ADVERTISER 150: Richard Madeley made his name with us first, before going on telly
PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 November 2016 | UPDATED: 19:29 23 November 2016
Some big names have swung through the offices of the East London Advertiser on their way up the showbiz ladder, like TV’s Richard Madeley who joined us in 1975 as a young cub reporter. We are having our 150th birthday bash this week with a look back at some of the news of the day we’ve carried since 1866 and some of the characters who helped us write it. Richard tells his own story...
“Bloody hell. You’re way too posh to work here, mate!”—The welcoming words from 20-something reporter Lyn Olley on the morning I reported for duty at the East London Advertiser on midsummer’s day, 1975.
Except she didn’t say “bloody hell”. Something a little stronger than that—two words that included “me” and a four-letter precursor.
Posh? Me? I was born in Romford! True, my parents later migrated to Brentwood, a sliver of green belt away from the spreading greater London conurbation. But I’d gone to school in the East End, at Coopers Company Grammar in Tredegar Square just off the Bow Road, years before it lifted its nose and departed with Coburn for Girls (which was in the Mile End Road) for leafy, suburban Upminster.
I didn’t speak with a cockney accent, but I was very ‘Essex’. Dropped aitches in all the right places. So Lyn’s acerbic greeting knocked me back a bit. But only a bit.
All I’d said was: “Morning everyone —I’m the new reporter.” What was I supposed to say? “Wotcha, mates, I’m yer new ferret”?
I decided attack was the best form of defence.
“S** off —if you don’t like how I speak, get used to it.”
Lyn, a Stepney girl (who now lives in Canada and mixes old cockney with New World jargon) became a firm friend and remains so to this day. It was a typical east London in-your-face greeting—mock-confrontation concealing genuine friendliness.
So it began. I’d come from the Advertiser’s sister paper, the Brentwood Argus, the newsbeat deeply parochial. My finest moment? A weekly column titled Church Notes, culled from the various parish magazines. Not exactly front page stuff.
Now my newsbeat was not just local but national news. The ‘Free George Davies’ campaign (hands up who remembers that?), the resurgence of the old docks into ‘Docklands’, a rat-infested rubble-strewn wasteland in the mid-’70s. The fallout from the Krays’ implosion a few years earlier in 1269. The social earthquake of a new wave of immigration (the historic lifeblood of the East End).
Oh, and showbiz—Chas and Dave, the birth of Punk, among other things.
Which reminds me—guess the name of the musically-inclined reporter I was drafted in to replace? I got his desk and typewriter. (Computers? Do me a favour. This was the ’70s.)
It was Steve Harley, who’d left to form Cockney Rebel.
He never came up to see me, though I met him years later on This Morning.
Where actually, he did indeed make me smile.