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Wow - a visitor from 1974! 

    I rarely get the chance to meet former students, so it was nice to welcome Jon Griffin to my home in July 2022 -- nearly 50 years after he left college.  You can see him on the group photo below . . . second from left on the middle row.  (He's got a lot of hair and a slightly worried expression!)

   Visiting Derbyshire with friends for the weekend, he decided to call on me.  A couple of weeks later he sent me an account of the visit.  You can read it below the picture caption.


'74 FJ group.jpg


Here’s the 1974/5 group.  Jon remembered the names of most of them, and I’ve managed to fill in the gaps with a bit of research in old documents and a little help from Nigel Pickover (at the end of the middle row . . . now retired editor-in-chief of Eastern Daily Press) and Colin Sykes (middle of the top row, now retired from BBC television news in Manchester).


TOP ROW:  Bev Simmons, Kathy Leeds, Andy Chapman, Bill Riley, Colin Sykes, Pete Bailey,Josie Decker, Gary Moran, Hylda Taylor;  MIDDLE ROW: Trevor Bevins, Jon Griffin, Richard Horsley, Dave Parnell, Nik Wood, Simon Mills, Paul Calverley, Ian Ross, Nigel Pickover; FRONT ROW: Judith Spivey, Anne-Marie Kinsey, Jo Cracknell, Laura Seale, Jayne Clucas, Maureen Barrett, Vicky Holmes.  (There was a Liz Hardy too, but she must have been absent that day!)

Thanks to this page, three of these old classmates are now in touch -- Jon Griffin, Nigel Pickover and Colin Sykes.

'I'm really pleased about that,' says Gerry.

Jon Griffin writes . . .

When our paths last crossed,  I was just 19 and Gerry was 41.   But the years melted away as the man who countless journalism students will remember from those far-off days in Sheffield opened the door of the charming home he shares with wife Una in the shadow of the Peak District's beautiful Heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath. 

Gerry, full of life and memories, is now nearly 89. I am officially a state pensioner at the age of 66. The last time we were in contact as lecturer and student, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, the Suez Canal had just re-opened, West Ham had won the FA Cup, the West Indies had won cricket's first World Cup and Windsor Davies and Don Estelle topped the charts with Whispering Grass.

How times change across nearly five decades. But a mutual love of journalism – which defined both our lives -- ensured that some things never change.  For more than two hours we chatted merrily away, the memories flooding back to the college on the hill. And what memories we share.


Gerry - I don't recall anybody ever calling him Mr Kreibich - recalled his 18 years as journalism lecturer at Richmond,  colleagues such as Ron Eyley, Lyn Cooke, that stickler for grammar Frank Littlewood, Richmond alumni such as Jeremy Clarkson, former East Anglian based editor Nigel Pickover, my old housemate Ian Ross, who made it to Fleet Street as a football writer, our very first bylines as contributors to Britain's smallest newspaper the Richmond Reporter, mutual journalistic friends such as the irrepressible Nick Hudson  (who once recruited Gerry to help produce the Burton Trader), his days editing the Matlock Mercury and so much more.

There were smiles at the memory of the public administration lecturer Richard Totterdell, mercilessly teased by some of the more raucous elements of the college intake of 1974-75. Richard was once bemused to hear a disembodied voice shouting 'let me out' from a cupboard. Opening the doors to much hilarity he discovered a tape recording. It was Richmond's very own Watergate moment.   During a trip to the Yorkshire Dales, Richard, driving the minibus, was persuaded to turn on the hazard warning lights on the dubious grounds that it would save petrol….glorious memories…

And of course there were the parties at Robinson Road close to Sheffield city centre and home to some of the students.  Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, Wishbone Ash's Blowin' Free, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird, Wings' Band on the Run blasting out of a 1970s turntable, Andy Chapman (later on Fleet Street) taking his clothes off, the stunned moment in November 1974 as the party stopped when we heard that bombers had struck in Birmingham.

ut the party didn't stop for very long back in 1974-75, notwithstanding that horrific night in the city which would eventually become my journalistic home.   

When we weren't partying, we were working on our shorthand, learning the fundamentals of law and local government, getting hands-on experience as observers at Sheffield Crown Court and Derbyshire County Council, visiting the Eckington district office of the Sheffield Star and the Derbyshire Times at Chesterfield, all of us preparing for careers in the crazy, incomparable world of mid-1970s newspapers.


Personally, I have no doubt that Richmond College helped shape my entire life in what became my most formative year. Gerry agreed that I was 'one of the quieter ones' and my sheltered upbringing at home had left me unprepared for the culture shock that was the journalism class of 74-75 at Sheffield.

But I stuck it through a freezing winter in the lodgings of our dear old landlady Miss Morley  (remember the breakfast fishcakes we secretly threw on her shed roof?), occasionally through gritted teeth, and Richmond gave me the passport to a quite wonderful, if also often maddening, lifetime in journalism. It even gave me a wife, but while that love affair didn't last, my lifelong love of journalism has never left me.


Journalism - and specifically the now endangered world of print - gave me a backstage pass to the party of a lifetime. The millions of memories and the sheer fun of it - not to mention the job satisfaction - has never really gone away. Once a hack, always a hack, I guess.


And I have Gerry and his colleagues -- from that distant Sheffield past of freezing winters and inedible fishcakes -- to thank for that.


                                                                *Jon joined the Peterborough Evening Telegraph on leaving college,                                                                                and later worked on the Wolverhampton Express and Star for 16 years.                                                                              He then worked on the Birmingham Post and Mail for 20 years, most of                                                                              that time as business editor.  He is still a busy freelance writer on                                                                                      business matters in the west midlands.

                                                                                  BELOW:  We enjoy a catch-up chat in the garden. (That's

                                                                                                  me on the  right!)




Bridging the years -- eight

great catch-up letters 




I have a far away look in my eyes on that college photo for I was rather the imposter on the course that year. It was my highly ambitious mother, who had to leave school at 13, who really wanted to be there. National newspaper writer Jean Rook was her inspiration and mum channelled all her own thwarted hopes and dreams into me. I was, disappointingly to her, only interested in falling in love - which I did quite magnificently at Richmond, with a red-headed rebel of a reporter on the block release course. I had always loved words though and came to discover huge satisfaction in the craft of shaping a news story, but I was still too unformed to know what I really wanted to do for a living. I imagined I’d soon be living in a red-bricked old lodge in Leicestershire with a stable of horses --  I could draw you the property now! But Mum was a force and had her plan. I did as I was bid. 


  Following Richmond, I joined The Stamford Mercury and later became a senior reporter on the Sheffield Morning Telegraph. Mike Corner facilitated my interview. He used to come into my dad’s shop in Sheffield sporting a dazzling, sharply-cut white suit. This seemed terribly glamorous to me. I didn’t feel at all well equipped as a hard news journalist at the Telegraph though - it was a very masculine environment then and I was scared of everyone, especially reporters on The Star who looked so tough across the newsroom. I got married as fast as possible, to an international press photographer and worked in Brussels for a news agency specialising in EU stories. I was still faking it at the Berlaymont press conferences in the capital and at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. We moved on to Zurich, back to Brussels and then to Bonn at the time when the Berlin wall came down. I was a ‘trailing spouse’ as they say in diplomatic circles and an at-home mum to two boys.


  In between, on a short return to the UK, I re-learned my reporting skills at the Cambridge Evening News. My marriage failed. I worked for a PR firm in Newmarket. At 46 with the children then living their own  lives, I secured the job I was probably made for, handling publicity for the independent family business Bettys and Taylors - the well-loved cafe tea rooms and home of Yorkshire Tea. It was hand on heart the best job in Yorkshire. I retired a few years back and have ‘come home’ again to the countryside around Chatsworth. My proudest achievement in a life of accidental journalism must be in producing my son James Crisp, Europe Editor at The Daily Telegraph and his brother Charlie, a business analyst at Lloyds Bank.   I think even mum would be proud of me finally now.


  I left Richmond for the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, then four years later to the Sutton Coldfield News for a short time before joining BRMB Radio in Birmingham, reporting and reading news bulletins. After four years, an urge for a bit more education meant a move to London and studying for a degree in Philosophy and Economics at UCL, while freelancing at various broadcasters including LBC Radio, Independent Radio News and BBC Radio London.     After uni I became Deputy City Editor at LBC/IRN, then joined Thames TV as co-presenter and reporter on The City Programme before being lured back to LBC to present a two hour business programme.


in 1992 I became one of the BBC's first batch of regional bi-media correspondents specialising in business and finance and covering London and the South East. In 1994 I tried my hand at teaching, launching a Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University - no, a return to Sheffield wasn't exactly planned. I ran that until 2001 before moving up the hill to the University of Sheffield and running their MA in Broadcast Journalism.


 In 2014 I became joint Head of Department and a year later Professor of Journalism Education. I retired three years ago to spend more time with the husband, the cats and the garden, although I still sit on the department's Advisory Board.




  1975-79 - Trainee reporter on the Skyrack Express in East Leeds, part of the Wakefield Express group. Without Skyrack editor Don Slack, who decided I was worth a punt, the subsequent 40-odd years might have been very different. I passed my indentures, became a senior reporter and decided - partly with Frank Littlewood in mind - that subbing would be the way forward for me.    


1979-86 - Sub-editor on the Birmingham Evening Mail. First as a trainee news sub before moving to features within a couple of years. I became chief features sub around 1984, with responsibility for the Mail and Birmingham Post operations when the two papers merged. I also wrote gig reviews for the Mail for several years.

  Just as I was getting itchy feet, a mate and former colleague informed me of a vacancy on a certain national and suggested I might like to contact the features editor.     1986-2011 - Features sub on the Daily Mail. From 1990-2010 I also did regular Saturday shifts on the Observer sports desk until I took voluntary redundancy. On the Mail, I eventually became associate chief features sub for several years before deciding in 2011 that I wanted to retire, a few months before my 56th birthday.


Do I regret packing in so early? Not for one second. My partner Kath and I - we've been together 41 years - spend more time together and with walking, football, gigs, theatre, galleries and trips , I find plenty to keep me occupied.




   I’m not sure where all those years have gone! After Richmond I worked for a news agency on Merseyside, then as a reporter on the Durham Advertiser series. I was deputy editor of a free paper in Sunderland (it was a small setup!). I did bits of freelance work but changed direction in my thirties and became a counsellor. I still got to ‘interview’ people but unlike journalism, my job was to NOT tell anyone else the story. 


I stayed in touch with journalism though as I married Roy Saatchi who was at Radio City in Liverpool and then the BBC. We’ll have been married 45 years in June and various family members are also involved in the media, so perhaps it’s in the genes. 



Post-Richmond I trained at the Melton (Mowbray) Times - cue a headline for a feature on the local delicacy . . . Simple Simon Meets A Melton Pieman.  I moved to the Doncaster Evening Post in 1978 as a newly-minted Proficiency Certificate holder, midway through the NUJ strike.   When the South Yorkshire title closed in 1981 I landed a job on the Evening Chronicle at Newcastle upon Tyne as a general news reporter, later adding a weekly music page to my duties.


  My career went international in 1986 by fooling the folk at the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong that I was worthy of a go, the highlight of my stint being a front page story about the Governor’s missing cat.


  Returning to the UK later that year I worked as chief reporter on the Gateshead Post before crossing the great divide to take up a job in the press office of South Tyneside Council. For the remainder of my career until retirement in 2015 I worked for the health service in the North East, my last job being communications manager for the now defunct Public Health England.




  After leaving Richmond I headed for the Southport Visiter - at the time Britain’s only tri-weekly publication….. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  Three years on, in 1978, the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo came calling so I moved 12 miles down the coast to a city I immediately fell in love with and one which has now been my home for 44 years.


   I spent eight wonderful years on the DP&E before joining The Times as Northern Football Correspondent.  I then had a spell with the Daily Telegraph before securing what I confess was my  dream job on The Guardian.

 I  was perfectly happy on the “ writers’ paper “ but was lured away in 2001 by the chance to become Everton FC’s  Director of Communications.  I spent an interesting decade at Goodison Park, teaching a young Wayne Rooney how to speak in public and dealing with the over-inflated egos of over-paid footballers.


  I have had four books published - the last a fantasy/ time-travel novel featuring two of my great heroes, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.



  When I left Richmond it was for a ‘cub’ reporter role on the now defunct Doncaster Evening Post. It was an amazing start in journalism with some fantastic characters (and some not so fantastic) but I made friends who are still close mates today.


 From there I took the Thomson Newspapers route to Newcastle-on-Tyne and had some great years on Tyneside before joining the team appointed to launch the new BBC Radio York station. I was their ‘man in Scarborough’ complete with branded radio car and had a rare old time tearing round North Yorkshire. Thanks to a bit of an exclusive with the world’s first test tube triplets, born to a farmer and his wife on the North York Moors, I was asked to join the BBC’s Look North regional television operation in Leeds. A few years later I was appointed as the Beeb’s first bi-media business correspondent in the region and joined network BBC in the business unit covering the Today programme, Wake Up to Money and others before joining the team of BBC 2’s Working Lunch anchored by a certain Adrian Chiles 


  I loved my time there but I eventually left to earn some proper money to educate three expensive teenagers and then formed my own operation which is now Good Call Media. It takes me all around the world so thanks Gerry and the team at Richmond, I was never the perfect student and The Magnificent Seven must have been a royal pain in the proverbial a*se but I am eternally grateful for the great opportunity it gave me in life – reunion anyone?


Lovely to see that old photo and enjoy the memories it evokes.  I enjoyed my time at Sheffield, my first venture ‘up north’, and was enthused enough by you and your colleagues to stick with it…so much so that, now aged 66, I’m still working full time and have no immediate plans to give up!


  After Richmond I went back home to Salisbury, Wiltshire where I worked for the Times & Journal papers for a few years before moving on to Dorset with the weekly Western Gazette, mainly because they offered a new car and were, at the time, one of the biggest selling weeklies in the country.

  From there I joined the BBC, initially in Southampton at the combined TV and Radio newsroom, eventually moving to Dorset to take on the management of BBC Dorset where I was also the breakfast presenter.   After getting rather fed up of 4.30am starts and never seeming to be able to get out of the office until at least 12 hours later I took an early retirement package at 50, returning to newspapers and also running a news agency for a while with a colleague covering both Dorset and Devon with a number of national stories and pictures to our credit.

  I’ve stayed in Dorset and for the last 5 years have been the Local Democracy Reporter with the BBC-funded scheme, covering initially just Dorset County Council but, more recently, both Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole…basically the whole of Dorset.


  I'm grateful for all the college did for me. . I only remember the fun bits, but that’s the way it should be!    (Never really did get the hang of shorthand, but I can write and type very quickly!!!)

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