Former Stevenage journalist Paul Fry recalls fascinating life in new book
- Credit: PAUL FRY
A former journalist from Stevenage who worked for more than 35 years in Fleet Street, has produced a book about his life and career in the media.
In Journeyman: Diana, Heysel and the Hand of God, Paul Fry, tells of the hunt for his birth family, growing up in a New Town, his school days at Nobel and first steps in journalism with the former Gazette, based in Hitchin and in the High Street.
“It’s a kind of legacy project, for family and friends,” says the 64-year-old who reflects on life in Stevenage for his family after they moved from a condemned flat in Croydon in 1960.
“There were rats the size of cats, the stairs were unlit and lethal and the whole place had been condemned for 30 years. So you can imagine what it must have been like for mum and dad when they got a three-bed house in Broadwater Crescent with a large garden for me and my brother Garry to play in. Especially as mum had seen her house in Bermondsey, in the heart of London’s docks, shattered by German bombs when she was a girl.”
Paul went to Roebuck Juniors and remembers his English teacher Allan Deakin being an early inspiration. He said: “I sent his widow, Joan, a copy and she said how proud she was that Allan had inspired so many of his former pupils to write.”
Nobel School have been supportive of the book too, making it the subject of a parents’ book club that he met online, and Paul hopes to meet some of the pupils when conditions improve and talk about the book.
“Nobel means a lot to me as I failed my O-levels and they let me repeat the 5th form. It was the making of me,” he admits.
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As a junior reporter - he was a three-year apprentice - he learned his trade during the final days of Stevenage Athletic and sport features broadly in his book.
He talks of his time as Stevenage Borough’s programme editor, taking you behind the scenes of the hugely controversial 1998 FA Cup saga with Newcastle United.
He worked in west London for a spell, on sport, and used to attend lots of events at Wembley, including FA Cup finals, internationals and world title boxing.
He had five years with The Sporting Life, then run by the larger-than-life Robert Maxwell, among a cast of colourful characters, and had a long association with The Mail on Sunday.
The title shows the book is pegged around three events that made big headlines around the world. “I was in the Heysel Stadium, just yards from where 39 fans were crushed and suffocated at the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus.
“I was also working at the Mail on Sunday the night that Princess Diana died and saw the first paparazzi shots that were never printed and which, with the later official inquest, in my view put all the conspiracy theories to bed.
“Then I was at the 1986 Mexico World Cup, at the other end of the Azteca Stadium when Diego Maradona fisted the ball into the net for the first of his two goals against England.
"I described him like Brian in the Life of Brian, as both the messiah and the naughty boy that day.”
It is an engaging story, written with humour, and is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats (£7.99 +PP and £3.99), or you can get a signed copy from Paul for £9.99 inc postage, by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org