Chased by a knife­man? It was all in a day’s work

Surrey Herald/News - - NEWS - John Whit­bread

THESE days a job for life is a very rare ex­cep­tion – but I was for­tu­nate to spend mine as a jour­nal­ist on the Sur­rey Her­ald. It was as a very ner­vous teenage ap­pren­tice that I first set foot in the Her­ald head of­fice (then in Wind­sor Street, Chert­sey) on March 28 1966. I al­ways wanted to be a sports writer but my first edi­tor, the late great WG (Bob) Cherry, in­sisted that I do three years’ train­ing as a gen­eral news re­porter be­fore I was al­lowed to spe­cialise. It was the best ground­ing I could ever have been given as I learned how to spot, hunt out and write a good story. Mr Cherry was con­stantly sup­port­ive, apart from one oc­ca­sion when I and a cou­ple of fel­low jour­nal­ists were pic­tured with a ban­ner pro­claim­ing ‘ Sur­rey Her­ald NUJ chapel sup­ports the min­ers’ at a rally held by the NUM leader Joe Gorm­ley at an un­likely Wey­bridge venue. Those first three years were spent in our then Wal­ton branch of­fice in Bridge Street. My job was to cover the Sun­bury and Shep­per­ton patch and write about ev­ery­thing that hap­pened in the area, in­clud­ing births, mar­riages, deaths, plus cov­er­ing po­lice, coun­cil and busi­ness. This was shortly af­ter the days a re­porter had to go to fu­ner­als and col­lect the names of all the mourn­ers. I was ex­pected, how­ever, to at­tend all of the dis­trict’s an­nual fairs and flower shows and fill my note­book with a com­pre­hen­sive list of re­sults, be­fore spend­ing many a Sun­day typ­ing them up. Heaven de­fend any poor young ju­nior who did not get the house style ex­actly right and, af­ter a se­ri­ous rol­lick­ing, had to type them all out again! Over the years, as news­pa­per pro­duc­tion went from hot metal to new tech­nol­ogy, I went from ham­mer­ing two-fin­gered on a heavy old type­writer to tap­ping (still two-fin­gered), on a com­puter key­board. Mean­while, the ad­vent of mo­bile phones saved a re­porter out on an as­sign­ment from hav­ing to knock on some­one’s door and ask to please use their phone to call the of­fice. Among the mem­o­ries were be­ing the first re­porter in an army Dukw (mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle) to reach the flooded heart of Mole­sey and on another oc­ca­sion be­ing chased down a Sun­bury street by a man with a knife who did not want a story to go in the pa­per. It seems al­most un­be­liev­able now but in those days, be­fore the loss of our Wok­ing, Staines and Wal­ton branch of­fices, the Her­ald & News had an ed­i­to­rial staff of 34 (ed­i­tors, sub ed­i­tors, re­porters and pho­tog­ra­phers). Those first three years went very quickly and then I was al­lowed to write full time on sport. From the early days I re­call, with great fond­ness, chron­i­cling the FA Cup ex­ploits of Allen Bats­ford’s Wal­ton & Her­sham, in­clud­ing the hum­bling of Brian Clough’s Brighton; and then their his­toric 1973 FA Am­a­teur Cup Fi­nal vic­tory over Slough Town at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium. In the 1990s, I be­came quite a reg­u­lar at foot­ball’s na­tional sta­dium, watch­ing Ge­off Chap­ple’s Wok­ing claim the FA Tro­phy at Wem­b­ley a mag­nif­i­cent three times. How­ever, it was


The way we were: John Whit­bread, back cen­tre in the glasses, as the news­room bids farewell to chief re­porter Cliff Mogg in 1972. Manag­ing edi­tor

WG Cherry, seated left, paid trib­ute.

Glory, glory Wal­ton and Her­sham: A sec­tion of the pull-out sou­venir sup­ple­ment in April 1973 as the team, cap­tained by Dave Bas­sett, beat Slough Town 1-0 be­fore a 41,000 crowd at Wem­b­ley to win the FA Am­a­teur Cup thanks to a last-minute goal from

Roger Con­nell.

Cards sharp: Wok­ing’s Tim Buza­glo and boss Ge­off Chap­ple af­ter the fa­mous FA Cup win at West Brom in 1991.

John Whit­bread.

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