chapters and reading them too.

Reading about the experiences of other young reporters was fascinating. My jaw dropped to this very keyboard as I read about the chap who suggested cutting the picture of a recently decapitated man below the head and shoulders!!! How awful.

Recently, I was chatting about "death knocks" with a colleague. That reporter admitted to feeling little emotion when covering stories of a tragic nature, insisting she does "not allow" herself to out of fear of becoming depressed, and also that one becomes "immune" to feeling sad about the pain of a family you do not know, the more you come across them.

I agree with her assertion that there has to be an element of "switching off" the emotions when it comes to reporting bereavement, otherwise this job would at times be too unbearable to do. But I believe being able to stand on a grieving family's doorstep with a genuine sadness about a stranger's tragic loss is the absolute number one vital ingredient behind a successful "death knock". Those who do not care and are merely pretending to be sympathetic will more often be seen through and requests for interviews turned down, as examples within your memoirs show. Indeed, there is no doubt in my mind it was my genuine sadness at this young man's death that led to his parents inviting me into their home and speaking about him.

No doubt many of your former students will have felt the same way I did when I was training to be a journalist; that you have to be a harsh, ruthless and cold-hearted person to succeed. I disagree. I believe you need passion, drive and an addiction for the truth (sort of comes under 'determination'). But you also need sensitivity - because without it you cannot care, and those who don't care will make mistakes or have doors slammed in their face.

Iain Carter, the BBC's golf correspondent, writes:

I'm very proud of my days at Richmond College even though I didn't go on to follow the traditional local newspaper route, preferring to get my voice on air rather than to wait for ink to dry on a page before distribution to the masses. I knew, though, that I'd been given an ideal grounding in journalism that has always been a source of great confidence in my career. The wheel seems to have turned full circle, because these days it feels as though I spend as much time writing for the BBC website as I do broadcasting on the corporation's airwaves.

I joined the BBC in 1988 at Radio Leicester, two years after leaving college. I was later BBC tennis correspondent, and became golf correspondent in 2003.

I will have my first book - Monty's Manor - published at the end of November. It is the story of Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup career . . . and yesterday's final day at Celtic Manor (October 4, 2010) provided the plot for the perfect closing chapter. I just hope my writing is up to the task. If it is, then the team of lecturers at Richmond 1985/6 should take a bow. If it isn't then blame the dysfunctional student!

Annisa Suliman writes from Leeds:

It’s great to see some old names and faces popping up on your website. I’ve been meaning to contribute for ages, but work just keeps getting in the way.

I joined the Barnsley Chronicle when I left Richmond as one of three trainees (Graham Walker and Paul Whitehouse were the others). I’m afraid I enjoyed the social life much more than the very traditional news hounding and left in November 83 to complete my traineeship at the Bucks Free Press, which in those days had a lively, if at times salacious, flavour. In Nov 84, I went from High Wycombe to Winchester, to run a busy Bird Brothers’ weekly. I left in 1990 when my husband, Danny Carpenter (at Richmond 1982/3), left the Basingstoke Gazette for BBC Radio York. I spent the next few years bringing up our three daughters and freelancing. I went back into full-time education in 1996, taking a degree in English at York St John, followed by an MA at Leeds. Bitten by the Higher Education bug, I decided on a career change and have been lecturing for 9 years. I joined Leeds Met in 2008 and lead their newly-developed Journalism degree.

Suffice to say, I now understand entirely the pleasure (and pain) of standing in front of a group of students (some very likely hung-over) at 9am in the morning and trying to convince them that a foray into a rain-sodden city centre really is the only way to get a quote for their latest news story. I’m working with ex-Richmond Nigel Green, who has his own media outfit (Google him, his work is everywhere).

Of the 1981/82 contingent, I’m still in touch with Lydia Fitzpatrick - she worked for a variety of papers and has been at the Home Office for about 10 years and Paul Winspear, who is editor of the Herts and Essex Observer. We recently spent a hilarious evening trawling through old photos and reminiscing about: the Brewery Trip; freezing cold, rainy day out at Matlock Bath; your supreme disappointment when, after an afternoon in Richmond village, four of us made a mockery of your failsafe dictionary newsgathering exercise by returning empty handed (sorry, we never got farther than the pub). Our supreme thanks, however, go to lovely Linda, the shorthand tutor. Without her wonderfully cheesy jokes, there’s no way we’d have got through the trauma that is shorthand. Paul even managed 150wpm!

I think it’s great that you’ve set up these web pages, Gerry. I’ve really enjoyed reading them.

(Gerry writes: Annisa's husband, BBC man Danny Carpenter, has promised to drop me a line too. Come on, Danny!)

Chris Hewetson writes from Newcastle-under-Lyme:
 
I was on one of your pre-entry courses in 1975. Without getting all gushy, you really did make the course fun as well as informative. My year in Sheffield was one I'll never forget.

I've spent my whole career in newspapers; reporting, sub-editing, editing and managing. I'm now 53 and own a design and media sales agency in my home town of Newcastle-under-Lyme called ONESTOP Media Services Ltd.

Thanks to you and the rest of the Richmond team I've (somehow) been able to make a pretty good living out of this daft game.

All the best Gerry. And thanks for the memories.
 
Graham Moorby (BBC Look North) writes from Leeds:

Well, well, well..how are you ? Ian Bevitt sent me the link to the hilarious pictures of the class of 83/84. Unfortunately, I can't put any more names to faces. Yes, I'm bottom left with the strange wristband. All I remember is having a fantastic time. I'd just turned 18 when I arrived but you really put me at my ease.

After college, I went to the Pontefract and Castleford Express in the middle of the miners' strike ! The Halifax Evening Courier and the Yorkshire Evening Post followed. At 25, I decided to go to university in Newcastle to do politics and history. Then it was down to London to freelance on the nationals before I got a job in TV at BBC Breakfast. Five years later I came back north and I've been at Look North as a producer for 10 years. I've just gone part time - the other half of my work is now as a journalism lecturer at Sheffield Hallam. About six months ago I bumped into Kay Furby, our college shorthand lecturer, who doesn't appear to have changed at all. And bless her, she remembered me !

Here in Leeds, I'm working with a couple from the class of 82/83…Mike Chilvers and Danny Carpenter. Honestly, thoughout my career, talk of Richmond has been a constant.

Helen Fospero (Helen Morton as was) writes from London:

Where have the last 22 years gone? Feels like it was yesterday, boarding with the formidable but adorable Mrs H, creeping in at 2am from the Leadmill and - faced with meals big enough to feed an army - secretly stuffing food into Mrs H's poodle under the table. I lodged with fellow student Keely Webb from Reigate in Surrey - we're still best friends. (We spent her 21st birthday in hospital until 3am after she had an allergic reaction to peanut oil. We sat our shorthand exam early the next morning - perhaps that's why I did so badly!

Richmond College gave me a wonderful grounding for what's been a great career. I started on local papers, worked for a sweat-shop-style news agency on Fleet Street, spent nine years at Sky News, travelled the globe interviewing celebs with GMTV, went to the Beeb in Hull, then back to Sky and Five and now back at GMTV! Obviously after all that running around, I'm 103 now!

Having great fun newsreading and presenting for GMTV - they're like family really. In fact they are family - I married my US producer Carl who I met when I was living in New York as US correspondent. We have two beautiful children - six year old Francesca and baby Jack, and we live in London. My family are still in Grimsby so we're still regular visitors to the North.

Judy Rees (see top picture, Picture Gallery 3) writes from London:

After Richmond I followed a fairly traditional path through the regionals - Skegness, Lincoln, Coventry, Nuneaton, Birmingham (Evening Mail) and finally news editing on the Nottingham Evening Post before heading to London to seek my fortune. I took a "fill-in" job at Teletext and stayed there for eight years, eventually becoming Executive Editor and getting involved in various digital TV, mobile phone and internet projects.

Then I switched direction completely, running a company training people in the coaching and therapy technique Clean Language (a cousin of NLP). I co-authored a book about it which came out in November 2008 and has been pretty successful - but then I split from my co-author and business partner last summer.

Now I'm doing a mixture of things: writing the odd magazine feature and a bit of web content, training people to use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and developing a business I call X-Ray Listening (www.xraylistening.com), which teaches Clean Language as a depth interviewing technique for business research and communications.

Deana Morris writes from Manchester:

I hope the caption information is useful. (See Picture Gallery 3) Great to see these pictures. Quite a few of us are in touch via facebook - the wonders of social networking sites, eh? Journalism is a bit like the mafia - you can leave, but you can never really get away!
I'm now living in Manchester, working at the University of Bolton as its Communications and Publications Manager. As a widening participation university we have a high number of students with no family background in higher education to fall back on, so there's a real feel that you are using your skills for good. My team is in charge of all internal and external comms, including media relations, the website, the prospectuses, social networking and digital marketing, promotional video and photography... I really enjoy it; never a dull moment!

  (Deana has sent another picture, which Gerry
  will upload as soon as he gets a spare moment!)

Richard Edmonson writes from Delhi:

I was part of the class of '79, which was such a bad crop that I think the most famous person to emerge from the year was Mrs Maxwell,the shorthand teacher. I worked for local newspapers near my family home in south Manchester for more years than my dear Mum cares to remember until the fateful day she got me a brand new set of luggage for my birthday. Then it was off to the Times (Melton Mowbray), theTelegraph (Peterborough Evening) and finally the golden streets and PA.

I was at the Independent for over 20 years - the last 10 as racing correspondent - which was proof positive that my research projects in the bookies of Sheffield were not the total waste my lecturers insisted at the time. For the last four years I've been freelancingout of Delhi, where my wife, Alex Crawford, is Asia correspondent for Sky News. (I did tell you Gerry that one day there would be a significant journalist in my household.)

The year I left UK I was voted Racing Journalist of the Year (you know you're getting old when you start getting long-service and pitying awards like that). Perhaps the most remarked-on of my pieces was an interview I conducted with the multiple champion racehorse trainer Henry Cecil. 'How did you get the great man to talk?' they asked me. It's all in the technique, I told them, without giving away a single clue or who I learned it from. You probably know.

Debbie Coxon (nee Wilkinson) writes from France:

Debbie here - Deborah Wilkinson, one of your pre-entry students, one of your more awkward customers I fear! I was one of six sponsored by The Sheffield Star circa 1973 - memories of a horrendous winter, no heating in college, no heating at home, what they now love to call a major snow event.

Can't say I made the big time - but I know a lot of people who have! Not a happy reporter but loved subbing and won Yorkshire Press Awards sub of the year at some stage. Went to London, casualled and eventually got a contract on The Sun. I was a features sub - great days. Loved Fleet Street (OK, Bouverie Street) - what a buzz there was. I remember once telling a bemused Kelvin MacKenzie how I loved the smell of printers' ink. I do, however, cherish his reply to my leaving The Sun - promising a job back any time. ( I also got a facsimile front page/page 3 with my face grafted onto Maria Whittaker's body! - now lost, thank goodness!!) I must say, when I was subbing Piers Morgan's Bizarre column I would never have thought he'd be popping up in my living room on TV every night!

Moved to North Devon, had my son and time out, eventually freelance writing, then book editing for a regional publisher and author of one book on Exmoor (home being on the southern edge). Now living in France.

Well, away to read all your online stuff asap. As I'm 55 this year, I guess you must be .... a smidge more, so just hitting all that online stuff is inspiring.

Though I didn't make the bigtime (yet), I would put a huge amount of where I did get down to you (and dear old Frank Littlewood). Thank you so much.

Martin Staniforth, former lecturer, writes:

Here's a blast for you from 1970 . . . I am Martin Staniforth, ancient colleague of yours in Sheffield, teacher of English to your students.

I left the college in Summer 1971 and so I think I taught for (was it ?) two NCTJ years - English and a bit of basic sociology. The students didn't need much teaching in English - they were already more than adequately literate - so I regarded my job mostly as providing 'experiences' for them, including the famous visit to the abattoir.

The workers there plunged us straight into the business, up and over our nostrils, offering us all a generous starter glass of fresh hot blood straight from the animal.
They slaughtered a line of pigs for us, gripping and straddling every animal,
finishing off by hooking into the leg and lifting it by chains up to a conveyor, where they slashed the throat. They showed us severed sheep's heads, they captive-bolted the foreheads of cows for us. This is too much detail.

We walked through blood and gore, animal shit and lakes of piss . . . then one student (David 'Flash' Kilpatrick) turned to me and said: 'I think I've got a hole in my shoe!'

I remember some of the girls got quite upset. In the pub afterwards,
nobody bought me a drink and everybody ordered a cheese sandwich in a sudden conversion to vegetarianism.

I remember Dave Simpson, Richmond heart-throb, playing it real cool with two of the most beautiful secretarial girls always panting after him. And there was Celia Gosling (in hot-pants), Peter Steward from Lavenham, Miranda Merry, Pat Griffin . . . where are they all now, in their fifties? Some of them may remember my amateur dramatics (yes, I did dragoon the students along in the interests of their cultural growth).

Me? Further-education jobs in Norwich, Manchester, Leeds, Portsmouth, Chichester, early retirement at 50 (thanks, Maggie!) Then travelling the world freelance for ten years, sourcing and selling specialised training. The dramatics paid off - between them, Granada and the BBC did eleven of my plays and episodes. Married (and divorced) with two daughters. I spend my life in London and Paris, with a house in each.

It would be interesting to hear news of the students I taught nearly 40 years ago.

   Gerry's note: see Peter Steward's letter below (second one down). He
  recalls the abattoir and the amateur dramatics.

Paul (Jake) Durrant (Assistant Editor, Eastern Daily Press) writes:

Dear Gerry,

I was in the pre-entry class of 1970-71 - your first year too, apparently, although I don't suppose any of us realised that at the time.
Reading your memoirs has brought some great memories flooding back which, at the risk of appearing a boring old fart, I'll share with you.
I was in digs in Stafford Road, with fellow students Dick Rayment and Joe Coonan, a mad Scouser called Eric and a mysterious lorry driver whose name I can't remember, who turned up from time to time when he wasn't on a long haul.
I remember vividly the organised trips to Markham Colliery, the Corporation abattoir, and to see a play called the Workhouse Donkey with English lecturer Martin Staniforth.
But more importantly, I remember the social life - the first time as a green 18-year-old I had been let loose in a big city. Hence, there were trips to the "Mucky Duck" (Black Swan); the Gay Paree every Friday lunchtime (after a session at the printing college) for a pint and a chip butty and, on the few occasions we could afford it, to nightclubs such as the Fiesta. It was at the Fiesta that we young wannabes were given the chance to interview the French crooner Sacha Distel.
We went to a fancy dress night somewhere, when I borrowed Marilyn Gubbins's tights and wig and went in drag. It made a fun piece for the Richmond Reporter, I recall, which was probably the first time I'd seen my by-line in print.
I also remember our five-a-side football team, led by Paul Thompson, but also Roger "Bite yer legs" Stansfield who screamed "'Unter!" after his beloved Leeds United centre half Norman Hunter every time he lunged into a tackle.
Great days. Great nights.
Thanks for all the words of wisdom you, Ron Eyley and Frank Littlewood drummed into us. It gave me the basis for a great career.

Peter Steward (Daily Telegraph) writes:
 
Dear Gerry,
 
I've just been looking at your website and the picture of the class of 70/71 at the coalmine. It was a day I remember very well. I have a copy of that pic and another which is a close-up of Joe Coonan (who was big in scratch cards when I last saw him nearly 30 years ago), Jake Durrant (who is very important indeed on the Eastern Daily Press) and myself - though we are hard to recognise with coal-caked faces and hard hats.

The mine trip was just one of the weird things we had to endure as NCTJ pre-entry students at Sheffield. The English lecturer - Martin Staniforth - took us to an abattoir and also made us work as hospital porters for a day. And he made us endure his amateur dramatics.

I remember other lecturers too - Ron Eyley, Frank Littlewood, Ron Webb, Mrs Lingard and Baz Fanshawe (shorthand), Arthur Goodwin (law), and John Richardson and Fred at the art college.
 
I write this sitting in The Daily Telegraph media emporium in Buckingham Palace Road. I used to be a sub but apparently I am now a production journalist (or PJ as we on-message colleagues say).
 
I have held various jobs on the East Anglian Daily Times, Birmingham Post, Sheffield Star, Evening Standard (chief sub), Daily Express and the Sunday Express (an assistant editor). The fact that they have all lost readers over the years is just a coincidence.
 
I've been commuting from Essex to London for more than 30 years now. and the travelling is beginning to get a little wearing. Trouble is, I have a wife and golf habit to support. I'll be in touch again, unless you've had too much already. Best wishes.
 
Mike Davies writes:

I was at Richmond in the early 1980s, on block-release from the Northampton Chronicle and Echo. I got through my Proficiency Test - with no little enjoyment along the way! And it's possiblethat I am one of the back-of-the-heads in your mystery photograph. The date is right.
 
My hazy recollection is as follows (left to right): Kate Atkins (Chronicle and Echo); Heather Clark (Leicester Mercury); Steve Hall (now Derby Evening Telegraph editor - see below); Jayne ? (hidden almost completely but with long curly hair - from Sutton-in-Ashfield as I recall); next - don't know, but nice sweater!; Dominic Kennedy (later on The Times?); me (but I don't remember the sweat-shirt and my hair looks a bit long); unknown female; Malcolm ? (then Redditch Advertiser, later a BBC Radio WM presenter).  Or it might not even be my class at all!

As for me, I went on to tour the nation (Milton Keynes Citizen, Scarborough Evening News, Birmingham Evening Mail, Oxford Mail, Bedfordshire on Sunday as group editor) before quitting five years ago to write and play music full-time.

Steve Hall (editor, Derby Evening Telegraph) writes:

Re Mike Davies's letter, I'm ashamed to say that I'm not sure whether it's me or not! Some of the backs of heads look vaguely familiar, but it seems so long ago that I'm not sure if I'd recognise my former classmates from the front, never mind from behind. It was great to read through the site, though. They were terrific days.

Gerry Hunt (Daily Mail) writes:

I'm told that someone suggests I'm on the class picture. But if the 1984 date is right, I'm definitely not there - I was at Richmond in 1973/4. But the bloke on the right does bear a startling resemblance to a teenage Gerry Hunt . . . apart from the spectacularly awful jumper.

Mike Treacy (East Anglian Daily Times) writes:

I really enjoyed your memoirs. I guess that as students we only glimpsed life on the surface at Richmond - many of us through the fog of hangovers. Your look behind the scenes is an almost Herriotesque account of the trials of a journalism lecturer. If you ever appear on Mastermind your specialist subject should be the chemical composition of black marker pens and misappropriation of office furniture.

Tony Goodson (YEP, ITN, Reuters, Sky) writes:

I came across your marvellous memoir while Googling "Proficiency Test speeches" for a forthcoming lesson on communication to sixth form students in Harrogate! I was at Richmond College on two block-release courses in 1972/3, from the Ackrill Newspaper Group in North Yorkshire. I was working on the Pudsey News at the time in Leeds and loving it. I think I was a pretty hopeless reporter but our group did manage to produce a dummy paper called Uranus - how original - that featured interviews with people from a huge Sheffield tower block, inspiringly headlined "Life at the top".
 
I remember Ron Eyley gazing out of the lecture room window across a sports field to a low rise building with four doors. He said: "The good journalist can always spot something unusual and want to discover why". We looked, and noticed that one door wasn't painted regulation blue but red. "Why?", we mused, sagely. "That could be a story", said Ron.
 
The college didn't seem like a college, which is the best compliment one can pay. It was full of practical common sense teaching and great instruction - even though we didn't realise it at the time.
 
I left Pudsey to go to the Yorkshire Evening Post, ITN, Reuters and Sky, ending up as managing editor of the Sky Sports Online business. Recently I've taken redundancy and am working for myself. It's just the kick up the arse those students got on day one when told to "go out, talk to someone and find a story".
 
I remember Mike Corner (Sheffield Morning Telegraph) very well - and the drubbing that he gave our efforts. And I remember interview exercises, particularly the pools winner and the cave rescue. The key to the rescue story was that one of the party was a woman - and you only found out if you asked how to spell the name.
 
It was my first time away from home, and staying with Mrs Broomhead in Sheffield was an education in itself as she was also landlady to many of the actors at the local rep. Sadly, no famous faces crossed her threshold while I was there.
 
Thanks Gerry and Ron and someone else called Martin who, aged about 36, became most indignant that our class said he was middle aged.
 
Ian Lyness (in Boulder, Colorado) writes:

Hello Gerry.
 
Ian Lyness here (Who he? you may well ask. One of your guinea pigs would be my reply). Long time no anything. What have you been getting up to since ... er ... 1972. (I did phone you a couple of times at Richmond College when I returned to Sheffield to work on The Star in the mid to late Seventies but never got a reply - perhaps you didn't get the messages - they may still be there, yellowing away somewhere!)
 
Anyway, a friend in London came across your history of the Richmond Reporter and emailed it to me out of the blue - I now live in Boulder, Colorado, in the shadow of The Rockies, 25 miles north of Denver. Your account took me back (and aback) as well as inspiring me to get in touch. I wouldn't presume to bore you with a potted personal history of the last 30 years unless you actually expressed an interest in hearing one. But I did manage to get myself a couple of dream jobs in journalism, including seven years in Fleet Street, am currently writing my second novel (he said grandly) and have often quoted your name over the years as a major influence on my career.
 
So how are you? Are you in touch with anyone from that memorable college year? I hope you're in the pink and I'd love to hear from you.
 
    (Gerry's note: I have written to Ian. If you remember him, let
  me know and I'll put you in touch.)

Ruth Morton (Stockport) writes:

Dear Gerry,

Here's another blast from the past. As Ruth Pullin, I was a student on the 1979-80 one-year course at Richmond. Our main lecturers were Peter and Lyn, and I remember Ron Eyley and Geoff Bull. And I've never forgotten your session on lateral thinking!

I didn't distinguish myself as a reporting whizz at Richmond, but I went on to work for the Redditch Advertiser, Tameside Advertiser, Salford City Reporter and Rossendale Free Press. I am now an editor for Plain English Campaign.

I was, however, a shorthand whizz and still have the college certificate signed by Margaret Maxfield to say I achieved 130wpm! I was also thrilled to get a B in my end-of-year project (something about the Manpower Services Commission and a feasibility study of unemployed youngsters in Sheffield) despite spelling feasibility wrong all the way through! (It so haunts me to this day that I've just got the dictionary out to check it.) I always thought I was a good speller - Peter Collins gave me 50p for being the only one in class who could spell haemorrhage!)

I've enjoyed your memoirs - just reading about the Richmond Reporter brought back those feelings of newsroom stress! Students from my year included Charlotte Nichol, later a football reporter for Radio Five Live (still there I think).

Thanks for the memories. I enclose a cheque for a copy of 'Far-off Days at Richmond College'.

Pete Moxon, White's Press Agency, Sheffield, writes:

So here am I, trying to earn a crust on a Friday morning , flogging an idea to the Sunday People, when a random thought triggers me to type a couple of words into Google - and by the wizardry of modern communications, electrickery and Google's lateral thinking I end up viewing black and white pictures from the seventies featuring names I know.

Where the hell am I! Two more clicks and a one-time journalism lecturer and piano player ( if memory serves) is explaining where I am and why I'm here . . . I'm back at Richmond circa 1970 - 72 (I think) on block-release courses and learning how to be a hack.

Hazy flashbacks seem to be the order of the day. Not very much clarity of thought or vision. Gerry - I remember you and your colleagues steering me through the proficency and I'm still hacking away 37 years later.

Sadly, I can't offer a 25-page CV studded with global success. Let's see.... errr, well, Rotherham Advertiser, the late Sheffield Morning Telegraph, White's Press Agency in Sheffield (a 30-year whistle stop on the way to Manchester .... London.... the
World... ). Ah well, somebody's got to stay and hold the fort.

So there's a new website saved to 'My Favourites' and I'll be reading through it just as soon as I've persuaded the Sunday People that this is a genuine exclusive!

Debbie Ambrose (now Breslaw) writes
from Finchley, London:

Came across your memoirs and notice that Chapter Nine recounts the story of how, as a student, I interviewed Jimmy Savile. (Incidentally, the interview was on his bed!) You have brought back a lot of memories for me.

I took the normal road to what was then Fleet Street - Wembley News, Hendon Times, Bournemouth Evening Echo, back to Hendon (because my mum died and the house was left to me and my sister), then the now-defunct Slough Evening Mail, then the Press Association at law courts, working in the newsroom in vacations. I started doing shifts on various nationals and ended up freelancing, mainly for the Sun and the News of the World. I then got into TV, working on the then Thames News local regional programme in London. The Today newspaper offered me a job and I stayed until early 1991. My twin son and daughter were born in 1990 and I later went back to Today on a three-day week.

I never went back into journalism after Today folded, and concentrated on bringing up the kids. Along the way I became a magistrate - all those days of court reporting gave me a taste for some power! My daughter aspires to be a journalist but wants to do theatre studies at university first.

I note that one of the letters above is from Ian Lyness, who was in my year. I’ve kept in touch with one or two of the others too.

  (Gerry’s note: Debbie’s group is pictured on Picture Gallery 1)

Sharon Holding writes
from Atlanta, USA:

Hey, Sharon Holding here - just checking to see if you remember me from a very long time ago at Richmond. I remember Pete Collins quite clearly - I think he told me I would never amount to much (ouch!)

I found you because I am applying for a new job and they needed proof of my attending Richmond. So I searched Google to see if the college still existed and came across your site.

After Richmond I worked on the Barnsley Chronicle for a few years. Then, after years of trying, I got a recording contract with Virgin Records. We flew to the States to record, came back and released a single called ‘Looking for Heroes’ that got to about 84 in the charts. With not much backing by Virgin we were later dropped and I moved to London for a while and worked in a lawyer’s office in Hammersmith.

Through a contact with my mother’s longtime pen-pal in Florida, I escaped dreary rainy days in London and went to Atlanta for a couple of weeks . . . and here I am 17 years later with two beautiful children and two divorces behind me, living the dream! One of my first real jobs here was selling internet connectivity to businesses, back in1993 when everyone thought it wasn’t going to last! I am now a senior account executive with a telecommunications company.

I lost touch with the people from my class, but I’d love to know where Maria and the rest ended up. I think there was also a guy named Keith. If anyone knows, please bring me up to date.

My mother was a journalist, and my 15-year-old daughter wants to study journalism in college. I’d much rather she became a pop star . . !