When I was working in Australia in the late 70s early 80s there was a joke doing the rounds about Rupert Murdoch – a joke which had an undertone of reality.
“Rupert Murdoch arrived in (insert town or city name) and booked into a hotel. The following morning he sent his secretary out to buy a newspaper. He bought ours – lock, stock and barrel.
The underlying fear was that Murdoch was buying up newspapers all over Australia. He had plans for a central hub for newspaper design with a few changes for local news and for finalised instructions to be sent to printing centres throughout the country.
Not so much a dream as a nightmare. One day that nightmare joke came true when the Murdoch group swallowed up the paper I worked for.
More about that later.
It wasn’t the first time I found myself involved in a newspaper takeover.
One day in early 1969 while I was at Oswestry with Peter Leaney, my boss, he told me I was needed at a meeting in the board room.
I went with him but had a feeling of trepidation. I was under indentures but was afraid they might still be getting rid of me.
Robbie Thomas, the MD, and Tom Roberts were there as was Brian Barratt, the editor of our farming publication.
It was Peter who explained everything. North Wales Newspapers had bought up a North Wales newspaper company called Pugh and Rowlands which produced three newspapers – the Rhyl Journal and Advertiser, Prestatyn Weekly and the Denbighshire Free Press.
Brian Barratt was to be the new editor based at Rhyl, which was why he was at the meeting.
Peter then said: “You’ve worked well for me on the Leader but we wondered if, as you are from Rhyl, whether you would like to transfer to the Journal as a junior reporter.
“As a local boy you might be able to help Brian out and also get some training from a new group of seniors. You would be working with them all the time rather than just one day a week at Mold.”
I was, I admit, taken aback, but at least it had not been the news I was anticipating.
I had a strong loyalty to Peter and had enjoyed our drives over to Oswestry. This was a good move, however, and I would be working almost literally on my doorstep.
I knew the Rhyl Journal building on Russell Road. It was less than 10 minutes walk from my home in Water Street. A big reddish brick building almost opposite St Thomas’ parish church.
It didn’t have the width of the Oswestry building frontage but it ran back a long way because the presses were housed at the rear.
I had no hesitation in accepting the transfer as it was to my advantage all round.
Nobody said it but it was obvious that there was a feeling that the people at the Rhyl office would need time to adjust to working for new bosses.
The Journal was a proper local newspaper. The editorial and advertising staff were at the front of the building and the reporters could literally file last minute copy without having to phone it over.
I could understand that the editorial, advertising and printers would have felt almost like a family group.
The point is I saw NWN in the same way and viewed this as a growth in the family. My role would be as a junior reporter. I wasn’t there as a spy but it might help Brian to have a friendly face around while everyone adjusted to the new situation.
I finished at Holywell on the Friday and my pieces in the Leader that week included a big story on the sports page about local youngsters doing well in a county athletics meeting; and a Holywell pop group Ohm’s Law seeking rehearsal space as they were doing well on the local pop scene.
On the Monday I started work at the Journal and came face to face with my new colleagues.
At least one was almost a familiar face, Bill Prandle who I think was sports editor and might possibly have been chief reporter or deputy editor as well. The face was familiar because I had been at school with his son, David Prandle.
I wasn’t really sure about the hierarchy at the time but I did know I was still at the bottom of the pack.
The others who spring to mind from that first day were Denise Hodgkinson, Elwyn Edwards and Trixie Vorderman. Yes I did say Vorderman and yes she was Carol Vorderman’s sister but Carol was still at primary school at this time.
Then there was Glyn Roberts, the photographer. I have known a lot of press photographers over the decades and some, like Glyn, are imprinted on my mind because of their ability.
Unfortunately Glyn is no longer with us.
At this time the staff were still based at the old works and it was sad to realise that the building would never shake to the thunder of the presses again.
My first stories in my new role included the piece to go with a front page picture showing a car being pulled out of the river by firemen and police officers; and a three-par story about a local lad, Roger Jennings, who had been present at the maiden flight of the Concorde. He was an apprentice at the Rolls Royce works in Bristol.
Roger was another old school friend who had also been a member of the Rhyl Yacht Club.
Contacts come in handy.
We moved quite soon afterwards to more modern offices just down the road.
I had some good years to come working in Rhyl.
NB: if any of my “old” colleagues from Rhyl spot any errors in my memory I hope the will let me know – that’s you Elwyn, and Denise.