Students who lay down their heads on my past…

One of the Wednesday morning students is squatting in my past. She lives down Walmgate way in a massive student block.

My old newspaper used to stand there, until it shuffled down the street to a small new building erected behind an old one; and student city set up camp where the keyboards used to tap and clatter.

A curious circularity of events.

Where once a newspaper stood students now lay down their heads, some of them after spending the day learning how to write stories. Where once the presses rushed, young people gather, sometimes after telling their Wednesday morning lecturer that their head isn’t in the right place for writing.

I didn’t point out that my head is rarely in the right place nowadays, bobbing between York, Leeds and Howden, with the odd trip out for an interview.

The freelance bit of my head-spinning this-and-that life took me to Holbeck in Leeds yesterday, and let’s pause to thank the sainted sat-nav: without it, I’d still be U-turning down a grey confusion of streets.

That ghost newspaper office beneath student city was once bursting with journalists and photographers busy filling the paper with news; barely 100 yards away, printers turned their work into a printed paper.

First, they came for the printers, seen off by technology – and, yes, by journalists who could do their old job armed only with a keyboard. Briefly the journalists were in command, without being paid a penny extra. And then they came for us, picking us off one by one, or occasionally by half-a-roomful.

There is another ghost newspaper office in York, as you can see if stand across the River Ouse and look at the City Screen cinema. Etched in stone high on the cinema wall are the words: “The Yorkshire Herald.”

Walk up the stairs to the screens, turn right and pause for a moment. A tiled wall remains from the old building that once housed Yorkshire Evening Press. And that roughly is where the features desk was back in the 1980s when this boy from Bristol/Cheadle Hulme/South East London rolled up, intending only to stay a year or two. The paper moved to Walmgate a year later; then moved again after 25 years or so.

Those two ghost newspaper buildings in York were once filled with people; the pleasant new building reportedly grows emptier by the week.

One of the old crew has died, aged 94 – an innings to shame those of us who feel we’re getting on a bit in our early 60s.

A nice tribute ran on the website this week under the headline, “Farewell to York Press legend, Jack Childe, 94.”

I didn’t know Jack as well as some but do recall the impish humour mentioned in the piece by deputy editor Stuart Martel.

Richard Johns, a fellow refugee from that newspaper, had fond memories of working with Jack, saying: “He had a great sense of humour and was a real gentleman. A dying breed indeed. RIP Jacko.”

Here’s something I do remember about Jack. He used to say, at least I’m sure he did, that commas were like nuns: they come in pairs.

I won’t pass that on to the students, as it’ll only confuse them.

Many other newspaper ghosts are available, some still living and others located on an inky cloud, or to wherever it is that old journalists make their final ascension.

Leave a Reply