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Dispatches from the front-line of sixties journalism


No computers, no mobile phones, and eager young reporters dashing back to the office to hammer out their news stories on battered old typewriters. That was the world of newspapers 50 years ago, and a former M.E.N. journalist has written a book recalling those days.

“Phone hacking was not even dreamt of then,” says Terry Hamilton, “and journalists were fairly well thought of by the general public, certainly those reporters who worked on local newspapers.

“One big difference from today’s offices, of course, was that almost everyone smoked while they worked, blissfully unaware of the dangers to themselves and everyone else.
“I remember several journalists puffing away on smelly pipes all day, but nobody seemed to mind.

“When I first started I sat next to one old chap who insisted on cleaning out the goo from his pipe first thing every morning, while he complained in detail about his piles. Happy days! And those typewriters made newsrooms noisy places.

“Newspaper offices would have given today’s health and safety people nightmares, but they were exciting, vibrant places. To be a reporter was my dream job. I loved newspapers then and I still do,” says Terry, 69, whose novel tells of the adventures of a young local newspaper reporter in the sixties.

He has chosen an imaginary evening newspaper in a small town in northern England as the background for his e-book, If Wet In Church Hall. “I chose the title because those words were often written on notices advertising church and village fetes and I spent a lot of time scribbling names down in my notebook in dusty old church halls as a young reporter half a century ago,” said Terry, who was the M.E.N.’s Postbag editor.

“The story is fiction, but I hope I have captured the world of village fetes, comical drunks in court, golden and diamond weddings, weather stories, and the sadness of having to interview people who had lost loved ones in fatal accidents.

“The characters are fictional, too, but they are types who will no doubt be recognisable to everyone who has ever worked in a newspaper office.”

If Wet In Church Hall, by Terry Hamilton, is available online at amazon.co.uk/ books. “You can even read the first couple of chapters free on the website, which I hope will tempt people to read the whole novel,” says Terry, who lives in Bury and still does some work for a national Sunday paper.

“I wanted to record something of the world of journalism all those years ago before the digital age changed things for ever. I have also tried to depict the spirit of that exciting decade, the so-called Swinging Sixties.

“The sixties didn’t swing too much for me, though, to be honest. Like many young journalists, I was working too hard most of the time! “I hope the book will amuse and entertain readers and perhaps stir some fond memories for them, too.”

If Wet In Church Hall, by Terry Hamilton, York Place Media (£2.02) is an ebook available on Amazon
Terry Hamilton
Manchester Evening Nnews
November 19, 2012

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