Dale proved a happy hunting ground during veteran journalist's 55-year career
TEESDALE tales abounding, veteran North-East journalist Mike Amos has published a 390-page memoir recalling 55 years in the business.
Anecdotes range from becoming engaged to Jennifer Lynn, daughter of Barnard Castle’s last station master, to the murder of Bowes Moor hotelier Mark Johns – shot and buried near the county boundary – and from the night the Cosy Cinema, in Middleton-in-Teesdale, burned down to joining Tongan rugby international Talite Vaioleti, a driver on Hodgson’s buses.
One of Mr Amos’s favourite memories is of being invited to open Mickleton Carnival in the 1970s, when writing the John North column in The Northern Echo.
“The chairman said how pleased they were to welcome Mike Amos but that, to be honest, I hadn’t been first choice,” he recalls.
“The first choice had been Mike Neville but Mike Neville was £50 and Mike Amos was nowt.”
Headlined “the poor man’s Mike Neville”, the story helped fill the following Monday’s column and prompted a call from the celebrated television anchorman himself, inviting Mr Amos to co-present that evening’s Look North programme.
A photograph taken that evening suggests that both were in need of a haircut.
“It was all very good natured and we became friends,” says Mr Amos.
“I don’t know how much Mike Neville ended up charging for personal appearances, but for the next 40-odd years my fee remained the same.”
Born in Shildon and educated at King James I Grammar School in Bishop Auckland, Mr Amos began as a £9 1s 6d a week reporter in the Northern Despatch’s Bishop Auckland office before joining the Echo in 1969.
He was named North East Journalist of the Year seven times in 17 years between 1988 and 2005, won several national awards for his Backtrack sports column, was appointed MBE in 2006 for services to journalism in North East England and was an inaugural member of the Provincial Journalism Hall of Fame.
Since 1985 he had written up to six columns a week for the Echo, reduced to two after his 65th birthday in 2011 when he switched to part-time employment.
He was made redundant last December, just weeks before the paper’s 150th anniversary.
Throughout his long career, Teesdale proved to be a fertile ground for copy. Other anecdotes include:
* Fisticuffs outside the Turks Head, in Barnard Castle, – the only physical violence in more than half a century of trying to avoid it – and the Jack Russell which didn’t understand the difference between the goodies and the baddies.
* The occasion on which the Queen Mother twice cut a ribbon at The Bowes Museum because the Echo photographer – not for the first time – had turned up late.
* The Cockfield Workingmen’s Club member – and gurning champion – banned for three months for cadging.
* How George Henry Wilson (21 Lane Head, Copley) managed to escape punishment during one of his not infrequent Monday mornings before Bishop Auckland magistrates.
* The epic 1981 yomp through snow drifts – with a pregnant wife and a querulous photographer – to the official opening of the new youth hostel in Baldersdale, only to discover that it had been called off and they’d forgotten to tell the press. They ate all the pies, anyway.
* Memorably happy services at Newbiggin Methodist chapel, now closed, and meeting the late Clarrie Beedle, farmer and local preacher, there and at Langdon Beck chapel.
“People told me that all I needed to survive up here was a good wife and a good muffler,” said Clarrie. “I was lucky, I had both.”
* Travelling to Turin in 2009 for a match marking the centenary of West Auckland FC’s first World Cup win, when they beat Juventus in the final. A weekend of unscheduled commotion ended with West’s players setting off hotel fire alarms at 6am.
* The swearing parrot at the Black Horse in Barney. Every journalist, Mr Amos insists, has a swearing parrot story.
The book, titled Unconsidered Trifles, also carries stories and experiences from Mr Amos’s 20 years as chairman of the Northern Football League and reflects upon the problems facing the provincial newspaper industry.
Vividly anecdotal and comprehensively illustrated, the book has been designed and edited by Amos’s former colleague Jon Smith, whose own book Round the World – an A-Z Miscellany of Barningham and its Neighbours – has several times sold out.
Unconsidered Trifles costs £10 softback and £22 hardback and is available by post (plus £3.50 softback postage) from the author at 8 Oakfields, Middleton Tyas, Richmond, North Yorks DL10 6SD. Cheques made payable to Mike Amos. It’s also available on Amazon. Email mike email@example.com for online payment details.