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Why Duncan Danley?


The title of my new blog is entirely down to one William Sulley White, better known to millions of adoring telly fans as Larry Grayson – host of hugely successful programmes Shut That Door and The Generation Game.

The camp comic genius, born in Banbury, was a week-and-a-half old when his mother, Ethel, arranged for him to be brought up by the Hammonds in Nuneaton, just a stone’s throw from my mid-terraced house on Abbey Green in Nuneaton.

We attended the same primary school – Abbey C of E infants and Juniors – admittedly 30 years apart and our paths were to eventually cross in the 1970s when he found true celebrity stardom and I was making my start in a 40-year publishing career.

Arguably Nuneaton’s most famous adopted son (film director Ken Loach and the De Havilland aero brothers may argue), Larry’s double entendre catchphrases –which hinted at a gay persona – found massive favour with the British TV viewing public.

Cheeks sucked in and mouth puckered, he delivered one liners oft repeated to this day – his best ‘Shut That Door’ was followed by ‘Seems Like a Nice Boy’, ‘What A Gay Day’, ‘The Place Is Alive’ (not with audience participation but some imaginary infestation) and my favourite ‘Look At The Muck On ‘Ere’, which saw him running his finger across the back of a chair or any available stage prop.

This phrase is best suited to the mucky world of journalism I have inhabited and known affectionately to colleagues as Grub Street, a reference to an 18th century paper which was a satire of popular journalism and hack writing conducted in London’s Grub Street.

It was not only catchphrases – akin to a journalist’s headline writing – where Larry and I struck a chord. Non de plumes were something which the comedian found a useful tool of the trade.

William White became Billy White and then Billy Breen before he donned his final name re-incarnation as Larry Grayson. His stand-up act of anecdotes corralled a cast of imaginary friends, the most famous being Everard Farquharson – Larry’s ‘close friend’– postman Pop-It-In-Pete, jam factory worker Apricot Lil, master baker Self-Raising Fred and, of course, Slack Alice.

My decision to invent personas came about when working on my own in district offices of larger newspapers or single-handedly editing newspapers, where I felt it better for the reader to assume there was a healthy number of reporters to bring them their news from different disciplines.

So Charles Barrington sounded like a grand pen name for dealing with the business stories; Martin Pitchwell found his way to the back pages of sport; Victor Box looked at TV news; Des Nee was the film correspondent; Stephanie Sparrow wrote about women’s things (in the 70s there was only a token female reporter at each newspaper to deal with these matters).

My favourite was always Duncan Danley – he looked after the big stories, the splashes (front page leads) and has stayed with me for more than 30 years. His name seemed to conjure up the touch of the common man, in reality it was a cross between the name of my eldest son and a one-time leader of Tamworth Borough Council, Duncan Smith.

My career, which began as an indentured cub reporter on the now defunct weekly newspaper Nuneaton Observer saw me become the youngest reporter on Britain’s former best-selling regional paper, the Birmingham Evening Mail and then chief reporter of the Tamworth Herald.

I went into editing and managing free papers – first with publishing entrepreneur former Derby County FC chairman Lionel Pickering I launched the country’s biggest at the time, the Nottingham Trader. That was 30 years ago next week. Then a year later came the Nuneaton & Bedworth Trader in my home town.

Still with frees, at the Daily Mail-owned Northcliffe Newspapers, I took charge of the Leicester Mail and then the Herald of Wales in Swansea.

In the 1990s I ran Britain’s biggest provincial press agency at Raymonds in Derby and the UK’s largest showbiz agency, World Entertainment News Network, by London’s Kings Cross railway station before becoming No 2 on David Sullivan’s larger-than-life Daily and Sunday Sports – even making several cameo appearances in a Channel 4 documentary with the late ‘biggest boobs in the world’ porn star Lolo Ferrari called Sex, Lies and Aliens. I enjoyed brief stints at Britain’s No 1 Sun in Wapping and the Daily Star.

Next I was group editor of 24 titles for Kent Regional Newspapers, as well as having to edit weeklies in Folkestone and Dover before moving to help with the launch of two women’s magazines for GMTV regular (and one time Sunday Express editor) Eve Pollard. Group editorship of Sunday free titles in Tamworth, Stoke and Sutton Coldfield followed.

Into the new millennium and still constantly travelling, I racked up the title of record holder of most regional weekly newpaper editorships in the UK – with stints in Coalville & Ashby (twice), Paisley & Barrhead in Scotland and launch editor of the St Austell Voice in Cornwall.

My final excursions involved sunnier climes as launch editor of Spain’s first national English language weekly (catchily called thinkSpaintoday) and editor of the Cyprus Star and Cyprus Sun in the beautiful but maverick paradise of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

And now for something completely different – a blog.

I hope my daily reader enjoys what’s on offer. Above all I want you to have a laugh – amid the serious business of dealing with a world that has changed beyond all recognition in my lifetime.
Nick Hudson, honest! 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. sue arnold permalink
    February 28, 2012 3:54 pm

    Nick, looking forward to reading more… your no doubt Inimitable style!

  2. February 28, 2012 4:12 pm

    Hi Nick – or should that be Duncan! Glad to see that you are up and running again, looking forward to reading your blog. The “Star” hasn’t been the same since you left!

    Cheers buddy

    Steve & Denise (Phoenix Line Dance Club, Northern Cyprus)

  3. laurence bowyer permalink
    September 20, 2017 11:44 pm

    hi nick its larry bowyer be good to catch up get me at


  1. Ban This Filth: What moral crusader Mary Whitehouse would have screamed to her ‘no-nookie-intended’ Nuneaton birthplace | Look At The Muck On 'Ere!

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