End of the road, or a new start?

When I returned to work after my week off I was quite surprised that Bill asked me to write a feature piece about the German visitors to North Wales.

I should not really have been THAT surprised as the paper did not have a town identity, such as Holywell or Mold, but was technically a county newspaper which included Rhyl.

I wanted to get it right so I took my time and worked on it in between wedding reports; obituaries; parish calls; and any other bits that came my way.

Rather than concentrate on the Rhyl link, as I doubted we had many readers in my home town, I based the piece on the camarederie of the two groups of young people and highlighted the ideal of Welsh and German folk songs being sung near the summit of Snowdon.

Looking back on it now, over 50 years later, there are many parts I would change. On the other hand that is based on hindsight and the experience gained over the decades.

When I showed it to Bill on the Wednesday he gave it one of his grudging approvals as though to say: “Well it’s a couple of points up the scale from an English composition but more C+ than B-.”

Of course I might have misjudged him over this as, at the time, I may have misjudged him over many other things.

Bill’s attitude towards me had definitely changed towards the end of the summer of 1967. Rather than just leaving me to type up funeral and wedding reports along with the parish calls he began giving me press releases. He didn’t just want me to rewrite them but to see if there was any reaction to whatever it was about.

I was also getting local stories from Dilys, who had now got a job as a clerk at the local council’s offices.

Most of the time they were about the local Girl Guide group, or similar organisational stories, but everything helped.

Bill also gave me a copy of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists. This had been first published in the 1950s and every two or three years a new edition was published to deal with any changes.

A lot of it was to do with what you could and could not report on from a court or a council, neither of which I had attended at this point.

I also read Hugh Cudlipp’s book “Publish and be Damned” but at that time it was difficult to find books on journalism.

I passed my driving test and bought a fourth or fifth hand Morris Minor from my sister for £50, part of it was paid for from the sale of the Lambretta.

It was a more comfortable journey to work each day and I could also listen to the radio while I was driving.

It also meant that I could get out and about more in my free time and it was a boon when it came to going on dates.

Everything was going smoothly, except for any form of training, until one Friday in October when Bill called us both down to his office at 10am.

Once we were seated he began: “You’ve both been here for six months now and, as you know, you were on a probationary period.

“The company have decided that following that probationary period they will not be taking you on as trainee reporters and your employment will, therefore, be terminated as of today. Your wages for this week will be ready for you at lunchtime. After that you’re free to go.

“Sorry about that but I was only told earlier this morning.”

It was a bit hard to take it in and the disappointment almost certainly showed on my face. Delwyn appeared quite unperturbed and simply thanked Bill for letting us know and headed back up to what was no longer our office.

I was about to follow him when Bill called me back.

“Please sit down Robin.

“Look I know this has come as a bit of a blow to you. It is out of my hands, however, but if you’re really keen to be a journalist then there is a chance that it might not be the end of it.

“Look, I’ve given your home telephone number to someone who might be able to help you. He’s a chap called Peter Leaney and he said he would call you at home this afternoon between three and four o’ clock.

“I can’t say any more. It’s up to you whether or not what he says takes it any further. I wish you all the best whatever happens in your future.”

He stood up and, as I did the same, he reached across the desk and shook my hand.

About an hour later I heard him leave and I never saw him again.

I went back upstairs and Delwyn was standing by the window, looking out.

“Well, that’s a bit if a blow,” I said.

He turned and replied: “Not really. I’ve been wondering lately whether this was what I really wanted. It’s just that my dad saw the ad for the trainee jobs and he thought, being local, I might be able to pick it up.

“Not really been my thing.”

With that he sat back down at his typewriter and said: “If we’ve got to wait for the pay packets might as well keep busy.”

He was right about that and we shared out the few funeral reports between us. There were a couple more than usual. After all the weather was getting cold and a lot of old people couldn’t cope.

The wage packets came over with the lunchtime courier from Chester. Delwyn and I checked ours and signed for them. Then we collected our stuff from the office, said our goodbyes and I drove home to give my parents the bad news.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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