Posts Tagged ‘Fleet street’

Fleet Street jokes

July 17, 2016

Fleet Street was a place full of humour, much of it reflecting the rivalry between groups of journalists, such as news editors, sub-editors and reporters. Here are some examples.

A reporter tells his news editor that, trying to interview a man, he has been tossed about three times, the last time with a broken nose. ‘Huh,’ says the news editor, ‘you go back and try again. He can’t frighten me.’

Can’t remember where I heard that, but the next two come from the Cornmarket/ Haymarket news weekly Topic, which ran a column by Morley Richards, a former senior editor on the Daily Express.

Arthur (‘Chris’) Christiansen [a famous Express editor in its mid-1950s heyday] to gathered sub-editors at a lunch in 1962: ‘You are all pit ponies. Why, one of you greeted me on this sunny day with “Good evening”.’ Topic, 28 April, 1962

And some darker humour still:

Reporter: ‘The chief sub has hanged himself.’
Editor: ‘Have you cut him down yet?’
Reporter: ‘No, he’s not dead yet.’
                                              Topic, 28 July 1962


A rare sighting of Grub Street

June 6, 2015
London's 18th century Grub Street as part of illustration showing literary hack

London’s 18th century Grub Street in a Robert Spence illustration showing a literary hack at work

I reviewed the book Revolutions from Grub Street last year for the Financial Times and on this blog, but it’s rare to come across the term Grub Street except in academic circles. I saw it in this column title for ‘From London Town’ in the first edition of Northern Counties Magazine, an issue that dates back to 1900.

Grub Street was a real London road near the present-day Barbican. It was where aspiring writers lived and plied their trade – Samuel Johnson among them until he went up in the world and became a hack living just off Fleet Street in Gough Square.

The romantic poet Thomas Chatterton dead in his Grub Street garret with a view of St Paul's - centre of England's publishing industry - through the window The Pre-Raphaelite painting ‘The Death of Chatterton’ by Henry Wallis, used as the cover to Peter Ackroyd’s Chatterton, gives an idea of the sort of lodgings such hacks would have had. It was painted in a garret in Gray’s Inn with a view of St Paul’s – centre of England’s publishing industry not far from both Grub Street and Brooke Street, where the Romantic poet committed suicide with arsenic in 1770.

The term Grub Street would have been known to Thomas Chatterton. The Oxford English Dictionary has it in use by 1630, and gives the following explanation:

The name of a street near Moorfields in London (now Milton-street), ‘much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems’; hence used allusively for the tribe of mean and needy authors, or literary hacks.

The Northern Counties engraving by RS – Robert Spence – shows one of these ‘mean and needy authors’ scribbling away with a quill pen while two men about town peruse his books. The engraving portrays the building as built of stone, which is unlikely. The Tipperary pub in Fleet Street claims to be the oldest building around there because it was built of stone and so did not go up in flames in the 1666 Great Fire of London like the rest of the area. It also seems unlikely that Grub Street would have been cobbled. Note the unusual typeface with its extravagant swashes.




A Home Chat about ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’

December 17, 2014
'It's a Long Way to Tipperary' is identified as the Tommies' favourite in this September 1914 article from Home Chat

‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ is identified as the Tommies’ favourite in this September 1914 article from Home Chat

The first world war soldier’s song ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ has been much heard in the commemorations for the 1914-18 war. What’s a surprise to me is how quickly the song became established as the forces’ favourite.

This page is from the weekly women’s magazine Home Chat from September 19 – just weeks after the war had broken out. It’s already ‘The song our soldiers sing’.

Of course, the war changed the content and feel of magazines and the article here gives the music and words to the 1912 music hall song over three pages, with a credit to B Feldman & Co, of 2-3 Arthur Street, London WC.

The introduction contrasts the Tommies’ choice of marching song with the Germans’ choice of ‘Da Wacht am Rhein’ and ‘Deutschland, Deutschland uber Alles’ and the marching songs of the French ‘Piou-Piou’. The French ‘were mystified’ at the choice of a song that seemed ‘sad’ and held no reference to ‘flag or country, or war or military glory’. For ‘Tommy Atkins likes to swing along to a music-hall song with a good rousing chorus’ and ‘Tipperary’ comes out on top.

There’s no mention of Ivor Novello’s ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’, which was written in 1914 and is referred to in several later Punch cartoons.

Home Chat cover from 19 September 1914 with a front cover story about supporting the Queen's Guild, which had been set up as a way for women to back the war effort

Home Chat cover from 19 September 1914 with a front cover story about supporting the Queen’s Guild, which had been set up as a way for women to back the war effort

Home Chat was printed and published by Northcliffe’s Amalgamated Press in Farringdon Street, which runs across the eastern end of Fleet Street, on which the Tipperary pub is located.  But the pub was not aways the Tipperary, or ‘the Tipp’ as regulars call it.

The building is on a site that was a monastery in 1300, on an island between the Thames and the Fleet rivers that fed into the Thames. The Fleet still runs under the pub. The Boar’s Head pub was built there in 1605 and survived the Fire of London in 1666 because it was built of stone and brick. In  about 1700, the Dublin-based SG Mooney bought the Boar’s Head, making it the first Irish pub outside Ireland and it was fitted out in an Irish style. It claims to be the first pub in England to stock bottled Guinness and later draught – and could also lay claim to being the narrowest in London.

In 1918, the printers who came back from the war had the pub’s name changed to The Tipperary, after their marching song. Today, the Boar’s Head is kept as the name of the upstairs bar. The pub has been owned by Suffolk-based Abbott brewer Greene King since the 1960s.

Home Chat was founded in 1895 and was one of the magazines that made a fortune for Alfred Harmsworth and enabled him to become the newspaper baron Lord Northcliffe.

Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street

February 8, 2008

12 Fleet Street editors by Snowdon
The Fleet Street diaspora will no doubt be queuing up at the National Portrait Gallery to catch a glimpse of Snowdon’s snap of 12 newspaper editors taken for Vanity Fair. Their sense of importance enhanced by the fact that they barely had time to take their coats off – and that Dacre of the Mail, probably the finest of the generation, couldn’t make it, among others. But will Barber come to regret that tie? Couldn’t surgeons have been brought in to remove Rusbridger’s duffle coat? And didn’t Thomson time his transantlantic shift just right?